By Christian Dawson, Executive Director, i2Coalition
With the backlash against tech companies gaining steam, we’ve seen certain contrarian members of the media taking indiscriminate aim at companies and issues without due cause. This is what happened when Financial Times columnist Gillian Tett, in a March 7th editorial, inaccurately portrayed a process involving the Amazon’s gTLD application for .AMAZON, an issue the i2Coalition has been engaged in for years.
While we respect that columnists have limited time to write pieces and short space to make their argument, this column argues that the story of .AMAZON is one of attempted exploitation. This is not the case. The columnist praises ICANN’s global consultative process and its slow and deliberative action, and yet she goes on to immediately rush to judgement about what it should do with the gTLD itself. Rather than try to understand ICANN’s processes, this columnist prefers to complain that it’s simply too complicated. “[M]y heart lies on the side of the jungle,” she writes, going on to say that proceeding with the .AMAZON delegation would threaten Internet cooperation.
Given looming deadlines to solve this protracted conflict in the right way, we wish to state that the opposite is true.
Amazon applied for .AMAZON and its Chinese and Japanese translations, among many others when ICANN launched the new gTLD program seven years ago. Under the 2012 gTLD Applicant Guidebook process, the “.AMAZON” application received perfect scores, and ICANN’s Geographic Names Panel, which had been consulting with governments for multiple years on the subject, said the domain was neither a prohibited geographic name nor one which required government approval.
ICANN operates under the multi-stakeholder model. The multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance serves to keep the Internet free and open, by bringing the interests of all parties to the table and ensuring that the Internet is free of undue control by any one group, including governments who have an important but not overreaching role to play. It was under this system that the .AMAZON application was made. Amazon met all the requirements under ICANN’s articles, bylaws, and guidebook, and drew top marks across the board for its’ application.
Amazon is a member of the i2Coalition, but our interest in this matter goes well beyond the commercial interest of a single member of our community. ICANN is seven years into a gTLD delegation process in which the rules were clearly spelled out in advance, with governments at the table when the rules were made. Attempts to change them after the fact, in ways that are not driven by consensus of the global multi-stakeholder community, are corrosive to the trust we have in the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance. In short, ICANN needs to follow through with the .AMAZON application, and follow its’ own rules, to maintain the credibility of its’ systems.
Though we should all be sympathetic to the position of the governments of Brazil and Peru, we should also be impressed with the extensive efforts that Amazon has undertaken in order to assuage as many of those concerns as possible. They have made formal signed commitments to not use the TLDs in a confusing manner. They have promised to support future gTLD applications to represent the region using the geographic terms of the regions, including .AMAZONIA, .AMAZONICA or .AMAZONAS. They also offered to reserve for the relevant governments certain domain names that could cause confusion or touch on national sensitivities.
We strongly believe that the Internet community and the Board of ICANN now has an opportunity to show the entire multi-stakeholder community that its’ systems work. By upholding its Applicant Guidebook, its community-developed bylaws, and independent dispute resolution process, the ICANN Board’s approval of the .AMAZON applications will increase community trust, and show that the Board takes ICANN’s core principles of transparency and accountability extremely seriously. For those reasons, we call on the Board of ICANN to approve the .AMAZON applications.