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Competition, Trust and Choice: We've shared our thoughts. Please share yours.

The Competition, Consumer Trust and Consumer Choice (CCT) Review Team published its draft report for public comment today. The report examines the early effects of the entry of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) on competition, consumer trust, and consumer choice in the domain name space. It also assesses aspects of the effectiveness of the application and evaluation process, as well as of the safeguards that ICANN has implemented to mitigate the risks associated with the introduction of new gTLDs.

The report is intended to inform policy related to the entry of new gTLDs and to aid the ICANN Board as it considers the continuation of the New gTLD Program. Some of our key findings and recommendations are outlined below. At a high level, we found generally positive early signals indicating improvements in competition, consumer choice and the adoption of safeguards. While we are still collecting data, we have not yet identified any significant negative consequences of the program.

Participating in the public comment process is the best opportunity to make an impact on the continuation of the New gTLD Program. We invite you to join us at our engagement session at ICANN58, which is being held on 12 March at 0900 CET in Hall A3.

As our report has been published so close to the start of ICANN58, we realize that there is not enough time to expect detailed feedback from the community. Instead, we hope to make use of our time in Copenhagen to brief you on our findings and recommendations. The public comment period runs through 27 April 2017. You can also provide feedback via the CCT Review Team's email address: input-to-cctrt@icann.org. I encourage you to read the full report [PDF, 3.91 MB] and share your views and expertise.

Key Findings and Recommendations

Data Collection

  • Formalize and promote ongoing data collection, as the lack of data has handicapped attempts both internally and externally to evaluate market trends and the success of policy recommendations.

Competition

  • ICANN should collect wholesale and retail price data from all gTLD registries and registrars to better inform future CCT reviews.
  • Engage in a systematic collection of data on secondary market prices and country-level data on market competition.

Consumer Trust

  • Two global consumer and registrant surveys conducted as part of the CCT review found a positive link between trust in a gTLD and factors such as familiarity, reputation and the adoption by TLDs of security measures.
  • Further information is needed on why and to what extent consumers trust new gTLDs. ICANN, relevant stakeholders and future review teams should assess what objective information can be gathered and measured that relates to trustworthiness.

Consumer Choice

  • The ICANN community should consider whether the costs related to defensive registration can be reduced. According to the data, most trademarks were either not registered in new gTLDs or were registered in relatively few new gTLDs. However, a small number of trademark holders were responsible for many new gTLD registrations. This bimodal distribution suggests that tailored Rights Protection Mechanisms for some trademarks may be appropriate.
  • ICANN will need to gather further data on the services provided by registrars to registrants1, particularly in relation to the geographic distribution of gTLD registrants, as well as data on languages offered and their locations beyond primary offices.

Application and Evaluation Process

  • There were few new gTLD applications from the Global South (term defined in the report the Review Team commissioned to describe countries also referred as emerging markets or developing economies, located mostly in the Southern hemisphere). Future outreach to the Global South should include a more comprehensive program of conference participation, thought leader engagement and traditional media outreach in this region.
  • Outreach should begin significantly earlier than was the case in the first round of the New gTLD Program in order to facilitate internal decision-making by potential applicants.

Safeguards

  • The New gTLD Program implemented many additional safeguards aimed at protecting the integrity of the Domain Name System and mitigating DNS abuse. Because further information is needed to assess how effective the safeguards have been in achieving their intended goals, ICANN should collect information related to the impact of the safeguards on both the public and the entities responsible for enforcing them.
  • ICANN should regularly collect data related to DNS abuse across TLDs and provide more transparency in reporting the subject matter and ultimate outcome of complaints received by ICANN's Contractual Compliance department. This will enhance the ICANN community's ability to assess the systematic impact of compliance policies and procedures.

Learn more about the Competition, Consumer Trust and Consumer Choice review.


1 The report of draft recommendations makes a distinction between registrants and end-users.  Registrants refers to purchasers of domain names, not end-users.

Comments

Domain Name System
Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as""icann.org"" is not an IDN."