Expert view: Gavin Brown

Source: Thursday, June 21th, 2012


With the release of applications for the new gTLD process, we asked a number of industry experts for their views of what the information shows.

Gavin Brown, CTO, CentralNic

The Big Reveal Day has come and gone, and seemed strangely anti-climactic for me as I sat in the crowded conference room in London waiting for the list to be made public.

I've spent the last couple of years writing RFP responses and application material, meeting clients, and seeing CentralNic's projected applications list double, and then double again (to a total of 60), all the while having to keep quiet about who we were working with. Once that all-important list entered the public domain, it was actually quite difficult to switch modes and be a bit more open about who our clients were.

1,900 TLD applications is a lot of material to read (more than three metres thick if you printed it out!) so it's no surprise that insights about the applications are only slowly trickling out onto the Blogo- and Twittersphere. I have yet to sit down and read any of the applications from start to finish (I've written enough of them that reading someone else's holds little appeal) I have had a few thoughts about the results of the program as a whole:

1. There are fewer IDN strings than I expected.

For me, one of the key benefits of the new gTLD program was that it would open up the generic TLD space to non-Latin users. Many of the next billion internet users speak languages that aren't written using the Latin alphabet, and while Chinese and Arabic are reasonably well represented with 73 and 15 applications respectively, there are only three applications for TLDs in Hindi (and these are just transliterations of com, net and org). This means that many new users from the developing world will still find it difficult to navigate the Internet in their own language.

2. The Applicant Support Program was a failure.

Given the amount of effort expended in establishing the Applicant Support Program, the fact that only three applicants applied to ICANN for support is a clear indication of its failure. ICANN reserved $2m to support applicants from the developing world, and presumably only a small fraction of that amount will actually be used.

Similarly, the number of applications from the developing world is an indication that more needs to be done in future rounds to help those countries claim their place as equal citizens on the Internet. Too much of the Internet's infrastructure is concentrated in North America: for example, CentralNic is the only registry supporting 50 or more applications which has its corporate headquarters and primary operations centre outside the US and Canada, making us the biggest gTLD registry provider in Europe. Future application rounds should encourage geographic diversification to a greater extent than this round has done.

3. Most of the applicants come from within the industry or are clients of insiders.

There aren't very many applications submitted by (or supported by backend registries) outside of the existing domain name industry. Both Google and Amazon, the biggest non-traditional applicants, have been ICANN registrars for some time and are closely involved in the ICANN community. There hasn't been much "disruption" in the registry backend industry, with established gTLD registries and several registrars providing backend services, although the traditional "big three" should now be considered the "big nine" of companies backing 50 or more applications.

4. Big corporations are attempting a "land grab" to obtain private control over generic namespace.

Very few people see the harm in a major corporation applying for a TLD that matches its own trademarks and running that TLD for its exclusive use, but Amazon and Google have gone a lot further, and are claiming exclusive rights over a vast swathe of generic space. If successful, then over 150 generic zones will be lost to private ownership. If this fact becomes widely known, then we will likely see significant objections from the public and from civil society and politicians.

About CentralNic

CentralNic is the back-end supplier for 60 new gTLDs ranging from newspaper company The Guardian and its five applications, including dot-guardian, to dot-golf, dot-pizza and dot-wme, among others.