Jun 28

Why ICANN Needs an Overhaul

ICANN officially terminated the “Digital Archery” process for batching new gTLDs earlier today. Taken on its own, it could be deemed a simple mistake. ICANN felt they needed a way to batch new gTLD applications to stick with their 500-per-round of approvals that was not simply left up to chance. The Digital Archery idea was indeed unique: Have new gTLD applicants effectively flex their tech muscles to get as close as possible to a designated target time.

Instead, with how broken the Digital Archery system was, it turned into the latest mockery of the new gTLD process. So since ICANN decided to end it, what is their plan B for batching new gTLDs?

They don’t know. They apparently had no Plan B. The hundreds of applicants that forked out $185,000 per application now have no idea how it will be decided whether their new TLD comes live next year or in 3 years. Their plans are now up in the air due to ICANN’s lack of planning.

For an organization that indicated they’ve had the idea of opening up the internet with a new vast gTLD space for many years, ICANN is fumbling around as if they just came up with it recently and ran with it. Everything has simply seemed beyond them at this point.

For instance, many organizations throughout the world would give anything to get the kind of funds ICANN is now awash with from new gTLD applications alone – over $357 million, far more than they’ve ever had before. The original need for excessive application fees was to “cover costs” and they clearly have more than enough. But today, at the public forum of the ICANN meeting, ICANN Chairman Steve Crocker indicated they don’t know what they will do with the money except that they would not be giving any of it back to applicants.

One of the biggest issues keeping the domain industry from advancing further and embedding itself more into the mainstream is its legitimacy. Domains and the internet are still very young compared to most other established industries. The burden is on our industry to earn the respect of the world. Things like the Snapnames “Halvarez” scandal come up and damage the industry, but ICANN has rarely been the cause of such damage in the past. Now, ICANN can’t handle the one thing that has become its primary focus despite having more than enough resources.

Bear in mind there’s more than simply ICANN’s poor handling of the gTLD process to look at, as shortly after the new gTLD program was approved, some ICANN executives had left the organization for companies involved in new gTLDs. Even if ICANN’s poor execution of their conceived new gTLD program was understandable after years of preparation and planning, the ethics concerns are difficult to answer on top of that.

Now, even their handling of usual duties such as overseeing the accreditation of registrars seems to be questionable, such as suddenly sending a breach notice to the third largest domain registrar stemming from a single registered domain. Obviously the only ones with all details on the matter are ICANN and Tucows and they are not really explaining anything further about the situation, but just the thought of ICANN potentially terminating the accreditation of the third largest domain registrar in less than 3 weeks is troubling.

Let’s also not forget about the flawed UDRP process, which currently depends too much on the whims of individual panelists. There is large scale abuse of the process by companies attempting to effectively steal domains they have no rights to with no recourse if they lose. UDRP clearly needs drastic changes and ICANN seems to not care at all as they continue to ignore the problems with it.

Perhaps it’s time for ICANN to get overhauled. They desperately need people in charge who know how to handle the new gTLD program and the large inflow of money that has come to ICANN with it. They need people in charge who plan effectively in case things don’t happen as expected. They need people that care enough to fix what isn’t working. They need change.

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