May 30, 2024

Solum's Response on .mobile

Larry Solum, at Legal Theory Blog, responds to my .mobile post from yesterday. He also points to a recently published paper he co-authored with Karl Mannheim. The paper looks really interesting.

Solum’s argument is essentially that creating .mobile would be an experiment, and that the experiment won’t hurt anybody. If nobody adopts .mobile, the experiment will have no effect at all. And if some people like .mobile and some don’t, those who like it will benefit and the others won’t be harmed. So why not try the experiment? (Karl-Friedrich Lenz made a similar comment.)

The Mannheim/Solum paper argues that ICANN should let a thousand gTLDs bloom, and should use auctions to allocate the new gTLDs. (gTLDs are Generic Top-Level Domains such as .com, .org, or .union) The paper argues persuasively for this policy.

If ICANN were following the Mannheim/Solum policy, or some approximation to it, I would agree with Solum’s argument and would be happy to see the .mobile experiment proceed. (But I would still bet on its failure.) No evidence for its viability would be needed, beyond the sponsors’ willingness to outbid others for the rights to that gTLD.

But today’s ICANN policy is to authorize very few gTLDs, and to allocate them administratively. In the context of today’s policy, and knowing that the creation of one new gTLD will be used to argue against the creation of others, I think a strong case needs to be made for any new gTLD. The proponents of .mobile have not made such a case. Certainly, they have not offered a convincing argument that theirs is the best way to allocate a new gTLD, or even that their is the best way to allocate the name .mobile.


  1. Let’s be realistic. The notion that what’s going on here is some kind of a scientific experiment (“proof of concept”) in order to understand what lessons can be learned before regularizing the addition of new TLDs is advanced window-dressing. The lessons are entirely obvious to anyone who’s watching: Over-regulate, and you fail — see .name, see .pro (DOA), see Open it up, and you succeed — see .info, see .us.

    Whatever happens to the sponsored TLDs that are being added now is (1) irrelevant for the fate of future sponsored TLDs (since these are favored by business/IP anyway — after all, several prospective sponsors are members of the business constituency, and even presented at the bizconst’s meeting in Rome), and (2) irrelevant for the fate of future unsponsored TLDs (business/IP are against them, and more sponsored TLDs don’t yield new information about unsponsored TLDs).

    On the other hand, I’m concerned that any further “beauty contests” adds to the bad precedent that has already been set by the 2000 round of new TLDs. I’d rather see ICANN use the good mechanisms to enable bad TLDs *now*.

  2. Cypherpunk says

    I don’t know that “the creation of one new gTLD will be used to argue against the creation of others”. It seems to me that as more and more gTLDs are created, that wil eventually lower the barrier to creating them. When you have only 10, adding a new one carries considerable impact. But when you have 100 or 1000, what’s one more?