ICANN sells top level domains to highest bidder
Currently there are 21 generic top level domains (that's the .com, .biz, .org etc. appended to your domain name – not including country domains like co.uk or .de) a figure that whilst acceptable is still perhaps too many. When was the last time you saw or used a “.name” ending on a domain? Recently ICANN held a registration process for new gTLDs and received nearly 2000 applications. Ignoring the fact that previous expansions of gTLDs have seen little success in terms of usage it is still something that should have been handled differently.
By increasing the number of gTLDs, ICANN is further muddying the waters: making it worse is that anyone can apply to register them as long as they have the cash, the desire to navigate the bug-ridden registration system and the ability to run a domain name registry. This means that true generic TLDs like .blog or .app may not end up being generic. For example, if Google succeed in registering the .app TLD, where does this leave developers for non-android apps? If (by the slimmest chance) .app takes off as a TLD then those developers would undoubtedly be missing out on potential sales and have no way of gaining the .app TLD other than developing for Android.
It's not just the unfairness of allowing one company to hold a TLD. More questionable is allowing a company like Google to bid at all. Despite their "do no evil" mantra they have been shown in the past to engage in some questionable practices, like the “single biggest breach of privacy in history” or knowingly accepting illegal pharmaceutical adverts for years. It's not beyond the realms of reality that having registered the .blog TLD for their blogger software that they would then decide that .blog domains get preferential treatment in their search ranking pages and WordPress blogs would suffer. The same could be said of .app, .book and other TLDs they have tried to register.
Despite the complaints from within the US Government it was announced on the 3rd of July that ICANN’s contract to run the service had been renewed for another 3 – 7 years. This is despite the announcement that the bizarre solution to resolving who gets to register their gTLD first was shelved: Digital Archery, a process where registrants are required to login to the system and select an arbitrary date and time, and then the registrant has to try and press a button as close to that time as possible when the time comes. Don’t believe me? Check out ICANN’s explanation here. It is concerning that the company that can claim to be the Internet’s overlord thought this was a valid solution to a problem!
So why is ICANN doing this? Why does any business do anything? Money! This seems at odds with its non-profit status, however being a non-profit organisation doesn't stop it paying its executives huge bonuses, or stop it hiring lobbyists to defend its stance.
ICANN appears to be building its war chest for future battles. Departments within the US Government have already attacked it over the initial rollout. It’ll be expecting future opposition from various other agencies but now it can afford to pay the best lobbyists to protect its interests. This looks to be something of a spectacular power play that has gone unnoticed by the majority of those who could do something about it – with this amount of money ICANN could well have secured its future for many years to come.
Ean from ExtraMile Communications Ltd in Eccleshall, Staffordshire.
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