ICANN’t Believe It’s .butter




butterLet me guess. YourCompanyName.com, Your-Company-Name.com, Your-Company-Name-Industry.com (and all their .net counterparts) were all taken when you came to register your site. It’s understandable that you’re excited about ICANN’s new policy on TLDs—you’ll be able to register justabout.anything.

Yeah, well, I hate it. I’ve always hated the idea and I had a really hard time understanding how the ICANN, the organization that arbitrates Internet domain names, could reject the .xxx TLD two years ago and turn around to make it—and almost anything else—okay now. (Their reasoning for rejecting it at the time, compliance and “public-policy concerns,” doesn’t seem to have been resolved in the interim.)

But porn has nothing to do with why I hate this idea—and nothing to do with the ICANN’s still-shoddy logic. According to Slate, they’re doing this to help with the all-new (not) problem of cybersquatting:

Now ICANN, the international body in charge of domain names, says it has a way to rid the Web of cybersquatting. . . .

ICANN argues that adding new descriptive domains will reduce the chance for confusion. . . . And while cybersquatting is already prohibited by trademark law in many countries, including the United States, ICANN promises to implement a strict international review process to prevent miscreants from registering names that they shouldn’t own. Only Facebook will be allowed to manage the .facebook domain, for example, and if someone tries to buy Slate.webmagazine, Slate’s lawyers will be able to shut it down in a jiffy.

Worse still, Slate says, “ICANN’s plan to sell all these new top-level domains at very high prices—tens of thousands of dollars or more—seems like a scam.” Ouch.

Furthermore, site owners are becoming “more adventurous” in their domaining. Slate cites Icanhascheezburger.com and del.icio.us (though they note the upgrade to delicious.com) as examples of this.

Most of all, Slate argues, if this is supposed to stop cybersquatting, the new TLDs are too late. Very few people even bother remembering website URLs these days, relying instead on Google to find “Match.com” or “General Motors.” (Which, by the way, is yet another reason to invest in SEO.)

In fact, I think that allowing these TLDs will make it harder for us to remember any websites’ URLs. It’s going to increase our dependence on search engines to find the right website for General Motors

What do you think? Will you be investing in .butter, or are you rolling your eyes along with me?

  • http://elliotross.wordpress.com Elliot Ross

    I am rolling my eyes

    As you stated – it is already tough enough guessing .com .org, (or regional like .ca or .co.uk)

    Adding that extra stuff will make it bloody well impossible.

    And you know what happens when you look for the White House official web site with the wrong TLD extension.

    How much more of that will ocurr?

    Not mention the names that ‘come close’ but are registered with one small common typo difference. uggh

    Elliot Ross’s last blog post..Should Social Media Amicably Divorce?

  • http://www.acorg.com Mikeok

    Not to mention the programming issues that surround this headache. This idea should be buried with the sock puppet from pets.com

  • http://www.frankthinking.com Frank Reed

    Jordan –

    First, that is the best post title I have seen in a long time!

    As for the idea of more industry created CYA for ORM? At some point you have to just say no. The Internet industry is getting ready to jump the shark with its self-important prattling on and on about do this and do that.

    While we sit and contemplate whether we should have a .maybemycompanywillbesearchedthisway, 40% of the small businesses still DON’T even have a website?

    Uncle!

    Frank Reed’s last blog post..Happy 4th of July and THANK YOU!

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    Echo the awesomeness of the title and image!

    I’m already putting in my bid for .pilgrim :-P

  • http://www.getelastic.com/ Linda Bustos

    http://best.headline.ever

    I want to register that domain just for this post.

    I agree completely.

    Linda Bustos’s last blog post..Merchandising Usability: Better Ways to Display Product Recommendations

  • Frank Buttering

    Very clever — actually, the folks who own I Can’t Believe its Butter may turn around and register .icantbeileveitsbutter

    It’s almost impossible to understand how this will play out. Let’s say that someone registers .butter —
    To cover the 185K registration fee, plus all the ongoing management cost associated with .butter, they then turn around and sell obvious names to buyers, such as like.butter, asgoodas.butter, our.butter, sweet.butter, etc., etc., etc.

    Clever for certain but useful? I think Slate, as you point out, nailed that.

    What is potentially more interest is suppose someone registers .food and then allows bloggers to buy Japanese.food, Italian.food, etc, but also imposes conditions around the ownership, such as editorial controls, and even marketing tie-ins …. It may, on the one hand, make it easier for a food blogger to develop a viable business if they are part of the .food network; but on the other hand, I worry that these marketing/editorial/seo empires may hurt the vast number of independents who rely on steady readers as well as search engine results.

    And you are right about the xxx. ICANN is potentially allowing all kinds of explicit names as TLDs in this universe. Will ICANN start policing this? I wish them luck sorting out the double ententes certain to turn up.

  • http://theglowingedge.com Lisa Creech Bledsoe

    Jiminy Cricket, but we sound like Old Timers here. Yes, it will be messy. Yes, it will cause confusion. And we’ll figure it out. [insert Rocky music here] C’mon, fellas, we can do it!

    Lisa Creech Bledsoe’s last blog post..3 Illegal Boxing Tactics and How to Defeat (and Employ) Them

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Jordan McCollum

    @Frank Buttering—Yes, ICANN will be policing what TLDs get registered. But then, for that price, can they say no?

    @Lisa—I kind of think (hope?) that this won’t catch on. Sigh. Then again, why complain? This move will cement the importance of SEO forever if it does catch on.

  • Charles Van Atta

    Have you noticed that if you want a decent .com name you have to go to the aftermarket and pay several thousand dollars? Have you noticed the incredibly stupid names that people give their Web 2.0 companies? Ever wonder why?

    As someone who supposedly knows something about marketing, I’m sure you appreciate how important a name is. But maybe you haven’t tied recently to find a name that works for your business. I challenge you — find a decent name for a marketing company for under $1000. Write a post about it, and let your readers tell you if it’s a good name or not.

    I urge you also to examine why this new round from ICANN is happening. One of the big reasons they are doing this round this way is precisely because how .xxx was rejected. It was a beauty contest, and the Board just said no — for no good reason, they just didn’t like the name. This round is objective and it’s supposed to avoid that kind of high-handed arbitrariness. Furthermore, the idea wasn’t suggested by the ICANN board or the ICANN staff, it came from the thousands of volunteers that actually formulate policy. Roll your eyes all you want, but there’s a good reason this is happening this way. ICANN was founded to introduce competition into the domain namespace, and it’s finally doing it.

    Personally, I’m sick of typing a meaningless “.com” on the end of everything. Why not have an extension that actually signals what content the web site contains? If .food contains sites that have to do with food, then when someone’s search query is about food, Google will pay attention, the same way that it pays attention to .edu when someone types in “Cal Berkeley.” And guess what? People searching for food-related web sites are more likely to click a .food link as well. That’s a very nice feedback cycle and there’s the SEO you’re talking about.

  • Frank Buttering

    Charles,

    Will a start-up be in the position of registering their own extension? Probably not.

    And is it really that difficult to find a .com name? And does it matter? If it mattered, then a firm like register.com would own the domain registration space; it’s a successful company, no doubt, but I believe godaddy.com is the largest. Business models win, not names.

    Yes, I agree with you that the tech startups all have goofy names. But do you think that will change all that much. If there’s a, for instance, .tech, won’t the good names evaporate quickly?

    The thing that’s nice about .com is that its neutral; it’s not ‘owned’ — a .com is what it is. But when you type in yournamehere.hello you may not know, really, just what kinds of agreements made it possible for someone to get the .hello extension.

    What makes .com powerful is because it is meaningless — it’s an default, like cross a t or dotting an i.

  • Rockwell

    “In fact, I think that allowing these TLDs will make it harder for us to remember any websites’ URLs. It’s going to increase our dependence on search engines to find the right website for General Motors”

    Who in this day and age randomly types in guesses as to the domain name for General Motors as opposed to simply typing “general motors” into the search bar in their browser?

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Jordan McCollum

    Yep, the point that I made in the sentence right before the one you quoted.

  • http://www.terryhoward.net/ Terry Howard

    Maybe the good thing that will come out of this is that domain names will become irrelevant, as they really have needed to become for some time now. So much effort in the past has been put into “picking the perfect domain” that we end up with so many sites that truly are nothing more than a stuffed domain name. The obsolescence of domain parking/squatting pages alone would be worth us moving in that direction. I vote for the registration of trademark names replacing domain names. There is more case law history to use as a basis to police, and it puts that authority in the hands of, well, an authority, as opposed to some wonky organization like ICANN.

    Terry Howard’s last blog post..Formula For Success

  • http://www.sigbrokers.com Sig

    I’m rolling my eyes as well. I don’t like the idea of long and complicated TLD’s, we already have enough with the top level and country domains as it is now. The only one I think they should really add is .xxx, .adult or .sex for adult domains so parents can better filter their children’s internet browsing.

    Sig’s last blog post..1969 Chevrolet Corvette One-Off aka The Bomber

  • Khurram

    Folks rolling their eyes have obviously never tried to register a domain name themselves.

    IMHO, its a very cool idea to let ppl have the TLD they want – but it still doesnt make sense to me why they are charging “thousands of dollars” for registering TLD.

    Bottom line: There should be no concept of “TLD” – Ppl should be allowed to keep whatever name they like for their websites as long as it contains a dot.

  • Chris Beach

    If anything this will cause endless trademark problems and confusion. For example, will Nike’s website be nike.com, http://www.nike, nike.nike, shoes.nike, nike.shoes, http://www.shoes…?

    Not to mention the tens of millions of dollars that Nike is going to have to spend defending it’s trademark in hundreds of new extensions – nike.store, nike.forsale, nike.sale, nike.shoe, nike.sucks, nike.web, nike.football, nike.sport, nike.nyc, nike.london, nike.chicago, nike.lasvegas, nike.toronto………….

  • http://blog.icann.org Kieren McCarthy

    I have to say on a personal level that I don’t think you *get it*. (I am ICANN’s general manager of public participation btw.)

    The reason the Internet is the incredible engine that it is – for innovation, communication and expression – is because it is open and doesn’t try to define what people do on it. But there are constraints. And a very big one of them is the need to select one of the registries (dot-com, dot-org etc). And to follow the approach decided by that registry.

    The reality is that you can’t do anything online without a domain name. And that means that the domain name system introduces intrinsic rules and constraints.

    What this expansion of Internet extensions means is that those constraints are lifted. It allows people to apply their innovative thinking in a whole new way – at the top level of the Internet. Because we have grown so used to the system as is, it can be hard to think outside of that box. You think you will just see lots more endings and then long for the comfort of what already exists.

    But when the new Google or Facebook or eBay is a company that uses the domain name system in a unique and innovative way, you will wonder what on earth took so long.

    Examples off the top of my head: a dot-bank that has super-security built in so you can bank online in complete comfort; a dot-coffee with an iPod app that use the Internet itself to locate coffee shops; a dot-news that uses Web3.0 technology to filter and aggregate news in a way you’ve never seen before; a dot-[city] that acts as a focal point for everything about a particular city.

    It is the possibilities that all this opens up that is exciting. In five years’ time, we will be looking the Internet in a whole new way. It’s exciting and so at the same time slightly worrying.

    What ICANN is doing is working through the legitimate fears: abuse of trademarks (which ebay site is real and which isn’t?); malicious conduct (possible new avenues for spammers, phishers etc); and so on. But once the community itself has made sure that this isn’t going to have a big negative effect, the Internet will be opened up to a new wave of innovation that all of us will benefit from.

    Incidentally, ICANN is a very open organization. If you feel strongly about this issue or if you want to get involved in the whole process, just check out our website at http://icann.org. The site needs work as it has too much stuff and too little organization but I’d be happy to talk anyone through it and help them get involved. Just email me at participate@icann.org.

    Cheers

    Kieren McCarthy
    General manager of public participation, ICANN

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Jordan McCollum

    You’re right, Kieran. I don’t get it. But I find it more than slightly worrying. I don’t get why ICANN has always exercised an iron fist over TLDs and now they’re suddenly open to absolutely anything. I don’t understand why it was so important for the last decade+ to keep TLDs to 2 or 3 letters and now it’s okay to have a hundred. I don’t understand why ICANN thinks that .anything will be better than more specific codes that could be regulated by ICANN, like all your examples.

    I really don’t get why ICANN is doing this without already having worked through the legitimate fears you’ve listed here. I don’t understand how ICANN thinks that this will actually decrease domain confusion, when suddenly I’ll have to remember whether the local pizzeria is localpizzeria.com, localpizzeria.pizza (or is it just local.pizza?), localpizzeria.restaurant. Maybe this will make domains far more flexible, but it will also make them much more difficult to remember except in an extremely generic way. As I said in the article, there’s a segment of the population that uses Google to find Match.com. But this move will make it so that everyone will have to rely on search engines to find anything.

    Other commenters have stated and you seem to imply that I must not be familiar with the domain registration process or the difficulty of finding a domain. I own a few dozen domains and I regularly register new ones, and I seldom have trouble finding an easy-to-remember, correctly-spelled .com with even a modicum of creativity.

    Thanks for the information on participating in ICANN! I didn’t realize this issue was still up for debate.

  • http://www.acorg.com Mikeok

    Hi Karen

    It’s you who “doesn’t get get”. Jordan has some good points. Allow me to make some others.

    What exactly are these “constraints” you are referring to regarding registars??? After purchasing your domain name, they are out of the game. Over the last 10 years of owning names, I have never had contact with the registar other than renewal. I control all secondary domain names. It also allows me to brand this name. My mail, blog etc are all under my control to do with as I please.

    Your statement that “The reality is that you can’t do anything online without a domain name” is false. The net runs on IP addresses. You can have a site that only resolves to an IP. The DNS system was designed to have humans remember the sites they would like to remember. It’s easier to remember Google than 74.125.67.100. Try it out if you don’t believe me. Opening up the DNS to these additional domain names leads to confussion, as Jordan points out.

    What exactly is a new way to resolve an IP number going to do for innovation?
    You state “the new Google or Facebook or eBay is a company that uses the domain name system in a unique and innovative way, you will wonder what on earth took so long”. I am sorry to say that each one of these companies has complete control over second and third tier domains tied to their domain name. Maybe you can shed some light on the difference between maps.google vs. maps.google.com ???

    Your examples of innovation are lame. “a dot-bank that has super-security built in so you can bank online in complete comfort” is insane. How is a new name going to add security?? Remember, it just converts the name to an IP address. What it looks like you are proposing is a “controlled” name space in which someone, likely ICANN, implements security. I can do the same thing today with a .com or whatever domain name. Something like bank.com comes to mind. “a dot-coffee with an iPod app that use the Internet itself to locate coffee shops” Again, pretty sure they have that already. At least I have seen taxi applications. That app would be built on data and partnerships. Under whos control would dot-coffee be under?? How much am I paying to be part of it?? How do I get the top listing?? These are problems we currently have and will not be solved by openning up the DNS system. As for “a dot-[city] that acts as a focal point for everything about a particular city”. Same arguement. Lastly, “dot-news that uses Web3.0 technology to filter and aggregate news in a way you’ve never seen before” I believe you must be referring to real time search. Again, new names are not going to bring this innovation to market.

    You point to some concerns that ICANN is debating. I would like to add the enormous IT problem this causes. Verifing email or URL’s will now become a nightmare. For every new dot-whatever you release, the IT world will have to make adjustments. Are you going to make sure they are only 8 alpha characters long?? Are we rebuilding the DNS system from scratch??

    A better use of ICANN’s time would be rooting out those cyber squatters who hold these premium .com names for ransom. Why not take these names back until the owners design real sites to support the names?? If not, ICANN can auction these names off to individuals that would like them for their own. This would remove a ton of junk search engine results. The auction could compensate these domain owners with a percentage of the sale.

    Another thing ICANN could be doing is monitoring registars closer. In the past I have checked the whois on a registar site for a specific, non competitive domain name. I found an unregistered name that was non-competitive, mytinyoffice.com. I came back the next day to register it and it was already registered. Some one at the registar or a packet sniffer had already registered it. I suspect to hold my company for ransom. If I had already spent $1000’s on signs etc. I would have no choice but to negotate with these criminals.

    I suggest ICANN look for problems in the current system without adding more layers to an already flawed system.

  • http://blog.icann.org Kieren McCarthy

    Hi Jordan, Mikeok

    Some good comments and questions – let me try to answer them.

    I’m not sure I agree with the “iron fist” and then “open to anything” comment. ICANN has already run two rounds of opening up new Internet extensions in 2000 and 2003. The first time it was purposefully restricted to just seven extensions because of concerns about how it might effect the domain name system. The second time, the DNS was opened to “sponsored” domains and people had to prove that they represented a specific community.

    Both of those were run to learn some lessons about how to do this – because it had never been done before – and were purposefully conservative. With all those lessons in place, ICANN – which means a global community of people and you can get involved too – spends years developing policy for the liberalisation of the domain name space, and then has been working for a year-and-a-half on the actual practical way of doing this (which appears in the form of an “applicant guidebook”).

    So that’s the background.

    All the decisions made have followed on from those years of discussion and debate (all of it open btw). Firstly though, it’s important to note that there is no issue that has been raised in the past six months that hasn’t been considered before – it’s just that as this edges closer to reality, more people have looked at it, and more people have heard about it.

    What ICANN is doing now – and yes, you can still input into the process – is taking all the new feedback from the wider group of people that are now aware of this process, and the more focussed attention that exists now that this is going to become a reality, and making changes where needed so the process works well.

    As for the dot-anything – that’s not going to happen. For one, there are lots of financial and technical standards that an applicant has to meet. It is not easy, nor is it cheap to run a piece of the Internet’s infrastructure. ICANN’s application fee of $185,000 will be just one part of the overall setup and running costs for something like this. It’s not like buying a domain name. It’s more like trying to open up a department store.

    Re: the issue of consumer confusion. I think it’s a bit of a red herring to be honest with you. Every market stands the risk of confusing consumers. Which soap powder do you buy? Which toothpaste? Which insurance company? The reason people feel concerned about the Internet expanding is because we’re still getting used to the idea. So confusion and choice are two sides of the same coin. Were you confused when Google appeared when you had been using Yahoo for years? Yes, to a certain extent, because finding things on the Internet suddenly had a different format. But we rapidly got used to it because it was better.

    Same with, for example, operating systems. The jump to Windows 95 – where suddenly graphics appeared everywhere and it all worked differently – was odd for a lot of people. But that doesn’t mean we should still be working with the old systems.

    Re: this issue about everyone using Google to find stuff so domains are not important. This is simply not true. For one, Google uses domain names themselves in judging a content’s relevance. Also, if you don’t have a domain name, you don’t have a spot on the Internet. Plus companies continue to very heavily advertise their names – that’s the reality. That’s how we work. You still have to go to Google.com (unless you want browser manufacturer to define how the Internet works and looks).

    Re: running out of domains, particularly dot-coms. The best example to my mind is the crazy URLs that new films are forced to use these days. Because most films use immediate, concise language, their domain names are always gone. So they end up with weird domains. So top of the box office at the moment in the US is Bruno.

    Bruno’s website is at: http://www.thebrunomovie.com/. Not bruno.com or brunomovie.com but thebrunomovie.com. Wouldn’t it make more sense to everyone – including the movie business – to have this at bruno.movie?

    Here’s the rub though – there is no reason in the world why the Internet needs to be restricted to dot-coms. None. So do people honestly believe that with the Internet part of everyday life for over a billion people, that we are all going to append “.com” on the end of a domain, just because we like the letters “c, “o” and “m”?

    I believe that our kids will roll their eyes at us when we constantly try to type in “.com” for every Internet domain. We will bore them with tales of how everything was better when nearly everything had just one ending – and we’ll be laughed at because we’ll be wrong.

    So I hope that answers at least some of your points.

    Re: what ICANN is doing about cybersquatting and the ever-changing registrar and domain markets – well, that’s what the organization spends a big chunk of its time on. Everyone brings up what the issue currently are – and there are always new issues – and tries to figure the best way of dealing with them.

    So I can point you to a whole range of activities in those areas and I would sincerely encourage you to get involved if this is something that you have a passion for, because the more people that ICANN has working to make the Internet work better, the better for everyone.

    You should get involved with either the ALAC or the NCUC in the GNSO. Forgive the acronyms, that’s just the way it is at the moment. But if you want pointers, just ask – that’s my job.

    Kieren

    Kieren McCarthy’s last blog post..The New York Times and new gTLD roadshow

  • http://www.acorg.com Mikeok

    Talk about Red Herrings. You have not explained in one solid way how opening up the DNS to other extentions equals innovation. Nor do you indicate how many of these new names you plan on selling. If I were Google, why would I spend $185,000 on the application fee alone to get my “department store”. Something they already have in google.com for $10 a year. Nor do you state how much these new second tier names are going to be sold for. Is it controlled by ICANN or the applicant? The way I see it, we will have many applicants filing chapter 11 after trying to sell these new names. The only ones guaranteed a paycheck in the scheme is ICANN.

    I am not afraid of change. I am afraid of ICANN. Calls for an .xxx name fell on deaf ears. An extention that could have helped move adult content to a silo like you are proposing. I understand that some adult content providers would try to keep .com for the traffic. New rules around that extention could help in policing it. By revoking the .com name for repeat offenders is a good start.

    I agree with Jordan about confusion. I for one am never confused by a new internet site with a .com Google was an innovation in search and therefore was accepted. Also, dot-com names are not going away with your proposal. I like it now that I can type the company name dot-com and get there in most cases. Yes, there are different types of services supplied by the same name but ICANN’s new system does not address that.

    I wish that you could pick examples that make sense. ” operating systems. The jump to Windows 95 – where suddenly graphics appeared everywhere and it all worked differently”. That move was from windows 3.1 where there was already graphics. What you are talking about is a move from the DOS prompt to a GUI interface. There was no confusion about it. People welcomed it. It made using a computer easier and enabled the masses to use computers. I can’t say the same for new dot names. Again, no innovation.

    What is this comment about browser manufactures controlling the internet?? They are forced to be open by DOJ. You are right that Google ranks sites better with keywords in their domain name. If a company advertises their name heavily, they would be looking for a direct navigation, not through Google. If they were wanting Google traffic, they would increase organic SEO spending. Jordan’s point is not about advertising, it’s about confusion over which name to use. So is it starbucks.com or starbucks.coffee or city.coffee.starbucks?? Can you see the confusion in that situation???

    The crazy movie dot-com names is a good point. That would be one extention I could get behind. One I thought ICANN would have seen back in 2000 when it was originally proposed. That’s another reason I am afraid of ICANN. Your forward thinking is flawed. I was seeing “crazy” movie dot-coms way back then. The evidence was right before your eyes. Yet, no .movie

    If there is no need for .com why not just remove the .com I agree that it’s quite pointless but necessary. Re multiple businesses with same name, different countries etc.

    Could you expand on the laughing children?? The new proposals are not going to eliminate .com from my understanding. I think of the phone system. Are we laughing about having to enter area codes before dialing every number?? How about two or more area codes in a region that orginally had one. It’s not better but we have learned to adapt.

    Your point of “nearly everything had just one ending” is interesting. Why does “nearly everything” have just one ending?? Because if you don’t have a .com domain, you aren’t a “real” company. That underlaying principle will not change. Again, chapter 11 for these extentions is a real possibility.

    It’s time for ICANN to continue to solve the current DNS problems and stop trying to innovate the internet. There are more than enough dot-com names still able to be registered. Let allow .info, .biz etc This play is just a money grab. Now, to use the starbucks example, they will have to register all these names to manage their brand. starbucks.com starbucks.coffee starbucks.city (btw, how are cities going to find 185k for a domain extention) starbucks.cityb … starbucks.cityz, starbucks.restaurant, starbucks.org, starbucks.net, starbucks.biz…..

    I wonder how hot ICANN would be about this idea if they were not getting $185k per applicant??

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Jordan McCollum

    @Kieren—I probably did use too strong of language in my reply. I’m still not convinced of your argument, but I’m not passionate enough about it to pursue the argument further.

    @Mikeok—Keep your eyes out. Sometimes squatters will dump your domain when they can’t extort you for them.

  • http://blog.icann.org Kieren McCarthy

    Hi Mikeok,

    I’m not sure how to respond to your response because you seem to have just gone through each point and disagreed out of principle.

    So I think the most important thing to get across is that it is not ICANN – and certainly not ICANN staff – that gets to decide what happens to the Internet. All that’s happening is that ICANN is following its remit – to introduce competition to the domain name system while making sure it doesn’t adversely impact the system’s stability or security.

    Someone has to apply to get a new top-level domain. So it’s up to the market what does and doesn’t work. What ICANN is *not* doing is deciding that it knows better. And to determine that everything’s fine and we don’t need to expand the domain name space would be to do that – to say that this community of a few thousand is capable of deciding what the future of the Net will be.

    Incidentally, there is nothing to prevent people applying for .xxx this time around under a very different set of rules.

    And re: ICANN getting money. ICANN is a non-profit organization. The cost of a new extension is based on making the whole process revenue-neutral i.e. to actively not make money. An estimate of 500 applications was used to get at the $185,000 figure. If there are fewer applications, ICANN will have a negative balance of funds; if there is more, ICANN has committed to going to the community so it can decide what to do with any excess funds.

    How does one know ICANN is not in it for the money? Because when the organization took more in revenue that it spent, it reduced the registration fee from 25 cents to 20 cents. ICANN is reducing that fee again to 18 cents to encourage registrars to sign up to a new accreditation contract that gives registrants more rights and protections over their domains.

    So those are all facts that point at a philosophy and a direction. Change is one of the things that people have the biggest problem accepting. But it happens anyway. Change is also what makes the Internet so powerful. If ICANN is an engine for change then it is simply reflecting what has become the Internet’s most extraordinary cultural lesson – let people release their imaginations and ideas and a whole new world appears.

    Kieren McCarthy
    General manager of public participation, ICANN

    Kieren McCarthy’s last blog post..The New York Times and new gTLD roadshow

  • http://www.acorg.com Mikeok

    I have not disagreed with everything you said. As far as ICANN profiting, I think you are missing the point. I applaud the reduction in the ICANN fee stucture. In your message this point is my point about money. “An estimate of 500 applications was used to get at the $185,000 figure.” 92.5 million is your projected gross revenue from applications. It doesn’t sound so bad if you say it fast ;) My question to you is how does ICANN spend that money. Again, I applaud the reduction in ICANN fees but if 100 million names get renewed every year, ICANN has a gross revenue of 18 million at the new .18 rate. That’s a lot of money for a non-profit. In the spirt of this blog and transparency, can you supply us with the breakdown of how this yearly revenue is spent??

  • Frank Buttering

    Great discussion.

    Regarding the money issue, the point raised by Kieren, for ICANN.

    While it is true that ICANN is a nonprofit, it is a nonprofit of growing and substantial means. Its revenue is over $60 million.

    There will always be a financial motive for ICANN. The more sources of revenue that ICANN can develop the larger the organization it becomes. That is true for almost any nonprofit.

    ICANN has not taken a vow of poverty. Money is important. As ICANN adds staff and capability it also gains organizational power, and it is power, not profit, that is the most important thing to a non-profit. In some ways, this can be more dangerous than a pure profit motive because the organizational motives aren’t always clear.

    To argue that ICANN “is not in it for the money” and is therefore free of the allegation that it may be expanding gTLDs to raise money, is a false argument. ICANN will add staff to manage the new gTLDs and its revenue stream will grow. It will become a more powerful organization.

    One final point, ICANN is a very unique nonprofit. It has a government mandated monopoly on registration fees.

    ICANN is not earning this money because, like the Sierra Club, people believe it is worthy of the donation.

  • http://blog.icann.org Kieren McCarthy

    Hi Frank, Mikeok

    I’m not disagreeing with you about the importance of money and the accountability for that money. I’ve sent a comment with a range of links that outline exactly how ICANN comes to its budget, how the community feeds into that process, and can question it.

    I’ve also provided links to stats that show where and how ICANN spends its money, and to the strategic planning process that helps decides what ICANN spends it money on.

    I think all the links have put the comment in a review box for this site though so it won’t appear until approved by the moderator.

    But, yes, ICANN is more than aware that it is needs to fully accountable for the money it spends and on what – and there are a range of ways in which the organization does just that.

    Kieren

    Kieren McCarthy’s last blog post..The New York Times and new gTLD roadshow

  • http://blog.icann.org Kieren McCarthy

    My comments outlining all the different ways you can see and question the finances has not come through, so I’ll do it a different way.

    There is a dashboard for financial stats, updated monthly: You can find it linked to on the front page of the ICANN site – a button on the left titled “Dashboard”.

    If you click on Finance within the dashboard, you can see a full breakdown of revenue and expenses overall and broken down by function.

    If you go to Documents on the top nav bar, and then scroll down to Financial Information, you can find all the financial information about the organization and its spending policies.

    If you go to the public comment page (button above dashboard), you will find under recently closed public forums the public comment period we ran on the draft budget and operating plan – outlining what ICANN plans to do next year and how much money it will spend on it. Anyone was entitled to comment on any part of it.

    A summary of those public comments is also clearly linked to there. That summary was used to make changes to the budget.

    But what about next year – financial year 2011?

    Well, we are just about to start on our strategic planning sessions – where the community itself gets to decide what the priorities are for the organization and so where it should spend it money.

    This process will kick off soon – it will be announced on the front page when it is. In the meantime, you can view the 2008-2011 Strategic Plan. An explanation of how that process works is available on that Strategic Plan webpage – which can be found near the bottom of the Documents page.

    I hope that more than answers your question.

    Kieren

    Kieren McCarthy’s last blog post..The New York Times and new gTLD roadshow