.clusterfuck

June 14, 2012 | 18 comments

Amazon has bid for .book and .author. Google has bid for .app and .love. Microsoft has bid for .docs and .live. American Express has bid for .open.

Opening the top-level domain system is a great idea. There are just 22 generic top-level domains right now – .com, .org, .net and so on. (There are 280 country-related TLDs, like .us and .uk.) Because digital real estate has been so limited, the price of valuable words has skyrocketed, and domain name squatting – where a name is registered purely to sell on at a higher price – is rife. If you’ve ever seen a web company with a silly, misspelled name, you’ve seen a company that’s decided not to give squatters any cash. (A company I was once part of paid a squatter over $10,000 for a .com domain, but they can go for much more.) Removing the limitation on TLDs theoretically removes the domain name availability crunch and would take the bottom out of the squatting market. Good.

Unfortunately, ICANN has both decided to allow anyone to apply for any TLD, and simultaneously to limit the market.

Let’s say that Amazon are successful in their bids for .book and .author. They will subsequently get absolute control over who can have a .book or a .author domain. So for example, if I want benwerdmuller.author, it would be completely legitimate for them to only allow me to have it if I’m an Amazon self-published author selling through the Kindle store. Similarly, they could block non-Amazon books from having a .book address. The point isn’t that they will do this – how they’ll act remains to be seen – but that it’s possible. By failing to regulate usage, ICANN have left the door open for companies to have a monopoly on certain thematic addresses on the web.

In turn, it’s a closed, controlled process rather than a market. If Amazon wins .book, it will be because they put up the money, but it will also be because ICANN decided they should have it. There’s no indication that further generic TLDs will be introduced in the future, or that the process will be widened out. If I, as an individual, had put up the $185,000 necessary to bid for .open or .social (two real bids) or .source or .abuse (two TLDs left unbid for), would I have had an equal chance as the corporations? It’s impossible to say. However, nobody will be able to compete with these TLDs, because the process is now closed.

There’s 60 days to comment on the domain names, and then another seven months to raise objections to domain name allocations. I see no issue with company-specific domains like .microsoft or even .apple and .amazon (two more ambiguous names), but why should Amazon get to control books, or Google get to control love? This seems to contradict the spirit with which domains have been allocated in the past. I’d suggest we all make our opinions known.

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18 Comments

  1. Completely agree with this. I wrote this in another forum; but we come to the same conclusion.

    >>

    The whole process seems like a disaster in the making to
    me and is a complete change to the structure of the domain system; in
    particular the move away from open-to-all registrars to companies
    controlling/restricting extensions for their own purpose. It’s one thing having
    a registrar let anyone (including Amazon) buy .book domains – another when this
    is controlled by one party for their own end.

    We might see this in our market; 3 companies have bid for
    .help; I think these 3 do look like they are being bought by registrars so
    presumably anyone can buy the domains. I am all in favour of that – it would be
    another thing entirely is salesforce goes and buys .help or .crm for example.

    Chris Padfield June 14, 2012 (5:03 am)
  2. They could solve this by making it a requirement that anyone with a .tld will have a clearly documented and non-bias registration process. For the examples on .author or .book, a process of, “Please provide a link to an ISBN registered work you have written” for .author or likewise for .book allowing registration of your name or the title of the book.

    Bret Piatt June 14, 2012 (7:02 am)
  3. browser makers have the ability to introduce a p2p dns system transparent to the user. These TLDs might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    Jonathan Dahan June 14, 2012 (7:27 am)
  4. I completely agree. This simple requirement would change the whole nature of the process in a very positive way.

    Ben Werdmuller June 14, 2012 (7:32 am)
  5. “Open to all” registrars?

    Like.. .gov .mil .edu .museum and .aero?

    Navarr Barnier June 14, 2012 (7:49 am)
  6. Let them have their clusterfuck / who cares! A big reason why:

    “Non .com extensions will leak traffic to the .com version of that domain name. Every business set up on a [non .com extension] domain will lose a proportion of their traffic to the dot com version of that domain name, although the amount of that leak will be difficult to predict.
    The leak occurs because customers/ potential customers will frequently recall the name of the site and add ‘.com’ almost instinctively, unless they recall that it is on a relatively unusual extension .net, .org etc.
    Inevitably, the more the [non .com extension] site is marketed, the more traffic is sent to the .com, however, the problem is that the .com domain may well resolve to a competing business’s website.
    Some businesses are willing to live with that loss (perhaps because the [non .com extension] is a relevant, memorable generic, for example) – for them the [non .com extension] is a viable option.
    However, without a compelling reason like the one mentioned above, I would argue that a business on a limited budget just cannot afford to develop a site using a [non .com extension] domain name. It is as simple as that.”
    SOURCE: http://www.domaining.org.uk/2007/12/10/spectacular-net-or-a-so-so-com-which-should-you-chose-for-your-business/

    chrisco June 14, 2012 (8:07 am)
  7. You’re grossly misinformed. ICANN has dispute procedures in place for this:

    http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/objection-dispute-resolution

    Mike June 14, 2012 (8:12 am)
  8. You’re misinformed. ICANN has a dispute policy in place for this kind of thing:

    http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/objection-dispute-resolution

    If you’re concerned about “.author” then you need to mobilize the community of authors and file an objection.

    Mike June 14, 2012 (8:16 am)
  9. I mentioned the dispute policy and the time period for objections, and encouraged people to speak up.

    That there’s a dispute policy doesn’t contradict what I’m arguing against.

    Ben Werdmuller June 14, 2012 (8:17 am)
  10. It seems more like your bashing ICANN (wich i can understand, they’re a horrible bureaucracy), rather than a call to arms to protect a gTLD. In this case ICANN *has* provided the tools to protect the gTLD space.

    In the end, one entity must control and administer a gTLD. Administering a registry is not simple or cheap. Since you believe opening tlds is a good idea, how would you propose handling the situation?

    Already there are non-profit groups applying for gTLDs, .green being a great example. Why not a non-profit authors foundation? I’m not sure how else you’d protect the rights of authors and open up the tld space at the same time.

    Mike June 14, 2012 (8:37 am)
  11. Agree with this.

    The DNS system (for the web at least and web!=internet) is largely for machines now – a useful abstraction that lets people move sites from machine to machine – since most people search rather than go direct to a URL.

    DNS is hierarchical and centrally controlled and makes a tempting target for censorship (blocking dns queries) and snooping (seeing which domains you visit and when, even if the packet is encrypted).

    A peer to peer, distributed and self repairing alternative of converting names (or more accurately resource searches) into addresses would be less of a target for political shenanigans.

    I speculated a little about this when the SOPA nonsense kicked off: http://www.marcus-povey.co.uk/2012/01/10/dns-is-a-symptom-of-broken-search-sopa/

    Marcus Povey June 14, 2012 (8:57 am)
  12. One of the big practical problems that no one promoting these gTLDs is talking about is that they’re not viable to use as your primary domain name because for most normal, non-technical people, going to a website means going to a .com.

    If you currently use .net, .org, .it, .ly, etc for your business you’ve probably experienced the frustration of having someone trying to get to your site navigate to the .com instead. And this is with these other TLDs being somewhat common. When this new batch is released, it’s going to be even more confusing to normal people.

    Are there uses? Sure: there will be some practical uses for certain technical niches, but for businesses, relying on one of these gTLDs for your primary website will not be practical until the general public understands this better. And if adoption rates for .net, .org, etc are any indication, that’s going to take a very, very long time.

    For what it’s worth, if you’re looking for an available .com domain name I built a domain search tool called Lean Domain Search (http://www.leandomainsearch.com) which might be able to help. It pairs your search term with 2,500 other keywords commonly found in domain names and instantly shows you which are available. Hope it helps.

    Matt Mazur June 14, 2012 (9:25 am)
  13. You seem to be assuming that everybody who wants to put up a website is a business. If you’re noncommercial, one of the other endings besides .com makes more logical sense.

    Daniel Tobias June 14, 2012 (9:37 am)
  14. I think the real problem here is that this does not help the web. Once this rolls out the most common question you will here is “DOT WHAT?” There is also no semantic value to any of this search engines will not improve and the enforcement of what content qualifies will be lax and likely capricious, or worse self serving as you mention.

    I think it would be worth discussing getting rid of TLDs all together as they dont mean anything to non-technical users. If you think squatting is bad now, just see what happens when you can squat on someones book title using .book, this is going to be a nightmare.

    Given the one commenters suggestion about leakage to .COM due to users not remembering the appropriate domain, every single .COM domain is now potentially a typosquatter….g-r-e-a-t

    render June 14, 2012 (10:01 am)
  15. Will still leak, smartypants ;-)

    chrisco June 14, 2012 (12:59 pm)
  16. All well and good, but from my read the fees for assessing an objection (paid by the objector) start at around €17,000 with a non refundable initial deposit of €5,000. Fine (though expensive) if you are protecting your trademark, but steep for a community objecting to an attempt by a corporation to create a monopoly.

    Andrew Coulton June 14, 2012 (2:50 pm)
  17. In the right way, yes. Inasmuch as you are talking about US domains, they are open to all government departments, all branches of military, all education establishments etc. In other territories there are equivalents under country TLDs as that country deems fit, e.g. .gov.uk, .ac.uk.

    There is a big difference between reserving a TLD for a specific category (which helps users gauge legitimacy), and a private enterprise taking a TLD such as .books and then potentially controlling registrations for their own competitive advantage.

    As it goes, I’m not sure that anti-competitive practices will be permitted, certainly in the EU, so it might be that we worry about nothing other than now having to remember whether Amazon is at amazon.com or amazon.books, and what about the UK version is that amazon.uk.books or amazon.books.uk and so on.

    Nick B June 15, 2012 (7:00 am)
  18. While what you say makes sense on the surface, I feel obligated to point out to others that, as you already know, .gov.uk is not a TLD. Having the US be in exclusive control of .gov .mil .edu (the one’s mentioned in your post) is the political equivalent of a corporate entity being in control of .books or .love (to completely ignore the point that a corporate entity is in control of .com and .net at the very least) – as the US could just as easily use .gov.us, par examplur.

    I really don’t see this as a big change, just a small one: TLDs are no longer special. And I’m fine with that. I’m very very tired of having to pay Verisign a growing number of $$$ each year for a domain name. Hopefully, competition will force them to behave by destroying their near-monopoly on the market.

    Navarr Barnier June 15, 2012 (7:35 am)

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