11 September 2014

ICANN Economic Study RFP, Global Domain Name System Market

Interesting RFP--this should have been done on a regular basis beginning years ago (and certainly before new gTLDs were ever authorized); hopefully the contractor chosen will be unbiased and competent--if you know of any competent, qualified candidate, please pass this along:

Request for Proposal for Economic Study - ICANN: ICANN Announcement September 8, 2014:

"The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ("ICANN") is seeking one or more provider(s) to conduct an economic study examining pricing trends and other competition indicators in the global domain name system (DNS) market. The selected provider(s) will design and execute an initial study to create a meaningful baseline of data on multiple factors of competition and will perform a follow-on study one year later, to generate and analyze a set of comparison data. ICANN is seeking one or more qualified providers to manage this complex exercise in a timely and efficient manner.

"ICANN anticipates a contract to be signed and work to begin with the selected provider(s) no later than November 2014.

"As part of ICANN's Affirmation of Commitments ("Affirmation"), ICANN has pledged to promote competition, consumer trust, and consumer choice. The Affirmation outlines ICANN's responsibilities to the global community of Internet users, who are all served by the DNS. The Affirmation focuses on three primary areas of accountability: (a) ensuring accountability, transparency and the interests of global Internet users; (b) preserving security, stability and resiliency of the DNS; and (c) promoting competition, consumer trust and consumer choice. Each of the focus areas includes regular reviews by the community to gauge ICANN's performance.

"The economic study will capture some of the metrics proposed by ICANN's community to evaluate the impact of the New gTLD Program on competition, consumer choice and consumer trust. A multi-stakeholder review team, to be formed, will include the findings as it examines other measures of competition, such as survey findings on end users' perceived choice in the DNS, as well as the quantities of new gTLD operators, service providers, registrars, domain name registrations, and other metrics. The review may also provide recommendations to ICANN on additional initiatives that should be undertaken.

"As the DNS serves a large ecosystem of registries, registry service operators, registrars and resellers, and domain name registrants, the study must be able to capture inputs in a representative manner from across the multitude of players relevant to marketplace practices.

"For additional information and instructions for submitting responses please click here [ZIP, 799 KB].

"Proposals should be submitted to economicstudy-rfp@icann.org by 23:59 UTC on 29 September 2014." (source: ICANN, emphasis added)

  • What data, specifically, is being collected? What methodologies of data collection and analysis are being used? What data, specifically, is not being collected, or not able to be "captured" that might be relevant?
  • Who is interpreting the data? The data may be subject to multiple interpretations. Therefore, will ICANN disclose the raw data, the methodologies used for collection and analysis, and alternative interpretations?
  • How is ICANN (or anyone else) measuring (what are the "metrics") "competition, consumer choice and consumer trust"? These are loaded terms with multiple meanings depending on the vested interests at stake.

Recommendation to ICANN: If ICANN wants an unbiased, competent, valid study, it should automatically disqualify anyone from, or referred by, any member of the so-called Domain Name Association--this is the industry group representing, principally, some of the new gTLD registry operators and others in alliance with their self-seeking goals, which may be detrimental to the interests of the domain name industry as a whole or the wider public interest--the conflict of interest is obvious.

Report submitted by: contributing editor, John Poole, Domain Mondo

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