February 1, 2005

The .ewe Business Model - or - It's Just .Ewe and Me, .Kid(s)

.ewe is my Top Level Domain (TLD). - Or as Shakespeare might put it (from "As You Like It" Act V Scene IV):

... an ill-favoured thing, sir, but mine own; a poor
humour of mine, sir, to take that that no man else
will ...

Most of you haven't encountered .ewe - that's because .ewe is found only via root systems that compete with the NTIA/ICANN DNS root.

.ewe doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell to be admitted into the NTIA/ICANN root zone:  I've seen what has happened to IOD and .web.

I'm not willing to pay ICANN's exorbitant application fee knowing full well that ICANN would reject my application (and keep my application fee) on some aspect of the business plan, or on the pronounce-ability, or on the fact that it isn't "sponsored", or that it might upset someone in the not-yet-existing .eu TLD.

I know full well that my means of entrée into the only real marketplace of domain names, as a practical matter, is barred by ICANN.

So what is the business plan (or rather the could-try-to-be-a-business-plan-but-for-ICANN's-restraint-of-trade-policies) for .ewe?

First off .ewe will sell domain names for extended periods.  Actually longer than that - forever.  For something between $25 to $50(USD) you would be able to buy a name in .ewe in perpetuity.

(I've reserved a few .ewe names already - it's my founder's prerogative - and my wife gets "beautiful.ewe" and "i-love.ewe".  And I've yet to figure out what to do with "<explicative-deleted>.ewe")

Second, your ownership will be represented by a digital certificate.  Consider it a kind of "bearer" instrument - possession of the certificate is the key to being able to manage the name or to transfer it to others.

If you lose the certificate: well that's just your tough luck because .ewe will not maintain any record of ownership.  Let me say that more clearly - .ewe will not have a whois database if only for the reason that .ewe will destroy every trace of contact information as soon as the certificate has been issued and conveyed to the purchaser.  There simply will be no information out of which a whois could be constructed.

Most of .ewe's revenue stream will come from per-transaction management fees - if you want to update your name servers there will be a service fee.  If you want to transfer the name there will be a transfer fee to do the certificate transfer magic and publish the anti-repudiation database that digital certificate systems usually require.

The transaction requests must be digitally signed using the certificate.  As I said, it is the owner's responsibility to hold and protect the certificate and to ensure that it isn't lost or destroyed.

Transfers can be made by any means the owner desires - .ewe is not involved.  The buyer and seller can simply transfer the certificate between themselves if they aren't worried about repudiation by the seller.  Or, if they are concerned about repudiation they can obtain a new certificate from .ewe (for a transaction fee, of course.)  An interesting aspect is that the process of issuing a new certificate can, through the same self-lobotomy process used when issuing the original certificate, retain the anonymity of the certificate holder.

The fee structure may include a requirement that at least one management transaction occur every 5 years or so, else the name could migrate to archival storage (e.g. will not be resolvable via DNS queries and management transactions would take longer to consumate).  And, or course, there would be a fee to migrate a name back out of the archive.

.ewe will run name servers, naturally.  However, it will make its zone file available via many means - P2P technology, zone transfers, etc - for a fee and a license agreement to refrain from doing bad things with the data.

If there is a dispute about ownership - the parties can fight it out between themselves using the legal system and not some kangaroo court "dispute resolution policy".  The law-court can award possession of the certificate to the winner.  And if desired .ewe can enter the court ordered transfer can be entered into the anti-repudiation database - for a fee.

.ewe's operations can be highly efficient - it is amenable to a high degree of automation.  Without yearly billing cycles, without the need to support registrars, without the need to publish whois, without the need to manage a dispute resolution system, the registration costs can be very low.

Will this business plan fly?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  Will we ever know?  Probably not.  Why not?  There is nothing illegal or technologically dangerous in this plan.  However ICANN, by virtue of its incumbent-protective policies, will almost certainly not allow .ewe into the only commercially viable marketplace for domain names.  The phrase that should come to mind is "restraint of trade".

And that is wrong.  Every idea, unless it is clearly a direct danger to the technical stability of the internet deserves the right to live or die by its own lights.  Everyone should have the right to try out a silly or bright idea and loose his shirt or make a mint. -- See my First Law of the Internet.

But ICANN has imposed centralized planning - much like a Soviet Five Year Plan from 1950 - onto the internet.  Ideas that do not fit the ICANN conception of beauty are ideas that ICANN will exclude from the marketplace that ICANN controls.

That is a sorry state of affairs - And it is made even more sad when one considers how the internet evolved out of a rejection of the rigid telco orthodoxy of the 1960's.  Had the inventors of the internet had to obtain approval of a body such as ICANN has become it is unlikely that we would have had an internet.

(Footnote: In case you were wondering where .ewe came from:  Several years ago I was in Fry's Electronics in Palo Alto and there was a pile of Microsoft "Windows Me" boxes.  I reeled back from the self-centric world view of such a name.  Out of the blue the old pick-up line "Enough about me, let's talk about you" popped into my head and was immediately transmogrified into "Enough about me, let's talk about ewe".  Since this was the era of other barnyard animal TLDs - .moo and .kids - the thought of .ewe as a TLD seemed obvious.)

Posted by karl at February 1, 2005 1:09 AM