What’s Up With ICANN’s Move to Privatize the Internet Namespace?

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?

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*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.

Comments: more
  • The Authors Guild

    Eugeme-

    This is a new program by ICANN, which the organization describes (rather innocuously) here http://newgtlds.icann.org/en and Wikipedia briefly discusses here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generic_top-level_domain#June_20.2C_2011_vote_on_expansion_of_gTLDs

     -Paul Aiken

  • Eugeme Mirabelli

    It’s not clear to me whether ICANN has a new policy of selling the management of the domains to private corporations, such as Amazon, or whether a private corporation, such as Amazon, is exploiting a loophole in the established process. Can you clarify that point? -

  • Bernard Klem

    ICANN started out years ago with good intentions…and we now know where good intentions end up. Seems that corporate greed and uncontrolled profits play as well at ICANN as anywhere else. ICANN has a monopoly from the federal government to run the business of US domain names. Perhaps the Congress is the place to lodge complaints of their much too willing complicity in inflating Amazon.

    To Author’s Guild: FIGHT BACK LIKE HELL!Bernard KlemTrumbull CT

  • http://www.trudyphillips.com/ Trudy Phillips

    In thinking back to the 90’s at the advent of the websites/.com,.org, etc, I believe and would need to do further research that ICANN was set up by some government entity to manage/reign in chaos to selling domain names.  Much like, I believe the telephone numbers, etc.  Network Solutions came into being at that time, to be the database/name managing entity.  I recall in recent years when .biz and some others were created there was much discussion among all involved about where these needed.  I relate to what goes on when a new Area Code is developed. Demand drives it.  So I feel there is a public purpose to this, to again keep chaos from prevailing.