Update on Competition, Consumer Trust and Consumer Choice Review

9 September 2016

Jonathan Zuck, CCTRT Chair

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Photo caption: Members of the CCT-RT meeting in Vienna


Members of the Competition, Consumer Trust & Consumer Choice Review Team (CCT-RT) recently wrapped up a two-day face-to-face meeting in Vienna, Austria on 29-30 August (archives can be found here). The CCT Review is of importance to ICANN and the global community as it is essential to the future of the New gTLD Program.

The work of the CCT Review Team is not only important, but it is also complex. That is why the ICANN community has contracted with several industry leading companies to help address overarching questions such as: Are consumers more or less trusting of the domain name system? Are there more options for people interested in buying a domain? Did price competition increase? The answers to these and other questions will help determine the future of the New gTLD Program.

During the meeting, the CCT-RT received key updates from studies that serve to inform the Review Team's work (summarized below). The CCT-RT also broke into subgroup discussions to further its work on Competition and Consumer Choice as well as Safeguards and Trust-related recommendations. The Vienna meeting was also unique in that observers were invited to enrich discussions with their feedback during a special engagement session held at the end of the first day.

Consumer Trust and Choice in the Domain Name System (DNS)

In 2014, ICANN commissioned Nielsen to conduct a two-phased, globally representative survey of Internet users and domain name registrants to gauge the public's perceived sense of trust and choice in the domain name system. To measure changes in attitude, Nielsen conducted the surveys in two phases, a year apart.

Preliminary Findings

Highlights of the Phase 2 Domain Name Registrant Survey's preliminary conclusions included:

  • The New generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD) Program did not erode consumer trust.
  • Consumers are interested in seeing the DNS evolve into a taxonomy where it is easier to find businesses and sites by category.
  • About half of consumers and half of registrants think there should be restrictions on registering a top-level domain (TLD) that may have implied meaning (i.e. only banks in .BANK, etc.).
  • A growing number of consumers view social media and other avenues as part of a broader online identity market, and a significant number of consumers are factoring that into their decision-making process.

Price and Competition in the DNS Marketplace

As with the consumer and registrant surveys commissioned in 2014, ICANN also contracted with an economic consulting firm, Analysis Group, to conduct a study of price and non-price competition in the domain name marketplace. Phase 1 results were delivered in 2015. The Vienna meeting provided an opportunity for the CCT-RT to receive an overview of Phase 2 interim results.

Preliminary Findings

The Phase 2 interim results indicated that:

  • Since the launch of the New gTLD Program, new registrations in new gTLDs account for 50 percent of overall growth in both the legacy and new gTLD space.
  • There has been a decline in the share of all TLD registrations held by the top 4, top 8, and top 15 registries and registrars between Phase I and Phase II.

New gTLD Application and Evaluation Process

In June 2016, the CCT-RT requested the aid of AMGlobal to research and conduct interviews with organizations from developing countries that did not apply for new gTLDs, but who may have been considered good candidates for the program. The purpose of this research is to obtain a deeper understanding of why more firms from the developing world did not apply.

In Vienna, the CCT-RT received preliminary findings from AMGlobal. From these findings, the Review Team determined that there is a need to help applicants understand underlying business models of the New gTLD Program.

The Review Team also discussed papers prepared on the impact of Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) advice and early warnings on applicants, as well as on the string objection process.

What's next for the CCT-RT?

The CCT-RT is working toward publishing a Draft Report for public comment by the end of 2016 and asks that you keep an eye out for preliminary recommendations and findings. The CCT-RT plans to seek community input on its interim recommendations at ICANN 57 and as always, welcomes feedback from the community throughout the process. You can submit feedback at any time through a dedicated and publicly archived mailing-list: input-to-cctrt@icann.org.

In addition, if you would like to observe our calls and meetings, welcome! Find out more on our wiki.


Jonathan Zuck