As part of my job at ICANN… I have to read a lot of news clips. This morning, one headline in particular caught my eye: “Domain changes coming”. It was from Reuters and started: “Two thirds of businesses are unaware they will be able to use their own name in place of domain extensions such as .com, .org, or .net when Internet domains are liberalized next year, according to a survey.”
Well, they are probably aware now.
For many of us at ICANN it can come as a shock – where the new gTLD process has been a part of everyday life for more than two years – to suddenly be reminded that despite all the discussions, the meetings, the public comment periods, the sessions across the world, and the seemingly endless documents, the whole process of opening up the domain name space has until recently gone largely unnoticed by the wider world.
From my perspective, a number of reporters “buried the lead” when they reported on this new study commissioned by British registrar Gandi. What they buried or didn’t report at all is that of 100 UK businesses surveyed, 81 percent say the gTLD expansion will be innovative, and 75 percent say it will be advantageous.
This is especially significant since nearly all the coverage up to now has focused on the struggle to find solutions to the remaining overarching issues such as trademark protection.
Gandi also commissioned Futurelab to survey 1,000 consumers (on top of the 100 businesses) about new gTLDs. Not surprisingly, the survey revealed that businesses are concerned the costs of a new gTLD, while many consumers are simply concerned that the Internet might become more cluttered and not be as navigable as it is today.
So the survey provides a spot check on where attitudes are today, but it also underscores a critical fact: that gTLD expansion is literally a work in progress and the application process won’t be opened up until the concerns are addressed.
We still have at least one more round of public comments on the next draft of the Applicant Guidebook. The most concerning aspect about this from the staff perspective, however, is that people will either not hear about the process in time or – worse – hear about it but do not become aware that they can have an impact and express their views – that ICANN is building a broad consensus view about how to move forward with the greatest ever expansion of the domain space.
The Implementation Recommendation Team (IRT) is a case in point. When we heard the concerns expressed about trademark, the concerned community was asked to come up with solutions to be fed back into the ICANN process. Now the IRT final report is published and out for public comments and our Sydney meeting later this month will give everyone else in the community the chance to say what they think about those solutions.
Undoubtedly, the Gandi study will fuel more discussion surrounding gTLD expansion at Sydney. Great, we welcome it. The most dangerous voice is the one not heard.
We have already set aside several months of awareness building after the Applicant Guidebook is finished and published; the earlier people become aware of the process, not only does it mean we have to reach fewer people but also more people learn about the fact that they can get involved in ICANN’s processes.
If you can’t attend the Sydney meeting we urge you to take part remotely.