Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A better Governing Body for better domain names?

ICANN has shown that the Internet works, and actually, it has never stopped working: who can tell the same about any online project? Internet works and the world can thank ICANN for this. When if comes to talking about domain names, this is a different speech and the ICANN clearly shows that it might not be the right Governing body anymore. I am no journalist and here is my opinion.

Mistakes from the ICANN new gTLD program
The problem with what comes next is that it is now too late and there is no way-back until “better” is found.

The ICANN new gTLD program has shown that the many mistakes made will have an impact on end-users in the coming years: plural and singular new domain name extensions to confuse future Registrants, (I like to call them) the “ultra-negative” new gTLDs like “.sucks” to seriously harm trademarks, companies and people when they discover that their name was registered in “.sucks”, the impossibility for Trademarks to protect themselves without “paying”, the incapacity of real end-users to be listened to and an ICANN Board who is not able to say “no” when it should. These are the first one to catch my attention and actually...this post is not about listing them.

The AFNIC report explains what is behind domain names
The Recent AFNIC report gives ideas on “how the DNS could be improved”. It is a very good explanation on how the Internet actually works for domain names and what other alternatives already exist. You probably never noticed about other alternatives right? You never noticed because they are no standard and require to set up your computer: something you’ll probably never do because you have no idea that this can be done nor how a computer can be set up to access them. Yes...there are other “Internets”, other ways to name a website and other networks you could navigate to see a content online. But who cares as long as emails work and website return an information when you search on Google?

I care because Internet is now led by bodies who don’t have the capacity to take the right decisions anymore and this has an strong impact on future generations of Internet users. I am French and I know what I am talking about. I live in a country where our debt is increasing as well as unemployment and we are the one to explain Greeks what they should do to recover their place in Europe! This gives you an idea of what I think about the role of ICANN when it comes to deciding about domain names. Many times, the ICANN should have said “no” and it hasn’t.

Can domain names be upgraded or improved?
“Alternative roots” are “other Internets”, pretty much the same as what the ICANN governs but in their case, the governing body is the legal entity to have developed each root, the body to maintain it. The Afnic report explains what they are much better than I do. I remember talking about alternative roots for the past 20 years with the same feed-back: “not a chance to ever see the day nor to be adopted by Internet users unless it is made simple”. The problem with alternative roots is that they need “adoption”. Adoption requires a serious communication back-up (by countries or member states for example) but not only: they require a good method of governance and from a governing body whose decisions cannot be “pushed” for adoption by one single country or spoken language: English in the case of the ICANN.

The .SUCKS new gTLD: pure genius or end-users nightmare?
Pure genius of course when you sit in the chair of the Entrepreneur because impacted parties by this Top-Level Domains have no other choice but to pay and this means big money for the applicant. I particularly love the way the applicant promotes the benefit of “.sucks” domain names to end-users.
A nightmare for any party who can be associated to this negative term at any moment with, as sole solution, to pay to fight infringement.

Even if it is already too late, I believe this Top-Level Domains is just a beginning unless ICANN changes that. And if it doesn’t, I see no reason why an applicant would not submit an application for a “.pedophilia” or a “.fuck” new gTLD in the future Round of the ICANN new gTLD program. Trademarks will probably pay not to be associated to these domain name extensions.

What could come next?
Angela Merkel started the discussion in 2014 and proposed building an European Network: understand an Internet where the ICANN wouldn’t have its word to say. The article explains why. I also remember launching the subject of alternative roots to an AFNIC member during a conference about new gTLDs but I was fast taken to a dead-end since it does not really promote new gTLDs...but I now read an AFNIC report on how to improve the DNS. I also keep receiving a very negative speech from all Trademarks I discuss with about the the “.sucks” new gTLD with the same question: “how could this happen?” ICANN, this question is for you. So I wonder: isn’t it time to build a better naming system based on mistakes made from the existing one?

The Afnic Report is full of suggestions for a “version 2”
The Afnic report is full of ideas based on existing solutions which could be adapted to a version 2 of the Internet. Cryptography offers an alternative to better fight spying for example: part of Angela Merkel’s problem (and now the problem of more European Leaders since 2012)?

New gTLDs are great and offer real advantages to end-users: registration figures truly demonstrate that. The success of Registries such as .CLUB and its level of adoption from Clubs, geographic TLDs such as .PARIS or .LONDON, IDNs are good examples which demonstrate that the ICANN new gTLD program brought innovation and serves end-users. New gTLDs are being adopted and most should be granted access to a version two of the Web, getting rid of…”mistakes from the past”. Only a new governing body can make a mix of the existing to start another version of the Internet...based on end-users suggestions, not those from service providers.

A new Governance is the issue
I won’t write about the political mess around the announcement from an European member State announcing its version of Internet: lobbyists exist for this.

If a version 2 of Internet was to be created, I’d see no reason to get rid of existing new generic Top-Level Domains. There is a way to offer entry tickets to selected existing Registries so they could keep their place on a version 2 of a better Internet. In return, they’d have to adapt their project according to new legal and technical rules, up to them to want it or not.

Make the DNS more simple to end-users
If we all admit that things like “sub-domains” are not brandable, building a new Internet also offers advantages to Trademarks and other end-users to upgrade domain names. My personal website’s name is “”: why can’t I have “Jovenet Consulting” instead of having to go through the registration process of a domain name and technically decide wheither I have/want to use the “www” in front of it or not? Can’t we invent something more simple today?

Internet is great and it works technically. It is free too and let’s keep it this way - unless paying is the solution to make it a decent place for future generations of users - but if I like the idea that if should belong to everyone, we also know that democracy exists because there are leaders to decide. When someone is above final leaders to push decisions, when these leader’s close circle are able to push decisions, this is not called democracy anymore. It is what I believe is happening to ICANN today and as an Internet user, I want better than this for myself and for my kids.


.BRAND new gTLD Reports are updated once a month: CLICK HERE !