Never invited, but always present

Listening today to the U.S. Congress’ House of Representatives Subcommittee on Communications and Technology hearing on ICANN governance reminded me just how often Vox Populi Registry, the company bringing dotSucks names to the Internet, is a guest at parties to which it has never been invited.

Sometimes, like today, we are able to view it all from a distance and mostly we have refrained from trying to correct every misstatement or argue each odd point. That approach will hold here even though, once again, the dotSucks domain names were cited as an example of failure and bad faith.

The Internet’s plumbing has never been a point of popular discussion. With the advent of such consumer friendly devices as the iPhone and services like Twitter, broad awareness of the intricacies of the domain name system was low and likely to stay there.

That changed when the U.S. Department of Commerce announced its intention to move oversight of one particular, technical (if you can call a spreadsheet technical) contract — the one governing the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority or “eye-ann-uh”. The matter now popped into view and those long-pressing a particular point, whether practical or legal or organizational — caught a second wind.

To win to their cause those newly arrived, now focused and worried about this transition, there was the natural rise of rhetoric and analogy. Both are useful devices. Each can help advocates on every side of the issue create the understanding they seek to promote of hard-to-grasp or obscure activities. It becomes a bit more pointed when you, as we have, become a part of the story and misleading point-of-emphasis based on deliberate misinformation.

Whether it is about our policies, pricing or business model, the “facts” are more likely culled from industry and lawyers’ blogs than from the source material that can easily be found at our website. And if questions do persist, we have been available to all who have called. But, again, not many have.

Even the briefing document prepared by Congressional staff for today’s hearing cited only news reports.

Here are a few of the things this leads us to think:

We think it is wrong to say dotSucks names are evidence of a lack of ICANN accountability. In fact, our path to market is evidence that ICANN is accountable in this case. There were three companies vying for the right to operate this particular registry, with applications publicly filed more than three years ago.

There were public comment periods and the government advisory committee asked ICANN multiple times for enhanced safeguards. At each turn, the applications progressed. More important to us is that the Vox Populi Registry application never needed to be amended from its initial filing because it had already committed to those safeguards.

We think cybersquatting (a crime in the U.S. and so a label that ought to be carefully pasted on anyone’s wall) and trolling won’t survive in the dotSucks registry because of the rules established to defeat such purpose.

We think the current controversy is rooted in the likelihood that dotSucks domain names will be deployed for the purpose we proposed in early 2012, to rally and give voice to consumers and advocates.

We think the criticism of our suggested pricing comes from those who see a dotSucks name as just another address on the Internet. We are priced higher than mass-market domains because dotSucks is not just an address, it is an activity that can yield benefit for both consumer and company. It is on the basis of this real value that we have suggested the pricing plan.

With 600 new gTLDs approved, is it really a surprise that some might create new types of business models and approach their markets in new ways? Our goal is not to flood the Internet with names and serve as a platform for phishers, pharmers and malware.

We think a bigger problem for us is that some of our competition offers space on the Internet for free. Visit Facebook and search for a company along with the word “sucks.” A hit almost every time. If we did not think we were offering a better approach – delivering real value — how could we hope to compete with free?

And, if we are wrong, we will fail. What could be more market driven than that?