10 Reasons ICANN Should Be Stopped Now
By Bob Liodice
That rumbling sound you've been hearing is not a massive herd of elk crossing the Canadian border. Rather, it's the aggressive fight by the Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight (CRIDO) comprised of more than 100 major national and international business associations and companies – to stop the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) from launching its top-level domain expansion program. If the ill-conceived program goes into effect in January, it would not only permit applicants to claim virtually any word, generic or branded, as an Internet top-level domain (think: .fidelity or .hamburger), but also cause irreparable damage to brand owners, consumers, and the economy. Simply put, it is the antithesis of a great Internet innovation. Thwarting this program is one of the most important items on the ANA's agenda today.
Here are 10 reasons ICANN should be stopped:
- Flawed Justification
ICANN claims its proposed program would increase competition, promote innovation, address an alleged shortage of Internet addresses, and help differentiate products and services. One big problem: these assumed gains are speculative and unsubstantiated. There is no evidence to support an increase in top-level domain names. Consider the wide array of suffixes that currently exist, such as ".biz," ".info," and ".jobs." They are minimally utilized and provide no innovation benefit; adding hundreds more would only confuse consumers and generate unwarranted costs to businesses worldwide.
- Excessive Costs
Some experts have estimated that, for a typical company, the cost of acquiring a single top-level domain and managing it over the course of a 10-year period could easily exceed $2 million. Just applying for a new top-level domain name will run you at least $185,000. You will also be required to pay ICANN a $25,000 annual fee for a period of 10 years. Costs will further escalate at the second level of naming – the word to the left of the "dot" should you consider registering each of your brand-related terms.
- Harm to Brands
Brand owners will face a difficult dilemma: either divert valuable marketing, legal, financial, and technical resources to acquire and manage these new top-level domains or risk brand harm by standing pat and allowing another company with rights to the same brand apply for its own top-level domain. It's a lose-lose proposition because each choice will divert corporate resources that could otherwise be used for job creation and capital investment.
- Phishing, Spoofing, and Cybersquatting
We already have a challenging problem of protecting consumers from online confusion and unlawful invasion of their personal privacy; adding hundreds upon hundreds of new top-level domains will only make matters infinitely worse. In fact, by cloaking themselves in the names of trusted names, it will be easier for online felons to cybersquat.
- Security and Trust
As security vulnerabilities spread across hundreds of new top-level domains, consumer confidence, particularly in online financial transactions, will greatly diminish. This dearth of confidence will impact other sectors of the economy that interact with consumers electronically. Ultimately, the staggering costs of this ridiculous program will be passed on to consumers.
- Lack of Consensus
A requirement of ICANN's contract with the NTIA is to reach stakeholder consensus before implementing its program. ICANN has failed to do so, specifically with the one constituency required to fund the new names and maintain the Internet's economic model. In fact, decision-making appears to have been influenced by parties standing to directly benefit financially from an increase in domains – namely domain name sellers and hijackers. Trademark lawyers will benefit as well.
- Inadequate Protection of Brands
ICANN's protections in the program for brands and trademarks are beyond inadequate. Despite the clearinghouse and pre-introduction filings, the introduction of hundreds of new TLDs will require extensive monitoring and policing at substantial ongoing costs.
- Negative Impact On Small Business and
Make no mistake, ICANN's proposal punishes small business and charities. All will be forced to buy domain names for fear that someone else will coop their second-level name and divert their business. That is exactly what happens today – with just 22 TLDs! Add hundreds more and the cost to small business and charities — those who can least afford to waste money — will rise exponentially without corresponding benefits.
- Reduced Investment by Intellectual Property
Given the world's reliance on technology in today's global economy, the protection and development of intellectual property is a core value. The ICANN program undermines intellectual property rights. It may also dissuade some intellectual property owners from investing in intellectual property due to concerns that some of the benefits of that investment would be misappropriated.
What Is Broken First
It's no secret that the Internet is broken. It has become the playground of some of the worst predators and fraudsters we've ever seen. Add to that the increasing fear of cyberterrorism. In today's complicated Internet world, everyone should find ways to fix the existing problems before making them worse by adding hundreds of new top-level domains where more mischief and crimes can be hatched.
To find out more about the detailed major flaws in the proposed ICANN program that would permit applicants to claim virtually any word, generic or branded, as Internet top-level domains, click here. To find out more about the national and international business associations and companies that have joined forces with the ANA, forming the Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight (CRIDO) to oppose the rollout of ICANN's top-level domain expansion program, click here.
Bob Liodice is president and CEO of ANA (Association of National Advertisers), which represents 10,000 brands that invest $250 billion in marketing annually.