ICANN boss made questionable comments in Davos last month.
Internet Commerce Association has sent a letter (pdf) to ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé, following remarks Chehadé made at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos.
In a video interview with Huffington Post, Chehadé said:
The reality is, the more there are names, the less people will actually be hogging names in order to charge a lot for them. Because if somebody took your name on dot-x, you can go get another name on dot-y now.” and “We went from twenty-something top-level domains … to hundreds now… We think it will actually reduce cybersquatting eventually.
The remarks were widely rebuked. On this week’s Domain Sherpa Discussion, I noted that it seemed Chehadé went off message while trying to say that new TLDs deliver more consumer choice while not contributing to a meaningful increase in trademark infringing domain names.
ICA’s letter, penned by President Jeremiah Johnston, notes that people investing in domain names (i.e., hogging domains) are the ones footing the bill for ICANN’s massive growth and budget. ICA’s members represent about 10% of all registered domain names, and Johnston points out that this means they paid for about 20 of Chehadé’s 197 trips last year.
The notes that there is nothing wrong with domain name investing, and investors are merely setting a market price. Furthermore, new TLD companies are playing the same role as domain name investors in legacy TLDs, reserving thousands of domain names and setting high prices on the better ones. For the most part, it’s not the case that, if your desired domain is taken in .com, you can acquire it cheaply on a new TLD.
In fact, new TLD operators’ ability to charge whatever they want for new TLDs is probably why contention set auctions are going so high, further lining ICANN’s pockets.
The absence of pricing controls in new gTLDs has in fact shifted pricing discretion away from portfolio registrants and toward registry operators. In .com and other legacy gTLDs with low annual registration fees, domain investors price domains they offer for resale based upon their perceived market value. In the new gTLD program, the registries are pricing annual domain registration based upon on their perception of market value. In both instances, the marketplace is working.
The letter also questions Chehadé’s use of the word “cybersquatting” in the same breathe of “hogging” domain names, and seeks clarification on if he was tying domain name investing together with trademark infringement.