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.