Elon University

Internet Governance Forum – USA, 2011: The Changing Landscape of the Domain Name System

Brief description:

IGF USA Banner LogoThe Internet and the Web are continuing to expand at exponential rates. When the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers opened up a whole new world of names for Internet addresses with its historic vote in June 2011, new gTLDs and their implications for users became extremely important. This session explored the Internet users’ experiences that might be expected as the Domain Name System (DNS) is prepared to under a massive expansion, adding hundreds or even a thousand new gTLDs to “allow for a greater degree of innovation and choice.”

Details of the session:

Every time an individual pulls up a webpage the Domain Name System is used. Moderators and industry leaders who met at an IGF-USA 2011 workshop say changes announced by ICANN this summer will bring new challenges and opportunities. Generic top-level domains, also known as gTLDs were previously quite limited. They included .com, .info, .net and .org. On June 20, 2011, the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted to allow companies and organizations to choose any fitting suffix for their domain names. The new gTLDs will be operational in 2013. Among the likely names are .sport, .bank and .app.

The moderator of the event was Frederick Felman, chief marketing officer for Mark Monitor, a major domain management company based in the United States. Panelists included:

  • Suzanne Radell, senior policy adviser in the office of international affairs at the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration
  • Amber Sterling, senior intellectual property specialist for the Association of American Medical Colleges
  • Pat Kane, senior vice president for naming services for Verisign
  • Jamie Hedlund, vice president of government affairs for the Americas, ICANN
  • Jon Nevett, co-founder and executive vice president of Donuts Inc. and president of Domain Dimensions, LLC, a consultancy on domain name issues
  • Brian Winterfeldt, partner at the Washington, D.C., law firm Steptoe & Johnson, where he is a member of the intellectual property group
  • Ron Andruff, president and CEO of DotSport, managing the new top-level domain

The panelists speculated that as few as 500 and as many as 2,000 domain names could be added in the near future as ICANN opens its application pool up in January 2012. These new names can range from generic names like .pizza, brand names like .apple or geographic names like .London.

Winterfeld Speaking IGF USA 2010Brand owners are concerned about the fraud that could occur in the future with the increased number of different domain names, and there are concerns about the fairness and propriety of naming designations when multiple groups apply for the same domain name, said Winterfeldt. There is a mediation process available through ICANN, and brand owners will be notified if their domain is being sought by another company.

Andruff said that the most important things from any applicants’ point of view is to serve users and connect them across languages and countries. “Sports is one of those unique things,” he said. “Like music, it transcends borders, transcends languages, transcends cultures. It is relevant.” It is important that we allow multiscript applications so we can reach all people of all languages, he said.

ICANN’s decision to open up the applicant pool is still relevantly new to the general public, which could lead to confusion, said Felman.

But the general population is beginning to join in the conversations, Kane explained. But Radell cautioned that the government is very concerned about the potential for fraud and general user confusion. When something goes wrong, people are going to turn to their government to ask why this was allowed to happen, she said.

Members of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) worked very closely with ICANN to make sure safeguards were put into place to protect the users, Radell added.

Panel Discussion IGF USAOne audience member asked how something like .bank would affect his ability to access his bank’s website. He questioned how the URL would be structured, and how Google Chrome users, who don’t use a URL at all, only a search bar, would access the sites. The panelists agreed that expectations for end users are still being developed.

Non-profits are another group that could have some trouble with the new domain names, said Sterling. In the past 15 years, non-profits have seen more donations through the use of the Internet, but it has also seen the Internet abused in the process.

Just a week after the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that rocked Japan, the Red Cross had to combat phishing attacks from people trying to steal donations, she added.

Another concern is whether the increase in domain names would lead to another .com bubble and fizzle out. “In essence, whether they survived was not the point, said Hedlund. “It’s about adding competition and how the market responds.”

– Anna Johnson

Return to IGF-USA 2011 Home

Twitter LogoA selection of Twitter reports on this IGF-USA 2011 event:

Panel: Bobby Flaim, Suzanne Radell, Pat Kane, Jamie Hedlund, Fred Felman, Jon Nevett, Ron Andruff, Brian Winterfeldt.

Jamie Hedlund: App window will open in Jan ’12, early 2013, new gTLDs will be seen. $185,000 application fee. #IGF11-USA

Jon Nevett: .com, .web generic; industry-specific .shoe, etc.; communities like .navahoe; branded .ing; geographical .london, .paris. #IGF11

On the community-specific, will ICANN be responsible for regulating, as they do with generics? Panel says this is unclear still. #IGF11

There are limitations, .nazi, for instance, and highly-regulated groups (elderly, children) will be watched even more closely. #IGF11

Ron Andruff, a .sport applicant, focused on user-centric Internet, thinks we should allow non-Latin characters to make that happen. #IGF11

Brian Winterfeldt: Canon wants .canon, Hitachi, UNICEF, all interested in their own domain names, mostly for security reasons. #IGF11

Charities have the most quaking to do; they rely most on the Internet for raising donations. -Sterling #IGF11

$185,000 application fee, minimum of 10 years. A hard sell for limited-fund organizations. -Sterling. #IGF11

Fred Felman asks: How is this application going to affect day-to-day use? #IGF11

One participant is rather wound up about cash-flow problems on the side of the registrar for hot domains. #IGF11

People will become even more search-reliant. Search is going to change. -Winterfeldt #IGF11

This situation with gTLDs sounds a lot like lollipops: domain names currently come in every flavor of lollipop…#IGF11

…but with the new gTLDs, instead of just picking from lollipops, the user gets an entire candy store to pick from. #IGF11

Small businesses will be lost in this in some respects. – Fred Felman. #IGF11

New gTLD’s seem to boil down to competition and choice. #IGF11-USA

Kane explains the complications about converting between different scripts, languages. #IGF11

Fred Felman: There is an opportunity for a lot of confusion. #IGF11

The lower the price of domain names, the more the abuse of those names. -Kane. #IGF11

Similar names will be put in contention sets, can file contention objections. If no solution, the highest bidder wins. #IGF11

But if they meet the standard as a community group, they win. #IGF11

Nevett: We have until 2013 to work out the kinks in the gTLD system. #IGF11

“The devil is in the details.” “The proof is in the pudding.” -Radell #IGF11

The multimedia reporting team for Imagining the Internet at IGF-USA 2011 included the following Elon University students and alumni: Jeff Ackermann, Natalie Allison, Ronda Ataalla, Ashley Barnas, Joe Bruno, Kristen Case, Lianna Catino, Nicole Chadwick, Kellye Coleman, Colin Donohue, Steven Ebert, Jeff Flitter, Anna Johnson, Elizabeth Kantlehner, Melissa Kansky, Morgan Little, Brian Meyer, Julie Morse, Derek Scully, Rachel Southmayd, Katy Steele, Jeff Stern, Bethany Swanson and Carolyn VanBrocklin.