­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­New York City, December 22, 2008 - The first time I heard­ Abbot and Costello do their “Who’s on first?” routine about baseball player names I was 7 years old and delighted at the comedy duo’s banter. Here’s a sampling:

­­­Costello: Look Abbott, if you’re the coach, you must know all the players.

Abbott: I certainly do. 

Costello: Well you know I’ve never met the guys. So you’ll have to tell me their names, and then I’ll know who’s playing on the team.

­Abbott: Oh, I’ll tell you their names, but you know it seems to me they give these ball players now-a-days very peculiar names. Abbot-and-Costello-Field-Image.JPG

Costello: You mean funny names? 

Abbot: Dizzy Dean… 

Costello: His brother Daffy.

Abbott: Daffy Dean 

Costello: And their French cousin.

Abbott: French?

Costello: Goofè.

Abbott: Goofè Dean. Well, let’s see, on the bags we have Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Dont Know is on third…

Costello: That’s what I want to find out.

Abbott: I say Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Dont Know is on third…

And on and on they went. Sans the above diagram, this classic comedy of confusion demonstrates the importance of appropriate naming.

Some are saying that last week saw another classic as the NTIA & DOJ KO’d ICANN’s gTLD RFP( see the NTIA document here) with many now holding their breath, hoping the Obama Administration intervenes, saving the extant RFP. I don’t think TLDs will be a 100 day priority and that only after there’s a sign of stability in the economy will the new administration’s focus turn to TLDs. (The FDIC also opined caution.)

So after reading the comments filed about the draft RFP, and finding the preponderance of objections directed at business (ab)uses by new TLDs, I began to wonder if perhaps there’s an interim path to issuing TLDs. Can we advance the ICANN’s mission, take advantage of the work the GNSO and others have undertaken, and test the new TLD apparatus without tripping over some possibly meritorious business community objections? To help think through the options, I created the below table differentiating three categories of TLDs and several issues associated with their allocation and introduction.

TLD  Category

Consumer & Brand Protection

Morality & Public Order

ICANN Processing Strain

Excess Auction Revenue

Negation Points

 dot-Cities

  Minor

  Minor

  Minor

 None

3

 dot-Corporate

Moderate

  Minor

Major  

  Minor

­­

7

 dot-Generic

Major  

Major  

Major  

Major  

12

­­­Negation Points: None = 0, Minor = 1, Moderate = 2, Major = 3

As we enter the new year, perhaps we might consider separating city TLDs (and perhaps cultural groups) from the crowd so that cities may begin using the Net’s DNS to help address their multitude of needs. Perhaps we can encourage Obama’s Office of Urban Affairs to take notice and extricate city-TLDs from the NTIA  & DOJ tar pit. (Updated 12/23/08.) (Commons photo courtesy of Naccarato.)

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Learn more about The Campaign for .nyc on our wiki pages.

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Filed December 23rd, 2008 under Innovation, City-TLDs, Domain Names
  1. Indeed ICANN may split the new TLD introduction into different tracks.

    There is the IDN ccTLD track in place and the .ru guys already ask IANA add .ru in cyrillic letter into the root in the nearest future which certainly means before July 1st 2009. The dotCities approaches might be another fast track since they are of very limited concern. Also the Business Consituency and Interlectual Property Constituency especially have no problems with sponsored TLD (including cityTLDs).

    I don’t see that ICANN can stop the whole process as John Levine mentioned at http://www.circleid.com/posts/20081221_us_department_commerce_icann_tld_plan/ . There might be different tracks or the TLD classes you mentioned

    Dirk Krischenowski (founder and CEO of .berlin/dotBERLIN)

    Comment by Dirk Krischenowski on December 23, 2008 at 4:05 am

  2. Perhaps those with a significant amount of money invested in the Dot-COM space are beginning to feel threatened by the impending introduction of Dot-City TLDs which have the potential to significantly dislodge the Dot-COM market. Their lobbyists have probably started reaching out to the DOJ, DOC, and the US Congress to delay ICANN by making additional requests, which in turn, may have the potential to totally derail such efforts.

    Perhaps the other countries need to create their own root servers in order to move this effort forward.

    Comment by Observer on December 24, 2008 at 11:19 am

  3. Tom,

    While I appreciate this article and table, can you further explain the issues associated with the various new TLDs’ allocation and introduction? And what was your methodology in assigning the various negation points?

    Thanks,
    Jeffrey

    Comment by Jeffrey Barke on January 3, 2009 at 11:51 am

  4. Jeffrey,

    You asked: “can you further explain the issues associated with the various new TLDs’ allocation and introduction?” and “And what was your methodology in assigning the various negation points?”

    The ICANN’s New gTLD process treats all TLDs as essentially equal. While some difference is recognized in the application documents required - for example, city-TLD applicants must provide a letter from the local authorities - there’s only one filing period, one fee structure, and one review process envisioned in the initial draft RFP.

    Supporters of city-TLDs have long recognized that there’s a substantial difference between our need and use of TLDs and how an .ebay or .sport TLD is envisioned. While there are many reasons behind this, some quite complex, here’s a brief explanation of some of them.

    dot-generic TLDs – Names such as .sport and .music potentially have enormous economic value but no obvious owners. While I’m told the International Olympic Committee believes it is the natural recipient for .sport, I’m certain there are dozens of others, from sports leagues, to media companies, to entrepreneurs who can bring different value sets to the .sport TLD’s development. Beyond the demonstration of some foundation technical, financial, and management wherewithal, the development of this less-than-vital resource might most effectively be assigned by auction to the highest bidder. Other generic TLDs, such as .bank, are vital global resources and their operation and recipients must be decided through the magnifying scope of their impact on the global financial system. (Perhaps there should be gTLDs and vital or vTLDs?)

    dot-corporate TLDs – Some of these are easy. Names like .ebay and .google are fairly unique and their issuance straight forward. But many are more complex, e.g., the Apple Computer and Apple Music as claimants for .apple. (The contention challenges confronting ICANN becomes clear when one adds the community of apple growers to this mix.) Beyond contention, one of the difficulties with the dot-corporate TLDs is the sheer number to possible filings. Were I a global product manager – of which there have got to be thousands – I’d think it imprudent not to file for my product name, e.g., .windex, .coke, .pepsi… ICANN’s ability to handle this potential application avalanche is a serious concern.

    dot-city TLDs – Far less problematic are dot-city TLDs. As of early October 2008, through negotiations between ICANN and the GAC (the Government Advisory Committee to ICANN), the possibility of nation-state vetoes of inappropriate city-TLDs arose. Coupled with the Draft RFPs requirement that a city-TLD applicant present a letter of support, or of disinterest, from the leveraged city, concerns about authenticity and oversight responsibilities for city-TLDs have become relatively minor.

    But city-TLDs are not problem free. Some of the city-TLDs being sought e.g., .paris and .berlin, have descendant cities or towns that have adopted their names. While this issue has been thoroughly explored and largely addressed by the supporters of the .berlin TLD, the sheer number of cities remains a concern to some. What if every city, town, village, parish, county, borough, community, neighborhood, settlement, hamlet, pueblo, kampong, and kraal seeks a TLD?

    From a civic perspective, it’s the complexity (chaos?) that arises from sheer size that drives the needs for city-TLDs. So perhaps, over the next decade, we should be thinking about a need for perhaps 185 TLDs, the number of “global cities” identified by Loughborough University. And ultimately, some of the other 3,500 cities with 1,000,000+ populations might consider city-TLD’s utility - still well under the 10,000 TLDs Vint Cerf indicated could easily be handled by the extant DNS.

    As to the methodology behind the negation points: I offer a two part answer. The first relates to my my declaring the None, Minor, Moderate, and Major ratings. These arose from my experiences with organizations, process, the ICANN, and human nature – probably more seat-of-pants than scientific-method. Assigning numerical values of 0, 1, 2, and 3 respectively to them was tradition bound. Perhaps a more realistic valuation would have given far greater weight to Major than None, thus my version 2 of this table might use None = 0, Minor = 1, Moderate = 2, and Major 4.

    Thanks for the question Jeffrey, and I hope this helps.

    Tom Lowenhaupt

    Comment by Thomas Lowenhaupt on January 7, 2009 at 1:03 am

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