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Donuts withdraws its .vote bid, raising questions about new gTLD auctions

One down, only 306 to go! Donuts has withdrawn its application for the .vote new gTLD, leaving an Afilias joint venture as the sole remaining applicant, it emerged today.

It’s reasonable to assume that this is the first result of the private string auctions, designed by Cramton Associates, that are being run by Innovative Auctions this week.

Donuts had submitted .vote to this auction and has previously said that auctions were its preferred method of resolving contention sets.

Either way, the winner of the contention set is Monolith Registry, a joint venture of .info registry Afilias and two individual investors based in Utah.

Monolith is also the only applicant for the Spanish translation, .voto.

It’s the first example of a contention set between competing business models being resolved.

The result tells us a lot about how money talks in the new gTLD program and how it does not evaluate applications based on criteria such as inclusiveness or innovation.

Donuts had proposed a .vote with an open registration policy and no special purpose. People would have been able to register domains there for essentially any reason.

Afilias, on the other hand, intends to tightly restrict its .vote to “official and verified governments and office seekers” in only the United States.

Remarkably, it has the same US-only policy for the Spanish-language .voto, though both applications suggest that eligibility will be expanded to other countries in future.

Cybersquatting is not infrequent in electioneering, so .vote could give voters a way to trust that the web site they visit really does contain the opinions of the candidate.

Pricing is expected to be set at $60 “for the first year” ($100 for .voto), and Afilias reckons there are upwards of one million elected officials and candidates that would qualify for the names in the US alone.

It’s a potentially lucrative business, in other words.

But did the program produce an ideal result here?

Is it better that .vote carries a high price and will be restricted to American politicians? Is it right that other, non-governmental types of voting will be excluded from the TLD?

Or does the result show that the program can produce innovative uses of TLDs? With a couple of restricted namespaces, where voters and politicians can trust the authenticity of the contents (insert politicians-are-liars joke here) is Afilias adding value to the internet?

These types of questions are going to be asked over and over again as more contention set results emerge.