By Adrian Kinderis
Contrary to claims made by Afilias CMO Roland LaPlante (CircleID – 21 October 2011), current generic Top-Level Domain (gTLDs) Registries have no real technical or commercial advantage at operating a new Top-Level Domain (TLD) because existing gTLDs are currently only required to comply with a small subset of the requirements of the new TLD program.
Mr LaPlante argues that potential applicants should question Registry providers about which gTLDs they currently support because he suggests that “ICANN-contracted gTLDs operate under more stringent — and public — requirements than other TLDs.”
This statement is fundamentally wrong.
The new TLD program is setting a precedent within the industry for the best practice performance, operation and policy requirements of a generic TLD namespace that is governed by ICANN. Through the Applicant Guidebook, ICANN has created a completely new approach to operating a generic TLD and it contains multiple requirements that do not exist within current gTLDs. These additions include:
• Rights Protection Mechanisms – Trademark Clearinghouse & Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS)
• Mandatory abuse measures
• Policy establishment requirements
• Stricter eligibility (considering community based TLDs)
• Government and law enforcement recommendations
To put it simply, current gTLDs have little in common with new TLDs.
Furthermore, Mr LaPlante’s attack on country code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs) is weak and without basis. Talk to auDA (the .au regulator), InternetNZ (the .nz regulator) and Nominet (.uk regulator), and I am sure they would be appalled to hear the view that their TLDs were managed with less stringent public policy development frameworks than existing gTLDs.
In fact, some restricted policy ccTLDs already incorporate features of the new TLD program that gTLDs such as .com, .info or .net currently fail to address. For instance, most viable ccTLDs already have strict rights protection and abuse measures in place. They also have a strong emphasis on stakeholder involvement and operate under increased scrutiny by governments and law enforcement.
The reality is that many ccTLDs perform the same role as gTLDs, except they do this within the confines of many more restrictions and policies, such as those found in the new TLD program. It is false to claim that gTLDs operate under more stringent requirements simply because they have a contract with ICANN and publish monthly reports about their registry operation.
Regardless of existing credentials or experience, the point is that new TLDs come with a set of requirements that currently don’t exist in any namespace and many of these are still yet to be fleshed out by ICANN (take the Trademark Clearing House for example).
It’s important to remember that one of ICANN’s primary goals in developing the new TLD program was to find a way to facilitate entry for new Registry operators entering the market. ICANN is attempting to introduce competition and they have done so in such a way that potential applicants do not even need to partner with a Registry Services Provider, let alone a gTLD provider in order to operate a new TLD Registry. While existing Registry Operators will deliver a superior solution (usually at a cost benefit) to those entities that do not wish to perform the technical function themselves, this choice is left with the applicant. ICANN will not give applicants any extra points for choosing an existing provider, despite what the propaganda might say.
It is true that not all TLD Registry Services Providers are created equal. There are good providers and there are ordinary providers. Each has different qualities and credentials. Unfortunately, operating an existing gTLD Registry is not one that holds relevance to the success or failure of your new TLD.
The fact of the matter is no one has ever operated a new TLD and we are all new to this world.
What you need to ask your provider is not their experience with existing gTLD registries, but their understanding of the program, its new requirements, the Applicant Guidebook and how they will technically support your specific requirements.
Clearly some providers don’t seem to understand that it will be a new world, which to me suggests that perhaps they don’t understand the program as much as they would have you believe.
By Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services