The release of the .web extension is causing quite some difficulties. This has everything to do with the way Verisign acquired the management for this extension.

Verisign, who also manages .com and .net, gained the management of .web by hiding behind a third party, namely Nu Dot Co, the administrator of the .co extension. Other interested parties to manage .web were amongst others Donuts and Afilias (the manager of .info).

The .web TLD is seen as a serious alternative to .com, which would therefore entail serious competition. These other parties are not really set up with the fact that Verisign would gain the management of .web next to already managing .com. This would further anchor the monopoly of Verisign.

Afilias has now filed a complaint with ICANN. According to them, Nu Dot Co, the straw man-like company with which Verisign cooperated, broke the rules of the new gTLD program. After all, they did not inform ICANN and the other interested parties that they would transfer the rights to the .web extension to Verisign, which according to Afilias should have happened.

In the original application of Nu Dot Co it was said that .web would enter into competition with .com. Since Nu Dot Co now transfers the management of .web to Verisign, this becomes impossible. As a result, according to Afilias, Nu Dot Co’s original application is based on false intentions. And if ICANN agreed to this, it would break its own new gTLD policy which states that it pursues objectivity, neutrality and honesty.

In the past, however, a similar situation has already occurred for the .blog extension. Then WordPress, the company now managing this extension, acquired the rights to .blog by hiding behind an unknown company names Automattic.

On the one hand, Verisign has been hiding itself behind Nu Dot Co to get the management of .web in its hands. On the other hand, the fact that Verisign didn’t follow the ‘standard’ procedure to solve the contention isn’t helping either.

The standard procedure is normally as follows: If several parties show an interest in the management of a new extension, the ICANN policy prescribes that these parties should reach an agreement among themselves. This can be done for instance when party A buys out party B or this can happen through an auction with an independent party. The amount that the winner puts on the table at such an auction is usually divided among the losers.

If the auction for .web had happened like this, 135 million US dollars would have been distributed among Afilias, Donuts and some other parties that wanted to acquire the rights to .web.

However, Verisign was convinced that they would win this auction and they did not want the money to go to their competitors. Due to their stubborn attitude, the auction was turned into an ‘ICANN auction of last resort’. In this way, the money from the winner goes onto a bank account of ICANN and is not distributed among the losers.

So this story is far from over. Due to this complaint that Afilias has submitted and which ICANN must handle, we will certainly not have to expect the .web extension before 2021.


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