PRIOR TO REVIEWING THE REGISTRY OPERATOR'S PROPOSAL OR THIS DESCRIPTION OF TLD POLICIES, PLEASE REFER TO THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ATTACHED HERETO AS APPENDIX A
I. GENERAL TLD POLICIES
E1. In General. Please provide a full and detailed description of all policies to be followed in the TLD (other than those covered in response to items E11-E21). If the TLD's policy on a particular topic is proposed to be identical to that reflected by a particular version of any of the following documents, it is sufficient for your response to identify the topic, to give a brief summary of the policy, and for the details to reference the document and section:
- ICANN Registrar Accreditation Agreement
- NSI Registrar License and Agreement
- ICANN-NSI Registry Agreement
- Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy
Your response should comprehensively describe policies on all topics to be followed in connection with the proposed TLD. The following items (E2-E10) are examples only and should not limit your description.
In the operation of its proposed unrestricted generic top level domain ("gTLD"), Afilias, LLC ("Afilias") intends to implement all current ICANN policies, with the exception of the proposals noted below and except as may otherwise be agreed between Afilias and ICANN.
E2. TLD String. Please identify the TLD string(s) you are proposing. For format requirements for TLD strings, see the answer to FAQ #5.
The Company conducted three waves of research to identify gTLD string(s) that support the strategy of introducing a new gTLD that transcends cultural boundaries, conveys multi-purpose use, and appeals to both businesses and individuals. The following criteria were used in selecting the gTLD strings from those tested by independent research companies:
- Global appeal.
- Ease of use.
- High recognition and recall.
Based on its research, Afilias is proposing three possible TLD strings as new gTLDs. Afilias' first choice is .web, because it is versatile, has international appeal, and is a known term that can be developed easily into a global brand. Afilias' research shows that .web is one of the most desired gTLDs among Internet users. Moreover, of those surveyed, more than a third have registered one or more domain names in the past, and more than twenty-eight percent are very likely to register a domain name in the future. These results are based on an average of three 1,000 person samples conducted by Yankelovich Partners and Lightspeed Research during the month of September 2000.
Additionally, Afilias is proposing to introduce .info as a second alternative, followed by .site. According to the research conducted by Yankelovich Partners and Lightspeed Research, .info is favored among Internet users both inside and outside the United States, while .site ranks higher among United States Internet users. Both terms meet the three criteria described above.
Afilias is confident that all three strings are consistent with its strategy to introduce a global gTLD and each would gain international acceptance among its target audience.
E3. Naming conventions. Describe the naming conventions and structure within the TLD. E.g., will registrants have names registered at the second level (directly under the TLD, as in registered-name.com), or will the TLD be organized with sub-domains so that registered domain names are created at a lower level (as in registered-name.travel.com)?
When introducing the proposed gTLD, the Company intends to adhere to ICANN's policies with respect to naming conventions as described in various RFCs, including 1034, 1035, 1123 and others. Accordingly, under the proposed gTLD, Uniform Resource Locator ("URL") addresses will be in the following format: <registrant-defined prefix>.<domain name>.<gTLD>.
E4. Registrars. Describe in detail the policies for selection of, and competition among, registrars. Will domain-name holders deal through registrars, directly with the registry operator, or some combination of the two? What are the respective roles, functions, and responsibilities for the registry operator and registrars? If registrars are to be employed, how and by whom will they be selected or accredited? If the number of registrars will be restricted, what number of registrars will be selected? Have the qualifying registrars already been selected? On what basis will selections among those seeking to be registrars be made, and who will make them? If registrars are to be used, what mechanisms will be used to ensure that TLD policies are implemented?
Afilias will offer all registrars that are accredited by ICANN pursuant to the ICANN Registrar Accreditation Agreement (as it may be amended by ICANN from time to time) the opportunity to register domain names in the proposed gTLD. The Company will not restrict the number of qualifying registrars that may register names in the proposed gTLD and will treat all qualifying registrars equally.
Domain name registrants may select their registrar of choice for the purpose of registering a domain name in the proposed gTLD. The Company will not deal directly with domain name registrants.
Registrar License Agreement
Any registrars seeking to register domain names in the proposed gTLD will be required to execute a Registrar License Agreement ("RLA"), which will govern the relationship between the registrar and the Company. The agreement will specify the services (i) that Afilias will provide for the registrars, such as domain name registration services, registry hosting and operation, and full-database Whois functionality; and (ii) for which registrars will be responsible, such as providing all customer support functions for domain name registrants.
The RLA will also incorporate a code of conduct encompassing the policies described in this proposal, and a prohibition on the use of the Whois database to send unsolicited e-mail to registrants, to solicit registrants by telephone or to use the database for other commercial purposes. As part of the RLA, each registrar will be required to demonstrate that it can comply with the technical and administrative requirements of the code of conduct. The RLA will provide that registrars may not hold themselves out to the public as eligible to submit registrations to the Company until they have demonstrated such compliance to the Company's satisfaction.
Any disputes between the Company and a registrar regarding the RLA will be submitted to binding arbitration for resolution. If a registrar materially breaches the RLA, the Company may, on thirty days notice and an opportunity to cure such breach, terminate the RLA and prohibit such registrar from registering domain names in the proposed gTLD. By incorporating its policies and code of conduct into the RLA, Afilias will be in a position to enforce its policies against the individual registrars, without the intervention of ICANN.
The RLA will also mandate that each registrar enter into a registration agreement with domain name registrants, who will agree to waive any and all claims against the registry.
Termination of Registrar
The RLA will enable Afilias to reject registration requests from a registrar that is not in compliance with the RLA or any Afilias policy. Afilias will continue to reject such requests until the registrar ceases its non-compliance. In the event that such non-compliance continues, Afilias will have the right to terminate the RLA. When the RLA is terminated by Afilias for any reason, the proposed gTLD domain name registrations managed by that registrar will be reallocated to other registrars in accordance with any applicable ICANN policy, as mentioned in Section II.J.5 of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement.
Fees and Rebates
The Company does not intend to charge any accreditation or licensing fee to registrars that execute an RLA. Afilias believes that minimizing entry barriers and encouraging all ICANN-accredited registrars to register domain names in the proposed gTLD will help Afilias create demand for the gTLD and thereby enhance the validity of the gTLD as a true proof of concept.
Afilias will require each registrar to maintain an account with the registry. The account will be backed by either a standing letter of credit or actual funds paid by the registrar to Afilias in advance. The beginning monthly balance of such account should reflect the expected number of monthly domain name registrations submitted by the registrar. In the event that the account balance is not sufficient to cover a registrar's fees owed to Afilias, Afilias will not permit a registrar to register additional domain names in the proposed gTLD until this shortfall is eliminated
In addition, all registrars, whether members of Afilias or not, will receive the same services from Afilias at the same price. Afilias is committed to equal treatment of all registrars, to ensure that registrars compete in the proposed gTLD based on the services they offer and the fees they charge.
Finally, as described in greater detail in Section D13.2.1 of the Registry Operator's Proposal, the Company will initiate an annual rebate program. This rebate program is intended to permit all registrars registering names in the new gTLD, whether members or non-members of Afilias, to share in the profits associated with the operation of the registry. Assuming that the Company has sufficient cash for distribution, registrars registering domain names in the gTLD in any given year will be entitled to a cash rebate based on the volume of such registrations.
The institution of this rebate program is meant to confirm Afilias' belief that the participation of all registrars in the introduction of the gTLD serves a number of important purposes in the proof of concept phase. First, it will create a level of demand for a gTLD that will encourage true competition at the registry level. Next, it will verify the stability and robustness of Afilias' registry system, to insure that it will be a stable addition to the DNS. Finally, it will serve to create for the first time a truly international demand for a gTLD.
E5. Intellectual Property Provisions. Describe the policies for protection of intellectual property. Your response should address at least the following questions, as appropriate to the TLD:
E5.1. What measures will be taken to discourage registration of domain names that infringe intellectual property rights?
The Company appreciates that potential intellectual property abuses may occur in the event that a new gTLD is not introduced in a responsible manner. To minimize any such potential abuses, the Company will implement the following policies:
- Instituting a Sunrise Period to allow qualifying trademark owners to pre-register their trademarks as domain names. This Sunrise Period program is discussed in Section E15.
- Adopting the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy ("UDRP") promulgated by ICANN, as the same may be amended from time to time.
- Requiring registrars to receive a reasonable assurance of payment from domain name registrants prior to the submission of registration requests to the Company.
- Providing a more comprehensive Whois service than exists today, and that expands the ability of intellectual property owners to police their marks and identify and successfully contact potential infringers.
- Requiring registrars to obtain true and accurate registration information from all domain name registrants.
- Including a provision in the RLA that permits Afilias to preclude a registrar from registering additional domain names in the proposed gTLD in the event that the registrar violates any of the provisions contained in this section regarding the protection of intellectual property.
E5.2. If you are proposing pre-screening for potentially infringing registrations, how will the pre-screening be performed?
The Company will not use any pre-screening mechanisms due to the other methods it will employ to protect intellectual property rights.
E5.3. What registration practices will be employed to minimize abusive registrations?
As described in Sections E5.1, E5.6, E6.2 and E15, the Company will employ a variety of methods to minimize the potential for abusive registrations, including implementation of the UDRP, the use of a Sunrise Period (as described in Section E15), and requiring registrants to provide accurate information when submitting registration requests.
Afilias will also encourage the community to bring to its attention other reasonable safeguards, if any, that may be appropriate to employ in this area. Additionally, Afilias will adopt any policies promulgated by ICANN with respect to abusive registrations.
E5.4. What measures do you propose to comply with applicable trademark and anti-cybersquatting legislation?
The Company will comply with all international trademark and cybersquatting laws that apply to the operation of a domain name registry. To highlight the importance of adhering to these laws, this policy has been specified in the Operating Agreement of Afilias.
In addition, the RLA will require each registrar to adhere to all applicable laws and regulations relating to trademarks and cybersquatting. If a registrar fails to comply with such laws and regulations, then Afilias will reject all registration applications from the registrar, and if such non-compliance persists, then Afilias will terminate the RLA.
E5.5. Are you proposing any special protections (other than during the start-up period) for famous trademarks?
In light of ICANN Working Group B's findings that the creation of a famous marks list was not feasible, the Company believes that its Sunrise Period program, which protects registered trademarks issued before October 2, 2000, will amply protect famous trademark owners.
E5.6. How will complete, up-to-date, reliable, and conveniently provided Whois data be maintained, updated, and accessed concerning registrations in the TLD?
There is currently no centralized, real-time Whois system in the .com, .net and .org gTLDs. Rather, individual Whois databases are maintained by individual registrars. Persons searching for information regarding a particular domain name registration are thus forced to query each registrar database to find the information they are seeking.
Although the current gTLD registry operator operates a registry-level Whois database, it is not updated in real-time. Accordingly, a person searching for Whois information must confirm information obtained at the registry-level Whois with the registrar-level Whois. Technical Whois protocols and policies are currently not standardized among the registrars, and individual registrars have their own practices with respect to the frequency of updates, formatting, and the amount of information disclosed through the Whois service. As a result, information in the registry-operated Whois may be inconsistent with that contained in the registrar-operated Whois. This inconsistency can cause problems both for third parties trying to obtain information on a domain name or registrant, and domain name owners seeking to verify that changes to their own information have been made.
The Company's Proposal
The Company will eliminate the aforementioned problems through the maintenance of a registry-level Whois database that will contain information for every domain name registered in the proposed gTLD and that will be accessible by the general public. The Whois service will contain data obtained by registrars during the registration process. If a registrant changes any registration information, the registrar will communicate these changes to the Company's registry database at the time they are received. This will provide interested parties with access to up-to-date information for every domain name registered in the proposed gTLD, using a standard protocol with a consistent format.
The information available through the registry Whois database will include:
- Registrant contact information, including names, postal and e-mail addresses and telephone numbers of technical, administrative and billing contacts;
- Registration status and the registration's expiration date;
- The date the registration issued for the domain name;
- Registrar contact information, including name, postal and e-mail addresses, home page, and telephone number;
- Registrar status, including whether the registrar is in good standing with the Company; and
- Technical information about the domain name, including information about the nameserver and IP address.
Afilias' Whois database will include unreserved fields to accommodate the storage and display of more expansive Whois data in the future. Currently, the Company anticipates that the trademark information that registrants will be required to provide during the Sunrise Period (as described in Section E15) will fall into this category of additional information.
The Company does not currently intend to provide Whois query capabilities on its own web site. Rather, all queries for the registry-level Whois will be conducted via individual registrar web sites. Each query will be sent, via an interface, to the Company Whois servers, and the results of each query will be submitted by the Company directly to the registrar website, in order to ensure the accuracy of such information.
In addition to a general Whois query service similar to that currently available through individual registrars, the Company will also provide interested third parties with bulk access to the full Whois database on a subscription basis in a machine-readable format. Bulk access will provide intellectual property owners with the ability to more effectively police their marks while reducing the load on the core Whois system.
Finally, the Company intends to develop and offer a subscription-based interface to the Whois database that will permit interested third parties to conduct enhanced searches using boolean and character string technologies. Enhanced search functions will include the ability to identify (i) registered domain names that incorporate a certain character string, or (ii) all the domain names registered by a certain registrant.
E6. Dispute Resolution. Describe the policies for domain name and other dispute resolution. If you are proposing variations to the policies followed in .com, .net, and .org, consider the following questions:
E6.1. To what extent are you proposing to implement the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy?
The Company will follow ICANN's policies with respect to dispute resolution, including adoption of the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy, as the same may be amended from time to time.
E6.2. Please describe any additional, alternative, or supplemental dispute resolution procedures you are proposing.
Afilias will adopt a mechanism for resolving disputes regarding registrations obtained during the Sunrise Period, as further described in Section E15.
The RLA will provide for binding, non-appealable arbitration for the purpose of resolving disputes between the Company and registrars relating to performance under the RLA, as further described in Section E4.
E7. Data Privacy, Escrow, and Whois. Describe the proposed policies on data privacy, escrow and Whois service.
Whois and Privacy
As described in greater detail in Section E5.6 and Section D15.2.8 of the Registry Operator's Proposal the Company will operate a registry-level Whois service that will provide public access to all of the gTLD's domain name registration data in real-time.
The Company is committed to being a responsible participant in the efforts of the Internet community to balance the need for data privacy with the need to provide access to records that allow the public to identity and contact domain name holders. To that end, the Company will strive to maintain open access to registrant information to the extent compatible with applicable privacy laws and the Company's policy of treating all registrants equitably.
In addition, via the RLA, the Company will require registrars to post privacy policies that provide clear and complete notice to registrants of the type of data that will be collected and maintained by the Company, the use of such data in operating the registry service, (including display through the Whois service), and the registrant's rights to access and correct data maintained by the Company. Clear consent to such data practices will be a prerequisite to the submission of a domain name registration request.
As part of the subscription agreement to the bulk access service of the Whois database described in Section E5.6, subscribers will agree to abide by all applicable privacy laws and to indemnify the Company in the event that the Company is investigated or prosecuted by a national data protection or other authority as a result of the subscriber's use of the database.
In addition, for each type of Whois access described in Section E5.6 (general queries, bulk access and enhanced searches), the Company, via the registrars, will require customers to enter into an agreement prohibiting the customer from using the Whois database to send unsolicited e-mail to registrants, solicit them by telephone or use the database for other such commercial purposes.
Afilias itself will not use the Whois service to send unsolicited e-mail to registrants, to solicit registrants by telephone, or to otherwise engage in unauthorized uses of their data. Except as described in Section E5.6 in connection with the Whois service, the Company will not sell registrant information to third parties under any circumstances.
The Company appreciates the risk posed to the stability of the DNS by the failure of registrars to escrow their Whois and other registration data. Under the decentralized registration database structure currently used in the .com, .net and .org gTLDs, registration data lost due to a systems or other failure is often irretrievable.
A centralized, registry-level database will enable the Company to create redundant systems and mirrors of the registry database to protect against the loss of registration data. In addition to these protections, the Company also intends to escrow the data contained in the registry database, which is the source for the Whois database, with a trusted third party such as ICANN (should it makes itself available for such escrow services). Further, the Company intends to adhere to all ICANN requirements regarding data escrow for gTLDs, including with respect to encryption, relational databases, additional formatting such as XML and minimum update requirements.
E8. Billing and Collection. Describe variations in or additions to the policies for billing and collection.
Historically, domain name registrants could defer payment of their domain name registrations. This practice facilitated cybersquatting and warehousing by permitting third parties to register domain names in bulk, resell as many of them as they could before the payment became due, and then allow the remainder of the registrations to lapse for non-payment of the registration fee.
In order to combat this practice, and in accordance with current ICANN policy as described in Section II.J.4 of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement, the Company will include provisions in the RLA requiring registrars to receive a reasonable assurance of payment from any potential domain name registrant prior to submitting any registration request on behalf of that registrant.
In accordance with current ICANN policy, the Company recognizes that registrars may occasionally submit registrations to the Company in error. In such cases, the RLA will provide that registrars may receive refunds if they notify the Company of the error within five business days of the submission. The Company believes that this five day term enhances registrar monitoring of inadvertent registrations.
Finally, the RLA will specify that if a registrar does not receive payment for a domain name registration within forty five days after the payment becomes due, then the registrar will be obligated to cancel the registration and return the domain name to the general registry pool of available names. This policy will prevent registrars from being able to trade or sell domain names for their own accounts in a secondary market environment.
E9. Services and Pricing. What registration services do you propose to establish charges for and, for each such service, how much do you propose to charge?
The Company expects that it will charge for the following registration services:
- Domain name registrations. The Company expects that it will charge registrars a standard registration fee of US $5.75 per domain name registration per year. The Company will also charge an additional service fee to registrars of US$0.20 to be distributed directly to ICANN. Fees for multi-year registrations will be paid to Afilias at the time of initial registration.
- Renewals of domain name registrations. The Company will charge registrars its standard registration fee for each renewal year.
- Transfers of domain name registrations between registrars. When a registrant transfers a domain name registration between registrars, the Company intends to follow current industry practices and charge the receiving registrar the standard registration fee and provide an automatic one year extension to the registration. This practice is further described in Section E10.
- Whois. The Company will not charge registrars a usage fee for general Whois services. The Company will, however, charge a fee for bulk access to the Whois service and for the enhanced search functionalities described in Section E5.6. Once the Company has developed these enhanced functionalities, it will establish a reasonable fee for these services.
E10. Other. Please describe any policies concerning topics not covered by the above questions.
Minimum and Maximum Registration Periods
The Company intends to require that the initial term for all domain name registrations in the proposed gTLD extend for a minimum period of two years and maximum period of ten years. The Company believes that the two year minimum will serve to discourage domain name speculation by increasing the fee required to receive a registration. The ten year maximum period, while enabling registrars to offer lengthy registration terms to registrants who desire them, will also prevent registrants from holding unused and unwanted domain names indefinitely.
Registrations may be renewed for anywhere from one through ten year terms. Renewal terms will extend from the conclusion of any unexpired portion of the then-current term, not to exceed a total term of ten years.
Consistent with current practices of the current gTLD registry, in order to prevent the inadvertent expiration of a domain name registration, the Company will automatically renew domain name registrations according to the following process:
- On the date the registration is to expire, if the registrar has not requested a renewal of the registration, the Company will renew it for a one year term and will charge the registrar's account on that date.
- Upon such renewal, the Company will notify the registrar, which will then have the right to cancel the automatic renewal within forty-five days.
- Even if the Company receives a cancellation request from the registrar, in order to prevent inadvertent cancellations, the registrar will have a five day grace period after the cancellation during which it can reinstate the registration. During this five day period, the domain name will be on hold, meaning that it will still appear as if registered until the grace period expires.
- At the end of the grace period, if not reinstated, the domain name will immediately be released back to the general pool of available domain names and the Company will credit the registrar's account for the registration fee.
As described below, the Company intends to establish a procedure whereby it can streamline transfers and thereby expedite a process that historically has been both lengthy and costly to registrars.
In accordance with current ICANN policy, in the event that a registrant transfers a domain name registration from one registrar to another, the receiving registrar will be entitled to extend the then-current term for the registration by one year from the date of the transfer. The Company will charge the receiving registrar the Company's standard one year registration fee for such extension.
When a registrant transfers a domain name registration to a new registrant, the then-current term for the registration will continue without modification, and the Company will not charge any fee in connection with the transfer.
Consistent with the NSI Registrar License and Agreement (Exhibit B), registrars may only accept transfer requests from individuals with "apparent authority to legally bind the [registrant]." The process of determining what is sufficient to demonstrate apparent authority is complex, as it requires using different policies for different countries. The Company intends to streamline this process by implementing a system under which only those with the necessary user name and password will be able to request or authorize a transfer. By implementing a user name and password system, Afilias will ensure that the individual requesting the transfer is authorized to make the transfer.
Open Access to Domain Name Registrations
The RLA will prohibit the purchase of domain names by registrars for any purpose except instances where the registrar has a bona fide intent to use that domain name on its own behalf. This provision is in accordance with ICANN's current policies to prevent registrars from engaging in the wholesale purchase and sale of domain name registrations for their own accounts or the accounts of others.
II. REGISTRATION POLICIES DURING THE START-UP PERIOD
E11. In this section, you should thoroughly describe all policies (including implementation details) that you propose to follow during the start-up phase of registrations in the TLD, to the extent they differ from the General TLD Policies covered in items E1-E9. The following questions highlight some of the areas that should be considered for start-up policies:
E12. How do you propose to address the potential rush for registration at the initial opening of the TLD? How many requested registrations do you project will be received by the registry operator within the first day, week, month, and quarter? What period do you believe should be considered the TLD's "start-up period," during which special procedures should apply?
The Company expects a significant rush for domain name registrations during the period immediately following the initial opening of the gTLD (the "Start-Up Period"), after the close of the Sunrise Period described in Section E15.
It is difficult to predict with certainly the volume of registrations that will be received in the proposed gTLD during the Start-up Period. Afilias' forecasts suggest that the volume will be as follows:
- First day, approximately 125,000 registrations.
- First week, approximately 375,000 registrations.
- First month, approximately 900,000 registrations.
- First quarter, approximately 1,875,000 registrations.
In order to roll out the registry in a responsible fashion, and ensure proper and accurate processing of the registrations in a fair manner across all registrars, the Company will implement the following variations in its registry policies during the Start-Up Period.
Length of Period
The Company will base the length of the Start-Up Period on the volume of registration requests received per day, the number of registrars actively registering domain names, and the time necessary to permit registrars to migrate to the systems that will be used during the normal operation of the registry. This period will end when the volume of registrations recedes sufficiently to permit real-time registration of domain names. The Company does not expect such period to last for more than three months.
Queue Processing of Registrations
In its normal operations, the Company will accept and process registration requests in real time. The expected volume during the Start-Up Period, however, could overwhelm the registry system's ability to process such requests at that speed. If Afilias' systems are overwhelmed, they will not be able to process registration requests from registrars as quickly as they are submitted by registrants, which could then cause the registrar's systems to back-up and fail.
The Company will therefore implement a registration queue system to avoid these problems and ensure that all registrar requests are processed fairly and equally. Under this queue system, each registrar will assemble a queue of its registration requests. Afilias will download portions of each queue as a batch file and then will process requests from each registrar offline in a random order using a "round robin" system. When the Company has completed processing each batch file, the Company will download a new batch file from each registrar and the process will repeat. This round robin approach will allow each registrar to have a fair and equal opportunity to submit requests to the Company during the Start-Up Period.
Afilias is also considering a variety of modifications to this basic queue system that could discourage certain types of practices. For example, the registry could randomize each batch file in order to limit the sale of premium placements in a batch. It could also process requests individually by registrar, instead of processing a series of requests from one registrar until one was successful.
After testing each concept, Afilias will implement the system that it believes will (i) efficiently offer each registrant the fairest chance of receiving a registration, regardless of the registrar chosen or the fee paid; (ii) offer each registrar the opportunity to capture a fair share of the land rush of domain registrations; and (iii) limit fraudulent and speculative activities as effectively as possible.
The Company expects that registrars will accept pre-registrations for domain names under the proposed gTLD, and that other third parties - such as resellers and domain name brokers - will also accept pre-orders for domain names that will either be submitted to registrars as pre-registrations, or will be submitted immediately following the opening of the gTLD. By implementing the round robin approach during the Start-Up Period, the Company believes that it will minimize the advantages that pre-registration could provide.
During the Start-Up Period, the Company will suspend its policy of allowing registrars to cancel domain name registrations within five days after they issue, as described in Section E8, as this could encourage domain name speculators to submit a large number of domain name requests during this period. These bulk submissions create an enormous load on the registry system which, during the Start-Up Period, will limit the system's ability to process non-bulk requests. Accordingly, the five day discretionary cancellation policy will not commence until after the conclusion of the Start-Up Period. However, cancellations initiated for non-payment will be processed normally.
All domain name registrations that issue during the Start-Up Period will be locked for the duration of that period, meaning that registrants will not be able to either make changes to their registration information or transfer a registration until the conclusion of the Start-Up Period. This restriction will serve to reduce the burden on the registry system during the Start-Up Period. It will not apply to transfer orders received from any court of competent jurisdiction.
E13. Do you propose to place limits on the number of registrations per registrant? Per registrar? If so, how will these limits be implemented?
Afilias believes that the Start-Up Period and Sunrise Period policies described in Sections E12 and E15, respectively, will enable it to effectively manage the expected rush for domain name registrations during the introduction of the proposed gTLD. Accordingly, the Company will not limit the number of registrations per registrant or per registrar at any time, including during the Sunrise or Start-Up Periods.
E14. Will pricing mechanisms be used to dampen a rush for registration at the initial opening of the TLD? If so, please describe these mechanisms in detail.
Afilias believes that the Start-Up Period and Sunrise Period policies described in Sections E12 and E15, respectively, will enable it to effectively manage the expected rush for domain name registrations during the introduction of the proposed gTLD. Accordingly, the Company will not implement any special pricing or payment mechanisms to further manage the volume during the Start-Up Period.
E15. Will you offer any "sunrise period" in which certain potential registrants are offered the opportunity to register before registration is open to the general public? If so, to whom will this opportunity be offered (those with famous marks, registered trademarks, second-level domains in other TLDs, pre-registrations of some sort, etc.)? How will you implement this?
Trademark owners have expressed concerns over the introduction of new gTLDs into the DNS, asserting that additional gTLDs will provide cybersquatters with new opportunities to register the trademarks of others as domain names. Afilias strongly condemns the practice of cybersquatting, and will implement a series of special policies during a "Sunrise Period" in an attempt to minimize the risk of cybersquatters obtaining registrations in the proposed gTLD. The Sunrise Period is intended to permit qualified trademark owners to pre-register their trademarks as domain names in the proposed gTLD during a special closed registration process, prior to opening registration up to the general public.
During this Sunrise Period, owners of any subsisting trademark or service mark registration having national effect (i.e. no United States state trademark applications or foreign equivalents) and that issued prior to October 2, 2000 will be eligible to register a domain name that is identical to its mark, using ASCII characters only. Afilias established the October 2nd registration requirement to prevent potential cybersquatters from obtaining trademarks identical to existing trademarks and taking advantage of the Sunrise Period.
In the registration request submitted to the registrar, the applicant will represent that the domain name registration it is seeking meets the above-referenced criteria. In the event that separate applicants submit registration requests for identical trademarks, the first request to be submitted to the registry database will be awarded the registration.
Afilias expects to receive a large volume of registration requests during the Sunrise Period. Accordingly, it will process Sunrise Period registration requests using the queue system applicable to the Start-Up Period, as described in Section E13 above. Additionally, the modifications to standard Company policies described in Section E13 will also be followed during the Sunrise Period.
Length of Sunrise Registrations
Afilias believes that parties seeking domain name registrations during the Sunrise Period will select as long a registration term as is available to them, in order to protect their valuable asset as a domain name for as long as possible. Therefore, domain name registrations that issue during the Sunrise Period will have a minimum term of five years.
Schedule for Sunrise Period
The schedule for the Sunrise Period will be as follows:
- At least ninety days prior to the proposed gTLD being opened to the general public, Afilias, in coordination with the intellectual property community, will make a general public announcement with the estimated date that it will open the proposed gTLD to the general Internet community.
- Although it is likely that registrars and others will begin accepting pre-registrations long before the beginning of the Sunrise Period, the Company will not begin to collect and process Sunrise Period requests until at least thirty days after the announcement. Once it begins processing these requests, the Company will continue to do so for a period of sixty days.
- After this sixty day period, there will be an "evaluation period" of at least thirty days. Afilias believes that this evaluation period will provide two benefits to the Internet community. First, trademark owners will be given the opportunity to investigate any fraud by Sunrise Period registrants and to initiate challenges against third parties that may have obtained a Sunrise registration in a fraudulent manner. Additionally, it will provide the Company with the opportunity to evaluate the operation of the registry and round robin systems and to make any necessary modifications prior to the opening of the gTLD to the general Internet community.
Additional Whois Information
Afilias anticipates that disputes may arise regarding whether registrations that issue during the Sunrise Period were validly obtained. Accordingly, to simplify the verification of Sunrise registrations, applicants will be required to provide the registration number and the country of registration for the mark as part of a Sunrise registration request. These additional data fields will each be included in the registration Whois information. Neither the registrars nor the Company will have an obligation to verify this information. However, the Company believes that the information will assist third parties investigating the validity of Sunrise registrations.
A third party may challenge a registration obtained during the Sunrise Period on the following basis: (i) the registrant did not own a corresponding subsisting trademark or service mark registration; (ii) the domain name was not identical to the trademark or service mark registration; or (iii) the trademark or service mark registration did not issue prior to October 2, 2000. All challenges will be subject to a challenge fee of US $250, payable to Afilias upon assertion of the challenge.
Parties may challenge Sunrise registrations for a period of ninety days following the date that Afilias stops accepting Sunrise Period registration requests in accordance with the procedure described below. During this ninety day period, the Company will prohibit the transfer of all registrations obtained during the Sunrise Period except for transfers necessary as a result of a successful challenge or pursuant to a court order. Following the ninety day dispute period, parties disputing the validity of a Sunrise Period registration must utilize the UDRP or available courts of law.
Afilias will administer challenges posed against Sunrise registrations as follows. First, the challenger must notify the Company in writing that it wishes to challenge a Sunrise Period registration, and include the challenge fee with any such notification. Upon receipt of a challenge, the Company will record the time and date the notification and fee were received, in order to process multiple challenges to the same domain name registration.
Within five days of receipt of a challenge fee, the Company will notify the registrant of the challenge. The registrant will be required to submit a certified copy of the corresponding trademark registration to the Company within thirty days from the date of such notification. In the event that Afilias receives the certified copy within such thirty day period, then the Company will decide the merits of the challenge within five business days thereafter, and will notify the challenger and the registrant of the decision promptly after its resolution. Multiple challenges to the same Sunrise Period registration will be processed in the order they were received.
If a registrant provides a certified copy of a trademark or service mark registration that meets the above-referenced criteria, then (i) such registrant will retain the domain name registration; and (ii) the challenging party will not be entitled to return of the challenge fee.
In the event that the domain name registrant is unable to demonstrate that it meets the above criteria, then (i) the Company will place the domain name registration on a ten day hold; (ii) the registrant will forfeit the registration fee; and (iii) the Company will refund the challenger the amount of the challenge fee. The Company may thereafter seek reimbursement from the losing registrant for the refunded challenge fee.
During the ten day hold period, a successful challenger will have the option to register the domain name that was the subject of the challenge on its own behalf, provided that it (i) meets the Sunrise Period registration eligibility requirements described above; and (ii) provides Afilias with a certified copy of its trademark registration to enable Afilias to verify its entitlement to the registration. If a challenger meets these criteria, then the challenger may submit a registration application through the accredited registrar of its choice, and Afilias will release the domain name to the challenger. The period of registration of the domain name will be for an initial term of five years, consistent with the Sunrise Period term.
If the successful challenger was ineligible to register the domain name during the Sunrise Period, or if it does not exercise its option to re-register the domain name, and there are no additional challenges, then the Company will release the name from the ten day hold and return it to the general pool of available domain names.
In the event that there are additional challenges to the domain name registration, Afilias will continue to maintain the name on hold and move to the next challenger. Afilias will then request that the second challenger proffer its eligible registration within a ten day period. If the challenger provides a registration that meets the above-referenced criteria, then such challenger will be entitled to register the domain name. If it does not, Afilias will continue to hold the name until all challenges have been adjudicated. If the name is not successfully claimed by any registrant, it will then be returned to the general pool of available names.
III. REGISTRATION RESTRICTIONS
These questions are not applicable, as Afilias is proposing an unrestricted TLD.
IV. CONTEXT OF THE TLD WITHIN THE DNS
E22. This section is intended to allow you to describe the benefits of the TLD and the reasons why it would benefit the global Internet community or some segment of that community. Issues you might consider addressing include:
E23. What will distinguish the TLD from existing or other proposed TLDs? How will this distinction be beneficial?
Afilias intends to market the proposed gTLD as a truly global string that can be embraced and utilized by an international audience. Each of the proposed gTLDs translates across most languages, and are generic enough to appeal to people from all nations and walks of life. The fact that numerous non-US registrars are members of Afilias, and that other ICANN-accredited registrars, whether US-based or not, may be eligible to become members of Afilias, should serve to reinforce the proposed gTLD's international presence and appeal.
By positioning the proposed gTLD as a truly global string and by providing an entirely new pool of domain names for registration, the proposed gTLD will open the possibility of domain name registration to a far greater number of people. By encouraging domain name registration by an international audience, the proposed gTLD will augment the transformation of the Internet from a collection of country-specific Internet zones to a truly international medium and usher the advent of the digital age to a previously untapped market.
Afilias' research has confirmed that the proposed gTLDs will also have a high recall value among users, especially when branded and marketed in accordance with the Marketing Plan in Section D13.2.4 of the Registry Operator's Proposal. The Company intends to focus its marketing efforts on those regions of the world with the greatest growth potential in the volume of domain name registrations. Through its co-op marketing plan, Afilias will actively encourage registrars to promote the gTLD in their local markets. In addition, the proposed gTLD does not suggest an affiliation with any particular type of registrant or industry.
The expected global popularity of the proposed gTLD will also enable ICANN to evaluate the ability of Afilias to maintain the operation of the registry during a period of unprecedented demand for new domain name registrations throughout the Internet, and the adequacy of Afilias' registration policies during the Start-Up Period.
E24. What community and/or market will be served or targeted by this TLD? To what extent is that community or market already served by the DNS?
As an unrestricted TLD, the proposed gTLD will serve businesses and individuals of all countries and classes.
Although this market is theoretically currently served by the .com, .net and .org gTLDs, as a practical matter many of the most popular commonly-known and utilized words and phrases have already been registered. Accordingly, new registrants must have the financial resources sufficient either to conduct a major marketing campaign for an uncommon phrase or to purchase a previously registered domain name at a substantial price. This limits the ability of the Internet to continue to expand into a truly global medium.
Through the introduction of a new gTLD, the Company will provide registrants with a fresh set of domain names eligible for registration. Although Afilias expects that some registrants of .com, .net and .org domain names will quickly move to register an equivalent name in the new gTLD, Afilias expects that the majority of registrants will not apply for duplicative registrations, leaving many domain names free for registration by entirely new registrants.
E25. Please describe in detail how your proposal would enable the DNS to meet presently unmet needs.
The proposed gTLD will be the first truly global gTLD in the DNS. According to the Center for the Next Generation Internet ("CNGI"), 90% of non-United States Internet users consider .com, .net and .org to be United States TLDs, or TLDs utilized by United States registrants or international registrants seeking to reach a United States audience. While the existing ccTLDs are international in nature, ccTLDs, by definition, are restricted by territory.
As described in Section D13.2.5 of the Registry Operator's Proposal, Afilias expects the international demand for domain name registrations to expand over the next three years. The proposed gTLD will satisfy consumer demand for a truly global string that is not constrained by limited geographic applicability as is the case with .com, .net and .org, and the ccTLDs.
For any new gTLD to become a serious alternative to .com in meeting demand for domain name registrations, however, Afilias recognizes that an aggressive and effective marketing strategy will be necessary. Afilias' proposed marketing campaign will position the new gTLD as the next generation of the Internet and a genuine international competitor to existing gTLD strings.
E26. How would the introduction of the TLD enhance the utility of the DNS for Internet users? For the community served by the TLD?
As further described in Sections E23 and E25, the proposed gTLD will expand and diversify the global reach of the DNS. Additionally, the proposed gTLD will allow registrants the opportunity to establish an international web presence, and reduce the need to register multiple domain names in a series of territorial TLD spaces. Domain name registrants may then focus their resources on expanding the reach of their offerings and content, as well as their brand identity. Finally, the proposed gTLD will enable new registrants to enter the market and register domain names.
The introduction of a new gTLD managed by a new registry operator will also create competition for the current gTLDs and their registry operator. This competition will drive each registry operator to improve its services and pricing and thereby benefit the entire Internet community.
E27. How would the proposed TLD enhance competition in domain-name registration services, including competition with existing TLD registries?
New gTLDs will create additional choices for consumers, and thus foster competition between Afilias and the existing unrestricted and restricted TLD registry operators. Such competition will benefit consumers as it will encourage all registries to offer better services and prices. Domain name registrants will for the first time have an opportunity to choose the registry or registries with which they would like to do business.
V. VALUE OF PROPOSAL AS A PROOF OF CONCEPT
E28. Recent experience in the introduction of new TLDs is limited in some respects. The current program of establishing new TLDs is intended to allow evaluation of possible additions and enhancements to the DNS and possible methods of implementing them. Stated differently, the current program is intended to serve as a "proof of concept" for ways in which the DNS might evolve in the longer term. This section of the application is designed to gather information regarding what specific concept(s) could be evaluated if the proposed TLD is introduced, how you propose the evaluation should be done, and what information would be learned that might be instructive in the long-term management of the DNS. Well-considered and articulated responses to this section will be positively viewed in the selection process. Matters you should discuss in this section include:
E29. What concepts are likely to be proved/disproved by evaluation of the introduction of this TLD in the manner you propose?
Afilias recognizes that the introduction of the proposed gTLD will represent a unique opportunity for ICANN to evaluate potential approaches to managing the expansion of the DNS. ICANN will be able to review the performance of the proposed gTLD, and the Company as registry operator, in the following respects:
- Whether the introduction of a new gTLD can be successful, both in terms of technical operation and public adoption.
- Whether variations to current policies and practices effectively address issues raised under current policies and practices.
- Whether competition among gTLDs and registry operators can successfully be introduced.
Success of the Introduction of New TLDs
Afilias believes that new gTLDs can and should be launched. As described in greater detail in Sections E22 through E26, existing gTLDs cannot meet the needs of a growing Internet. During its meetings in Yokohama in June, 2000, ICANN agreed that new gTLDs are necessary.
What remains to be seen, however, is whether new gTLDs can be introduced smoothly and effectively. ICANN's acceptance of this proposal will create an opportunity to observe the launch of an entirely new gTLD during a period in which demand for domain name registrations already exists. Accordingly, this launch will provide an opportunity to determine whether the public will accept new gTLDs and whether new registry operators can develop systems that operate smoothly and without significant interruption.
Afilias believes that the Internet community's response, as demonstrated through registrations during the Sunrise Period and the Start-Up Period, will show that there is an unmet demand for a new gTLD. From the perspective of the Internet community at large, the level of this response will be the single most important test for the introduction of new gTLDs.
A further test of special concern to ICANN is an evaluation of the ability of a new registry operator to launch and manage a new gTLD. Any new gTLD is likely to create a significant early demand for new domain name registrations, placing a burden on Afilias that has never been experienced by any other registry operators. ICANN will have an opportunity to evaluate Afilias' ability to manage this demand.
After the initial demand has passed, the Company will transition into its steady-state operation of the new registry. During this period, ICANN will have an opportunity to evaluate the ability of a new registry operator to effectively manage the operation of a new gTLD.
Finally, after the introduction of a new gTLD, many who have registered domain names in the existing gTLDs are likely to "cross-register" the identical domains in the new gTLD. By accepting Afilias' proposal, ICANN will create for itself an opportunity to examine the extent to which this cross-registration takes place.
Variations to Policies and Practices
In addition to establishing performance benchmarks for the operation of a new gTLD by a new registry operator, the implementation of Afilias' proposal will provide ICANN with an opportunity to evaluate a variety of new policies and technical practices which Afilias has explained throughout this proposal.
Included among these new policies and practices are:
- A centralized registry-level Whois database and service, which will demonstrate the efficiencies, enhanced search capabilities, and other possible benefits of the automatic centralization of Whois data, including the increased ease and certainty of policing intellectual property.
- Sunrise and Start-Up Period policies and practices, which will verify the effectiveness of the round-robin queuing model, the Sunrise Period dispute resolution procedures, the restrictions on transfers of and modifications to domain name registrations, and the ability of a registry operator to manage the rush of domain name registrations expected during these periods.
- The implementation and monitoring of policies imposed on registrars directly by the registry operator via an RLA, without the need for close involvement by ICANN. This direct enforcement mechanism will test whether private parties can manage a gTLD for the benefit of the Internet community at large.
- The fact that the Company is owned by a collection of commercial rivals, which could be a model for future additional registry operators, demonstrating that these rivals can successfully cooperate effectively to manage the common resource that enables their businesses.
Each of these new policies and practices will provide ICANN with an invaluable real-world test of concepts that it has debated for years. Through this test, ICANN will gain knowledge and experience with respect to these policies that will assist its future efforts to create new gTLDs.
The Result of Introducing Competition Among Unrestricted TLDs and Unrestricted TLD Registry Operators
Among the most important concepts being tested through the introduction of new TLDs generally, and especially with respect to new gTLDs, is the effect of introducing competition among TLDs and among registry operators. The registry operator for the current gTLDs has never faced any real competition. As described in greater detail in Section E25, although the ccTLDs could compete with the gTLDs in their respective countries, as a practical matter the gTLDs have effectively become the primary TLDs for United States domain name registrants and the ccTLDs have become the primary TLDs for their respective countries.
With the introduction of a new gTLD managed by a new registry operator, as proposed by Afilias, there finally will be competition for the current gTLDs and their registry operator. This competition will drive each registry operator to constantly improve its services and pricing. Afilias believes that only the creation of actual competition can provide ICANN with an opportunity to examine its effects.
E30. How do you propose that the results of the introduction should be evaluated? By what criteria should the success or lack of success of the TLD be evaluated?
In its Criteria for Assessing TLD Proposals, ICANN described nine general criteria for evaluating TLD proposals. Six of these criteria are also relevant to the assessment of the success or failure of the introduction of the proposed gTLD.
1) The extent to which the new TLD maintains the Internet's stability.
A critical factor in the evaluation of the introduction of a new TLD will be the extent to which the new TLD enhances or undermines the stability of the Internet. Accordingly, ICANN must evaluate the ability of Afilias to demonstrate whether it will be able to maintain the fault-tolerant operation of the gTLD throughout the evaluation period and beyond, including the adequacy of Afilias' measures to minimize unscheduled outages of registry, registration and Whois systems due to peak loads, technical failures, or the malicious activity of others, and to protect domain name holders and other interested parties from the effects of any such failures. In addition, ICANN should evaluate the effects of the proposed gTLD on the operation and performance of the DNS in general and the root-server system in particular.
Finally, as noted in Section E29, the opening of a new TLD, particularly a new gTLD, will likely result in a strong demand for new domain name registrations during the Start-Up Period. Accordingly, ICANN must use this opportunity to evaluate the mechanisms developed to manage the volume of registration requests expected during the Start-Up Period.
2) The extent to which the new TLD enhances competition for registration services.
One of the central goals of the introduction of new TLDs is the creation of competition between TLDs and TLD registry operators, as such competition will inevitably benefit the public. By definition, the more competitors there are in any given market, the greater the opportunities for competition in that market. Accordingly, ICANN must examine the degree to which the introduction of a new gTLD encourages competition between gTLD registry operators, and the effects of such competition.
Although the impact of competition in a marketplace may be difficult to measure over a short time period, ICANN must make every effort to examine changing practices, prices and services of registry operators to determine whether the introduction of competition is having the desired effect.
Finally, ICANN should study the degree to which effective marketing on the part of a new entrant is necessary to ensure real competition for registration services. If such competition requires an extensive marketing campaign, then only those that have the financial resources to conduct such a campaign should be selected to operate new TLDs, a factor which should bear heavily on the future selection of registry operators.
3) The degree to which the new TLD enhances the utility of the DNS.
Another prevailing concern of the Internet community is the need to enhance the utility of the DNS for the future. Accordingly, ICANN should examine whether the new gTLD aids in the ability of the DNS to expand and diversify the global reach of the DNS, to associate domain names with meaningfully identified and valuable information resources and to enable new registrants to register domain names.
4) How the new TLD helps the DNS to meet previously unmet needs.
New TLDs should help the DNS to meet needs not met by the current set of TLDs. A new gTLD will help the DNS accomplish this goal by expanding the global appeal and reach of gTLDs, which have to date been dominated by United States registrants. In addition, the creation of new gTLDs will open a new pool of domain names for registration, which will enable new registrants to obtain names that were previously unattainable because they were already registered by third parties who would only sell them for inflated prices if at all. In assessing the success or failure of a new gTLD, ICANN should evaluate whether the expansion of the reach of gTLDs and the opening of a new pool of domain names for registration enables the DNS to meet the unmet needs of the international community and those who have been unable to register the domain names they desire.
5) The degree to which the new TLD enhances the diversity of the DNS and of registration services generally.
The Internet community is global, but, as explained in Section E25, the existing gTLDs are dominated by United States registrants. The result has been the division of the DNS among the "American" gTLDs and the various national ccTLDs. If the DNS system is to truly reflect the diversity and plurality of the Internet community, it must offer something other than this divided, hierarchical system.
Accordingly, ICANN should evaluate whether the proposed gTLD promotes or discourages the globalization of the DNS. Different proposals may encourage such diversity in different ways. Afilias, for example, has selected a gTLD with global appeal in order to encourage international adoption (as explained in Section E2), and will market the proposed gTLD to a global audience (as explained in Sections E23 through E26). The Company also intends to promote the diversity of the DNS by opening itself to ownership by ICANN-accredited registrars throughout the world, which is reflected in the diverse set of registrars that share ownership as of the date of this proposal, as described in Section D13.1.4 of the Registry Operator's Proposal. ICANN should examine whether these mechanisms aid in promoting the diversity of the DNS.
6) The extent to which the Company is able to appropriately protect the rights of others in connection with the operation of the TLD.
Finally, the introduction of new TLDs could, if not managed appropriately, undermine the efforts of intellectual property owners to protect their rights. Each TLD proposal submitted to ICANN will include its own mechanisms for assisting intellectual property owners. ICANN should examine which of these mechanisms are most effective so that it may mandate certain proven practices for future new TLDs.
In this proposal, Afilias has suggested a variety of mechanisms for protecting the interests of intellectual property owners, such as an improved Whois service with bulk access availability as described in Sections E5.6 and E7, a Sunrise Period in which trademark owners may procure early registrations for their trademarks as described in Section E15, and the adoption of ICANN's Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy for use against cybersquatters, as explained in Section E6.1.
E31. In what way would the results of the evaluation assist in the long-range management of the DNS?
Central management of the DNS is critical to its continued ability to grow to meet the needs of the Internet community. Decentralized expansion would likely lead to fragmentation of DNS policies, practices and services, or undue domination of the DNS by a few larger institutions with the resources to maintain the necessary facilities. Accordingly, ICANN, as the organization tasked with the responsibility to manage the DNS, must have in place a process to encourage the addition of new TLDs in order to keep pace with the growth of the Internet while maintaining a well-ordered domain name space. The results of ICANN's evaluation of Afilias' proposed gTLD will help it to learn which policies, business models, and technical practices are most effective, so that it may better judge future proposals.
E32. Are there any reasons other than evaluation of the introduction process that this particular TLD should be included in the initial introduction?
The proposed introduction of new TLDs is without precedent. ICANN, together with those companies it selects to operate or sponsor new TLDs, will be forging new territory at every step of the process. Accordingly, to facilitate the smooth operation of this new process, ICANN must select responsible, professional organizations with the technical, policy and administrative experience necessary to ensure the success of a new TLD.
Afilias believes that it, above all other entities proposing new gTLDs, has the experience, resources, expertise and responsibility critical to the successful introduction of these first new TLDs, and is therefore the optimal candidate for ICANN to select for this ground-breaking process. Afilias is comprised of a group of internationally diverse registrars whose very business has been the building and operation of the DNS, and who therefore are intimately familiar with the needs of the system. Its Board of Managers includes people who have been closely involved with the evolution of the DNS over many years, in some cases becoming involved before ICANN even existed.
In addition, through its retention of the leading professional service organizations of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, KPMG, OgilvyOne Worldwide and Hill & Knowlton to assist in its formation and the preparation of this proposal, Afilias has demonstrated that it has the maturity, professionalism, business knowledge and resources necessary to work effectively with ICANN during this important period.
By signing this application through its representative, the Applicant attests that the information contained in this Description of TLD Policies, and all referenced supporting documents, are true and accurate to the best of Applicant's knowledge.
Rita A. Rodin_______________________________
Name (please print)
Counsel to the Company and Authorized Signatory
Name of Applicant Entity
October 2, 2000_____________________________