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5/18/06

Vint Cerf Answers Questions Including My Own

Vint Cerf, inventer of email, head of ICANN, and Google's "Internet Evangelist" agreed to answer questions on a public website, Circle ID, and I was there with a ton of them. Many of them are questions or topics I have posted here often.

I am reposting the questions I asked him, his answers, and my responses here and will add a link where you can see all the other questions and comments.

Vint Cerf Answering Questions From NameCritic


Q5: Since ICANN is supposed to foster competition, how does restricting the number of TLDs help do that?—by Chris McElroy

Vint Cerf: It depends on what you interpret useful competition to be.

No, it seems to be what the ICANN BoD considers useful competition to be and that is not part of ICANN’s responsibility nor is it their area of expertise.

There are costs associated with the implementation of new TLDs and these costs are manifest in various ways (ICANN cost of operation,

Which is already covered in the part of the domain name registration fees ICANN gets.

potential costs to trademark holders,

Again, not an area of ICANN’s mission statement or MOU with the DoC.

impact on the root operation, costs to the supporting organizations considering new TLDs and so on).

There shouldn’t be much cost in considering the applications since you should not be trying to determine financial capability, but only technical ability.

The idea that increasing the number of TLDs is absolutely beneficial seems to me open to some debate (see also responses to earlier questions).

Stifling competition by deciding who is allowed to compete is absolutely not beneficial to anyone and does not foster competition as ICANN is mandated to do. It is not ICANN’s job to determine if my business plan is viable or not. Increasing the number of TLDs does not threaten the stability of the Internet and does foster more competition in the domain name market. ICANN’s refusal to do so is blocking legitimate trade.

* * *

Q6: Do you consider it fair and competitive to allow current companies who monopolize most of the good, short one word domain names, to have an advantage over every other business or individual user who has to choose 3-4 word domain names to compete with?—by Chris McElroy

Vint Cerf: I assume you mean by this, second level labels within a given TLD?

Well, yes I do Vint.

Registrations in the existing TLDs have been essentially open and roughly speaking first come, first served, discounting some sunrise processes introduced with some new TLDs.

Let’s don’t discount that Vint. The sunrise periods where one TM holder gets to monopolize a specific string opf letters in every TLD is part of allowing them to monopolize namespace.

Your thesis seems to be that short domain names are somehow more competitive than longer ones, or ones that are hierarchical in structure.

Vint I understand you are an engineer. But if you do not understand how short one-word domain names are far superior to longer 4 word domain names, then you should not be part of an organization that makes decisions about domain names. I’m considered somewhat of a domain name expert, but I could be a total newby and know the value of a one-word domain name over a four-word domain name.

Given the way in which most products and services are found on the net (through search, not through domain name guessing), I am not sure I buy the competition argument I believe you are implicitly making.

I am implicitly making the assertion that one-word domain names have a huge advantage over longer multi-word domain names. If you don’t buy it again, “Internet Evangelist” is a strong title for someone who doesn’t understand this basic concept of SEO. Remembering a domain name is an integral part of maintaining a customer base Vint. You know this. Denying it only means you don’t wish to address the issue that there is an actual shortage of good domain names and that there is a need for more TLDs.

Q7: What about future generations of users and future businesses that are not even on the web yet? How long will their domain names have to be since ICANN has limited namespace to a few generic sounding TLDs, com, net, org, biz, and info and how does that foster competition?—by Chris McElroy

Vint Cerf: Please see my previous answer above. ICANN has not said it will not authorize additional TLDs but what is lacking is the basis for their authorization. That’s what the PDP process is intended to help create.

I believe the process was created to again complicate and slow down the process of creating or approving new TLDs. I saw your previous answer above that also did not address the real issue that there is a shortage of good commercially viable domain names due to ICANN restricting namespace. ICANN approved dot aero and dot museum and now dot mobi and dot tel, none of which address ther need for commercially viable TLDs. None of which can compete with a dot com. Competing TLDs have been applied for and consistantly turned down by ICANN. The introduction of these insequential TLDs is a thinly veiled attempt to give the appearance of ICANN approving more TLDs for businesses to use on the web.

* * *

Q8: Why should a trademark automatically assure one company a domain name when several businesses have the same mark? And why does ICANN not solve that problem by creating categorical TLDs that correspond to trademark categories? Then apple.computers could be as protected as apple.records—by Chris McElroy

Vint Cerf: For gTLDs one would need a universal categorization system and the trademark community does not, to my knowledge, have one. There are categories for each national trademark system but as far as I am aware, these have not been homologated. You are correct that trademarks are not unique and that has been part of the “collision” with the domain name system.

WIPO is the organization responsible for international compliance with trademarks. I’m sure someone there could give you a list of classes. Then they could easily be added to the DNS as TLDs. Then TM holders would ONLY be entitled to a domain name if the domain name matched their mark AND the TLD matched the class the trademark was registered for. This would reduce TM conflicts by 99%. Ahhh, but then the corporations that have influence would not be able to control namespace the way ICANN currently helps them do.

* * *

Q9: Where in ICANN’s bylaws does it say that ICANN has the right to review my business plan before deciding to let me run a TLD? What if my business plan is a secret? Why does it take $50,000 to review an application? And why haven’t the application fees ever been refunded to applicants who were turned down?—by Chris McElroy

Vint Cerf: Part of ICANN’s responsibility is to attempt to assure the stability of the domain name system

Technically assure the stability of the Internet, yes.

and that has been interpreted as trying to assure that operators of TLDs are equipped to run their TLDs in a sustainable way.

Is there a place in ICANN’s MOU or even Mission Statement that shows that ICANN is responsible for the financial stability of every company that manages a TLD? No? I thought not.

That’s out of interest for the registrants.

Again, buyer beware. It is not ICANN’s job to guarantee registrants of domain names that the registrar is financially stable.

The process of evaluation allows for confidentiality of submitted materials.

And I’m sure none of those business plans were ever discussed outside of the Boardroom with anyone. Kind of a “Trust Me” policy hunh?

Also, since ICANN is reviewing and in a very few cases accepting and approving a particular business plan in regards to running a TLD that would make ICANN liable if me registrar goes out of business.

By putting ICANN in the position of reviewing business plans and finances it increases it’s own liability in this litigious society. “Also Named” is a good term for lawsuits. ICANN need to stick to technical issues and stay out of political, social, and financial policy making.

ICANN contracts for outside reviews of TLD proposals so there are out of pocket costs. In the last sTLD cycle, ICANN undertook to analyze costs and to rebate unused fees, if memory serves. I would note that there are out of pocket costs even if bids are not accepted so refunds in that case are problematic.

It’s taken 6 years to review this? But thank you Vint for addressing the questions anyway. What I should have asked is if ICANN is ever going to reactivate the General Assembly and hold elections for Board Memebers as promised. So many questions so little time


The Rest of the Questions, Answers and Comments.


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