[Comments-org-renewal-18mar19] 2019 .org/.info TLD proposed registry agreement

Wolfgang Faust wolfgangmcq at gmail.com
Sun Apr 28 01:46:37 UTC 2019

Like many others who have already submitted comments on this proposal,
I have grave concerns about the provision to remove the price caps on
registry fees for .info and .org top level domains. (I refrain from
commenting on .biz as I do not own any such domains nor do I
personally frequent websites using this TLD, but my concerns are
applicable there also.) I say this not only as the owner of several
domains (for whom these potential price increases have a direct
monetary impact), but also more generally as a user of Web sites and
Internet services. There is already growing social concern about the
centralization of access to information with large corporations, who
increasingly mediate the average person's experiences and interactions
on the Internet. The Domain Name System provides a valuable part of
the antidote to this problem: it allows individuals to set up their
own corner of the Internet as they wish, largely unbeholden to anyone
else; and allows anyone else to easily locate it on demand. This
latter aspect is what makes pricing of domain names critical: because
the domain name is the identifier used to locate a site or service,
abandoning it breaks the ability for others to find it easily, and
moving domain names requires rebuilding all links and trust from
scratch, a long and tedious process which can never be fully
completed. If a registry is allowed to raise fees in an arbitrary and
unbounded manner, many of these registrants will decide that the
expense is no longer worth it and abandon the registration--or even be
forced to as the costs become unaffordable.

Additionally, ICANN's justification for this change is that it will
"allow the .info renewal agreement to better conform with the base
registry agreement, but also takes into consideration the maturation
of the domain name market and the goal of treating the Registry
Operator equitably with operators of new gTLDs and other legacy gTLDs
utilizing the base registry agreement." While simplicity is an
admirable goal, it seems to me that it should not serve as the primary
justification for such a drastic and far-reaching change. I therefore
evaluate this explanation primarily on the merits of the other two
reasons given:

* "maturation of the domain name market": It is not clear to me what,
precisely, this is intended to mean; I take it as a reference to both
the relative fullness of the legacy TLD namespace (as most common
words and phrases have already been registered), and to the
availability of new gTLDs. Presumably ICANN is worried about domain
name squatters, and hopes that the rising prices will reduce the
incentives to hold unused domain names for future profit, and believes
that competition with new gTLDs will keep the prices of legacy TLD
domains will keep prices to a reasonable level. I fear that this may
be a cure worse than the disease: as I argue above, raising prices
will also affect many domain owners who are putting their domain
registrations to constructive uses, and for these registrants it is
not practical to promote competition by changing TLD as this has a
significant impact on those operations.

* "the goal of treating the Registry Operator equitably with operators
of new gTLDs and other legacy gTLDs utilizing the base registry
agreement": Setting aside the legacy gTLDs using the base agreement
(of which I am unable to find a list, which makes it difficult to do
any research), I will discuss only the comparison with new gTLDs. This
argument is couched in terms of equality, but
doing so conflates the two and masks the fundamental differences
between the two. The new gTLDs were introduced as "green-field"
namespaces, fully controlled (modulo the agreement with ICANN) by the
purchasing registry and with no existing users. Since they had
purchased these TLDs at their own expense and risking their own
resources, the registries of these new TLDs were not subject to
similar price caps and could thus set prices as they wished. While
registrants of new gTLDs incurred a risk of uncapped price increases,
this possibility was known when they initially purchased the domain,
and they presumably accepted the possibility of price changes when
making the initial decision to register under that TLD. In contrast,
the legacy gTLDs have many long-time users, in some cases dating back
to before the creation of ICANN, and so when management of them was
contracted out a price cap was specified to protect these existing
users. To allow these prices to be raised now would disproportionately
impact these users, who put their faith in the DNS's continued
stability long before such a move as this could have been forseen.

In summary, this proposal is in direct contradiction to ICANN's stated
purpose[1], "management of the DNS in a manner that will permit market
mechanisms to support competition and consumer choice in the technical
management of the DNS," intended to "lower costs, promote innovation,
and enhance user choice and satisfaction." If put into effect, it will
have precisely the opposite effect, raising costs, promoting
entrenched organizations, and reducing user satisfaction. In light of
this, and considering the public outcry about this matter both in the
public comments section and elsewhere on the Internet, I strongly
encourage ICANN to reconsider not only this proposal but also the
decisions that led to it being suggested in the first place. ICANN
should return to its original intent as a group for coordinating
operation of the Internet and representing the global user community.

[1]: https://www.icann.org/resources/unthemed-pages/icann-mou-1998-11-25-en

Wolfgang J. Faust
https://www.linestarve.com/ (and several other domains)

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