thoughts on ICANN’s plans to expand the DNS root zone by orders of magnitude

January 19th, 2011 by kc

My recently submitted public comments on the increasingly controversial issue of ICANN’s plans to expand the generic Top Level Domain namespace indefinitely:

  1. a repeat of my still unaddressed comments from the last (June 2010) economic report,
  2. an attempt to summarize some public comments to that June 2010 report,
  3. end an abbreviated historical timeline of ICANN’s economic research commitment to launching new gTLDs.

Also worth reading are Paul Tattersfield’s comments ( and some of George Kirikos comments. But all the comments are worth scanning, to gain an appreciation of the unanimous public dissent to ICANN’s plans to move forward with a policy that will enrich them and the industry that has captured them, at the (multi-billion-dollar) expense of the rest of Internet users.

[ Disclosure: I serve on ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee, and contributed to their Advisory Report on Root Scaling, but also had some related objections to their conclusions:

While we agree with what the SSAC report says, we also think it doesn’t go far enough. Our view, which did not achieve consensus, is that the lack of satisfying research has a simple explanation: The current models of data collection and sharing among stakeholders failed to yield enough information to allow useful realistic modeling of root zone dynamics or evolution. As such, we have no way to show that adding many thousands of TLDs would have positive rather than negative effects on the security, stability, or economics of the domain name (now critical) infrastructure and related industries. Nonetheless, ICANN is asking for a go-ahead to move forward because there is no data to show that a few thousand TLDs will seriously break anything, there are (for some, definitely for ICANN) strong political and economic incentives to move forward, and it will yield some data and some capital from which to develop better policy. Yet, both the public and private sectors should be aware of the risks of moving forward in light of all the unanswered questions: the lack of data on expected demand; the lack of metrics or models or visibility to determine whether something has gone wrong; the lack of any transparent process to back out changes if something does go wrong; and the political difficulty in denying future TLDs when some observable limit has been reached, since there will be tremendous pressure to invest our way out of any limiting factors. In this risk-seeking posture, ICANN should take seriously its responsibility to present a deep understanding of the ramifications of possibly disruptive policies in advance of launching them.

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