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Wiki to shake up the new gTLD market

Kevin Murphy, July 7, 2011, 21:03:35 (UTC), Domain Registries

Tens of thousands of dollars worth of registry secret sauce is set to be released under a Creative Commons license on a new wiki, courtesy of the International Telecommunications Union.
Applying for a new generic top-level domain could be about to get a whole lot cheaper.
Before October, the ITU plans to publish template answers to all 22 of the questions about registry technical operations demanded by ICANN’s Applicant Guidebook.
Because they will be published under a Creative Commons license, new gTLD applicants will be able to copy and paste the whole lot into their applications for free.
And because they will be on a wiki, approved contributors will be able to fine-tune the templates to increase their chances of passing ICANN’s technical evaluation.
Currently, gTLD applicants are generally paying registry back-end providers to take care of this part of their applications, paying $10,000 and up for the privilege.
I think the word that applies here is “disruptive”.
Consultant and former ICANN board member Michael Palage, who has worked on a number of previous TLD launches, is coordinating the creation of the templates with input from registries and engineers.
The resulting “best in class” material will also be used by the ITU and the League of Arab States in their bid for .arab and its Arabic equivalent, .عرب.
According to the Guidebook, applicants do not need hands-on experience running a registry in order to have their application approved. ICANN is trying to enable competition, after all.
But there is a period of pre-delegation testing that each successful applicant must endure before their new gTLD is added to the root, so a simple copy-paste of the ITU’s templates will not suffice.
I doubt this project will take a great deal of money out of the pockets of the incumbent registries – well-funded applicants will presumably be happy to pay the extra money for certainty – but it will provide a bit of flexibility for applicants not already in bed with a back-end.
It could also help open up the new gTLD market to companies that may not have otherwise considered it, such as those in the developing world.
Indeed, part of the rationale for the Creative Commons publication is to aid with “capacity building” in these nations, according to an ITU presentation delivered in Cairo this week.
We’ve already seen pricing competition hit the registry services market in the wake of the approval of the new gTLD program, now it appears we’re seeing the dawn of “free”.

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Comments (14)

  1. M says:

    I hope each application does a good job of tying all components together…

  2. If I understand correctly, this will help them clear the application but they won’t be in a position to be functional when they do.
    This might actually benefit registry back-end providers in the long run..

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      It’s true that applicants will still have to build or rent a registry back-end, but these templates may give them a blueprint to build that maybe they didn’t have before.

  3. I believe it is incorrect to say that just the templates are worth tens of thousands of dollars registry secret sauce. The Registry back end providers have a lot more to offer then capitalizing on these templates.

  4. I would be surprised if this effort saw the light of day, and even more surprised if it were useful. There are some good reasons for that.
    At this stage, most of the people who have really studied the guidebook from the point of view of an applicant are in business as consultants, and are unlikely to contribute. The rest of the people who have studied the guidebook work at ICANN.
    Second, there is very little incentive for an applicant who has managed to figure out what’s going on to share it. What if a competitor uses it and you lose your TLD because you thought it would be nice if we all just got along?
    Third, a sneaky applicant might sabotage the wiki with false information. Yes, it’s likely that this would be found out eventually, but if done cleverly and consistently this kind of behavior might well “infect” some applications.
    On Wikipedia, there are a lot of people contributing and reading and correcting — this is why it stays honest for the most part. Furthermore, many are motivated to contribute by the desire for factual accuracy. The number of people completing TLD applications is by comparison extremely tiny, meaning fewer people to catch errors, and the motive to participate is to get your TLD approved — or to knock your competitor out of the box.
    Disruption? Maybe, but not the kind you think. Always ask Cicero’s question: cui bono?

  5. theo says:

    A template might help but still…. I am with Antony on this one.
    If people want to setup their own TLD a good start is to read the guidebook. Based on your findings there you can either go for it and re invent the wheel so to speak or hire a third party who can streamline the entire thing.

  6. Wil Tan says:

    Speaking in a personal capacity here.
    I commend the effort, but caveat emptor.
    It’s true that ICANN does not require applicants _themselves_ to have hands-on experience running a registry, but it does require applicants to demonstrate a sound technical plan for competently managing their registries in a secure and stable manner. They either have the experience themselves, or engage a registry technical provider.
    There are literally hundreds of variations on the details of how a registry is run e.g. the software components, the architecture of how those fit together, infrastructure, procedures and how it all scales with the projection. One could copy them, but they will need to be adapted to the TLD’s projection, staffing plans, budget, platform, etc. Established technical providers have their answers ready, and are unlikely to need any help there.
    If I were an evaluator and came across a mostly-wholesale answer from the wiki, I’d have a hard time getting convinced that the applicant is really competent to operate the registry unless the plan is consistent across both the technical and business sections.
    I fail to see any value in it other than perhaps a reference for applicants who wish to build their own technical solution.

  7. Avri Doria says:

    I think this is a great offering and very much appreciate that people are willing to make such an offering of their knowledge.
    I do think it can go a long way to helping in the creation of a new competitive marketplace for Registries who are not bound to the incumbent Registry Service Providers by their lack of knowledge.
    The only thing I am not sure of is whether those doing the application grading for ICANN will be allowed to accept answers alone or will expect to see an a functional entity in the background. That is, will ICANN be supportive of the creation of new Registries, or will it try to insure that the bulk of the RSP services will go to incumbents but forcing them to be locked, with contract penalties, before they even file an application.
    I am afraid ICANN will side with the incumbents.

    • M says:

      Why do you think the latter? Is it your opinion that ICANN is creating this to make more money for the incumbents?
      In my read of the application, I have not seen any “forcing” of applicants to a certain set of providers.
      That point aside, I think ICANN is looking for applications that can demonstrate technical, operational, and financial capabilities sufficient to run a piece of internet infrastructure. Clearly there must be a balance between providing opportunity and making sure that those who are applying understand what they are getting into. Are they going to set up a registry that is capable of meeting all of the requirements the community has outlined in the Applicant Guidebook? Technical components are but one set of criteria.
      If you read the questionnaire, the requirements/standards are fairly high, which they should be – this space should be open to to those who want to responsibly run a registry.

  8. Andy says:

    As they say “easier said than done”…maybe they’ll also build a registry back end with legos.

  9. Joe says:

    Has anybody seen an official statement from the ITU or its collaborators concerning this? It sounds potentially useful, but is there any commitment to make it happen?

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