Report: Public Interest Commitments & Premium .nyc Domain Names

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Jackson Hts., New York, January 3, 2014 – The New York Internet Society and Connecting.nyc Inc. convened a panel on December 18 to explore the prospect and impact of requiring Public Interest Commitments (PICs) for some of the unallocated .nyc domain names – names such as news.nyc, sports.nyc, and hotels.nyc.

Internet thought leader Avri Doria kicked off the panel with a most informative and reflective history on the origin of ICANN’s new TLD program and the evolving role of PICs. She expressed a mixed viewpoint on the role of PICs, but was dubious about domain names being considered “magic words” – leaning toward the “there’s always a viable alternative” viewpoint.

Avri was followed by Thomas Lowenhaupt, founding director of Connecting.nyc Inc., who suggested that unallocated .nyc domain names be mined for those that might be shaped to benefit the public interest; and that those names have PICs attached to their development rights. (See list of 3,069 premium names.) To achieve this goal he suggested city hall establish a PIC Oversight Board to facilitate the identification and development of names that might benefit the public interest.

  • The Board should create guidelines for identifying public interest names and administer a process for their selection. That process should maximize opportunities for public engagement.
  • The Board should identify PIC features that might aide the development of markets and quality of life: maps, searchable alpha and geographic listings, public rankings, comments, reviews, etc. Names should be assigned appropriate PICs.
  • The Board should devise policies that maximize opportunities for the creative development of public interest names. These policies should enable for a broad spectrum of society to avail themselves of the opportunities provides by this new resource (not just current market leaders). These might include innovation credits, subsidies, stretched payment schedules, and other incentives.
  • The Board should advise on suitable means of distributing PIC names: high-bid auction, request for proposals, or other processes.
  • On an ongoing basis the Board should monitor the efficacy of the PIC program.

Finally, Gabriel Levitt, commenting on the .pharmacy TLD, provided insight into the role domain names can play in shaping a market and the public’s interest. Timothy McGinnis provided additional commentary on that topic. A full report on the presentations, a Q&A, and links to panelist videos and slides can be found on the meeting report page.

[Subsequent to the panel, member Thomas Lowenhaupt noted that he’d neglected to mention an important policy consideration relating to premium names and PICs – equity. His concern is that with high-bid auctions the sole criteria determining premium name allocation, new New Yorkers with new visions but slim bank accounts will find it difficult to participate in the .nyc marketplace. He requested that the equity issue be noted here for inclusion in the ongoing conversation.]

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Of Master Plans & GreeneStreet.nyc

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Jackson Hts., New York, November 23, 2014 – While the language spoken was economics and the focus on ways to plan for further urbanization, last week’s Cities and Development: Urban Determinants of Success conference at New York University provided a salient message for cities planning their TLDs: create a master plan but use a marketing oriented development process.

The conferences’ premise was that urbanization willCommissioners Plan of 1811 continue as our planet’s population increases from 7 to 10 billion, requiring the building of cities for 5 billion additional residents. Paul Romer started things off with The Power of the Grid, a talk that put New York’s Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 at the center of our city’s successful development. Noting the grid’s development utility, its ease for packaging land parcels, and its reservation of 30% of the land for public use (mostly streets and sidewalks), Professor Romer urged that similar grids be central to planning for the 5 billion new residents that will move to cities over the next century.

In making this pitch Romer emphasized the utility the 1811 Plan’s public space, providing the opportunity for 200 years worth of city enhancements: water, gas, electric, and communication utilities below the streets. And transportation below (subways) and on the streets.

As Romer spoke I wondered how well we’d done planning our city’s TLD. Have we provided the capacity to build and evolve over the coming decades? If the Neustar contract is our TLD’s equivalent to the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, what is the quality of our planning effort? The elements that come to mind are the reserved names – the 800 neighborhood, BID, function, and institution names; the blocked/nuisance names; and the 2,000 premium names set for high-bid auction next year. Have we matched the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of the 1811 city builders? Are there changes we might still make, e.g., would capacity improve if we attached public interest commitments to the premium names?

Romer concluded his presentation noting that in these globalized times the efficiency of a city’s operations was key to corporate decisions on locating their resources. If our digital plan is measured in this regard how will our city fare? Will the hundreds of cities soon to acquire their TLDs learn from our experiences and best us?

Moving from telescope to microscope, next up were Bill Easterly and Laura Freschi who gave a 400 year history of one city block – Greene Street between Prince and Houston. The ups and downs of the block were presented in fine detail, from the days of its first European owners – when it was farmland owned and cultivated by slaves – to today’s sheik stores and multi-million dollar residences. The message was that the details of ownership and use are best taken care of by the market.

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Most interesting from a city-TLD perspective was the presentation’s concluding slide showing that the good professors had acquired development rights for the GreeneStreet.nyc domain name – see graphic. After the presentation I introduced myself to Bill Easterly and, noting my interest in city-TLDs, asked what the future held for greenestreet.nyc. A jovial fellow, he indicated their intent to use it to present and further their research on Greene Street, and that it was intended for public use.

Later I wondered about governance and access rights by residents of the other 10 blocks of Greene Street, and if perhaps our city would have been better served if our street names had public interest commitments attached.

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MentalHealth.nyc – $10 wins auction!

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Jackson Hts., New York, October 31, 2014 – After all the hullabaloo – creating Resolution Hall, the One Today campaign, etc. – the Landrush auction for MentalHealth.nyc ended today with a $10 winning bid. It was a surprising delight. And the name will now be used as a public interest resource. We’ll keep you posted.

But we  need to make an adjustment to our $1,000 goal for the One Today campaign. We’ve already raised more than the $10 needed to win the auction, and the campaign is set to end November 27. What to do? The One Today rules don’t allow any changes. We can either end the campaign, or we can let it proceed and donate any excess funds to QCNI, the not-for-profit that will be developing the MentalHealth.nyc site. That seems like a reasonable course, and if no one persuades us otherwise, is the  path we’ll follow. (For the curious, we received $12 as of November 7.)

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MentalHealth.nyc On Chopping Block

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Mental health beheading Jackson Hts., New York, October 21, 2014 – A small Queens mental health facility with which I’m associated today took a step toward rescuing the MentalHealth.nyc domain name from an unknown future. The organization had submitted an application for the name during .nyc’s Landrush and shortly thereafter received an email stating that more than one application for the name had been received; and that a high-bid auction would be held to decide which applicant would be awarded the development rights.

Today I watched as an account with the auctioneer, SnapName.com, was opened and we discussed how much we should be prepared to bid. Every minute there, focusing on an auction rather than our patients, seemed corrupt or dirty in some way.

Afterward I thought about ways we might garner the funds win the auction. I first checked out Medstartr.com, but found there was insufficient time. However, we had the opportunity to create a One Today project: Go there and give a buck.

NOTE: The auction began Tuesday the 28th and ends at 3:15 PM on Halloween. There’s no trick, just give a treat.

Also, Resolution Hall is still open but spooooooookerly empty.

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Resolution Hall Faltering – Needs A Goose

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mentalhealth.nycJackson Hts., New York, October 20, 2014 – The MentalHealth.nyc domain name was not reserved as a public interest resource in the review processes leading up to the activation of the .nyc TLD. As a result it was offered for sale during the Landrush period and two or more entities filed an application to use the domain name. A high-bid auction will begin on October 28 and select between the bidders. Development rights go to the winner. This will be a closed auction with the number and identity of the bidders remaining secret – unknown to the potential developers.

While other important public interest names were reserved, e.g., health.nyc, the city’s review process did not identify this name as worthy of special treatment. (See city’s reserved domain name list.) Wary of MentalHealth.nyc being squandered on a non public health use, (it has been suggested that the name could be fruitfully used to market a comedy club, a magic elixir of some sort…) Connecting.nyc Inc. mimicked the ICANN model for resolving name disputes and created a virtual meeting space, Resolution Hall. There the bidders might locate one another and discuss collaborations or in other ways amicably resolve development rights.

We’re now days away from the October 28 start of the auction and Resolution Hall is inactive. And the likelihood is that a high-bid auction will assign the development rights for MentalHealth.nyc. Worse, with 1,000 other domain names having received multiple bidders during Landrush, we wonder how many other public interest names might have slipped through the review process. Crazy.

With Resolution Hall faltering we again urge city hall take the following steps with regard to the 1,000 Landrush domain names set to go to auction beginning October 23:

  • Promptly publish the list of Landrush names that are set to go to auction.
  • Invite and enable city departments, the city council, the .NYC Community Advisory Board, and the public, to identify domain names that should be set aside as public interest resources.
  • Remove the identified public interest names from the October 23 and subsequent Landrush auctions.
  • Establish a process (perhaps Resolution Hall-like space) that facilitates their being developed in the public interest.

With regard to MentalHealth.nyc: as an officer of a not-for-profit mental health facility that submitted an application for that domain name, I offer the following as a possible solution, (perhaps a prototype for other names):

  • Send an email to all the applicants for MentalHealth.nyc asking them to declare their intent to use the name as a public interest resource.
  • Put those entities with a declared public interest use in touch with one another to discuss possible collaborations.
  • If no compromise is reached by the various public interest applicants, a high-bid auction might be one method of resolving disagreement.
  • Organizations without a public interest goal for the names should be instructed to seek an alternative name.

The auctions begin on October 23 so action by city hall is needed immediately.

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