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Private auctions could be banned in new gTLD next round

Kevin Murphy, March 4, 2024, 20:02:58 (UTC), Domain Policy

ICANN is “sympathetic” to the view that private auctions between competing new gTLD applicants are a Bad Thing that should be discouraged in the next application round.

Director Alan Barrett told the GNSO Council at ICANN 79 today that the board of directors, following Governmental Advisory Committee advice, has hired a consultant and is looking at ways to design an ICANN-run “last resort” auction in a way that “disincentivizes” the use of private auctions.

In the 2012 round, many contention sets were settled with private auctions, with tens of millions of dollars changing hands. Losing auctions was a real money-spinner for several portfolio applicants. When ICANN conducted the auctions, ICANN got the money.

Last June, the GAC advised ICANN to “ban or strongly disincentivize private monetary means of resolution of contention sets, including private auctions”, and Barrett said ICANN is considering how to fulfill that advice.

“We don’t know the answers yet, but what I can say is that we are looking at it and we are sympathetic to the idea of disincentivizing private auctions,” Barrett said.

He added that ICANN is looking at how it might discourage competing applicants from settling their contention sets using joint ventures “in a bad faith kind of way”.

“There’s the risk that applicants might use a joint venture in a bad faith kind of way, as a way of transferring money from one applicant to another, in much the same way as private actions could have done,” he said. “We want to figure out a way of allowing good-faith joint ventures.”

My sense is that whatever ICANN comes up with will have to have a substantial carrot component, or an equally big stick. The domain industry can be incredibly devious at times, and if there’s a way to make a big chunk of change filing unsuccessful new gTLD applications, somebody will figure it out.

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Comments (7)

  1. Avri Doria says:

    Given that every new rule, no matter how draconian, creates new opportunities for those who skirt rules, I have every expectation that someone will will find a way to get rich off of a new prohibition.

  2. Rubens Kuhl says:

    If someone had a business plan including a TLD launch, and it ends up in contention, there shouldn’t be a problem in getting a bit of the expected revenue as compensation.

    The problem is with applying just to make money in private auctions. I’m not saying is easy to separate the two cases, but we need to target the right threat. Of course any rule will come with false positives and false negatives, but we should at least aim to do right.

    • Matthias Pfeifer says:

      You are right Rubens, but what Barret said:

      “We don’t know the answers yet..”

      And I am pretty sure that they won’t find one without forcing private auctions going dark.

      Just because of the fact that this is a very lucrative business model and I am also pretty sure that this could be the only really interesting part in next rounds since we all faced the fact that only a handfull gTLDs really “work”.

  3. page howe says:

    so i realize this is a rarely held, and much criticized opinion..

    but being able to start a Web3 TLD, and I REALIZE IT DOESNT RESOLVE NOW, yes i hear you, and have 2 years to build a market (even it means using a new dns or plugin)

    be able to market directly to the public, not be limited by ICANN business rules setup for the benefits of certain constituencies,, and be live, now, building a market and a community is so appealing to me

    i get a two year head start and my customer at are used to downloading apps, whats one more to use a new dns for web3 (

    and YES there is rights protection and abuse mitigation..

    mind you im not talking about public internet tlds, ICANN should and does manage the PUBLIC root, but should my only choice at my own tld community be 1,000,000, auctions, delays, waiting, unsure applicant guidebook.. not for me.

    thanks for the vine.

    • Matthias Pfeifer says:

      Page, there IS already a market.
      The job you (and the others) will probably have to do is to include registrars and the Browser.

      Imagine Mozilla would integrate such domains (on a resolution level), the game would probably change immediately.

      for other protocols like email this could be done via mappings in regular DNS.

      I am not sure if this will be a gift to us all but I guess thats the way it will go..

    • Rubens Kuhl says:

      Web3 is like AOL content back in the days, you either have the software or you can’t get to it. Look to what happened to AOL…

      • Matthias Pfeifer says:

        Rubens, its still a matter of adoption. Also regular DNS and browsers are just Software everyone need (at least local resolvers).

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