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dotShabaka Diary — Day 17, Collisions plan is a dog’s breakfast

Kevin Murphy, October 10, 2013, 10:45:24 (UTC), Domain Policy

The seventeenth installment of dotShabaka Registry’s journal, charting its progress towards becoming one of the first new gTLDs to go live, written by general manager Yasmin Omer.

Thursday 10 October 2013

As regular readers of this journal will know, we have been frustrated by the lack of certainty surrounding the new gTLD program.

Other industries would have picketed the building of the regulator with suitably angry placards being waved and a catchy song. Unfortunately in the domain name industry, angry blogs serve as a replacement to chaining ourselves to Fadi’s swivel chair.

So as a compromise, I ask readers to hum their favourite protest tune while reading our latest tale of woe.

Flippant commentary aside, the document ICANN released on name collisions yesterday (New gTLD Collision Occurrence Management) is a perfect example of what many applicants find challenging about ICANN staff’s use of the public comment process.

Despite the many detailed studies undertaken by a number of applicants and reported through the public comment process, it would appear that many of the recommendations or proposed solutions have been ignored by ICANN staff and the NGPC in favour of something that resembles a ‘dog’s breakfast’.

You’ll recall that ICANN made some suggestions to mitigate the risk of name collisions. There were three categories: High (dead men walking), Uncategorised (deer in headlights) and Low (phew ).

There was going to be a study about something at sometime that would decide stuff and the aforementioned deer would roam free. There was going to be a TLD tasting period during which time registries got to play spammer to unsuspecting ISPs (I wonder if I can get a refund like domain tasters used to, if I don’t get enough traffic?).

A comment period was had and people duly commented. Neither the original suggestions nor the comments seem to have any connection with what appeared in the document we read yesterday. The actions and processes discussed in the document are completely new. Oh, and the Board approved them.

A thought for those in the industry: are we so inured to this kind of procedural disdain that one more example simply doesn’t make us angry anymore?

So what of the document? Is it good for us and the industry? Well there is no low or uncategorised risk grouping anymore. Everyone is in the same bucket of riskiness. Depending on who you are, that might be good for you.

The TLD tasting period, where a TLD was delegated and emails were sent to every poor soul who made the mistake of looking up a non-existing TLD, is gone. That is definitely good. An outreach program with network operators and ISPs seems like an eminently sensible idea. A spam campaign chasing random DNS queries seems like a mad idea.

Now to the grim news – there will be another study (isn’t there always) and another process (if it’s implementation can we just… oh never mind).

The study will tell us which strings from the DITL data set (and other unnamed sets) are risky and why and what we should do with them. Such risk will be contextual to the TLD in question. There’s no detail on how many strings we are talking about. There’s no criteria for the string’s presence in the list (number of queries, type of queries, known risks etc). That sounds like a large chunk of work. No matter how it is automated.

The process to be determined is how the strings and suggested mitigations are delivered to and managed by registries. There’s potentially a lot of future system development and labour costs on the horizon for TLD operators.

Many TLDs will not need to wait for this completed work to delegate. However they must accept from ICANN a list of names they can’t delegate until the process/study and their personalised list of names is completed.

Firstly ICANN has to decide if you can take this option up. How will they do that you ask? I would point you to the very clear decision tree located within the document, only it appears to have been left out. Coming soon.

Second, ICANN has to create and send you the standby extra cautious list. Now we are getting nervous. Just how many names will be on this list? Will there be any filtering or common sense applied? Is the extra cautious list subject to comment? Does it exist already?

There’s also a new process that allows someone who suffers harm from the delegation of a second level domain to have it blocked for a period of up to 2 years. When one thinks through such a process it seems most likely that this harm is only determined after the delegation, not prior. Therefore Registries may be in a position where they need to un-delegate a domain already in use by a registrant.

That could be a rude shock to some innocent registrants. The principle of doing this bothers us. The practical and legal implication of doing this bothers us. And the lack of any detail around how this process is managed, most definitely bothers us.

Whenever I hear process and study I also hear delay. In fact the modus operandi of those opposing the gTLD program has not been to fight it, but to suggest one more study and another process, knowing the effect such activities will have.

So here we are, certain in our uncertainty that one day – soon or not so soon – we will be delegated.

We can’t be the only ones who have internal jokes about the randomness of ICANN policy development. They help us make light of the otherwise business crippling proclamations we receive with no warning.

Don’t you wish, just for once, those jokes weren’t so true?

Read previous and future diary entries here.

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Comments (4)

  1. Rubens Kuhl says:

    Now playing: “Rockin’ In The Free World” – Neil Young
    Keep on rockin’ in the ICANN world, folks.

  2. Not Com Tom says:

    ‘Do You Hear the People Sing’

    Les Miserables

  3. Kurt Pritz says:

    I no longer sit at the table at ICANN but I can speculate as to how the so-called “collisions” issue is being discussed.

    Verisign and others have raised the (artificial, in my opinion) specter that even a few ‘collisions’ are dangerous. “We-just-don’t know.”

    Opponents to the program are hopping on that bandwagon: whether they understand it or not, whether it is related to their area of concern or not. (See, for example the ANA presentation at the recent DNS Security Forum in Washington, DC; I cannot find the link.)

    What concerns ICANN the most on this issue? Program delays? Working with technical experts to find the safe, reasonable solution? Finding the correct technical argument to debunk the (again, in my opinion) irrational fears?

    No. The greatest concern is the big loss: some well-spoken individual going to the US Congress or the European Commission and saying, “those lunatics are about to delegate dangerous TLDs, there will be c-o-l-l-i-s-i-o-n-s!!!” All the self-interested parties (acting rationally self-interested) will echo that complaint.

    And someone in a governmental role will listen, and the program might be at jeopardy.

    So ICANN is taking away all the excuses of those claiming technical risk. By temporarily blocking ALL of the SLDs seen in the day-in-the-life data and by putting into place a process to address new SLD queries that might raise a risk of harm, ICANN is delegating TLDs that are several orders of magnitude safer on this issue than all of the hundreds of TLDs that have already been delegated. (For the folks at the ANA, even one order of magnitude is a big number.)

    By creating a TLD-by-TLD plan, ICANN is trying to provide the most freedom for each individual TLD and still maintain delegations that are still orders of magnitude safer on this issue.

    ICANN has taken this approach to avoid the one big programmatic risk – a delay whose outcome cannot be controlled by us in the ICANN community.

    The problem raised in the Shabaka blog is that this thinking, if that is the thinking, has not been communicated to applicants. So those who have spent hundreds of hours on data analysis do not know if their work is being considered, and those who have not been following the issue closely are dumb-founded by another delay and more, uncertain restrictions.

    Yesterday’s ICANN blog http://blog.icann.org/ on this and the earlier ICANN video blogs were good to describe ICANN’s “conservative” position. But the reason why they are taking this position is a problem of communications as much as it is about risk due to “collisions.”

    Oh, and my musical selection is, “Tied to the Whipping Post, “ Allman Bros. Band

    • John Berryhill says:

      “some well-spoken individual going to the US Congress”

      In more than a decade of periodic ICANN/Congressional dog and pony shows, nothing has ever come of any of them. Proxies for the usual suspects present their testimony to the occasional concerned comments of the elected representatives, at least one of whom called the hearing at the behest of a contributor, and the topic of interest eventually turns to where one’s friends are having lunch.

      These ritualized cathartic exercises have not once resulted in a piece of legislation, but the threat of “I’m running off to tell Mommy and Daddy” retains its grip despite the apparent facts. Not long ago, a quite well-spoken Esther Dyson was among those inveighing against the horrors of new gTLD’s, and about the only outcome was that attendees of various political persuasions had an opportunity to greet their respective heroines Sen. Ayotte of New Hampshire or Sen. Klobuchar of Minnesota, as the case may be.

      The current US Congress has set the most anemic record of bringing itself to pass any legislation at all beyond the occasional re-naming of a Post Office. The 113th Congress has passed something on the order of 22 bills for signature in total, and has confirmed about 110 of 300 nominees for various posts.

      The notion that a legislative body which, at present is debating whether to bankrupt the country next week or to put it off for another six weeks, is going to consider anything relating to ICANN as among the top two-dozen priorities facing them in the coming election year at the going rate of legislation, is fantasy. That this time-honored whispered threat retains its potency in ICANN circles is one of the great mysteries of our time.

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