My Take on ICANN Issues | DomainInvesting.com
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My Take on ICANN Issues

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I have largely been quiet on ICANN related issues on my blog and in personal conversations I’ve had with other domain investors. Truth be told, I know about how ICANN works and what their role is as it relates to domain names, but I have very limited knowledge about the internal politics at ICANN and the history of the organization.

Whenever I see photos of ICANN events, I see a group of people who look much different than typical domain investors, and that is because they are much different. This is neither here nor there, but I feel very disconnected with ICANN, much like I am disconnected with my local politicians. Sure, Mayor Bloomberg, Senator Schumer, Governor Patterson and countless other local politicians work to draft and approve legislation that will impact me, but I am not going to spend thousands of dollars lobbying and hundreds of hours becoming active in the community when the threat of any legislation will probably be minimal.

I am 100% in agreement with Mike Bekens that domain investors either don’t know or don’t care enough about ICANN. Sure, some of their policies may impact my bottom line, but honestly, whether I pay $7.60 or $10.00 for a domain registration, it won’t be impactful enough for me to spend a whole lot of time or money thinking about it. For my business, I work 15 hours a day developing my websites, negotiating to buy and sell domains, and contacting small businesses to sell advertising. With my 200+/- domain names, even a 50% increase in registration fee will cost under $1,000 per year. Even if they approve a pricing structure like .tv, it will be impactful, but the 10-15 names of mine that would be impacted aren’t worth the time and effort for me (at least in my opionion).

I also understand the potential impact of the vanity TLDs that may be approved by ICANN. However, I think companies like Verizon and Microsoft have much more to lose if/when this happens. I just don’t see a reason to spend time on this when they are fighting on the same team as me on this battle (and they are fighting). I also don’t think other extensions will have much of an impact on my holdings. If .xyz becomes the prominent extension, I will adapt my business model to make sure I am not falling behind.

Sure, this line of thinking could bite me in the ass, but I have to manage the day to day operations of my business more than outside factors. I think the Internet Commerce Association and its activities are very helpful to the domain investment community, and I will continue to support them.  I happen to think my risk exposure to some current ICANN initiatives are less important than managing my business at this point.

I will continue to listen to people like Mike (who I have the utmost respect for), and when he discusses an issue I will listen and take the time to think about the impact.  Mike is dead-on about most domain-related issues, and I support him 100% of the time.  With ICANN, I feel like the current issues will have minimal impact on my business.  Now I think the potential issue of ICANN changing jurisdiction will be impactful, but again, I think other huge corporations and the US Government will end up locking horns on that issue.

I do urge people to read up on ICANN and determine the impact it will have on their domain investments and on their business.


About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has sold seven figures worth of domain names in the last five years. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest.


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Comments (3)

    PhilGus

    My fear is the scenario where your registrar asks you for $5,000+ renewal fees for Burbank.com – the monopolistic pricing of the registering and renewal of domains is the direction that this is heading in. The hard work you are putting in now faces a real threat in my opinion. I took 10 minutes to register my objection via ICANN’s formal channels: http://forum.icann.org/lists/gtld-transition/index.html#00027

    ***UPDATED BY ELLIOT***

    Sure, but I don’t think that’s realistic. Nevertheless, each year, I add as many years onto the registrations as is permissible.

    January 18th, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Andrew

    If I were you, my biggest concern would be what’s happening with city and country names in “vanity TLDs”. The group that was formed to provide input from non-U.S. entities to ICANN is pushing for “rights” to city and country names. Not sure if this would ever apply to U.S., but it would be a concern.

    ***UPDATED BY ELLIOT***

    IMO, Burbank/Lowell are too small for a city tld. Perhaps there could be a .cal or .california and burbank.cal or burbank.california would become a domain name, but I still think that’s far away. They would probably be given to the city, and it would be the same competition that I have from ci.burbank.ca.us

    January 18th, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    Antony Van Couvering

    Thanks for broaching this topic. I’m reading a lot of FUD about this on the blogs, and as always I appreciate your frank open-mindedness.

    From a practical point of view, the main threat to domainers from new TLDs is what many domainers claim is impossible — that .com names will be worth less because of new TLDs. I think that you and other domainers who develop their properties are the smart ones, because everyone else is at the mercy of changing ecosystems: Google changing their position on domains, courts (e.g. Kentucky) and politicians making new laws, and yes, ICANN introducing new TLDs.

    Somehow domainers, through the ICA, are new best friends forever with trademark owners, all because of new TLDs. Most trademark owners wouldn’t throw a nickel to a starving domainer in exchange for free UDRP filing fees forever. I’ve been to their get-togethers: the dislike of domainers is visceral. I know that some domainers are looking with interest at new TLDs, and they’re smart to do so. So I’m not sure why the ICA is jumping on the trademark-owner bandwagon, but I do wonder if it’s really in the interest of most domainers.

    I’ve been working in and around ICANN from before there was an ICANN. ICANN was formed to do open up the domain market, and given two specific missions.

    The first was break the Network Solutions monopoly and bring down the price of domains from $100 for two years, where it stood for a long time, to something reasonable. That happened, and you could argue that without ICANN’s contribution in that regard domaining would look very different than it does today, if it existed at all. So I think domainers should give ICANN at least a little nod for that accomplishment.

    The second was to introduce competition in the top-level domain space. This has been dragging on for nearly ten years, thanks mostly to the roadblocks thrown up by intellectual property interests. I don’t really blame them, I might do the same in their position, but it does remind me a lot of the losing battles being fought by music and movie companies about file distribution.

    In the last ten years, all ICANN has done is introduce some pretty weak TLDs. Travel, jobs, aero, name, museum, ho hum. None of them were marketed well, none of them attracted very many registrations. .mobi did a bit better, and guess what? Some domainers did pretty well with it.

    I think a lot of domainers find comfort within the well-understood confines of a dot-com-dominated marketplace. But, if you think for a moment, the grand fortunes in domaining were made earlier, when things were a lot wilder, and the smart people (or the fortunate) were able to get really great names for not a lot of money.

    When new TLDs happen on a large scale, it will open up the market again, and just like before, those people who follow the process and think through the implications of what’s happening will have a chance to do very well for themselves. Those people who cling to a comforting world that is disappearing (like companies who rely too heavily on their trademarks) are going to feel some discomfort.

    Having a lot of new TLDs is the opposite of a monopoly — it’s an open market where there are more than just a couple of top registries. If everyone else were charging $3/yr, do you think VeriSign would have been so quick to raise its price to the maximum possible. New TLDs create a real market; at present, there is only an oligarchy.

    I wish the ICA would recognize that its members are risk-taking entrepreneurs, and stop behaving as if they were naturally aligned with trademark owners. Maybe some of the richest domainers are like trademark owners, not taking risks, just protecting assets. But the majority of domainers, if they looked at their own self interest, should welcome new top-level domains.

    As for getting involved in ICANN, it’s a good idea. And it’s easy. If anyone wants to come down to the ICANN meeting in Mexico City March 1 – 6 (admission free), I’ll be happy to show them around and introduce them to people. Frankly I’m surprised not to see more domainers there, given ICANN’s impact on domain names, and I’m really surprised not to see the ICA there arguing its case and hearing some counterargument.

    Anyway, thanks again for your blog. It’s part of my required reading about the domain name space.

    Antony

    January 19th, 2009 at 12:15 am

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