Demand Media has become the first new gTLD applicant to put its head above the parapet and tell ICANN that its latest batch of Governmental Advisory Committee advice is unworkable.
While its comment on the GAC’s Beijing communique is very diplomatically worded, it’s obvious that Demand reckons most of the “safeguard” advice it contains would be difficult, if not impossible, to implement.
The company has urged ICANN to refuse to adopt the advice, saying:
the spirit and actual letter of the GAC Advice related to these additional safeguards comes in a manner and form that is completely antithetical and contrary to ICANN’s bottom-up, multi-stakeholder, consensus-driven policy development process. Because the proposed safeguards, if implemented, would effectively change how new gTLDs are managed, sold, distributed, registered, operated, and used in the marketplace, the GAC Advice is tantamount to making “top-down,” dictatorial, non-consensus, policy which undermines the entire ICANN model. If ICANN chose to adopt any one of these three safeguards, ICANN itself would lose all legitimacy.
Demand seems to agree with many of the points raised in this DI post from a few weeks ago related to the GAC’s demand that hundreds of new gTLD registries should compel their registrants to stick to data security standards when they handle sensitive financial or healthcare data.
The GAC’s advice is extremely broad here and pays scant attention to the innumerable implementation questions raised. As such, Demand says in its comment (filed by applying subsidiary United TLD Holdco):
United TLD believes applicable laws and recognized industry standards should be developed and implemented by appropriate legislative, law enforcement and industry expert bodies and should not be developed by the registry operator.
It also takes issue with the GAC’s demand for registry operators to “establish a working relationship with the relevant regulatory body including developing a strategy to mitigate abuse.”
The company points out that many TLDs listed in the Beijing communique will have multiple uses, and even if there is a regulatory body for a subsection of registrants, it may not cover all.
For example, should a software engineer (an unregulated profession) have to agree to abide by rules developed for civil engineers when they register a .engineer domain name?
it would be inappropriate, and impossible, to find a “relevant regulatory body” with whom to establish a relationship related to the use of .ENGINEER. Additionally, what if the relevant regulatory body simply declined to work with a registry operator or does not respond to requests for collaboration?
The Demand comment is full of examples of problems such as this.
In broader terms, however, the registrar and applicant is utterly opposed to the GAC’s insistence that “certain” unspecified gTLDs representing regulated sectors should be forced, in effect, to transform into tightly restricted sponsored gTLDs.
The GAC wants these applicants to forge tight links with regulatory and self-regulatory bodies and vet each registrant’s credentials before allowing domains to be registered.
applicants, including United TLD, submitted their new gTLD applications believing that that they would be operating, managing and distributing generic TLDs. These three Safeguards completely change the nature of the new TLDs from being generic and widely available, to being “sponsored” TLDs restricted only to those individuals who must prove their status or credentials entitling them to register domain names with certain extensions. These three Safeguards are patently adverse to the core purpose of the new gTLD program and ICANN’s mission generally which is to promote consumer choice and competition.
While Demand is the first application to slam the GAC advice as a whole (a few others have submitted preliminary comments on specific subsets of advice), I’m certain it won’t be the last.
That said, .secure applicant Artemis Internet submitted what is possibly the most amusing example of “sucking up” I’ve ever seen in an ICANN public comment period.
The company actually requests to be added to the list of strings covered by the GAC advice on the grounds that its application was so gosh-darn wonderful it already planned to do all that stuff anyway.
I expect, by the time the comment period closes next Tuesday the prevailing mood from applicants will be more Demand and less Artemis.