ICANN finally does something right

Today the ICANN voted to relax rules governing top-level domains (TLDs). TLDs are the last part of a server address and commonly end with .com, .net, .org, .biz, .edu, .gov, et al.

Currently, ICANN arbitrarily and capriciously regulates creation of new TLDs. For a great example, the .xxx TLD was debated, authorized, then arbitrarily rejected.

ICANN’s newest decision loosens things up. An institution wanting its own TLD will “merely” need to pony up several tens of thousands of dollars and prove competence to manage its own TLD. For example, if I had enough spare change and a good IT organization, I might buy the .cambre TLD and start selling .cambre domain names. (Think of the prestige of owning www.aren.cambre. Totally awesome!)

This will have several effects:

  • The value and prestige of longstanding TLDs like .com and .net will evaporate. This means holders of valuable .com- and .net-based domain names, such as creditcards.com with its $2.75 million sale, will lose their value.
  • “Suspect” TLDs, like .biz and .info (rationale) will no longer be automatically suspect. Because the number of TLDs will explode, spam and abuse detection systems will no longer be able to use such simple blacklists.
  • The new TLDs will add value but will not be the gold rush of .com and .net-based domain names. Sure, some TLDs will fetch money (like .creditcard), but owners of trademarks are guaranteed their own TLD. For example, if American Express doesn’t want to buy the .creditcard TLD from an investor who scooped it up earlier, it can just buy its own .amex or .americanexpress TLD.
  • Boneheads will register TLDs expecting to get rich selling domain names, but they will be flummoxed by people registering synonymous TLDs and diluting value.
  • Educause‘s arbitrary and capricious management of its own .edu TLD–where, for example, only accredited higher educational institutions can get a .edu domain and only one per university, making it impossible to recover from uninformed .edu domain name choices made before people realized the significance of the web–will increasingly be a nonissue. .edu’s value will diminish along with .com and .net, and someday educational institutions could completely bypass Educause and register their own TLD. For example, SMU could have its own .smu TLD, giving it www.smu instead of www.smu.edu or access.smu instead of access.smu.edu.
  • Most importantly, ICANN’s arbitrary and capricious management of TLD authorization goes away.

I am excited by the ICANN’s decision. Finally, the ICANN injected sense into the domain name system.

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