Branding Consultant Joseph Peterson Weighs in on Disparaging Remarks by Fadi Chehade at Davos

This is a comment as post made with kind permission by Branding Consultant & Domain Investor Joseph Peterson.

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I’m pleased to hear the CEO of ICANN highlighting the new TLDs in Arabic and other non-Latin scripts. To my mind, out of the entire nTLD initiative, those constitute the only truly justifiable expansion to the internet. Whether they’ll become important remains to be seen. Of course, now that Pandora’s box is open, other nTLDs (which weren’t really necessary) exist for innovative use and abuse.

Mr. Chehade’s contention that cybersquatting will be reduced is arguable.Current evidence indicates otherwise; so we’d have to give his “eventually” the benefit of the doubt. As for the idea that dot X is interchangeable with dot Y, well, as good as it sounds in the abstract, that notion flies in the face of actual market behavior to the point of being (if not ridiculous) remarkably out of touch / politically optimistic. In reality, how many consumers have seen .BIZ as a suitable replacement for an unavailable .COM? Would the Huffington Post have opted for HuffingtonPost.xyz or HuffingtonPost.guru? If not, then the situation hasn’t really changed, despite the massive list of extra TLDs.

What is cybersquatting really? ICANN has become a very rich organization partly through flooding the market with this bewildering inventory. I’d argue that ICANN has, in fact, obligated many website owners to additional ongoing waste, risk, and cost by multiplying domain-related ambiguities. Whereas formerly HuffingtonPost.com would have sufficed, this very website might now confront the added burden of securing a .POST domain to match its .COM. And for what? So that some startup can begin with their own .POST? Won’t they also be competing with an equally viable, matching .COM? In that case, they’ll eventually purchase 2 domains instead of 1. Truly, that is innovation!

Startups are disadvantaged thanks to ICANN simultaneously releasing .PICS, .PICTURES, .PHOTO, .PHOTOS, and .PHOTOGRAPHY – a decision I’d consider irresponsible. You may choose to look at this diversity as freedom of choice between 5 nearly identical nTLDs (to say nothing of pre-existing menu options like .COM and .NET). But for many registrants, it’s not a question of “EITHER / OR”; it’s the necessity of “AND AND AND”. Either they pay a minimum of several hundred dollars per year to secure the whole bunch; or else they risk extra competition in SERPs, confusion among customers, lost traffic, misdirected emails, and even phishing schemes.

This extra cost is not negligible; it’s a drag force on the internet as a whole, taxing web development and (by extension) consumers. Some ICANN-licensed registries charge as much as $60,000 per year for domains. We shouldn’t view the nTLD program as wholly beneficent or entirely misguided. It’s simply a mixed bag. Mr. Chehade’s interview very much downplays the negatives; so I’m skipping over plenty of positives here to accentuate those drawbacks.

Worst of all, perhaps, is Mr. Chehade’s egregiously misjudged word choice when he refers to people “hogging names”. Although he may not have intended to insult the domain investment community, he certainly did so. In fact, my colleagues were so incensed over at TheDomains.com that they have drawn attention to what might be called ICANN hypocrisy. That includes susceptibility to lobbyists and luxuriously padded salaries, which domain investors are taxed to provide this allegedly “non-profit” organization. In point of fact, many of the registries that ICANN has licensed to hoard and sell these new TLDs have grown rich by “hogging” hundreds of thousands of premium .COM domains; and some have registered tens of thousands of their own nTLD domains in order to “hog” them. Fine by me. But an inconsistent position for ICANN.

There is nothing wrong with investing in large amounts of property – whether that’s land, housing, artwork, automobiles, or domain names. But there is certainly something wrong with ICANN licensing some of the biggest “hogs” as nTLD registries while simultaneously slighting or condemning the broader domain investment community. The main difference seems to be that ICANN does lucrative business with the registries, who are essentially large organized domain resellers – no different from those who buy a large number of domains for profit.

Mr. Chehade’s phrase “hogging domains” concerns me not only because it’s selectively applied but because it suggests a poor understanding of one of ICANN’s major constituencies. More than any other group, domain resellers promote smart domain usage. They’re the outsourced marketing arm of the domain industry; and domainers play a large part in furthering adoption of the very nTLDs Mr. Chehade is so enthusiastic about. Perched on ICANN’s mountain of money, its CEO may well regard those “hogging” crumbs as pests. But it’s those worker ants who move domains around, getting them to the right people for actual use.

“Hogging” may be nothing more than a slip of the tongue, but it’s a slip of the tongue nobody actively engaging in the domain market would ever make. Implying that people are greedy pigs doesn’t win their support.

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At The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade said of domain investors they are, “hogs,” and alluded to them as, “cybersquatters.” Mr. Peterson’s comment, above, is a reprint of a comment made on the Huffington Post article, Fedi Chehadi Explains the “Powerful” Innovations Surrounding Domain Names Today, by Paige Lavender. Lots of good points made by Mr. Peterson, such as domain resellers promote, “smart domain usage . . . getting the right domain to the right people.” Mr. Peterson is a Branding Consultant and Domain Investor. View his LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/domainnameconsultant .

Well said! Not much I can add to that. Mr. Peterson’s quote was approved days after the original article on the Huffington Post, is why you may not have read it.

Fedi Chehadi Explains the “Powerful” Innovations Surrounding Domain Names Today
Huffington Post

Mike Berkens of theDomains blog reacted right away:

ICANN CEO Fadi Bites The Hand That Feeds It Calling out Those “Hogging” Domains”
theDomains

with 18 comments of those who commiserate.

Kieren McCarthy weighed in on the Register:

ICANN CEO criticizes domain ‘hoggers’
But just who’s eating at the trough?
The Register

In the mean time, the ICA (Internet Commerce Association) drafted a response to Fadi Chehade’s Davos remarks, calling them disdainful, hostile, mischaracterizing, disparaging, and perceptually inaccurate:

ICA Responds to ICANN CEO’s Davos Remarks on “Hogging Names” and “Cybersquatting”
InternetCommerce

and Kevin Murphy published a summary on his blog, DomainIncite, of Mr. Chehade’s response to questioning of his earlier remarks, where he had the opportunity to clarify that he didn’t mean to villianize a legitimate industry. He side-stepped his accountability:

Chehade declines to backtrack on domain “hogging” comments
DomainIncite

DomainMondo posted the Youtube recording of Chehade responding to the question here:

Fadi Chehade on Domain Hoggers, IANA Transition (ICANN 52 video); US NTIA Pressures Stakeholders
DomainMondo

My comment posted on Facebook
It was posted to Facebook, but rejected for the Huffington Post article.

New York Times trepidation of new gTLDs from 2013
When You Can’t Tell Web Suffixes Without a Scorecard by Natasha Singer
NY Times

More feedback from Mike Berkens

To The CEO Of ICANN Fadi Chehade: Do You Think Vodafone Is The Biggest Domain Hogger?
theDomains

18. February 2015 by Louise
Categories: Home | 3 comments

Comments (3)

  1.  ”new TLDs in Arabic and other non-Latin scripts. To my mind, out of the entire nTLD initiative, those constitute the only truly justifiable expansion to the internet”

    Myself and many others have been saying and betting/investing/hoarding on this for years. The .whatevers are just a HUGE cash grab.
    Opening up the Internet to ALL languages makes it a truly inclusive place. Idn.idn for
    .com is WAY overdue. Get on with it asap.

    • I wouldn’t say that the nTLDs are “just a huge cash grab.” In part, they are a cash grab, as all for-profit initiatives must be. Arguably their speculative benefits have been exaggerated.

      But whether their introduction on such a massive scale was justified or not in balance is now a moot point. They have been introduced; and they entail a mixture of pros and cons & risks, costs, benefits, and opportunities. Yes, there are good points as well as bad. While nTLD domains make up only a small percentage of my portfolio, I do own hundreds of them – both IDN and non-IDN.

      Registries have called this nTLD initiative innovative. As the faculty of human invention goes, shifting a dot from [blah]Enterprises.com to [blah].Enterprises is about as unimpressive as it gets. Little changes.

      But the difference with IDN extensions is that they aimed for true innovation in a way that theoretically might affect billions people – Chinese speakers, Arabic speakers, and more. Giving them the option to write and read in their own script -whether they exercise that option or not – is very important.

  2. Thanx for the post, @ Joseph Peterson! This summary is genius:

    More than any other group, domain resellers promote smart domain usage. They’re the outsourced marketing arm of the domain industry . . . Mr. Chehade . . may well regard those “hogging” crumbs as pests. But it’s those worker ants who move domains around, getting them to the right people for actual use.