Internet governance, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, ICANN, Domain Name System, DNS, top-level domain names, TLD
Library and Information Science
This paper makes the case for using regular and objective procedures to assign new Internet top-level domain names (TLDs) instead of the unscheduled, irregular, discretionary and ad hoc processes and criteria currently used by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Adopting a regularized process is past due: after 5 years of existence, ICANN has yet to define a method for managing TLD additions to the root. Yet, the root of the DNS is an important international resource, and handling applications for new TLDs is one of ICANN’s most significant policy responsibilities. The paper shows that ICANN’s current approach to TLD additions is anti-competitive and fosters rent-seeking, political strife, and the potential if not the reality for corruption. At the least it perpetuates the perception of ICANN as operating with irregular and subjective procedures. This is a disservice both to ICANN and to the broader Internet community. The paper proposes a procedure for adding 40 top-level domains to the Internet domain name system on an annual basis. It puts forward a process for doing so that is predictable in timing and procedure, rule-driven, and economically efficient. Separate rounds would be held for commercial and noncommercial applicants, with 10 noncommercial TLDs and 30 commercial ones being added yearly. The paper analyzes the technical constraints on TLD additions and shows that the DNS (Domain Name System) protocol imposes only two significant limitations: the number of additions should be set at a low enough level to retain the hierarchical structure of the name space, and the rate of change in the root zone should not exceed the capacity of the root zone manager to accurately and reliably update and distribute the root zone file. In response to these constraints, we propose capping TLD additions at 40 per year. The specific number is admittedly arbitrary; in fact, any number between 30 and 100 would be acceptable according to many experts. For the sake of procedural simplicity and business certainty we argue that it makes sense to fix the number at a known level. We also show that root server load is not a serious factor limiting TLD additions. The paper argues that there is now and likely always will be demand for TLD additions. The paper suggests that ICANN’s role is not to second-guess the marketplace by choosing which of these TLDs are “good ideas” or most likely to succeed, but simply to coordinate TLD assignments. Consumers and suppliers interacting in the marketplace should determine which ones succeed. The paper concludes by anticipating and attempting to answer arguments that might be advanced against the proposed procedure.
Milton L. Mueller and Lee McKnight, "The Post-COM internet: toward regular and objective procedures for internet governance." Telecommunications Policy 28 (7/8), 487-502 (2004).
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