US officials announced plans last week that would see the final vestiges of US authority over domain names and web addresses that is currently managed by a contract between the US Commerce Department and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and is set to expire in September 2015.
The transition from US federal government authority to a new, yet to be determined, oversight system, and an international meeting to discuss the future of Internet is scheduled to start on March 23 in Singapore. The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration has declared that the new governance model must ensure that ICANN is free from government influence. The plan must also fulfill several other conditions, such as preserving the security and stability of the Internet while keeping it open and free from censorship.
Business groups and some others have long complained that ICANN’s decision-making was dominated by the interests of the industry that sells domain names and whose fees provide the vast majority of ICANN’s revenue. Concern about ICANN’s stewardship has spiked in recent years amid a massive and controversial expansion that is adding hundreds of new domains, such as .book, .gay and most controversially: .sucks, to the Internet’s infrastructure. More than 1,000 new domains are slated to be made available, pumping far more fee revenue into ICANN.
Senator Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce committee, in a letter to ICANN, blasted the “.sucks” domain as “little more than a predatory shakedown scheme,” designed to “force large corporations, small businesses, non-profits, and even individuals, to pay ongoing fees to prevent seeing the phrase ‘sucks’ appended to their names on the Internet.” One of the registry companies seeking to manage .sucks domain registrations has indicated that they plan to charge as much as $25,000 for brand registrations, which certainly lends credence to the “shakedown” accusations levied against the proposed new domain.
As the world seems to be shifting away from US regulation and ICANN continues to add new TLDs to the open market, the future of domaining appears to be as unsettled now as it once was when the first gold rush of .com domains were made available to the public. Question about who will own, regulate or market each new domain product are largely unsettled and with branding being such an