On Friday, the ICANN Board approved some controversial renewal contracts for the .biz, .info and .org top-level Internet domains.
In a press conference a few hours later, chairman Vint Cerf urged the reporters to read the transcript of the discussion. That transcript isn’t up yet but I figured that Cerf was right about listening to it, so I have knocked up an MP3 of the 45-minute discussion and posted it below.
The most contentious issues were that the registries would be able to raise their prices, and charge different amounts for different domains (google.info is worth a little more than sausagemaker.info ); that the new contracts came with a “presumptive right” to renew the contract when it reached its end; and that the registries were able to use and sell the data of individual registrants however they want.
After a lot of argument what happened was: a cap of 10 percent a year was put on domain increases; all domains have to treated alike; the presumptive renewal is there unless there is a “breach” of the contract; the companies can sell the data how they see fit.
The contracts are bad and stupid but they had to go through because of the bad and stupid dotnet and dotcom contracts that VeriSign manage to extract from ICANN. I went on and on about how vital the dotnet contract was, and on and on and on and on and on about how ICANN had provably fixed the process to give it to VeriSign and now it has come back to haunt ICANN now and into the future.
Twomey claimed that these contracts won’t necessarily impact the new gTLD contracts i.e. all the dreadful parts will be pulled out. But this is classic Twomey stonewalling. ICANN has just written in monopoly top-level domains – you get it once, you have it forever – but insisting on a “breach” of contract, putting ICANN into a hopeless regulator role it is ill-equipped to carry out.
It has also created an oligopoly by telling the registries they can increase prices by 10 percent a year when the actual cost of domains is going down. ICANN has set the lines by which the market will run i.e. Internet domain names will become more expensive over time. It is in fact undermining, yet again, its fundamental brief to increase competition on the Internet.
And all because of the desperate need to carry through the secret deal made with VeriSign to end its lawsuits with ICANN. ICANN gave it dotnet and dotcom, and VeriSign promised to buckle under – but then VeriSign screwed ICANN yet again right at the end when it managed to get the US government to award itself dotcom renewal rights.
Twomey’s inherent desire to strike under-the-table deals has screwed ICANN here. He would have done better to get on the Net community’s side and rally against VeriSign. But then hindsight is a wonderful thing. The lesson if anyone really needs to be reminded of it yet again is: don’t do deals with VeriSign. You will come out worse off.
Anyway, here is the ICANN Board’s discussion about the biz/org/info contract extensions. Only Susan Crawford really discussed the reason why these contracts were agreed to. I don’t find that entirely encouraging. In fact, I’m not sure that half the Board even understood what the issue with the dotnet contract was.