Guest Post: Senate Cautious but Not Hostile to New gTLD Programme

This is a guest post written by Peter Dengate Thrush, former chairman of ICANN and Chairman of Top Level Domain Holdings.

The US Senate’s Commerce Committee hearing into ICANN’s new gTLD  programme came and went this morning without any of the fireworks some  might have predicted from the press storm generated by its recent  opponents, the ANA.

The tone was set early on by Committee Chair Senator Rockefeller:  “Cyber squatters are an abomination…I think I have to be very very  sensitive to the question of the money you feel you are going to have to  spend to protect yourself against cyber squatters…they will go on as  long as the Internet goes on…

“But that’s not the point…I think we have to get used to .hotel…. I  think we have to get used to .auto… I start from that position, but I  listen.

“I think a surge of new names and addresses can create opportunities:  whether they will or not.. I do not yet know… If ICANN is determined  to move forward, it surely better do so slowly and cautiously…

The Senator’s explicit adoption of .hotel was a direct response to  witness Esther Dyson, ICANN’s founding Chair, who tried to build an  argument against the programme, using .hotel as an example. Comparing  them to derivatives, she said “it doesn’t make sense” and ” I don’t see  the point of this programme”. Clearly, the Senator does.

The 90 minute hearing heard from Fiona Alexander (NTIA), Kurt Pritz  (ICANN), Angela Williams ( YMCA), Dan Jaffe (ANA) and Esther Dyson (Investor).

NTIA – which has publicly supported the multi-stakeholder model and  ICANN’s role as coordinator of the Internet’s naming and numbering  system since 1998, and which participated actively in ICANN’s new gTLD  programme, pointed to the “unprecedented” engagement by the Governmental  Advisory Committee (“GAC”) with the ICANN board in the policy  implementation process.

NTIA believes that ICANN improved the new gTLD program by incorporating  a  significant number of proposals from the GAC. ICANN’s new gTLD program  also now provides law enforcement and consumer protection authorities  with significantly more tools than those available in existing gTLDs to  address malicious conduct

YMCA’s Williams first point – that not-for-profit organisations couldn’t  afford the $185,000 to apply themselves for new gTLDs – was somewhat  undercut by the recent news that ICANN will be charging some worthy  applicants only $47,000.

A better argument was that one of the major brand protections – the  Trade Mark Clearing House – has still not been fully specified or built,  with applications now less than 40 days away. Infringements are costly  for not-for-profits to pursue, and threaten a major source of funding –  online appeals.

For ANA, Dan Jaffe made the kind of points the ANA has been making  publicly:  “We believe the new gTLD Program is bad for marketers, consumers and the  entire online  marketplace. Consistent with the Affirmation of Commitments, ICANN has a  responsibility to ensure that its actions further the public interest,  promote consumer trust and the burgeoning Internet domain. We strongly  believe that ICANN’s new gTLD Program fails all of these standards.

“This Program in aggregate has multi-billion dollar implications for all  marketers, both in the commercial and the nonprofit sectors, and their  brands. It would cause irreparable harm and damage to the entire online  business community. It would throw the domain name universe into  substantial confusion for both marketers and consumers.”

The basis for the “multi-billion dollar implications” continued to be  the unproven and illogical extrapolation from the cost of brand  protection on the Internet now, multiplied by the number of new TLDs  that might be granted.

Mr Jaffe scored good points in complaining about the current Whois data;  he produced blow up charts showing that parties can register domain  names under names such as “Mickey Mouse” and “Donald Duck”. ICANN has  struggled for many years with ways of requiring and maintaining accurate  whois data.

But as Mr.Pritz pointed out to the Committee, domain name abuse occurs  almost entirely in dot com – not the other 22 gTLDs – because that’s  where the traffic is ie that is where it pays. And as he also pointed  out, there are more, and stronger protections in the new TLDs than are  available presently in com/net/org.

The same point was made in response to questions about defensive  registrations; Mr Jaffe asserts that major brand owners are going to  have to apply defensively in every one of the possibly thousands of new  gTLDs.

Again Pritz pointed to the evidence that dispels this claim. There are  stronger IP protection mechanisms (Trade mark notice, rapid take down  via a URS that is cheaper and faster than UDRP, Post Delegation Dispute  resolution process against the registries if they are involved… and  more). And he noted the facts – historically brand owners have not  applied in all of the existing TLDs, so there is no expectation that  will change with new gTLDs.

What was gratifying was the level of understanding by the Committee, and  their tacit support of the multistakeholder nature of ICANN. An  encouraging part of that was a better understanding of the relationship  between NTIA and ICANN.

The Committee’s Public Record will be open for a further week, so we can  expect further written submissions, possibly further questions from the  Committee.

Overall, the tone was cautious but not hostile to the ICANN programme.  Delays by ICANN in dealing with law enforcement requests, delays in  renegotiating Registrar contracts, delays in settling the terms of the  Trade Mark Clearing house could all result in further calls for a delay  in the start date of the programme or, more significantly – its closing  date.

But the more extravagant claims: that the programme should be abandoned  as being “a tax on attractive nuisances” (Dyson) or paused until every  single application can be “justified in the public interest” ( Jaffe) or  that not-for-profits should get free gTLDs for their trade marks – these  received little attention or support.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. Peter

    Perhaps space was short or perhaps you didn’t think they mattered. Whichever you forgot a few things….

    Like the discussion on the ICANN conflict of interest rules of course

  2. @gpmgroup: like his responsibility as chairman of the board of a “not-for-profit public-benefit corporation” that puts in place a plan to open up a giant block of new space and then leaves to create a company to exploit that new space?

    I can’t see any conflict of interest there! /sarcasm

  3. “recent news that ICANN will be charging some worthy applicants only $47,000.”

    Sounds like ‘hush money’ to me.

    Maybe, the senators are thinking about the future. But, not for internet users.

    Once, Icann starts banking the $ 100. mil. from the new gtlds, the senators and congressmen will start receiving $ 50,000. speech fees (plus expenses) for the different Icann meetings.

  4. Just a little background on Peter Dengate Thrush.

    He helped push through the new gTLD program, then left ICANN (June) and immediately (July) joined a company (Minds + Machines) dealing specifically in the new gTLD program that he helped create. An obvious conflict of interest?

    ICANN is supposed to exist for public interest, not for the private financial interest of board members.

    In fact in the Senate hearing on Thursday, ICANN knew they had a problem and proposed new conflict of interest rules –

    “ICANN’s board of directors evidently voted to restrict their post-ICANN employment opportunities at the board meeting earlier today, if Pritz’s testimony is an accurate guide.

    He said that directors will not be able to work for any new gTLD operator that they have voted to approve for 12 months after they leave ICANN.”


  5. .Brand TLD’s provide nothing in relation to the further growth of the Internet. They are only desinged to do one thing, make money for ICANN. All it will do it further confuse the standard end user even more and create a massive problem for compnaies in regards to brand protection.
    Greed can make many things happen, even if they are illogical.


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