When free markets make it worse: new TLDs

ICANN recently announced the availability of new top-level domains (TLDs). So now in addition to .com and .org you can get www.startup or blackfly.chardonny.ironic.

Just imagine: Slashdot.org could become slashdot.dot, making its full pronunciation ”eych tee tee pee colon slash slash slash dot dot dot.”

A new TLD can be yours for only $185,000, but get 5% off with promo code “damnthatsalotofmoney05.”

This is the dark side of free market capitalism, and something I hope you as a thoughtful entrepreneur will eschew.

The announcement set me off. It stems from this steaming pile of nonsense from ICANN chairman Peter Thrush:

“Once this is set up, the theory is, or the hope is, this is going to lead to innovation in ways we can’t imagine.”

Really? Innovation? Because I see this as extracting money from ignorant fear and making the world worse for consumers.

First, let’s dig into their reasoning behind this “innovation.” A recent NPR news story makes it clear. They quote Jeff Ernst, principal analyst at Forrester Research and “an expert in marketing strategy,” saying something so inane that it will also convince you that firms like Forrester “Research” have nothing to do with research and everything to do with saying whatever their high-paying clients would like them to say. From the radio report:

Ernst gives an example of what a company like Canon could do. It could acquire dot-Canon, and even the generic dot-camera, and could create photo-sharing Web sites grouped within those domains.

“So not only is Canon now going to be dot-Canon,” he says, “but Canon can now issue secondary domains to every one of its camera owners, and what they might very well do is embed a chip in their cameras that link that camera owner to their ID so that as they’re taking photos they could just be automatically uploading photos to a photo-sharing site. I mean, that’s just one possibility.”

What amazing innovation! Except for one thing: Canon can already do that at canon.com. There is zero innovation in making the URLs be dumbass.canon instead of dumbass.canon.com.

I would argue further that it’s harmful. Today when you want to tell someone a domain you say “asmartbear.com,” and people understand they’re supposed to key that into the little field at the top of a browser window. But if my TLD is just “asmartbear,” what do I say?

“Our URL is asmartbear”  Or: “It’s eych tee tee pee colon slash slash asmartbear.” Or even “double ewe double ewe double ewe dot asmartbear.” Whether in print or verbally, it actually takes longer to say. Thanks for the innovation.

Oh and I thought we already tried that “innovation.” Remember how they opened up .tv and .biz and all those? Remember all the amazing innovations that poured forth from that? I’m still trying to get the stains out of my good slacks.

No, this isn’t about innovation, it’s about making easy money. Money ill-spent, as ICANN founder and ex-chairman Esther Dyson said: “If I had $185,000, I’d spend it on something else.”

But, sadly, companies like Canon will undoubtedly open their wallets to “control their brand” or whatever FUD they’re basing the decision on.

Here’s where the free-market folks pipe up to argue this is the way it should be. Because: Even if you admit that it’s a useless product, preying on the ignorance and fear of big brands, if ICANN can legally do it, and if those brands want to spend that money, then that’s exactly what they should do. It’s not up to back-seat-driver me or jaded ex-chairman Esther Dyson or forward-thinking chairman Peter Thrush or the prescient, visionary Jeff Ernst to decide what the world needs and at what price. If it’s a poor product at an unreasonable price, the market will correct. The market is efficient and wise.

But the market isn’t wise. It seeks immediate gratification over long-term utility. It seeks profit for the few instead of optimizing for the many. The market has a child’s proclivities, not an adult’s wisdom.

For example, there are many choices in cell-phone carriers, and that’s good. They can and should battle for customers in the free market, based on line quality, customer service, pricing, features, coverage, and so on.

But what about cell towers? Should every company put up their own? Do we want 12 companies each vying for space along congested freeways? Do we want every hilltop marred with more equipment? Are we happy if cell phone bills rise to fund more towers?

No, in this corner of the business, we want them to share, for the benefit of everyone — the cost to the consumer, the bottom line for the companies, and even the wasteful occupation of space on Earth.

It’s even more important with “infrastructure utilities” — services which absolutely everyone depends on. Electricity, plumbing, and roadways are things which are so critical to our daily lives and so unthinkably wasteful to allow “competition” that even in crazy-capitalist America we agree that it’s better to have just one set of pipes underground and one set of wires on the telephone poles.

The Internet has become another critical infrastructure utility. The domain name system is as much a utility as the mind-boggling network of physical wires that link billions of devices around world. Screwing with it for pointless so-called innovation is just wasting everyone’s time.

So should it be legal? Of course, they can do what they want. And that’s better than the other extreme; I’d rather live with too many products and companies making money off other company’s ignorance than the reverse, where regulation stifles progress, controlled by the only entity capable of more waste and more ignorance than even the largest company: government.

But ICANN — and all of us — can aspire to be better than that. We have a moral obligation if not a legal or ethical one. Most businesses change the world for the better — a new tool that makes someone’s life a little easier, connecting people who want to be connected, or creating the millions of run-of-the-mill jobs which might not be glamourous in the eyes of techno-snobs like us but which put food on the table for most of the human beings in the 1st world.

With all this opportunity to make boatloads of money while also improving the world — even if just a little bit — we entrepreneurs shouldn’t allow ourselves to dip into this meaningless, useless behavior.

No need to be a hero, just don’t be a leech.

I know you’re already with me. The next step is to fight the leeches. Fight with your wallet and your words.

It’s all we can do. It may not be much but, then again, it may.

Do entrepreneurs have a moral obligation to improve the world or is OK if “making money” is the number one goal? Let’s continue the discussion in the comments.

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  • James Broadhead

    You correctly pointed out that .biz was a gimmick, and a complete failure. 

    However, .tv is actually a country TLD for Tuvalu (and for a period, selling .tv domains was a major part of their economy!)

    • Anonymous

      I’ll bet that you didn’t know about THIS either (using chrs in domain names that are from other chrsets that LOOK like normal charsets to confuse people and trick people into going to your spam site or whatever thinking it’s some legit company):

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IDN_homograph_attack

      • James Broadhead

        Actually I did, having written a file mass-renaming script which fell afoul of some files I had which inexplicably had zero-width-spaces in their filenames! 

        Backwards-compatibility to ASCII for Unicode domain names is a great workaround, but it really just shows up the major problem — the inflexibility of keyboard designs (let’s not go too far off-topic though)

      • Drewbert

        Sigh. Old news. And it’s been dealt with.

        Did you note the example domain used in that wiki page doesn’t exist?

        Now, you go try to register it. Then – when you find you can’t – stop spreading old, outdated information about IDN’s.

    • http://silver-dollars.com Drewbert

      >What’s much more important is the change to allow Unicode domain names — now there
      >are domains that can’t be easily typed!

      That’s a very white-man statement. What “can’t easily be typed” by you could be something much easier typed than google.com by someone who doesn’t understand the latin script and types happily all day in Arabic or Cyrillic.

      >I wonder if this will lead to an even more language-partitioned internet”

      Who cares? The world is language-partitioned already and nothing is going to change that. The Internet is all about opening up communication, it’s not about opening up communication AS LONG AS IT’S IN ENGLISH.

      Unicode in domain names FINALLY allows the DNS to go global.

  • Anonymous

    Dude, relax, everyone will still just keep making up dumber and weirder mis-spellings to get .com domains.

    Until it doesn’t matter anymore b/c we don’t navigate with URL’s.  Whether that is because we find something better or smartphones/wikipedia degrades our memory to shark-like levels, that will be interesting to see.

    -XC

    • http://twitter.com/AlanHogan Alan Hogan

      I navigate by URLs and try to help others do so as well. In fact, why don’t you guess the URL of my article on the topic? Hint: My domain name is my username, and the article is about the URL as a user interface.

  • Kristian

    Also, it makes it more expensive to protect your brand. Canon can easily own canon.com and canon.net and whatnot like they do today and buy the TLD as well but that is harder for startups. So what happens when we get TLD squatters waiting for promising startups to prosper?

    • Erik

      This is an odd notion. You think someone will spend $185,000 to squat a TLD for an unproven startup? They’d be better off investing that $185,000 in the company – they’d see a much larger return.

  • Justin Chapweske

    Practicing the creation of value is the #1 goal.  Money is often a nice side effect.

  • Nobody

    The big issue I have with the status quo is that 85% of the revenue, and a much larger chunk of the profits, of the registry business goes into the pockets of one company; and would do indefinitely thanks to their perpetual contract.

    The second issue is that .com and .net are typo squatted to all get out.

    Lastly there is room for innovation, but a priori dismissing it is similar to trying to disprove something that doesn’t exist; it doesn’t really prove anything. The proof will be in the tasting.

  • Sfafadsfasdf

    as if that’s the problem with domains. sigh…

  • https://vermorel.myopenid.com/ Joannes Vermorel

    Agreed, hundreds of the Top 10k largest companies are going to “invest” in the extension out of sheer ignorance. The community has no power to stop ICANN, but maybe, open source browsers to be gently “influenced” to ban custom TLD, or at least provide a some level of annoying splash screen. That alone should be sufficient to vastly hinders the ‘visible’ value of custom TLD. My 0.0002cts on the matter.

  • Anonymous

    Sound reasoning save the premise: You conflate the marketing and PR tactics of an increasingly irrelevant charter “corporation” with “the free market.”

    Consider: “On September 29, 2006, ICANN signed a new agreement with the United States Department of Commerce (DOC) that moves the private organization towards full management of the Internet’s system of centrally coordinated identifiers through the multi-stakeholder model of consultation that ICANN represents.”

    The 2006 agreement is not unlike a federal charter, which is not unlike an unnatural monopoly; there is nothing free market about this.

  • ronp

    Brilliant. I read the same release from ICANN and thought that this lends about as much to innovation that spinners lend to advances in transportation.

  • http://www.freshcode.co.za/ FreshCode

    Domain squatters are the real problem. Are more TLDs the solution? No, but .movie and .coffee will make it just a bit harder for squatters to occupy every niche domain that could be serving up real value, instead of generic squatter ads.

    Value is being created, intangible though it may be in the form of brand equity. More money moving into the online market is a good thing that will only grow the industry we are in.Sometimes I think we’re headed back to AOL Keywords.

    • Drewbert

      Domain “squatters” are a problem to those people who weren’t paying attention when the Internet took off. Do you insist that real estate in New York city should be priced now at the same level as when the first people bought up the land in the centre of the city?

      SOME (not all) domain names are worth a lot more than the registration fees. If you don’t allow “speculation”, how do you dish them out? Do you form a committee and that committee decides who deserves each domains? And what happens if someone else comes along later and convinces the committee they are more deserving – the committee takes it away from you and gives it to the other guy?

      All I know is that if we do decide on doing it that way, I want to be on the committee.

      Do we take gums.com off Proctor and Gamble because they’ve “squatted” on it for 16 off years without using it for a website?

  • Steelejr23

    This is just going to harm security thanks to the confusion and ability to cloud official sites… Let the phishing begin…

  • http://about.me/mikeschinkel MikeSchinkel

    I agree. Faith in the free market is just religious dogma of another sort.  The free market is fabulous, but only when applied intelligently. I think your cell tower reference is a great example.

    • Impatient

      It’s called a permit, people, and you have to get it to build a cell tower. Enough of this nonsense about that being a great example.

      I’m always amazed at how quick people are to throw the market out the window. “It’s great until somebody comes up with a bad idea.” But how do you think we decide something is a bad idea? The know-it-all technocrats that dominate the blogosphere think they should be the sole arbiters, and they’re bitter that they’re not.

      I’m very disappointed in this post.

      • http://about.me/mikeschinkel MikeSchinkel

        I’m very disappointed in people who have so little integrity that they bash others anonymously rather than leaving comments using their real name.

      • James Broadhead

        The opposite of know-it-all technocrats who dominate the technosphere are know-nothing luddites who make decisions outside of public view or consulation. How is that better? 

  • Anonymous

    First, I think the largest problem with domain names is how cheap they are to buy from registrars. They were never sold for market prices, and now the Internet is filled with domain parking because we created that as an economically viable business. Happy to see at least some offering that discourages widespread littering of Internet real estate via a stif price.

    Second, I think you overstate the simplicity of the existing domain name system to average people. There are already multiple-levels of subdomains. There are already lots of tlds. Yes, del.icio.us was confusing, yes, it was successful, yes, they had to work to make it easier for customers. And yes, all of that happened many years ago and isn’t an issue that I see as substantially worse or different with this change.

    • Drewbert

      You want to pay “market price” for every single domain you need for your business?

      Domains are currently (mostly) priced a little bit above their cost of delivery. I’d rather have it that way than the providers determining “market price” and those large corp making big wallet on every single domain created.

      Do you want the price of water based on the market, rather than cost of supply and delivery? So if I live next door to you and offer the water supplier more than you can afford, I get to keep all your water and you go without?

      The “free market” is simply a term dreamed up by people with a lot more money than you or I, in order to ensure they keep getting a lot more money than you or I.

  • http://www.facebook.com/edreckers Ed Reckers

    I think, but I’m not sure, that we’re moving away from domain names anyways. It’s apps/shortcuts on mobile devices and Chrome w/o an address bar. That’s how I sees it.

  • http://www.thebigpropertylist.co.uk/ James

    At least at $185,000 I won’t have to worry about someone speculatively acquiring the TLDs of my online businesses.  If I can’t justify it surely they can’t!

    It still annoys me to see a speculative bulk registrar owns most of my brand names’ .mobi addresses.

    The telecomms analogy is a good one, the UK government sold 3G network licences to network operators at an extortionate amount early in the 2000s, ensuring that mobile services stayed high priced as operators tried to recoup their investments. 

    This was a blatant fund raising exercise the same as ICANN selling new TLDs, and its a blackmail situation as no uk mobile phone operator could afford not to bid for a 3G licence and many companies will feel there is no option but to buy their TLD to protect their future.

  • http://www.contenthere.net/ Seth Gottlieb

    Nice post.  I agree that the free-market isn’t always better.  Especially when they can’t internalize negative externalities (like polution).  Free-markets also depend on open access to information.  I think your argument rests evenly on these two concepts.  Negative externalities being making the web more confusing to navigate.  Imperfect information being that companies like Cannon might not understand the value (or lack thereof) of these custom domains so they overpay.

    But I think that in both of these cases the negative externalities are short-term.  If URLs are difficult to remember, nobody will use them.  I think having moving all those Disney websites under go.com was a foolish experiment.  Like nearly everyone else, I type in espn.com and get redirected to espn.go.com.  As for the imperfect information, that is short term too.  Companies with fear and deep pockets are going to waste money on these things in the near term but, as you say, eventually people will realize the products are bad. 

  • cratuki

    Your problem is with market structure rather than market freedom.

  • JS

    The only likely innovation from the new gTLD program will be internationalized TLD (i.e.  dot com in japanase, korean, etc.)

  • Reifnir

    H is spelled “aitch”

  • Pingback: gTLDs considered harmful, from a capitalist perspective | beatpanda

  • http://twitter.com/DASHWORLDS DASHWORLDS

    OR…..”Innovation in Ways ICANN Can’t Imagine”:

    ICANN’s main aims are to convince Internet users that they’re the only game in town and then try to herd everyone into a tiny part of an otherwise infinite universe. In this respect, ICANN has been quite successful. However, it’s rather like telling people that the only place they can shop on the entire planet is your local Safeway (not that one…the other one) and that there’s really nowhere else to go. Of course this is sheer nonsense and it’s understandable that people are starting to look at the Alternatives.

    Alternatively, anyone can now create their own set of Top Level Domains at no cost and without reference to ICANN, simply by opting to register NON-ICANN Dashcom (not Dotcom) domain names.   Dashcoms are highly memorable & relevant web addresses such as “business-com”, “music-store” or even “slash-dot”.   Available in any language or text, you can also use Facebook Emoticons (eg: musical notes “♫♫-♫♫”).
     
    Here is a part of the Internet that’s totally outside ICANN’s control yet able to exist quite happily alongside it. At present, resolution is via an APP, but new ISP links are coming online to negate that need.  It’s only a matter of time before other new options surface, and none of them will have anything to do with ICANN.

    PS:…..ICANN won’t even consider applications from individuals or sole proprietorships, completely ignoring the interests and needs of the majority of Internet users worldwide.   Add to the equation non-refundable fees of $185,000 per TLD (plus potentially unlimited annual costs/expenses) and how many new ICANN TLDs will really be launched?

  • Davidngo

    I think it’s funny that you point out why this is a bad product, but then blame the free market? WHAT?! 

    Would you blame the free market if Ford came out with a really bad car?  If Sears had a really bad service? 

    Your logic makes no sense.  Especially because you already point out that the .biz product didn’t work out very well.  And didn’t catch on…because well..the free market decided so. 

    If this was an article that just said…”This is a stupid idea”, it might have been more valid.  Unfortunately you made a ridiculous jump and somehow pinned this on the free market.  The free market has good and bad ideas being pumped into it all the time.  At least you conclude that our wallets are the only way to morally/practically fight bad ideas/products.

  • Ethan Huff

    Calling ICANN a product of “free market capitalism” is just plain wrong.

    Forget all the stuff like COICA and the ICE domain seizures and the US ignoring international law and asserting world control over .COM’s… Whether it is an official government arm or not, regulation makes it a legal monopoly and the same economic problems with this monopoly still applies. The $185K price tag comes from lack of competition.

    Your mistake is even broader, assuming that all “public goods” can’t be provided even as well by a genuine market system. How would you even know this? Just because they are important and government has asserted dominance over that segment of the market? I suggest you get a better understanding of how us “free market dogmatists” really suggest that we solve these types of problems; for example, google “The Privatization of Roads and Highways”, before taking swipes at “the free market”. Corporations in bed with government is corporatism not capitalism.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason Cohen

      Lots of things are not capitalism. Anti-trust regulation, for example, is clearly anti-capitalist. But we’ve determined that certain “pure capitalist” behavior is not acceptable to us as a society.

      • Anonymous

        Wow. Suggestion: this deviation needs a post of its own. I’m especially interested in your definition of “pure capitalism”; how you (or anyone else for that matter) were promoted to determine what is acceptable and unacceptable; and what juncture in time the “Royal We” was established.

        • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason Cohen

          In America, the answers are clear: “When” is “when we established our constitution” and “we” are the lawmaking system, consisting of courts, judges, and elected (and appointed) representatives. A perfect system? Hardly. But I doubt you’ll find many people who believe that the oppression caused by the free market during the (American) industrial revolution was good and shouldn’t have been placed in check.

          I personally, of course, am not “promoted to determine what is good.” Not sure where that came from. Is that how you treat free speech and open opinion? Did you not read in the post where I said on the balance I’d rather things be free and unregulated? But that still we capitalists can ALSO think about whether what we’re doing seems to be a positive move in the world.

          Many behaviors are possible and legal, but with all the opportunity in the world, why pick something that makes money but doesn’t make anything else?

          • Anonymous

            The treatment of free speech and open opinion is exactly what this media compels. More to the point, I’m not attacking your right to say or posit anything; I’m attacking your position because, specific to this post, I think you’re wrong and somewhat naive as to the definition of capitalism and the system we operate in. [Insert Baby/Bath Water cliche' here.] 

            News flash: the only relatively free market in the world is right here, The Internet. But look what’s going on: ICANN is in bed with the feds. There is bound to be unintended consequences.As I wrote in an earlier comment, we agree that this is not a “positive” direction. In fact, it is fucking retarded, for the reasons you mention and others. I was attempting to take it a bit deeper: ICANN enjoys an enviable market position… they can pursue whatever hair brain campaign/ revenue vertical they wish because their position is unnaturally manufactured and protected by federal authority vis a vis a 2006 “contract/charter.”Based on your blog title and the evidentiary aspects of the post, you’re assessing blame on the free market whereas I am saying that the you should affix your blame on the government’s creation of unnatural monopolies via federal charter.You’re always indirectly compelling your readers to question, test and retest before coming to conclusions. I would ask that you do the same in this case.

            • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason Cohen

              Great point! I just missed it the first time around.

              Some others are making similar points; this was well-put. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    But wait, now you can patent the concept of creating a domain on .canon instead of .canon.com! And that’s just one example invented to make this sound new; real people will find countless innovative patents to file. As measured by the number of patents, innovation will soar!

    In the end the main application of this may be registering all the 2-3 letter TLDs that aren’t in use by a country to create more clever domains to compete with all the .us and .ly ones. Given the difficulty of getting a handful of TLDs other than .com to be usable by the public it seems like this is mostly a waste of money for those registering a new one. What happens when someone misspells your new TLD word? Does a smart spammer grab the alternate ones? Or do you spend $10-50m covering every possibility?

    It certainly is well priced to extract money from large corporations that don’t fully understand it. But that’s just me; maybe someone else does have a good and valuable (to them) use for it. I’m more concerned about who’s going to end up managing the TLDs that do have some value; for a few this might be way too cheap. If they go to bidding/trading the winner may be the company that expects to extract the highest price for using them. Fortunately .com still works :)

  • http://twitter.com/DASHWORLDS DASHWORLDS

    ICANN and the original “.Biz” – A Tale of Two Internets

    Some years a group known as ARNI (AtlanticRoute Network Inc) introduced the first “.biz” TLD that worked alongside ICANN’s “.com” and “.net” etc offerings. 

    What was the reaction of Not-For-Profit ICANN on discovering this? ……ICANN rushed in with a sledgehammer and contrary to its own stated principles, opened up a second “.biz” TLD to collide directly with ARNI’s original “.biz” TLD.  

    There was no subtly or pretence in ICANN’s actions.  ICANN’s new TLD was not just similar to ARNI’s TLD. It wasn’t a “.bus” or “.trade” or something vaguely comparable. No, it was exactly the same “.biz” TLD.  

    It seems ICANN purposely ensured total destruction of the original “.biz” TLD without regard for ARNI, their employees or their clients.  What happened afterwards? Well, ICANN went on as normal; ARNI didn’t.

    But could a Microsoft or a Google have undertaken something similar, apparently without consequence? This seems highly unlikely. Perhaps without its “Non-Profit” status, ICANN might have risked being hauled up in front of an antitrust/monopolies commission….and if found guilty, what then?

  • Crias

    If ICANN are the only body allowed to sell TLDs, that is not open-market. When competitors are barred entry, that’s a forced monopoly. To my knowledge, that’s the economic situation of TLDs.

    To conflate your main point, that selling TLDs is ridiculous, with an apparent distaste for free-market ideals does this article a disservice. You push away people who believe in free-market, even when they might otherwise agree with how ridiculous it is to sell TLDs at $185K.

    Decide what you’re arguing against; is it free-market, or ICANN selling TLDs at $185K? Stick to one argument, don’t conflate them.

  • http://twitter.com/JessiDarko Jessica Darko

    This isn’t the “Dark side of the free market”, unless you think government regulation is “the free market”.

    This is ICANN opening up a free market in TLDs. We’ll see whether the TLDS are good or not.  If they are terrible, people won’t use them, and this experiment will go nowhere.

    The idea that this is doing damage to anybody is predicated on your assumption that you OWN other people.  Just use dotcom names– so long as the US government will allow you to continue to do so– and forget all the TLDs you don’t like. 

    If someone wants to do a TLD called .freedom that has all of its DNS Served by a peer-to-peer DNS service that is immune to the US Government’s censorship attempts– this would allow them to do it, and this would be the best way to do it without having to deal with the pre-existing DNS infrastructure. 

    That would be innovative!

    There, proof that this opens up room for innovation.  All current TLDs must be routed using the old style– subject to abuse by censorious governments method.  This way would solve a real problem.

    If you won’t ever visit free-markets-mean.freedom, then you don’t have to.  

    • Anonymous

      >”
      This is ICANN opening up a free market in TLDs>”

      I suggest that you look up the definition of “free market”.

      “it’s like Comcast opening up a free market in e-mail usernames!”

    • Eli Yelluas

      What he’s saying is that this would not be any more “innovative” than just setting up p2pdns.com. Besides, a p2p DNS system would use a resolver that is self-aware, so nothing prevents you from doing this by convention rather than paying $185k.

      He isn’t saying this shouldn’t be allowed — just that it is a sad attempt at making ICANN more money under the guise of innovation, of which this idea is completely devoid. 

      Free markets are a great mechanism for a variety of things, but it is foolish to argue that free markets are the correct solution for the set of all problems.

  • Vojislav Stojkovic

    I’d like to believe that businesses like Canon are not _that_ stupid. If I was a bigwig in Canon whose job description is to make that kind of decisions, I would probably say something along these lines: “Come on, how likely is anyone to go to a .canon address? Everyone knows and understands .com, so even if someone takes .canon, they’re welcome to it. Nobody’s going to mistake that for our canon.com site.”

    Then again, maybe I’m just naive and/or overly optimistic. I’m clinging to the idea that the world hasn’t yet become a hopelessly stupid place.

  • Vojislav Stojkovic

    I’d like to believe that businesses like Canon are not _that_ stupid. If I was a bigwig in Canon whose job description is to make that kind of decisions, I would probably say something along these lines: “Come on, how likely is anyone to go to a .canon address? Everyone knows and understands .com, so even if someone takes .canon, they’re welcome to it. Nobody’s going to mistake that for our canon.com site.”

    Then again, maybe I’m just naive and/or overly optimistic. I’m clinging to the idea that the world hasn’t yet become a hopelessly stupid place.

  • http://www.facebook.com/edementhon Eric DeMenthon

    I agree that this is only going to lead to confusion for everyone, and that it’s an all around terrible idea. One of .com’s biggest positives is that it means ‘website’ to even the most technically non-savvy person.

    I’ve thought for a long time that ICANN should bump up the yearly maintenance fees for .com to ~5-10x what it is now, to make it unprofitable to camp all but the most prime .com real estate. It seems that would make them a lot more money than this TLD scheme, and it would free up vast swaths of .com so people with legitimate uses don’t need to keep looking for more obscure misspellings, or hunt for URLs with suffixes based on the TLDs from politically unstable 3rd world countries.

  • http://tideart.com Dendory

    It’s not just confusion based on companies changing URL, it will also make it easier for bad guys to confuse people: http://farsec.net/?id=4e2499bd

  • Doorag

    Everyone has a moral obligation to make the world better – not just entrepreneurs.

  • http://www.domador.net Andres Cabezas

    There might actually be room for a bit of real innovation, depending on what those $185,000 buy you (besides the name itself).  Sure, a lot of companies will waste money securing TLDs matching their trademarks.  But there could be room for innovation if someone bought a TLD to manage it as a TLD (rather than just as a glorified domain name).

    For instance, take a look at David Friedman’s idea for “.ugh”. It’s not just about a clever name, but about a clever way to manage that name:

    http://www.ironicsans.com/2011/06/idea_ugh_top_level_domain.html

    It all depends on the rules of the game.  Are the owners of TLDs automatically subject to U.S. laws?  Does ICANN impose a lot of rules on the way new TLDs are managed?  Could you set yourself up as a TLD’s (hopefully-benevolent) dictator?

    Assuming the best, someone could buy and manage a particular TLD as an appealing alternative to .com, one that addresses .com’s various shortcomings.  (Domain-name squatting.  Splogs.  Occasionally unfair domain-name dispute proceedings.  Questionable ICE seizures.)  If the rules allow, a new TLD could appealingly differentiate itself from .com in those areas. 

    Competing with .com seems impossible, given how the general public thinks every website ends in .com.  Then again, there was a time when people thought that all e-mail addresses were bound to local ISPs (a notion changed by Hotmail).  Certain notions are difficult, but not impossible to change.

  • Anonymous

    “For example, there are many choices in cell-phone carriers, and that’s good.”

    SOOO many choices:
    1.) ATT / T-Mobile
    2.) Verizon
    3.) Sprint

    And for ISPs:
    1.) Your cable company
    2.) Your phone company

    But yeah, regulation would be stupid because these things don’t matter and people don’t need them. 

    “Free market” to me means that it’s POSSIBLE to have competition.  Want to start your own ISP?  You can resell DSL service or give up.  If you wanted to innovate in the ISP space, you can’t; try getting a local government, let alone many across the country, to let you dig up all the grass and install fiber.  Ooh, and you’ll probably need about a trillion dollars to do all of this, plus you’ll need to negotiate contracts with other ISPs to route your traffic (possible, but don’t expect any discounts).

    ISPs have awful service and awful prices.  Look at the state of the US on this vs. places where governments regulate it, e.g. the UK or Korea or Japan.  They have much faster connections, no data caps that are killing cloud-based services (esp. backup services like CrashPlan / BackBlaze / etc), and much lower prices…due to REAL COMPETITION, which we don’t have here in the ISP or wireless / wired telco space.

    And why is that?  Because these companies pay lots and lots of money to buy off politicians so they can continue to rape Americans with their companies.

  • Anonymous

    Great post . . . This article is similarly voiced :
    http://www.domainconsultant.com/?p=2932and this one about ICANN may be of interest too : http://www.domainconsultant.com/?p=2925Lastly, you might find it interesting that in other domain name news. Dengate Thrush is now off to the private sector after serving on the ICANN board which approved the new TLDshttp://www.domainnamenews.com/new-gtlds/peter-dengate-thrush-switches-icann-tldh/9533

  • Anonymous

    Great post . . . This article is similarly voiced :
    http://www.domainconsultant.com/?p=2932and this one about ICANN may be of interest too : http://www.domainconsultant.com/?p=2925Lastly, you might find it interesting that in other domain name news. Dengate Thrush is now off to the private sector after serving on the ICANN board which approved the new TLDshttp://www.domainnamenews.com/new-gtlds/peter-dengate-thrush-switches-icann-tldh/9533

  • http://dami.me Damilare Onajole

    I quite disagree with you in respect to this being an innovation. I think it really is, its a case of “enhanced domain name usability” which I have been thinking of lately. Regular people tend to take off the tlds off domain names, hence you hear people say things like “I am on ‘Facebook’” or “‘Google’ it” 

    Ideally, a website is a noun, and it should have a name, not a description. It is in the spirit of this innovation that browsers strip of ‘http:/www’ in the front of domain names, and a wave of .ly, .io, end .us etc websites sprang up

  • Vlastimil Miléř

    The whole concept of domain names is flawed. Most people use a search engines anyway. A good domain name only demonstrates that the owner has a big wallet.

    We need to get rid of domains and replace them hashes. Freenet needs to get more popular and it needs to involve to be competitive with the current “internet”. I mean web browsing.

  • Jonas

    True capitalism at work. Every dollar of the billions spent at this could instead be used for research, to innovate and make better stuff for everyone. But that wouldn’t be true to the holy free market. (grumbles..)

  • Drewbert

    1. It’s Peter Dengate-Thrush, not Peter Thrush.

    2. When he said “Once this is set up, the theory is, or the hope is, this is going to lead toinnovation in ways we can’t imagine.” I think his imagination was operately quite nicely, thank you very much, considering he is now executive chairman of “Top Level Domain Holdings”. How do you spell “revolving door”?

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  • Andy Brice

    $185k for adding an entry into a domain database? Somebody is going to be make a *lot* of money. Where does that money go?

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  • http://twitter.com/JeffErnst Jeff Ernst

    For the record, I cited the Canon example in the NPR interview simply as an example of what a company can do with a gTLD.  Canon did not ask Forrester to mention them, nor did any Forrester client ask us to say anything about this issue.  The accusation of such borders on slander.  Forrester’s recommendations to its clients has been to evaluate the business opportunities that are made available by the ability to operate a domain name registry at the root of the internet, and only move forward with it if you find a compelling business opportunity and have done a cost/benefit analysis. That would be the prudent thing to do with any potential investment of this size.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason Cohen

      What’s an example of an innovation that could be done with a gTLD that cannot be done today?

      My point is that I can’t think of one, and the one you gave isn’t one either.

      Maybe they set you up — they inserted your comment in their interview implying that you supported their claim that this constitutes innovation, though a careful reading of your quote does indicate that you didn’t explicitly say this was in fact innovation, you just gave an example of something that could be done. Though it could be done anyway with (I think?) no difference at all for the end user.

      I’m curious, do you believe this will lead to innovations as Peter Thrush clearly states? If so, like what?

      • http://about.me/mikeschinkel MikeSchinkel

        @asmartbear:disqus In general I agree with you on this post, that this open proliferation of domains will cause unintended negative consequences and will certainly create confusion in the grand scheme, but when viewed as this one example I do think you discredit the value that a shorter URL with fewer technical characters can have. So http://mikeschinkel.canon is possibly easier to understand for the non-techy than http://mikeschinkel.canon.com and it’s 4 fewer characters to type on a mobile device. I could be wrong but my gut tells me that *.canon might see great adoption than *.canon.com just like I believe Twitter’s user names have been more successful than if Twitter had decided to use a URL format like this: http://twitter.com/users/mikeschinkel.  FWIW.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason Cohen

      What’s an example of an innovation that could be done with a gTLD that cannot be done today?

      My point is that I can’t think of one, and the one you gave isn’t one either.

      Maybe they set you up — they inserted your comment in their interview implying that you supported their claim that this constitutes innovation, though a careful reading of your quote does indicate that you didn’t explicitly say this was in fact innovation, you just gave an example of something that could be done. Though it could be done anyway with (I think?) no difference at all for the end user.

      I’m curious, do you believe this will lead to innovations as Peter Thrush clearly states? If so, like what?

    • http://about.me/mikeschinkel MikeSchinkel

      @twitter-16413174:disqus ”Borders on slander?”  Come now Jeff, aren’t we being a bit hyperbolic here? Jason was stating his opinion, and it’s not an uncommonly-held opinion regarding technology analysts. Last I checked we have freedom-of-speech here in the good ‘ole USA, especially related to opinions. If you can’t handle critical views of your opinions then I’d say you are in the wrong business.

  • Rob Domanski

    I guess I’m one of those “free-market folks” being referred to.  Even though I happen to think the new TLDs are pretty dumb and useless, I
    see no harm in them either. If people and businesses have more options
    to choose from, how is that a bad thing?

    And if a business wants to spend $185,000 on a confusing TLD for their
    domain name branding, let them. It should be their mistake to make – so
    long as there are no new mandatory rules or regulations being applied
    to the rest of us.

    http://thenerfherder.blogspot.com/2011/07/do-free-markets-make-it-worse-case-of.html

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know about entrepreneurs, but engineers have an obligation to improve the world. It is my personal mission to use my talents and abilities to make a positive impact on the lives of people through the dutiful application of technology to solving their problems. I am pretty hopeful that I can make some money in the progress, but when we stand on the shoulders of giants, we are obligated to consider them when making choices. Engineers serve to improve humanity, and don’t any of you forget it.

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