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How ICANN could spend its $240 million war chest

Kevin Murphy, January 2, 2018, 11:49:58 (UTC), Domain Policy

Schools, pHD students and standards groups could be among the beneficiaries of ICANN’s nearly quarter-billion-dollar new gTLD auction war chest.

But new gTLD registries hoping for to dip into the fund for marketing support are probably shit out of luck.

Those are among the preliminary conclusions of a volunteer working group that has been looking at how ICANN should spend its new gTLD program windfall.

Over 17 new gTLD auctions carried out by ICANN under its “last resort” contention resolution system, the total amount raised to date is $240,590,128.

This number could increase substantially, should still-contested strings such as .music and .gay go to last-resort auction rather than being settled privately.

Prices ranged from $1 for .webs to $135 million for .web.

ICANN has always said that the money would be held separate to its regular funding and eventually given to special projects and worthy causes.

Now, the Cross-Community Working Group on New gTLD Auction Proceeds has published its current, close-to-final preliminary thinking about which such causes should be eligible for the money, and which should not.

In a letter to ICANN (pdf), the CCWG lists 18 (currently hypothetical, yet oddly specific) example proposals for the use of auction funds, 17 of which it considers “consistent” with ICANN’s mission.

A 19th example, which would see money used to promote TLD diversity and “smells too much like marketing” according to some CCWG members, is still open for debate.

While the list of projects that could be approved for funding under the proposed regime is too long to republish here, it would for example include giving scholarships to pHD students researching internet infrastructure, funding internet security education in developing-world primary schools and internet-related disaster-recovery efforts in risk-prone regions.

The only area the CCWG appears to be reluctant to endorse funding is the case of commercial enterprises run by women and under-represented communities.

The full list can be downloaded here (pdf).

The CCWG hopes to publish its initial report for public comment not too long after ICANN 61 in March. Comment would then need to be incorporated into a final report and then ICANN would have to approve its recommendations and implement a process for actually distributing the funds.

Don’t expect any money to change hands in 2018, in other words.

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Comments (2)

  1. Rubens Kuhl says:

    I think a minor tweak to the project about TLD diversity might gather community support.
    “Projects that alert Internet users (particularly in
    developing countries) of the availability of generic TLDs
    that can equip them with a unique online identity, not a
    “co-branded” identity such as FB or Instagram (for
    example) provide. This may be of particular interest to
    small and medium businesses or farms, and
    entrepreneurs.”

    By changing “TLD Diversity” to “Domain name-based digital identity” and “generic TLDs” to “domain names”, it stops being a new gTLD promotion endeavor.

  2. James Bladel says:

    Some of these ideas have merit. Others stray too close to ICANN supporting (subsidizing?) commercial interests.

    But, beyond categorizing the uses of funds, I also think it’s critical for this CCWG to develop controls and mechanisms to ensure that these funds are not available to ICANN for general operations, or to cover any budget shortfalls.

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