This summary covers the DNSO GA mailing list’s discussions during the third week of 2002. List archives are available online at [www.dnso.org].
There were no ongoing votes.
A names council teleconference was held on January 17; an MP3 recording is available at [www.dnso.org].
During that teleconference, Thomas Roessler and Alexander Svensson were confirmed as the GA’s chair and alternative chair.
(i) The structure task force. David P. Farrar provded another great update on the structure task force’s work. Some bullet points: Draft 4 of the task force’s report is out now. The new version of the report leaves the question open how many members the ALSO must have before it may elect for board members (suggested numbers range from 1,000 to 30,000). The gTLDs, the non-commercials, and the intellectual property communities have published positions. In the thread following his excellent initial summary, David reports that there is no consensus in the task force on the number of at large directors the board should have. Bret Fausett commented that he “was under the impression that the task force’s work was to center on possible restructuring of the DNSO”, to which David replied that he “always saw the review taskforce more looking at DNSO restructuring and structure at wider ICANN structure”. Also, according to DPF, “most of the focus has been on how having an ALSO would affect the DNSO as the DNSO at present is meant to be the sole policy advisory body to the Board on domain name issues”. [www.dnso.org], [www.dnso.org], [www.dnso.org]
In the same thread, Patrick Greenwell strongly argued against any quorums in the context of votes of members. [www.dnso.org], [www.dnso.org], [www.dnso.org].
(Yes, I’ve linked almost the entire thread, but most of it is really worth reading.)
(ii) WLS and deleted domains. This (almost) was another week’s dominant topic, with a short break in the beginning of the week.
Please note that there was extensive discussion on this. I’m giving a necessarily incomplete excerpt from what has been said. I’m pretty certain that many among you will point out something they believe to be important that I’ve dropped. If you are really interested in this discussion’s details, I’d strongly suggest you have a look at the threaded archive, and just use the postings I’m pointing to as starting points.
Probably, I should first mention Patrick Corliss’ follow-up to the last summary, in which he asserts that “most of this discussion was led by OpenSRS staff supported by a number of OpenSRS resellers”. To this, George Kirikos replied that while he’s an OpenSRS reseller, he hopes “that the arguments I made stand on their own, regardless of some ‘label’ folks want to place on my forehead”. [www.dnso.org], [www.dnso.org], [www.dnso.org].
Rick Wesson, speaking on behalf of his employer, posted “Alice’s Registry Response to VGRS Registrar Wait List Proposal”. In this message, Rick briefly reviews the developments which lead to the WLS proposal, the tragedy of the commons, and Speculation, “A Non-Constant Sum Game”. He then analyzes the proposal, specifically elaborating on the price, on transparency, and monopolies. He then proposes four “required” changes: “Set the wholesale price of a WLS subscription to $4.50”. “Require the registry to display the registrar that places a WLS subscription on a domain in the registry whois”. Enable registrants to opt out of WLS. Fix the overflow pool problem by enforcing contracts. [www.dnso.org]
However, the WLS discussion was really brought back to life by Ron Wiener of SnapNames, who posted a file named “Greatest Good vs. Benefits of the Few.pdf”. In this document, Wiener produces some numbers on his customer base, some of them presented in a pie-chart which was erroneously (as he later corrected) labeled “as of January 2000”. While you are looking at the numbers and (in particular) the pie chart, I’d strongly suggest that you do the maths in your head and always use some estimate of revenue per client group as the basis for any comparisons you do (or, at least, do that kind of comparison in addition).
The bottom line of the paper seems to be that “unlike some commentators, who concede without embarrassment that they cater primarily to speculators, SnapNames’ focus has always been the mainstream customer: the ‘little guy.’ Because a number of postings have criticized SnapNames and WLS as either catering to, or unfairly benefiting professional speculators, we feel compelled to demonstrate […] that precisely the reverse is true”. In line with this, the headline of that particular paragraph claims that “WLS Offers the Greatest Good to Greatest Number – Primarily Mainstream Users”. In the next part, Wiener tries to back these claims with the numbers and pie chart mentions above, and also elaborates how retail pricing and the structure of the customer base are related.
The paper also criticizes, under the headline “What’s Wrong with the Consensus Process Today?”, the registrars’ constituency’s January 9 teleconference. Wiener urges “the broader community not to let these special interests [those represented in the registrars’ constituency – ed.] hijack the decision-making process to the detriment of the other registrars, and the mainstream consumer”. In the last part of the document, Wiener covers some more specific arguments, such as “defensive WLS subscriptions”, “WLS will not solve the system load problems”, “The WLS will be gamed by speculators”, and “Differentiation between registrars will decrease”. [www.dnso.org], [www.dnso.org].
In a follow-up to Ron’s message, Ross Wm. Rader points out that the teleconference mentioned “was a constituency conference call, not an accredited registrar conference call”. “The DNSO process only accounts for those that have self-selected to participate in the process,” he continues. He then goes on to address various claims made in Wiener’s message, including the number of registrars to oppose the WLS during said conference call. Finally, Ross points out that he is “deeply disappointed with this obvious attempt to distract the participants in this discussion […].” [www.dnso.org]
Ron Wiener replied to this message, stressing the accuracy of his facts concerning registrars’ participation in the conference call. According to him, the number of (constituency) members represented in the conference call “is of no relevance whatsoever”. He then also disputes what “opposition” to the proposal actually means, since only a few registrars were opposed to the proposal “unconditionally”, while others would be interested in offereing WLS if it was modified. [www.dnso.org]
Rick Wesson’s comment on this message was that “over 90% of all domains registered by registrars were represented. Another way to look at this is that over 90% of the RRP transations generated by registrars were in attendance on the call.” He then asked Ron and Ross to “get back to dealing with substantive arguments”. [www.dnso.org]
Donny Simonton pointed out that he “was the one registrar who said ‘when Verisign goes live with the WLS, we would offer it.'” After discussing the impact the WLS could (in his opinion) have on SnapNames, and quoting a speculator according to whom a high price for WLS would be good for speculators, Donny came back to the conference call: “Trust me nobody on the conference call had anything good to say about the WLS sysem except for myself. […] I like the concept of the WLS, but not the current implementation!” [www.dnso.org]
To this, Ron replied that “if the WLS does not get through this process, please do not worry about the health of SnapNames”. Also, according to him, “everyone seems to underestimate the complexity of building a system like this”. Concerning economic theories on what kind of price would be preferable for what kind of customer, Wiener responds that the only way to actually check these would be to try things on the market, and that his firm can only offer their own experiences and historical data. [www.dnso.org]
Another set of comments on the WLS proposal was posted by Jim Archer to the registrars list on behalf of Registration Technologies; a link to this was posted by George Kirikos. He points out that this is one of the previously silent registrars talking. According to George “they made one of the best posts I’ve seen *against* the WLS”. Points of criticism include (from the Executive Summary): “Verisign’s stated desire to enter the secondary domain marketplace […] in which they currently have no presence […] with a stated objective to eliminate existing participants in that margket segment.”; “We question why Verisign is permitted to control this comment process.”; material received was incomplete (a service agreement to which registrars would be subject was missing); “additionally, the time frame for preparing comments was very short”. The detailed comments are then organized into “ethical issues”, “potential legal issues” (divided into “monopoly and antitrust”, “unlicensed commodity trading” [does trading “domain futures” require a license?], and “contract terms”), “practical issues”, and “practical and administrative issues”.
It’s a five-page PDF, read it yourself for details.
Eric Schneider of unames.com posted a “recommendation” under the subject “WLS – Better Margins for Registrars”. The purpose of his response is, he says, “to propose a pricing model to demonstrate how the above requirement can be met”. According to Eric, “it is not only the obligation, duty, and responsibility but also the time for a registry to come full circle and provide reusability services.” He then suggests a different pricing model for the WLS, which I’ll leave for the list archive to explain. [www.dnso.org]
Finally, there was quite a bit of discussion on forming a working group to create input on the WLS proposal. My suggestion on this is that the GA itself should go into “working group mode”, with some participants in the discussion operating as a drafting committee.
Some helpful input was already provided by Ross Rader, who posted a list prepared by the registrars in Montevideo last year, containing “basic principles that should be fulfilled by any proposal put forward”. Similar input from other constituencies would be most welcome!
[www.dnso.org], [www.dnso.org], [www.dnso.org], [www.dnso.org].
(iii) Reseller representation in the DNSO process. The fact that Eric Schneider is posting from the domain of a reseller of a registrar triggered a brief discussion on representing resellers in the DNSO process. According to William Walsh, “it is time the non-registrar regtistration service providers have some say and input in the process.” Ross Rader agrees that “there really is no appropriate home for the Intermediate Supplier Stakeholders.” He suggests that it may be “worthwhile that someone investigate whether or not the interests of the ISS’s and tose of the [ISP constituency] are compatible,” or whether the ISPC could “accommodate an extended membership consisting of firms that don’t necessarily qualify under their current bylaws.” He then gives a link to some of criteria for a new constituency. [www.dnso.org], [www.dnso.org].