Monthly Archives: March 2013
Amazon’s garden walls are about to grow much higher. In a truly devastating act of vertical integration, Amazon is buying Goodreads, its only sizable competitor for reader reviews and a site known for the depth and breadth of its users’ book recommendations. Recommendations from like-minded readers appear to be the Holy Grail of online book marketing. By combining Goodreads’ recommendation database with Amazon’s own vast databases of readers’ purchase histories, Amazon’s control of online bookselling approaches the insurmountable.
Our objections, and those of others, to ICANN’s sale of exclusive rights to .book, .author, .read and other new top-level domains have gained some traction in the media. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), the Telegraph and many others have written about our concerns that private placement of such terms will, as Scott Turow wrote, allow “already dominant, well-capitalized companies to expand and entrench their market power.”
Before we get to our question, here’s some background. Top-level domains are the .com, .org, etc. in Internet addresses. Such domains in the past have been open, allowing virtually anyone to claim any available domain (mynewbook.com, for example) by paying a fee to Network Solutions, GoDaddy or other registrars. Most of ICANN’s proposed new top-level domains, however, will be closed, allowing proprietary control over these domains. This seems fine for genuine brand names — .pepsi, .nike, .gucci — but problematic for the long list of generic domains ICANN plans to sell, such as .news, .blog, .cloud, .art, .search. The full list is here.
Now here’s our question: Does anyone know why ICANN* is doing this?
We haven’t found a satisfactory answer, which, to us, suggests someone stands to profit handsomely. Is that right? Or is there a public purpose to this that we’re missing?
*ICANN is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. It’s a private company with vast power over the Internet, but seems answerable to no one.
Yesterday, Authors Guild president Scott Turow objected to ICANN’s plan to sell .book, .author, and other generic top-level domains (“top-level domains” are website suffixes such as “.com” and “.org”) to private companies. Amazon has bid to be the exclusive custodian of the .book and .author domains; Google is aiming to control the .blog domain.
“Placing such generic domains in private hands is plainly anticompetitive,” said Turow, “allowing already dominant, well-capitalized companies to expand and entrench their market power. The potential for abuse seems limitless.”