With all the excitement about ICANN’s weekend publication of the new top-level domain Applicant Guidebook, it’s easy to forget that “new” TLDs have been around for a decade.
Tomorrow, November 16, is the 10th anniversary of the ICANN meeting at which the first wave of new gTLDs, seven in total, were approved.
The recording of the 2000 Marina Del Rey meeting may look a little odd to any relative newcomers to ICANN.
The open board meeting at which the successful new registries were selected took well over six hours, with the directors essentially making up their selection policies on the spot, in the spotlight.
It was a far cry from the public rubber-stamping exercises you’re more likely to witness nowadays.
Take this exchange from the November 2000 meeting, which seems particularly relevant in light of last week’s news about registry/registrar vertical integration.
About an hour into the meeting, chairman Esther Dyson tackled the VI idea head on, embracing it:
the notion of a registry with a single registrar might be offensive on its own, but in a competitive world I don’t see any problem with it and I certainly wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand
To which director Vint Cerf, Dyson’s eventual successor, responded, “not wishing to be combative”:
The choices that we make do set some precedents. One of the things I’m concerned about is the protection of users who register in these various top-level domains… If you have exactly one registrar per registry, the failure of either the registrar or the registry is a serious matter those who people who registered there. Having the ability to support multiple registrars, the demonstrated ability to support multiple registrars, gives some protection for those who are registering in that domain.
Odd to think that this ad-hoc decision took ten years to reverse.
It was a rather tense event.
The audience, packed with TLD applicants, had already pitched their bids earlier in the week, but during the board meeting itself they were obliged to remain silent, unable to even correct or clarify the misapprehensions of the directors and staff.
As a rookie reporter in the audience, the big news for me that day was the competition between the three registries that had applied to run “.web” as a generic TLD.
Afilias and NeuStar both had bids in, but they were competing with Image Online Design, a company that had been running .web in an alternate root for a number of years.
Cerf looked like he was going to back the IOD bid for a while, due to his “sympathy for pioneers”, but other board members were not as enthusiastic.
I was sitting immediately behind company CEO Christopher Ambler at the time, and the tension was palpable. It got more tense when the discussion turned to whether to grant .web to Afilias instead.
Afilias was ultimately granted .info, largely due to IOD’s existing claim on .web. NeuStar’s application was not approved, but its joint-venture bid for .biz was of course successful.
This was the meat of the resolution:
RESOLVED [00.89], the Board selects the following proposals for negotiations toward appropriate agreements between ICANN and the registry operator or sponsoring organization, or both: JVTeam (.biz), Afilias (.info), Global Name Registry (.name), RegistryPro (.pro), Museum Domain Management Association (.museum), Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques (.aero), Cooperative League of the USA dba National Cooperative Business Association (.coop);
If any of this nostalgia sounds interesting, and you want to watch seven hours of heavily pixelated wonks talking about “putting TLDs into nested baskets”, you can find the video (.rm format, that’s how old it is) of the MDR board meeting buried in an open directory here.