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

Kevin Murphy, June 6, 2013, 08:19:49 (UTC), Domain Registries

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 Donuts has withdrawn its application for the .vote new gTLD, leaving an Afilias joint venture as the sole remaining applicant, it emerged today.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.

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Comments (7)

  1. Jean Guillon says:

    Unfortunately, I think few applicants really worry about innovation anymore: it is time to sell…FAST.
    The same quesiton can be raised here for .WINE and .VIN: only one applicant offers them both.
    Have Famous Four Media and Afilias participated in auctions for .WINE ?

    • gpm group says:

      Unfortunately, I think few applicants really worry about innovation anymore
      Let’s hope there isn’t a race to the bottom when the seed funding starts running low and the bills need paying. The last thing innocent third parties need are more arduous rules and regulations which in turn require ever increasing costs in order to have them enforced.
      We are already seeing some of the damage done in existing gTLDs as a direct result of new gTLDs and that’s before they even launch. – Not a good sign.

  2. I fail to see how this auction result raises questions about the private auction process. Presumably the same dynamic would hold in an ICANN-sponsored auction, or if the two parties just made a deal.
    I submit that very few people have any information about what innovation is or is not waiting in the wings. I would guess we are not going to see much innovation, simply because most people/businesses are not innovative. But the current new gTLD process, for all its faults, does allow the possibility of innovation — which is the most one can hope for from a process. And it does so by not telling people how they should run their businesses.
    Afilias and its partner are and should be allowed to follow whatever business model they want. I haven’t noticed that UK universities are without websites because .edu is restricted to US-based academic institutions, or that UK government agencies are disadvantaged because .gov is restricted to US government entities, or that UK military communications are in some hampered because .mil is restricted to the US military.
    I would dearly like to see some empirical evidence of harm done, or any trend suggesting that harm was likely, instead of vague and formless fears. Can anyone adduce any evidence of any kind that elections will be compromised in any way, in the UK or the US or elsewhere, because .vote and .voto are targeted at US registrants?

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      The article doesn’t have anything to say about the “private auction process” versus the ICANN model. It’s talking about the principle of giving TLDs to the highest bidder.
      Some people think it’s a bad way to pick winners; some say it’s good. This auction highlights that clash of ideals.
      There are plenty of people who would disagree with your statement that Afilias “should be allowed to follow whatever business model they want”.
      The GAC, for one.

  3. Zack says:

    Or govt officials could completely ignore anything from .vote rendering the TLD being focused on let’s say who will be elected student class president in my daughter’s 5th grade class

  4. Jean Guillon says:

    I call .TEL serious inonvation by the way. Godaddy’s ideas on .MENU are also very good I think.

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