ICANN’s plan for needy new gTLD applicants is really, really bad

Want to watch another aspect of the new TLD process explode?

I just finished reviewing ICANN’s draft plan to assist “needy” applicants wishing to apply for a new top level domain name.

I know the title to this post is lame, but I really can’t come up with anything better to describe this new program.

It’s really, really bad. And it will blow up in ICANN’s face.

The program is funded to allow 14 applicants for new TLDs to pay $47,000 in evaluation fees rather than the normal $185,000. It’s backed with $2M in funding from ICANN.

You’ve got to be poor, but not broke.

Let’s start with why this program doesn’t serve its intended purpose and is thus fundamentally flawed: you have to be poor but have enough money to run a registry.

So you save $138,000 on your application fee. But a properly run registry needs much, much more than that to continue as a going concern.

If you can’t afford the extra $138,000, how can you possibly answer this question:

While an applicant’s project should demonstrate some level of need as described above, the applicant must also demonstrate basic financial capability to operate an ongoing concern of the size and complexity of a proposed registry through demonstrating managerial capabilities and financial resources.

Only an idiot would donate to this program.

Although ICANN is looking forward to a winfall of over $100M from the new TLD program, it’s only allocating $2 million to this support system. That means about 14 people will get the reduced rate.

Ah, but ICANN wants to raise more money:

ICANN will work with the community plans to create opportunity for other parties to contribute to the fund. Details about the fundraising activities will be made available in 2012.

Wait a minute. ICANN is going to have many more millions in the bank after launching new TLDs yet it’s only willing to allocate $2M to this program, and it wants to ask for contributions from outside parties?

The only way this will work is if unfunded but qualified applicants are posted for individual contributions. You’d be stupid to contribute blindly and let ICANN decide which groups get the money.

Governments can’t apply.

I recall that some poorer governments wanted reduced fees. Sorry, that’s not allowed. (Not that this is a bad thing. A government that can’t afford the fees should be doing something else with its money.)

No trademarks allowed.

This is perhaps one of the more baffling provisions. You can’t apply for reduced fees if your TLD is meant to be a trademark.

Let’s use an example, .goodwill. Now, Goodwill would not qualify because it has a lot of money. But think about if Goodwill was a small upstart in a developing country. It wouldn’t qualify unless it wants to give up any trademark protection. Good luck protecting your brand down the road.

It appears the plan is not meant for .brand non-profits. It’s meant for causes, e.g. .hiv.

Every non-profit will apply.

Another problem is that everyone who has even a shot at getting a reduced fee will apply. There’s no risk. Even if you can afford the full fee, there’s a benefit to applying. If you don’t get the award you get a deferred payment plan.

This is going to piss off a lot of people.

Which will be more worthy, .hiv or .cancer? What about religious names and causes? Controversial things? Could even an application for .gay qualify?

More points will be given to applicants from developing countries and for scripts and languages that are “underserved”.

Here’s the thing: ICANN is going to have to deny some “worthy” groups the reduced fee. Some of these worthy groups will be just as worthy as others. This is going to introduce allegations of politics and favoritism. It will look really, really, bad.

I realize ICANN’s half-assed commitment to lower fees for needy applicants is a result of significant outside pressure. But I think this program is going to blow up in ICANN’s face.


  1. John says

    ICAHN obviously doesn’t care to understand what dilution does to assets (baseball card marketplace, stocks, etc).
    They obviously only make money by constantly creating instruments to sell (ie extensions)
    It really should be revamped as an organization and not allowed to dilute the industry.

  2. jblack says

    Plan appears roughly reminiscent of Fannie/Freddie/sub-prime/CRA debacle. Good intentions tragically confused with good policy.

  3. Bill says

    Why on earth would any entity that small that obviously struggles to support itself financially NEED to have its own TLD and not just use a .org address? No valid reason for it. Absolutely ridiculous.

    Maybe this is philanthropy-for-show to take some heat off the whole money grab of new, unlimited extensions.

  4. Kristina Rosette says

    The title is spot on. The exclusion for .brand applicants is especially ironic given that Kurt repeatedly told Congress that YMCA and BBB can apply and get support for their applications. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for his letter to Congress pointing out his error.

    • says

      @ Kristina – I was wondering the same thing — was trying to remember what Kurt told them.

      Granted, this draft hadn’t been created when he testified. For all we know ICANN had just authorized the plan and didn’t have any details.

  5. Jp says

    ICANN is essentially the only goverment in the world that doesnt own a gun (no military). It won’t last forever. Guns are what keep crappy governments going. ICANN has none and everybody else has one (or many). Just my 2 cents.

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