A call to action on generic Top-Level Domains (TLDs)
On March 7 the Asia Cloud Computing Association (ACCA) raised concerns to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) about a suggested process that would enable companies to acquire, own and control generic top level domains (gTLDs) for the purposes of exclusive use and competitive advantage. With this we added our voice to the growing chorus of voices requesting ICANN to reconsider the current process, and specific concerning applications.
As an Association defined by the “cloud” and with a mission to accelerate broadly-based and inclusive cloud computing adoption across the Asia Pacific region, including the removal of barriers to adoption, we are deeply concerned that certain companies are seeking the right to own the gTLD ‘.cloud’ in particular, and would then be able to decide and restrict who was able to use the domain and therefore who was able to access it.
We note that ICANN is similarly considering a host of applications for generic terms such as .book, .movie, .search, .insurance, .app, which could have similar deleterious impact across a host of sectors and businesses and strongly urge for three steps to be taken:
- For ICANN to reconsider the process currently underway which would allow exclusive and uncompetitive ownership of gTLDs;
- For ICANN to introduce and include a review process that only approves new gTLDs on the basis that they are to be open to any company that seeks to register therein OR that special cases need to be made for restriction on a neutral basis (in the same broad manner that .org, .net and .gov have been handled previously);
- That a broader and more extensive information and education campaign is conducted prior to any gTLDs being awarded under the current process.
As an association based in and representative of the Asia Pacific region we are concerned also that there is a general lack of awareness of the current process, and that business, organizations and governments across the region would all have stark objections if they understood the process now under way and the potential economic and developmental impacts.
We note for example that advertisers have stated that their concerns were not adequately addressed during the initial review process and are worried that the new domains will result in companies having to have several defensive addresses ‐ negative sounding names that a company purchases to keep a rival from exploiting them ‐ to keep counterfeiters at bay. Far from serving ICANN's objective of expansion, inclusiveness and increased competition, this would be a retrograde step, revisiting the chaos of the early days of the Web and having companies held hostage profiteers in an expensive land grab.
From our perspective, however, this is only one of a number of potential problems. Any number of companies, some that do not yet exist, face the prospect of emerging only to find that their general sector is 'owned' by a single company able to dictate particular online access. And in a world where the Internet stands as a platform for democratic global reach, that development would immediately serve to balkanize the Net into specific fiefdoms. As others have noted, if a single grocery store were to control the .grocery TLD under the new regime, it will theoretically be able to exclude competitors from listing their sites there. We encourage you to write to ICANN and urge them to withhold approval of currently pending applications for closed generic TLDs, and suggest them to set up a review process to engage more stakeholder voices before proceeding.
Chairman of the Board Asia Cloud Computing Association