February 10, 2006

On Bret's Blog

I tend to read Bret Fausett's blog rather than listening to his podcasts - my six minute commute between home and my office is usually spent listening to the worlds best radio station, KPIG.

But back to what Bret wrote.  I generally agree with him.  But not always.  And this is one of those times.

Recently he has had a conversation going about the creation of new Top Level Domains - in Bret's case he tends to qualify them as 'g' for general or generic - "gTLDs".  I don't agree that that little 'g' is a meaningful distinction.

While I'll agree that some early internet choices caused the creation of TLDs related to countries and that there are a couple of TLDs that serve internet technical functions (e.g. in-addr.arpa), I find the whole idea that we have to know what a TLD is "for" or what it "means" to be deeply wrong.

In old days corporations used to have charters that said what they were to do.  This caused a great deal of trouble (e.g. Credit Mobilier) or arbitrarily limited corporate activity (and thus forcing the creation of "trusts" a la Standard Oil under Rockefeller).  Eventually we learned that corporate charters are silly; today corporations are allowed to engage in whatever businesses they like as long as they don't violate any laws and their shareholders not object.

But the whole TLD thing is based on this notion of charters and semantics, or rather the whole system of TLD regulation, which is what ICANN is all about, is based on some notion that ICANN must manage and control the charters and semantics of those who want to run a TLD or engage in the business of selling, and reselling, and re-re...selling names in those TLDs.

From where I sit the whole conception that we have a regulatory system, ICANN, that requires entrepreneurs to submit their domain name plans to ICANN for approval according to some arbitrary ICANN standard of domain name beauty and semantics is not merely wrong, it borders on the illegal - restraint of trade.

It is up to the entrepreneur, not ICANN the regulatory body, to create domain name brands and give (and change) the meaning of those brands.

Yet Bret and others seem to presume that it is appropriate for the internet regulator, ICANN, to manage the creation and meaning of internet TLD brands.

The internet does not need top-down or bottom-up or side-in regulation of TLD semantics and business plans.

Instead the internet needs the absence of regulation of TLD semantics and business plans.

ICANN ought to be blind to TLD names and semantics.  The meaning or purpose of a TLD is no more of ICANN's business than flight attendant uniform styles are a matter for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

I don't care, and neither should the ICANN regulatory system care, whether .com means commercial, comic, communist, or commotion.  Nor should the ICANN regulatory system care whether my TLD, .ewe, or any other TLD, is going to be used by its customers for auctions, religious proselytization, or time travel.

All this talk about semantics and purposes of TLDs and domain names is a waste of time and an impediment to innovation - it's just the internet era's revival of centralized planning in the style of the old USSR's Five Year Plans.

ICANN, the e-Soviet.

ICANN should simply get out of the way and let the internet innovate.

The only thing that ICANN should review and evaluate when granting new TLD slots is whether the operator has sufficient skills to know how to abide by internet technical standards.  ICANN should stop trying being a Guild of Internet Names; ICANN should stop trying to make the internet conform to its own image of what the internet should be.

It is not right to admit or deny TLD applicants their chance to succeed or fail based on ICANN, the internet regulator's, perception of gTLD name semantics.

(By-the-way, I don't agree that "presumptive renew" is the bit issue in the ICANN-Verisign contract.  Rather I believe it is one of the big issues, but certainly not the only one.  I find the permission to do data mining to be equally bad.)

Posted by karl at February 10, 2006 9:37 AM