Google suggests a domain industry trade association

Stéphane Van Gelder, Registry Relations and Strategy Director for NetNames reports on the latest developments in Internet governance

Outside of its thrice-yearly international meetings designed to bring all interested parties together, ICANN also holds smaller regional meetings targeted at the entities it has direct contracts with, the registrars and the registries.

The first such meeting of 2013 started today in Amsterdam and NetNames is a participant. Just before the start of the official ICANN agenda, Google initiated a fascinating side discussion by backing the idea of a trade association for domain names.

Amazingly, despite the fact that there are now upwards of 2.4 billion internet users and close to 250 million domain names serving as access points to the Web for those billions of users, there is no viable trade association for the domain name industry. So if this initiative focuses on enhancing the Internet user experience, it will no doubt be very welcome.

At this early stage, the overall rationale is that the proposed trade association would seek to raise awareness of internet users about domain names in general and new gTLDs in particular.

Various points were discussed in Amsterdam, including:

  • How the association would be funded?

  • Who it would be open to?

  • Should it operate outside of ICANN?

  • How to educate on new gTLDs and their various possible uses?

  • What charter would it work to?

No definite answers should be expected at this early stage, but participants at this very well attended meeting were united in their belief that the association should deal with domain names in general instead of restricting itself to new gTLDs. There also seemed to be agreement on the idea that the association should be self-funded, i.e. by its members, and run independently of ICANN.

Even though ICANN has a responsibility towards undertaking outreach as part of the new gTLD program, this is more specifically targeted at prospective applicants, not end users. So there seems to be no overlap between ICANN and the tentative trade association's mission to educate users on the domain name system.

However, for this trade association to become a reality, it will need to get critical mass amongst registries (including future TLD operators) and registrars. Also, as new gTLDs get closer to launch the pressure will increase to either get this trade body going or forget the idea. Should the former prevail, it would realistically need to be up and running within three months if educational efforts are to coincide with the arrival of the first new gTLDs.

Written by Stéphane Van Gelder, Registry Relations and Strategy Director for NetNames

24 January 2013