15
Jun/12

Guest Rant: It's All About The Free Market Until The Domainers Get Hurt


Editor’s Note: Google’s and Amazon’s TLD applications for certain ‘generic’ terms indicate they would be run as ‘closed’ registries, that is to say, third parties can’t own the names – all domain names would be the property of the registry operator. Various commentators (mostly aligned with the domain industry) have reacted negatively to this news. This guest rant is in response to the criticism that these proposed closed registries are counter to the ‘open spirit’ of the Internet. This rant is left “anonymous” to keep the opinions from being named as those of the blogger’s employers, friends, family, neighborhood, or others (unless we experience a glitch and accidentally reveal the name, in which case please note the opinions are the blogger’s own and no one else’s).

There are a large variety of definitions of what “free market” means, depending on which economic theory you take on: from capitalist and laissez-faire notions to socialist economics. It seems, however, that the definition of “free market” within the economic theory of the new gTLDs is a “free for all”; or at least for those who care and make money off of it.

There has been a bit of chatter on the old inter tubes over the past day or so about – shock of all shock – registrants for generic gTLD strings that are going to maintain them as closed registries. That those entities have applied for the gTLDs only to control something that should be “open” to all – because, I guess, the string is generic.

There is no doubt whatsoever that there needs to be space on the Internet – a large space – free from control where free speech, art, communications, etc. can occur. (Many of us would love it if that space were free from fraud, cybersquatters, spam, phishing, pay-per-click, affiliates, advertising, and commercial sites as well.) And those spaces do and will exist.

It seems the argument made by many “outraged” by the closed gTLD generics is that companies should only be offering generics under open models. So in other words, a business not in the business of running a registry for the sake of running a registry and providing a space for the Internet as a whole, is not welcome unless under a brand designation.

But under this argument, when you look at those who did apply for “open” generic gTLDs, doesn’t that just mean you are creating a monopoly in those who have been in this game and controlled much of this space anyway for a long time. The actual break out here is that you are having businesses come in and get active in this space: open or closed.

Maybe the answer is that all generic gTLD strings be run by a non-profit for the public good, in a “free market” manner, and NO ONE makes money off of them? I would vote for that.

Let’s be real. This is not about more choice; most people don’t know, or care, about the new gTLDs. This is about creating some interesting innovations on the web and moving forward technology and money; pure and simple. We see the money that is there already: $350 million. But some of the innovation I expect to see, innovation everyone will indeed gain from, will come from those who applied for the closed generics – the Googles and the Amazons – and not necessarily from the purveyors of pay-per-click or from those who have been in the game controlling it to date. Simultaneously, there are lots and lots of these new gTLDs where there will be open space and you can still have an entry to market; post your content; engage in speech; etc.

What ICANN, and those who have been arguing for the expansion of the gTLDs for years, have done is, plain and simple, privatized the Internet. Those companies everyone is complaining about as grabbing, in effect, “public land” did not argue for the opening of the space (in fact some tried to stop it). And now they are being criticized for doing exactly what ICANN and the community wanted them to do; simply because others now face some real competition for the space.

It seems to me, that what has happened is actually less monopolistic than what has happened to date. For the first time in recent memory, there are new significant entries to the market of ICANN.

3 Responses to “Guest Rant: It's All About The Free Market Until The Domainers Get Hurt”

  1. I’ve maintained a consistent position myself over the years (and now decades), in that I steadfastly stand up for use of the domain name system in the logically structured manner in which it was originally intended; pick the proper top level domain for your sort of entity (don’t just shove everything in .com even if it’s noncommercial), and use subdomains logically for related clusters of sites.  This “old-line-geek” view seems to be the decided minority, however, in a sea of viewpoints mostly self-serving in nature from people with all sorts of dreams and schemes to profit from some part of the system.

  2. Marty says:

    You’re an old-line-geek ;-)  Would you say that the pre-Neustar .US  (for example, well.sf.ca.us) illustrated a market rejection of the logical use of the DNS?

  3. The old .us was perhaps more levels of subdomains than were desirable in most cases; for most websites, a geographical hierarchy doesn’t make a lot of sense for the addressing system, although it had its uses for strictly local stuff.  The addressing system for state sites in the form of http://www.state.state-abbreviation.us had a lot to recommend itself if followed consistently, but unfortunately they haven’t been consistent; there’s a whole crazy-quilt of different addressing systems used by the 50 states for their government sites.  Consistency is the most important thing in my mind; even a somewhat awkward system is better if everybody uses it consistently.