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ICANN Accra Meeting Topic: Approval of Registry Agreement for .pro

Posted: 7 March 2002

One of the topics to be discussed at the ICANN Public Forum on 13 March 2002 in Accra, Ghana, is approval of a registry agreement negotiated between ICANN staff and RegistryPro, the selected registry operator for the proposed .pro top-level domain (TLD). The following describes the negotiated agreement and provides links to its various appendices. Public comment may be made at the 13 March Public Forum or on the web-based forum that may be entered by clicking below.

Background

At its 16 November 2000 Annual Meeting in Marina del Rey, the ICANN Board selected seven new TLD proposals for negotiations toward appropriate agreements between ICANN and the proposing registry operators and sponsoring organizations. The Board also authorized the ICANN President and ICANN General Counsel to conduct those negotiations on behalf of ICANN and, subject to further Board approval or ratification, to enter into appropriate agreements.

The selected TLD proposals are of two types. Four proposals (.biz, .info, .name, and .pro) are for relatively large, unsponsored TLDs. The other three proposals (.aero, .coop, and .museum) are for smaller "sponsored" TLDs. (Generally speaking, an "unsponsored" TLD operates under policies established by the global Internet community directly through the ICANN process, while a "sponsored" TLD is a specialized TLD that has a sponsoring organization representing the narrower community that is most affected by the TLD. The sponsoring organization thus carries out delegated policy-formulation responsibilities over many matters concerning the TLD.)

Two types of model agreements were developed, one for unsponsored TLDs and the other for sponsored TLDs. In conformity with these model agreements have previously been signed for six of the seven TLDs:

  • .biz (unsponsored)(signed 11 May 2001)
  • .info (unsponsored)(signed 11 May 2001)
  • .name (unsponsored)(signed 1 August 2001)
  • .museum (sponsored)(signed 17 October 2001)
  • .coop (sponsored)(signed 21 November 2001)
  • .aero (sponsored)(signed 17 December 2001)

Negotiation of the .pro Registry Agreement

The seventh selected TLD is .pro. The .pro TLD was proposed by RegistryPro as an unsponsored TLD restricted to registrations by persons and entities that are credentialed by appropriate entities (such as through governmental bodies and professional organizations) to provide professional services. A key feature of the proposal, and one mentioned in the Board's selection process, is that the registration process for .pro provide a highly trustworthy framework for registrations by professionals. The proposed structure of the TLD is to have second-level domains for specific professions, such as .med.pro for physicians.

In several respects, the proposed operational model for the .pro TLD presents special challenges. Since it provides a series of restricted namespaces dependent on professional credentials, the management of the TLD requires special sensitivity to the needs of professional organizations and other credentialling entities. In seeking to promote a high-trust environment, the TLD must have sound procedures for verifying the qualifications of applicants for registration in the context of the registry-registrar model.

After lengthy negotiations, ICANN and RegistryPro have completed negotiations on the language of the .pro Registry Agreement and all of its appendices, which are linked below. ICANN management believes that the negotiated documents capture the essential characteristics of the .pro TLD domain as proposed and also adequately address the special operational challenges of the .pro TLD.

In the course of negotiations, two material deviations were made to the letter of the original proposal. After analysis, however, ICANN management has become convinced that the deviations represent improvements and do not fundamentally alter the nature of the proposed TLD. Specifically:

  • RegistryPro originally proposed to offer digital certificates as a complementary product to domain registrations, to support confidence in those using .pro domain names. The proposal identified digital-certificate technology as particularly appropriate for a "professional domain," since it would (for example) allow professionals to converse by authenticated e-mail with their patients/clients and to employ secure websites. In refining its assessment of the market since .pro was selected in November 2000, RegistryPro has encountered significant enthusiasm among professionals and their associations for the enhanced trust that digital security products can bring to the .pro TLD. RegistryPro concluded that the high-trust capabilities of .pro can be significantly enhanced if digital credentials are uniformly required. Accordingly, at RegistryPro's request the appendices have been drafted to require all registrations to have associated digitial certificates, which would be linked to a common certificate root operated by RegistryPro. The appendices (see particularly Appendix L) assure that the provision of these digital certificates is a competitive service provided through registrars by commiting RegistryPro to accept digital certificates that meet stated open, non-proprietary requirements. Compliance with these requirements would be monitored by an independent, third-party auditor and RegistryPro is contractually commited to apply the same standards in an equal manner to all companies (including itself) acting as certificate authorities. The cost to registrants of obtaining digital certificates would be determined competitively, although RegistryPro would be entitled to charge a cost-based fee to cover its administrative, licensing, and associated costs arising from the registry service of maintaining a common certificate root to which the competitive certificate authorities would be chained.

  • The structure of RegistryPro's funding has been revised. RegistryPro's proposal envisioned a first-year funding requirement of US$16,900,000. This requirement was driven in large part by capital needs for setting up a standalone registry and by a contemplated mass-marketing campaign. RegistryPro now contemplates outsourcing the registry to Registry Advantage, a venture of Register.com offering registry services to ccTLDs. In addition, RegistryPro's marketing research has indicated that use of more targetted marketing channels will be considerably more effective and less expensive. In view of these considerations, the negotiated agreement reduces the first-year funding commitment to US$8,500,000. Based on its review, ICANN management believes that this funding level is adequate to guard against "out of box" failure of the TLD that might be caused by the TLD's initial funding needs.

Although the above features do vary from the original RegistryPro proposal, ICANN management believes that the essential characteristics of the proposed .pro domain are preserved (and in some respects improved) and therefore recommends that the Board authorize ICANN's entry into the .pro registry agreement as negotiated.

Links to the Agreement and Appendices

The .pro registry agreement conforms to the 1 August 2002 version of the unsponsored registry agreement, which supports unsponsored TLD registries in which names are to be registered at the third level. Customization of the agreement to the characteristics of the .pro TLD is accomplished in the appendices. The appendices as negotiated are:

Appendix A

Format and Technical Requirements for Requests to Change TLD Nameservers

Appendix B

Format and Technical Requirements for Requests to Change TLD Contact Information

Appendix C

Functional Specifications

Appendix D

Performance Specifications

Appendix E

Service-Level Agreement

Appendix F

Registry-Registrar Agreement

Appendix G

Fees for Registry Services

Appendix H

Equivalent Access Certification

Appendix I

Registry Code of Conduct

Appendix J

Start-Up Plan

Appendix K

Names Reserved from Registration

Appendix L

Registration Restrictions

Appendix M

Enforcement of Registration Restrictions

Appendix N

TLD Zone-File Access Agreement

Appendix O

Whois SpecificationPublic Whois

Appendix P

Whois Data SpecificationIndependent Whois Provider

Appendix Q

Whois Data SpecificationICANN

Appendix R

Data Escrow Specification

Appendix S

Data Escrow Agreement

Appendix T

Monthly Registry Reports

Appendix U

Proof-of-Concept Reports

Appendix V

Initial Consensus Policies

Appendix W

Additional Covenants

Appendix X

Registry Operator's Domain Names

Appendix Y

Sanctions Program

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