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New gTLDs: Internet Chaos?

Posted in Domain Names, SoapBox

–Dan Kelly, Attorney

I am earnestly trying to reserve judgment on the prospect that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN” — the proverbial “man behind the curtain” of the Internet) is actually going to go through with its roll out of opening new generic top-level domains (“gTLDs“) to anyone (a TLD is the thing that comes to the right of the dot in a domain name — the most famous being COM).  This is no easy task.  Each month some new report comes out that makes the prospect of throwing open TLDs look worse and worse.  As I have observed before, the Internet has a bit of the Wild West to it.  Despite some drawbacks, it has regulated itself fairly well.

Perhaps the best proxy for the prudence of doing anything is to gauge the number of acronyms it generates:  the fewer, the better.  (By this measure, some of civilization’s more dubious achievements include the military, the federal government (or see here), and, of course, the practice of law.)  The debate about “.anythingoes” is relatively new, and the first draft report from the Implementation Recommendation Team (the “IRT”) reads like vegetable soup.  The IRT recommends an RPM (rights protection mechanism), a URS (uniform rapid suspension system), a GPML (globally protected marks list), and possibly SERs (sunrise eligibility requirements) in a SDRP (sunrise dispute resolution policy) — all this (and more!) in a svelte 47 page document complete with numerous footnotes, appendicies, and even a handy flowchart (itself a warning flag):

Don’t get me wrong:  if ICANN wants to allow anybody to register any word as a top level domain name, it is worth protecting brand owners.  I’m still struggling with why ICANN is opening up the top-level domain space in the first place.  If ICANN has to create an armada of administrative procedures to protect entities with acknowledged, existing rights, is it something that is really worth doing?