Thursday, August 4, 2011

Problems with ICANN's new domain name system?

A while back I commented on the proposal to allow people to generate their own top-level domain names for the Internet.  ICANN, the international body responsible for implementing Internet addresses (both the numeric and the text versions), said it would begin registering new top-level domain names (like com, .edu, .gov, .net) "in any script or language",  As discussed in the earlier post, while this move can have significant benefits, it's also not without cost, and can create problems.
The Association of National Advertisers has identified some of the possible problems, and sent a letter to ICANN asking it to delay implementation until some of the issues are addressed.  Their primary concern is for ICANN to clarify (and/or revise) assigning new potential domain names to limit the ability for third parties to be granted control of new domains that are based on brands or trademarks.  The concern is that the proposed process would encourage cybersquatting (obtaining a domain in order to latter sell it to others), and increases the potential for cyber predators, privacy violations, identity theft, and other scams (by creating "look-alike" sites to deceive users.  They argue that ICANN ignored findings in its own report to create a registration system that seems to be ready to accept applications and grant new domains "to anyone prepared to pay $185,000."  And even if protections exist to grant preferences in assignment of new domains to those who own trademarks or brands, the letter objects that those firms or groups "are essentially being forced to buy their own brands from ICANN at an initial price of $185,000."
If the proposed application and assignment process is as ANA portrays, ICANN's actions in ignoring the identified potential issues and risk of economic harm, and the imposition of what seems to be an extravagant initial application fees, appears to negate all of its earlier spin about the new system helping to improve access and foster global use, perhaps even suggesting that the move is motivated more as a means to generate revenues for themselves than bettering the Net for its users.

Sources: "ANA To ICANN: 'Oh No You Can't,' Domain Plan Would Be 'Disastrous'" OnlineMediaDaily
"ANA Cites Major Flaws in ICANN's Proposed Top-Level Internet Domain Program," PR Newswire
"Rationale for Board Decision on Economic Studies Associated with the New gTLD Program." ICANN 

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