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Expansion of global Top-Level Domains--Comments of CPSR to DNSO

Expansion of global Top-Level Domains

Comments of CPSR to the Domain Name Supporting Organization

Adopted 16 December 1999 by the CPSR Board

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility issues this comment in support of Position Paper B of the Interim Report on the creation of new global top-level domains (gTLDs), issued by Working Group C of ICANN's Domain Name Supporting Organization. We find that Position Paper B offers the best route to achieving competition in the registration of domain names, and furthermore that it is the paper demonstrating most strongly the spirit of experimentation and open standards that has characterized the Internet since its beginning.

The growth of the Internet, and its contribution to massive changes in modern life, spring from a willingness on all sides to tolerate multiple standards. For instance, there is no central committee that determines who has the right to develop new protocols; Tim Berners-Lee was not appointed by any regulatory body with a prior mandate to develop HTTP. If such a body existed, it could well have refused to develop HTTP on the grounds that there was no need for further competition in file transfer protocols. Instead, the openness of the Internet permitted HTTP to be developed and to spontaneously find grassroots support; most significant in the context of the gTLD debate, the invention of the URL created a new namespace in which HTTP, FTP, and other protocols could flourish without collision.

This history provides valuable lessons for the development of new gTLDs. Both Position Paper A and Position Paper B acknowledge that different gTLDs may be useful for different types of service; rather than promoting uniformity over all TLDs they celebrate diversity. But Position Paper B acknowledges the spirit of experimentation and diversity in a more thoroughgoing way than Position Paper A. Position Paper B calls for an unrestricted roll-out of names and suggests that “end users and suppliers, interacting in a marketplace, determine the market structure of registries, registrars, and names,” while “ICANN in turn coordinates their activities” to ensure smoothly-functioning interaction among TLDs.

The entire question of competition among registries or among registrars for a single TLD, which would require a costly and heavy-handed bureacracy, is avoided by Position Paper B through the simple strategy of allowing anyone to create a TLD with any desired competitive policy. Consumer choice moves to level of competing TLDs, with some TLDs also permitting competition internally as their creators determine. Just as the URL created a namespace hospitable to many different protocols, Position Paper B creates a namespace hospitable to future developments that we cannot anticipate or regulate for now. We believe the opening of the TLD space can be started right away, without waiting for other technical or policy changes to fall into place.

In short, the DNSO has a historic opportunity to change the TLD namespace from its current status as a contraint on the development of the Internet, not to mention a battleground for wasteful disputes, into a force for innovation consistent with the rest of Internet standards. For this reason, CPSR calls for the implementation of Position Paper B.

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Last updated: December 17, 1999

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