WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
A. General Description of the Application
- TLD String(s) Requested.
The World Health Organization (“WHO”) requests the .health TLD to provide the Internet public with screened health information. The WHO targets a restricted registrant base, large end user group and focuses primarily on non-commercial uses. The WHO’s application specifically qualifies for the special purpose category.
- Sponsor, Registry Operator and Subcontractor.
TheWHO is a public international organization and a Specialized Agency of the United Nations. As stated in its Constitution, the objective of the WHO is the "attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health." The WHO is proposing that by sponsoring the TLD .health, it will be able to improve the ability of the Internet community to identify quality health information. All countries which are members of the United Nations may become members of WHO by accepting its Constitution. Other countries may be admitted as members when their application has been approved by a simple majority vote of the World Health Assembly. Territories which are not responsible for the conduct of their international relations may be admitted as associate members upon application made on their behalf by the member or other authority responsible for their international relations. The WHO claims to currently have 191 member states. In order to promote confidence in the quality of information provided by a .health TLD holder, applicants would be required to sign a contract that they agree to abide by a set of international ethical principles and quality standards for the provision of health information products and/or services. While the full details of these standards have not yet been established, the WHO asserts it is in a unique position to provide neutral, international support for standard and best practices relating to health information on the Internet.
b. Registry Operator.
CORE Internet Council of Registrars ("CORE") is a not-for-profit association organized under Swiss law with its principal address in Geneva, Switzerland. CORE is an association in which its members have coordinated a technical framework while retaining their own marketing and customer service functions. CORE currently acts as an ICANN accredited registrar and utilizes a shared registrations system ("SRS") which allows its members to register domains under .com, .net and .org. This SRS is based on a model originally designed for use by a registry and manages over 800,000 domains. Before commencing registry operations, CORE plans to create a separate not-for-profit entity through which registry operations will be run. It intends to have two separate membership processes, separate supervisory bodies and separate staff, however, both organizations will have rights to use the CORE SRS.
CORE does not expect to outsource any function accounting for more than 10% of operations to a single operator.
- Registry-Registrar Model.
The WHO intends that applicants for domain names in the .health TLD and holders of such domain names will deal directly with the registrars. Requirements for registrars in the .health TLD include ICANN accreditation. The WHO also plans that the number of registrars not be restricted but be based on demand.
B. Technical Review
- Summary Description of Proposal.
The WHO proposes .health as a restricted TLD dedicated to screened health information providers, as distinguished from the unregulated information on general TLDs. CORE would operate the .health registry utilizing their existing technology and technical strategies, the SRS.
- Support of the Business Plan by the Technical Plan.
a. Total Capacity.
No projections are provided in the proposal regarding the estimated size of the .health TLD. The WHO estimates that there are 10,000 sites in .com which are devoted to health topics. The architecture supports 800,000 sites in another implementation, so it seems likely that it can support the more modest .health TLD.
b. Projected Growth Rate.
No projections are provided in the proposal regarding the expected growth rate of the .health TLD. The architecture appears to have been designed to support easy upgrades.
c. Startup Period.
The WHO expects the startup rate to be slow and controllable, given the restrictive nature of the TLD.
d. Fault Tolerance.
The architecture uses clustered frontend systems with redundant, mirrored database servers and automated failover. There is a backup site located in a different hosting facility.
The security procedures seem to be well thought out and appropriate to the risk.
- Summary of Relevant Experience.
The CORE software is in use in a related activity. The WHO has considerable experience with the prospective registrants. It is likely that at least the initial registrars will already be familiar with the CORE software and may be members of CORE.
- Apparent Implementation Risks.
Elements of the registrant screening process will only be defined after the TLD is approved. Automating that process has the risks usually attendant upon software development.
- Available of Human, Operational and Technical Resources to Cope with Unexpected Events.
CORE believes it can call on the resources of its member organizations in the event of emergency. Many of these organizations already run TLDs.
- Advancing the State of the Art.
The application calls for the use of a “thick” registry model. CORE has a fairly well developed plan for this approach and has operating software.
- Other Comments.
The attention paid to rearchitecting the system to solve the Whois /check domain load problem represents the sort of improvements that are necessary to scale up the DNS system.
C. Business Review
- Applicant’s Representations.
The WHO is an international organization whose purpose is the attainment by all peoples of the highest level of health. Most of WHO’s revenue is from contributions from its Member States. Year-end revenue and net assets were $1.9 billion and $833 million, respectively, as of December 31, 1999.
CORE is a non-profit association of ICANN-accredited registrars, with a registrar business itself. It does not currently have any employees of its own for its registrar activity due its outsource arrangements with its members. CORE’s mission is to develop and operate standards and coordinating mechanisms for the central management of Internet domain registrations in the public trust on a not-for-profit basis. There are 200 of CORE’s members’ staff concerned with CORE domain registrations. CORE reported revenues of $1.7 million for the six-months ended June 30, 2000 and net assets of negative $1.1 million at June 30, 2000.
The revenue model for the registry and sponsor will be cost-recovery based. Other special cost-recovery charges will apply for special verifications, actions, and other resource-using services. The target market is health-related websites, with final selection criteria to be determined by the WHO.
- ICANN’s Evaluation.
The strengths of the application lie in the WHO’s international influence in the health community, the value of increased access to trusted health information, and CORE’s registrar experience. Application weaknesses include a weaker discussion of the target market and demand compared to other applicants in this category, and the lack of pro-forma financial statements. Overall, this application could lead to a successful new TLD given its limited objectives, the technical background of the operator and the altruistic purposes of the TLD.
D. Summary of Public Comments
- Number of Comments.
- Support for the Application.
The proposal will allow WHO to “provide neutral, international support for standards of health information on the Internet.”
Several comments focused on the quality control and the WHO could provide to .health sites worldwide and the aid it would provide consumers in sifting through worthless health-related information.
“Establishing a health TLD would greatly enhance, if not revolutionize health and medical electronic communication, telemedicine, medical care in both industrialized and developing countries, medical and health technology transfer as well as having a DIRECT impact on reducing and preventing disease and disability and thus reducing overall human suffering.”
- Opposition to Application.
.health is too narrow and may not have “any real value to the general e-public.”
One writer expressed the opinion that if WHO wished to vet websites, it could do it through its own website, as opposed to controlling an entire TLD.
A writer also wondered if WHO could truly exercise independent judgment given that it relies upon the good graces of national governments to operate in many parts of the world.
Some commentators worried that vetting will likely be an expensive proposition, some question was raised as to how WHO would fund these operations.