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Adding New Registries and International Top Level Domain Names
the Jon Postel Proposal 1 and Implementation Plan of the Internet Society

D. M. Heath

Several months ago, a paper was written by Larry Landweber to look at the possibility of increasing the number of international top level domains (iTLDs). Additional related material was produced by Randy Bush, Nick Trio, Brian Carpenter, and Karl Denninger. Subsequently, Jon Postel assimilated those efforts, along with the input of many others, and produced his draft proposal for the formation of several global registries to administer new iTLDs and to provide a legal and financial umbrella to the Internet Assigned Number Authority (IANA). The Board of Trustees of the Internet Society (ISOC) accepted this proposal in principle at its June 1996 meeting in Montreal.

The proposal documents the methodology for the creation of new registries including:

  1. A schedule of events leading to full implementation;
  2. The establishment of an international ad hoc committee (IAHC) to define procedures for submitting proposals to become a registry;
  3. Application submission;
  4. Review and selection process;
  5. Registry contracts;
  6. Registrant appeals process;
  7. Other pertinent criteria such as termination, assignment, and escrow issues.

It further defines the roles of ISOC, IAHC, and IANA in this process.

This paper presents an overview of the Postel proposal along with a discussion of some of the issues which have existed with the issuance of iTLDs and other issues that have surfaced as a result of this proposal. In addition it addresses issues associated with the implementation of the objectives of the proposal.

Proposal Objective

The objective of the proposal is to preserve the security, stability, the operational integrity, and facilitate administration of the domain name subsystem within the Internet while introducing an open and competitive marketplace for clients to obtain and subsequently maintain delegation of sub-domains within the iTLDs.

Specific measures to achieve this objective are:

  • Allow open competition in domain name registration in the iTLDs, which will then allow registries to charge for their services;
  • Allow multiple registries to operate cooperatively and fairly in the existing iTLDs and/or other multi-registry iTLDs which may be created;
  • Facilitate creation of new iTLDs in a fair and useful, but reliable, fashion;
  • Provide for reliable maintenance of the registrants of an iTLD should the current registry no longer wish to maintain it;
  • Define iTLD policies and procedures by open methods, modeled on the IETF process and/or using IETF mechanisms when appropriate; and,
  • Provide the IANA with the international legal and financial umbrella of ISOC.

Schedule of Events

Day 1 IAHC formed
Day 30 IAHC finalizes procedures and publicly announces
Day 31 Begin accepting applications
Day 90 Acceptance of applications ceases
Day 135 IAHC announces registry selection and iTLDs
Day 136 ISOC begins contracting with selected registries
Day X ISOC notifies IANA that contract is complete
Day X + 1 IANA introduces new iTLDs to root zone file
Day X + 90 Registry begins operations

The Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC)

The creation of new registries will be effected through the work of an ad hoc committee selected from the international Internet community at large. Its members will be appointed for a one year term and all activities will be conducted in an open electronic forum. ISOC, IAB, and IANA will each appoint two members with one each from International Telecommunication Union (ITU), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and International Trademark Association (INTA), for a total of nine.

The IAHC will work in an open electronic forum soliciting advice, comments, and counsel from a wide array of interested parties. The implementation of the proposal will require thoughtful deliberation of the many issues that have been surfaced within the international Internet community. It is intended that the IAHC be the body wherein these issues can be collected, debated, and where compromise and resolution can be effected. Indeed, while a charter is defined for the IAHC, it is anticipated that they will determine aspects of the charter that may not, or could not, be foreseen.

In consideration of the above, and the likelihood that the scope of the IAHC could change, perhaps dramatically, here are the initial key objectives of the IAHC:

  • In general thoroughly air the issues associated with this proposal
  • Examine concerns of international Internet community and make recommendations on how to proceed
  • Examine issues related to adding iTLDs and make recommendation on how to allocate them
  • Create policies and procedures for running a registry
  • Establish a dispute policy
  • Define terms and conditions for registry contract with ISOC
  • Determine policies and procedures for submitting and accepting applications
  • Determine criteria of a successful registry applicant
  • Evaluate applications against criteria for selection and determine acceptable submissions
  • Notify ISOC of selections

Once the preliminary work of the IAHC is completed, its operation will not be continuous, in that all the applications for the year will be submitted during a relatively brief period (60 days), and all the applications received in that period will be reviewed together. The policies and procedures to be used by each succeeding IAHC will be decided by the first IAHC in an open process and will be clearly documented.

Application Submission

There will be up to one-hundred-fifty (150) new iTLDs allocated to as many as fifty (50) new registries, with no more than one half (1/2) in the same country, chartered to operate for up to five years. In the case that all the applications are from one country then only twenty-five (25) new registries and only seventy-five (75) new iTLDs will be established.

All of the information required to be supplied with an application will be prepared for transmission via e-mail in plain ASCII text, in English. The details of the submission of applications will be determined by the IAHC. However, it is expected that the application would include at least the following:

  • The name of the applicant, including the contact information.
  • The three iTLDs proposed.
  • The applicant's approach to the criteria of (to be defined by the IAHC, but including) registration services, operational resources, and business aspects.
  • A clear statement of the charter, policies and procedures, and a statement of registrant qualifications.
  • A statement that they will be non-discriminatory in the sense of treating all applicants equally (if a registry chooses to operate the iTLD ".CHEM" for companies in the chemical business it may decline to register companies not in that business).
  • A description demonstrating the organizational and technical competence to run a registry and the expected accompanying information services.

Review and Selection Process

The applications for iTLD domain names and registries will be evaluated in a neutral, impartial, and open manner. The proceedings and evaluations of the applications submitted will be available for public inspection via an on-line procedure along with the decisions made. Financial and business aspects of proposals will be kept confidential during the evaluation process; however, the complete proposal of the successful applicants, including these aspects, will be made public at the completion of the IAHC process.

All applications will be judged on criteria established through the IAHC process and would include: registration services, operational resources, and business aspects. Business aspects are not necessarily the most important criteria. Reliability, quality of service, sustainability, are also important aspects.

A non-refundable application fee of USD 1,000 payable to the "Internet Society" will accompany the application submission and will be deposited in an "iTLD fund."

Registry Contracts

The actual agreement to establish a new registry will take the form of a contract between the registry organization and ISOC. It is anticipated that the form of the contract and the structure of its administration will be very similar to that currently in force between NSI and NSF. It will include provision for the registry to conform to IAHC developed policies and procedures regarding registrants, and agreement to conform to the dispute policy.

Registrant Appeals Process

The Postel proposal deals at length with an appeals process. This applies to the process of registry processing of registration requests, not intellectual property rights, and not billing disputes. A registrant's first recourse is to the registry which has denied them registration or otherwise failed to provide the expected service. If the appellant is dissatisfied with the registry response, the appeal may be escalated to the IANA. The IANA hears appeals based only on technical issues. If the appellant is dissatisfied with the IANA response, and the appeal has nontrivial process aspects, it may be escalated to the IETF. The IETF hears appeals based only on process issues, that is, claims that the procedure was not followed.

If the appellant is dissatisfied with the IANA and, if invoked, the IETF response, an appeal may be escalated to ISOC. ISOC hears appeals only about the fairness of the procedure. In other words, the decision of IANA and/or IETF is final, unless there is an appeal that the procedure itself is unfair. The appeals process works by e-mail. All information is normally treated as non-confidential and may be made publicly available.

Other Pertinent Issues

ISOC will define a dispute policy, in consultation with the IAHC and other appropriate organizations, which all registries will use to insure consistency.

Some portion of the fees in the ISOC-managed iTLD fund may be used to pay for some other organization to operate the failing iTLD or registry until it again becomes viable or until the registrants have safely migrated elsewhere.

The IANA or its designee may operate an "escrow holder" to insure that the records contained in a registry will remain available in the event of intentional or accidental destruction due to a registry forfeiting an iTLD.

Why do it?

The practical acceptance of the name system as a de facto directory service is deep seated. At present, it is more important to operate in a manner which will minimize liability rather than optimize the value and utility of the DNS. The cause: the DNS is not considered an authoritative name source and litigants can cite other name authorities (PTOs) with overriding legitimacy claiming damages against operation of the DNS.

As David Maher discusses in his paper 2, there are two separate problems: 1) "access," the ability of a business to use a trademark or a company name as a part of a domain name; 2) infringement, the conventional issue that arises when one party claims likelihood of confusion because of a mark or name used by another. Having multiple registries seems the best approach to solving the "access" problem. The infringement problem may always exist, but if there are multiple registries, the access problem will abate and the infringement problem will return to the courts where it belongs - as a dispute between trademark owners, not a battle with the registry.

In addition,

  • There is a perceived need to open the market in commercial iTLDs to allow competition, differentiation, and change while maintaining some control to manage the DNS operation.
  • The current situation with regard to these domain spaces and the inherent perceived value of being registered under a single top level domain (.COM) is undesirable and should be changed.
  • Open, free-market competition has proven itself in other areas of the provisioning of related services (ISPs, NSPs, telephone companies) and we believe is applicable in this situation.
  • It is undesirable to have enormous numbers (100,000 +) of iTLDs for administrative reasons; however, it is not undesirable to have diversity in iTLDs where positive market forces insure quality service to end-users and customers.
  • The extraordinary growth of the Internet begs for additional appropriate iTLDs.
  • Businesses, and people in general, simply want to have descriptive names as identifiers for their Internet addresses.


The Internet Society is an internationally chartered organization whose specific purpose is, "to assure the beneficial, open evolution of the global Internet and its related internetworking technologies through leadership in standards, issues, and education." It is a non profit international organization for global cooperation and coordination of entities that influence the evolution of the Internet. ISOC has adopted, as its foundation, a set of principles upon which it may define its goals and objectives, its programs and initiatives, the development of positions it takes on issues confronting the Internet, and its international structure, including chapters. They are not inconsistent with the tenants of the proposal.

ISOC Principles

  • Open, unencumbered, beneficial use of the Internet
  • Self-regulated content providers; no prior censorship of on-line communications
  • On-line free expression is not restricted by other indirect means such as excessively restrictive governmental or private controls over computer hardware or software, telecommunications infrastructure, or other essential components of the Internet
  • Open forum for the development of standards and Internet technology
  • No discrimination in use of the Internet on the basis of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status
  • Personal information generated on the Internet is neither misused nor used by another without informed consent of the principal
  • Internet users may encrypt their communication and information without restriction
  • Encouragement of cooperation between networks: Connectivity is its own reward, therefore network providers are rewarded by cooperation with each other.

The Internet Society, as an international organization, is a reasonable candidate under whose auspices such activity can be conducted. This falls squarely into the areas that the Internet Society was set up to focus on: caring for the continued growth and development of the global Internet. This has never meant operating parts of the Internet, but it has involved the provision of infrastructure support.

Issues of Governance

As a virtually ubiquitous open data network, the Internet, ipso facto, can exacerbate problems stemming from jurisdictional boundaries - of all flavors, including geographical and functional. Transnational entities typically derive their legitimacy from the elements they serve (more than likely, nation-states). Examples are the European Union, the United Nations, but also WIPO, ITU, etc. However, the Internet structure, also a transnational entity, evolved primarily as a result of its own technological requirements. The evolution and success of the Internet is largely attributable to the open cooperative and collaborative work of the IETF which is an excellent model for potential governance proposals.

The lack of a formal constitution neither constrains nor empowers an entity; example, the United Kingdom.


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