de-Blasio-Porgress.pngJackson Hts., New York, May 10, 2014 - Since the idea of a public interest city-Top Level Domain emerged from a local Community Board in 2001, we’ve been exploring the meaning of the “public interest” as it relates to cities and TLDs. A key component of our work has been to detail ways a TLD can best serve the social and economic needs of our city’s residents and organizations.

When we published the Towards City TLDs In The Public Interest white paper in 2007, we set out some general principles about the meaning of the public interest. And last Fall, when Bill de Blasio was selected mayor in what’s been called a “progressive” landslide, we began to think about how a city-TLD might be developed by a “progressive” city hall.

As a reference point, our research first looked at the Progressive Caucus’ Statement of Principles which begins:

"The Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council is dedicated
to creating a more just and equal New York City, combating all
forms of discrimination, and advancing public policies that offer
genuine opportunity to all New Yorkers, especially those who have
been left out of our society’s prosperity."

and we began to think about ways the Caucus’ principles might be reflected in .nyc’s development.

But it was only this past Monday, with the start of the Sunrise registrations - an early opportunity for trademark owners to pick their desired .nyc domain names - that our thinking coalesced around several development policies that could provide more fairness and include the “left outs” in our TLD’s development.

The spark for our progressive enlightenment was the regressive nature of the Sunrise registrations. For example, the city will charge Google $15 to register Google.nyc but our local coffee shop, Ricky’s Cafe, will need to pay $30 for RickysCafe.nyc (if it can get the name at all - see the Landrush discussion below). While of minor financial significance, this realization spun the propeller on our thinking caps, and today we’re proposing several ideas that add a “progressive flavor” to four areas of our TLD’s roll-out: the Founders Program, Premium Name sales, the Landrush, and Name Retailing. 

  • Founders Programs - The Founders Program is a marketing effort that looks to attract prominent or innovative entities to say, in essence, “We’ve joined the .nyc bandwagon, why don’t you.” The Founders Program began recruiting participants this past Monday and will last 40 days. (Founders Program details are available here.)
Progressive Founders Program - A progressive program would provide
the opportunity for existing institutions - schools, hospitals,
museums… - to participate. This will require education efforts
that show these sectors how our new digital infrastructure
supports their existing plans and how it will facilitate their
future development.

The traditional targets for a Founders Program, a Macy’s or a
New York Post, are part of giant corporations with digital
staffs and advertising budgets accustomed to flowing with the
newest technology developments. In developing their Founders
Program, the developers of .paris dedicated 120 days for
education of specialized groups, 3 times what is planned here.

Following the .paris example will provide more opportunities
for those typically left out. More time and focused meetings
are required, and perhaps forums and a hackathon to facilitate
collaboration. (Download more on the Paris program here.)
  • Premium Names - These are valuable names such as news.nyc, sports.nyc, and tours.nyc. The plan calls for high-bid auctions, beginning in August to decide who gets what name. Deep pockets will be required. When we think, for example, about the news.nyc domain name, it’s clear there are a dozens of media moguls capable of bidding a million dollars for it with nary a second thought. It’s hard to see opportunity for the “left out” in the current plan. There’s nothing progressive about this policy.
Progressive Premium Names Policy - Imagine providing an on-ramp
to those typically “left out” to organize their thoughts about
innovative uses for a name such as news.nyc. And imagine the city
sponsoring some hackathons to enable innovators to exchange ideas,
form teams, and gain access to capital - as it does with BigApps.
Here too additional time is needed to imagine new enterprises
constructed of innovation and social capital. (More here.)
  • Landrush - On August 8 all the names not selected during Sunrise or set aside for Founders, for Premium auctions, or for government use will become available through 30 or so resellers (registrars) that have been selected by the city’s contractor. During this 60 day period New Yorkers can bid on any of the available domain names - without regard to whether it might currently be the name of an existing business. At the conclusion of Landrush those names with a single bidder become active. Those names with more than one bidder go into a high-bid, winner-take-all auction.
Progressive Landrush - We have two concerns with Landrush. The
first involves the ability of existing firms to claim their .nyc
domain name. Under the current plan, Ricky’s Cafe has no right
to claim the name it’s been using for 20 years. In contrast,
London established Priority Period Rules that enable existing
entities to upload papers that establish their priority for a
.london name. Why mom and pop here should be treated with
disregard while those with an International Trademark get
a priority selection period seems like an affront to the
“left outs” and regressive. Fairness says we must learn from
the London approach. (Download London Priority Rules.)

The second Landrush concern involves a high-bider auction that
comes into play when more than one application is received for
a domain name. Let’s imagine that there are two bidders for a
domain name, say TonysPizza.nyc, with neither having a priority.
The winner & loser outcome of a high-bidder auction seems less
than progressive.

ICANN encouraged collaboration amongst competing TLD bidders in
the hope of avoiding auctions. I suspect we can do something
progressively similar here. How about facilitating bidders’
ability to connect with one another in the hope or reaching
an accommodation, with an auction only if needed.
  • Domain Name Retail Sales - As currently envisioned, domain names will be sold by 30 or so accredited resellers, all with their headquarters outside the city. So every domain name sold will have money flowing out of our city, creating jobs and wealth elsewhere.
Progressive Domain Name Retail Sales - This is a new and growing
business area that should be providing local jobs. The city should
encourage and facilitate the licensing and training of local
resellers.

Local resellers will make domain name registration accessible to
end users: think specialized resellers focused on Brooklyn, on
sports, civics, or mom & pops. Competition and choice of this
sort is good for end users.

Lots of small businesses should be popping that sell names or
package them with hosting and other services creating jobs
for those “left out.”

There are positive signs from city hall that more thoughtful policies might be forthcoming. Monthly meetings are now held by a .NYC Community Advisory Board. And more civic names, such as the neighborhood names, are being considered for distribution using thoughtful processes.

But the administration’s progress toward a more reasoned approach (let’s say progressive) must confront a 5 year contract the Bloomberg Administration signed with Neustar, a Virginia firm, to market and operate the .nyc TLD. Entitled to 60% of the Premium Name auction and other name sales revenue, Neustar has an opportunity to fill it’s pockets this Summer.

Real progress depends on persuading Neustar that the long term view is where its interest lies. Perhaps an extension of the contract term to 10 years will enable them to look toward a long term relationship (we’re already 2+ years into that 5 year contract). Or perhaps Neustar can be convinced that with a successful .nyc under its belt - demonstrated by metrics showing how the TLD contributed to a more livable and prosperous environment -  it will be positioned to sell its services to the 300+ cities with 1 million+ population that have yet to apply for their TLDs.

Looking at the  Progressive Caucus’ Statement of Principles presents other possibilities for imaging the operation of a TLD under a progressive city administration, particularly in the areas of transparency, accountability, and enhancing democratic participation. These will be the focus of a future post.

Learn more about the opportunities provided by the .nyc TLD on our wiki pages.

sunrise-nyc.pngJackson Hts., New York, May 4, 2014 - Starting at noon tomorrow those owning an international trademark will be eligible to select its equivalent .nyc domain name. This “Sunrise Phase” will last for 45 days.

So if you have a globally recognized trademark - one issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office counts, but one issued by NYS doesn’t - you’ll be eligible to register it.

But you’ll need to prove ownership by registering it with the Trademark Clearing House. (You’ll have to pay a $150 fee and receive a SMD File as proof of ownership). For the official details on process and whether you qualify, see http://www.nic.nyc/sunrise-policies.html. To register a name, start here.

While we’re delighted to see the .nyc issuance process move ahead, we have two concerns:

  • Our main concern is that trademarks issued by New York State don’t count. And it’s too late for those with a NYS trademark to get a U.S. Trademark within Sunrise. Those with NYS trademarks and desiring a .nyc domain name will need to submit their applications in August, during the Landrush Phase. And at that point their NYS trademark will provide no special right to use their existing business name. When existing businesses experience the loss of their traditional names we expect an outcry or two.
  • We’re also concerned about the quality of the nexus policy - which seeks to limit .nyc names to city entities. The current policy allows an entity from anywhere to use a mailing service as proof of city nexus. But it only takes 5 minutes to acquire a 5th Avenue address using one of hundreds of re-mailing businesses that operate in the city. Nexus needs strengthening.

But after all these years, things are finally moving ahead. And we’re pleased to see city hall (and its contractor) focused on making the most of this opportunity.

Those planning on registering a trademark within .nyc can access a list of 30 or so registrars at http://nic.nyc/registrars. For those not in the Sunrise category, details on the City Government, Landrush, and General Availability phases are available here, with the latest timeline as follows:  

Registration Periods For the .nyc TLD

Phase

Duration
 Start Date Start Time UTC      End Date     End Time UTC
Sunrise 45 days            
May 5, 2014       15:00:01 
   June 20, 2014
     15:00:00
City Government    
36 days June 25, 2014       15:00:01    July 31, 2014      15:00:00
Landrush Period 60 days August 4, 2014       15:00:01    October 3, 2014      15:00:00
General Availability n/a October 8, 2014 15:00:00     n/a       n/a

 (Creative Commons image courtesy of Bob Jagendorf.)

Learn more about the opportunities provided by the .nyc TLD on our wiki pages.

Filed May 4th, 2014 under Domain Names, Oversight

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