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I'm curious. I've been scratching my head over much of the discussion over WLS, Verisign, ICANN, and monopolies. It seems like many things come down to ones personal vision of what the domain marketplace should BE like, and where it should go.
To preface, please excuse any broad generalizations or tenuous connections I make. This issue is so big and broad, a thorough technical analysis perfectly formed wouldn't be very easy to write or read in this context (least not for me).
So, one of my biggest problems, has always been with the notion that WLS would be a "monopoly". Now, this IS NOT another WLS discussion, this is actually about something else. The reason I'm having trouble seeing it as a monopoly, is because I have trouble seeing Verisign's current position as a monopoly that is abusing the position... generally, monopolies work to crush competition and unfairly leverage its products above others. Ok, stop... stop... Moving away from the WLS discussion (for now), it would seem that other registries would be Verisign's competition (BIZ, INFO, US, etc) though I don't see them trying to marginalize them or unfairly require registrars to only use Verisign managed TLDs. (Maybe I'm missing something?) One of the things that the anti-trust courts seem to be clear on, is that being a monopoly is not in itself illegal, but that stifling competition clearly would be.
Moreover, the ability exists to create other namespaces, but largely, the marketplace seems to have said "No, we think the current offering is better." Basically, things like New.net come off largely like "scams", regardless of the degree of effort and integrity they've tried to assert. Not sure I've read any well articulated discussions about supporting new roots.
Similar to the Microsoft monopoly of operating systems, Verisign's monopoly seems to be actively supported by even the most educated and forward thinking in the industry... even while complaining about it. The paradox I keep coming to is that there can only be ONE registry, right? To me, adding WLS to Verisign's registry and charging a standard fee for it, reads similar to the furor generated over Microsoft bundling IE as part of Windows, and marginalizing Netscape to the dungeons of obscurity. It's pretty messed up, because similar to my desire to SEE a Waiting-List Service, I've appreciated the strides Internet Explorer has created in providing built-in support for "web-browsing" as a component structure inside of Windows that many applications can call to. Many companies have released new "browsers", that in all essence is Internet Explorer with a new coat of paint. The most famous of these browsers was one called "NeoPlanet" (for those who remember)... actually, I'll take that back, the new MSN Explorer seems to be a brand of this as well, as well as AOL's browser client for windows (which makes use of IE as a browsing component tightly integrated into its software).
Back to Versign, similarly, a central WLS product allows for many new types of services as well, inside of a standardized environment. All of this I realize, conveniently ignoring the discussions about policies, procedures, contract violations, etc. At once, WLS is a *different* offering from other "drop-services" (being guaranteed and integrated with the registry), while also blocking out other services (like NameWinner or Pool) as blindingly inferior offerings in a move that completely devastates an entire sector of products. Similarly Netscape would allege that having IE pre-installed and fully supported negates any desire that anyone would install or use Netscape.
But, moving away for WLS again, here's a question... shouldn't issues like this be addressed by a loss of support by those who Verisign is servicing with its product? Shouldn't the "market" talk and begin ernest support for different registries? I see .BIZ is working hard towards getting its numbers up. Unfortunately, I've seen more support for .TV than .TV or .BIZ. Back to the different root issue, recently, Dodora has introduced support for New.net. As usual, I sneered and turned up my nose with an attitude of "New.net... geez, are they still around...? Bah." Meanwhile, companies like Linux are forging forward and beginning to significantly effect Microsoft... even to the point of having one of Microsoft Windows' chief mindshare rivals, Apple Computer, create an OS offering (in OS X) that lines up nicely with this Unix-based movement. Meanwhile, in the domain name industry, I see that everyone seems to continue to fight for maintaining the monopoly Verisign represents, actively relishing .COM by assuming no personal responsibility for the underlying support t represents... and complaining as inevitable unfairness creeps up again and again.
Does this manner of thinking/questioning make any sense? Part of the reason I find it hard to view Verisign as a monopoly is in the paradoxes that seem to present themselves here. I personally like .COM and .NET... but in on the content side, I know that I have a choice. Many people dealling from the PPC, traffic oriented side seem more bound to being "Verisign developers" than free-agents like myself... but I can't help thinking that our choices still exist and shape the battleground all of these confrontations happen on.
Alternate opinions appreciated...
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Verisign (NSI again) is definitely a monopoly or probably more truly an oligopoly. No, they are not 100% of the domain market, but they do control 100% of the .com market which is the most valuable. All registrars pay $6 for domains from NSI and there is no competition for .com registRY services. Yes the registRAR services are no longer a monopoly, but the registry is. NSI was used to getting 100% of both and is still trying to make up that loss of revenue. What better way than to get a guaranteed fee of $25 for every desired reregistration from every registrar, plus the original $6 whether renewed or snapped up in a WLS. The WLS does trump the competition such as namewinner, snapnames, etc. which violated the "stifling competition" you mentioned. The aftermarket was working (somewhat) and improving without it.So, one of my biggest problems, has always been with the notion that WLS would be a "monopoly". Now, this IS NOT another WLS discussion, this is actually about something else. The reason I'm having trouble seeing it as a monopoly, is because I have trouble seeing Verisign's current position as a monopoly that is abusing the position... generally, monopolies work to crush competition and unfairly leverage its products above others. Ok, stop... stop... Moving away from the WLS discussion (for now), it would seem that other registries would be Verisign's competition (BIZ, INFO, US, etc) though I don't see them trying to marginalize them or unfairly require registrars to only use Verisign managed TLDs. (Maybe I'm missing something?) One of the things that the anti-trust courts seem to be clear on, is that being a monopoly is not in itself illegal, but that stifling competition clearly would be.
If a WLS allowed any registrar, not the registry to set the price and collect the fee for a WLS service, then it would not be seen as a monopoly on .com/net renewals. Because NSI sets the price and get the fee on 100% makes it a different story. Renewals should be in the hands of the registrars, not the registry. The registry does probably need to be a regulated monopoly, since the root for the TLD needs to be a single database. If a WLS needs to be handled on a single database as well, then a regulated reasonable profit based on actual costs plus a small guaranteed profit is okay, but it would cerainly be less than what NSI wants to charge.
NSI, like no other registry controls a large market of the registry as well as the legacy registrar business. The newer registries mostly do not direct sell domain names in competition with their own customer registrars. This is the same argument in the MS case that by controlling the OS and Software businesses, MS can technically offer better software for their own OS since the get advance technology notice and have alleged hidden OS secrets other software makers don't.
The current drop system is bad, but the WLS even limits some of the choices in it, and NSI is behind it making them the monopoly trying to get another aftermarket monopoly on top of the current registrar one.
People prefer .com because it's the defacto default, not becuse it's technically any better. This is no diferent than Windows for OS software, Word for word processing, or ebay for auctions. Dot-com, Windows, and Ebay aren't the only choices, but they are the only reasonable and easy business choices for the bulk of their markets. All will fight to keep that dominance and profitable revenue stream by lack of "real" competition.
In my opionion, a registry should not be in the registrar or aftermarket business, as it's a conflict of interest.
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