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High Stakes in .Gay Top Level Domain Ownership Battle

Scott Seitz, president of dotgay, llc.

Scott Seitz, president of dotgay, llc.

BY DUNCAN OSBORNE | In a move that may impact queer businesses and groups around the globe, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) may soon decide whether .gay, a top level domain, will be controlled by a business that buys and sells domain names or by community groups organized through the efforts of a for-profit company.

“We’re literally creating an Internet community that functions with the sensibility of our community,” said Scott Seitz, the president of dotgay, llc, the company that has submitted a community application to ICANN to control the .gay domain.

In his application to the Internet policy-making body, which cost $185,000 to file, Seitz proposed that dotgay, llc, which is for-profit, would control the top level domain, but that “authentication partners” would participate in the process of approving the use of the .gay name by community groups, businesses, and individuals. That means that people visiting those sites would have greater confidence that a site is legitimate and it would make it harder for people to register anti-gay sites, such as godhatesfags.gay or exgay.gay.

One company competing for rights says it will serve LGBT community members, groups best

Seitz said that in five years the .gay domain could generate revenues from $30 million to $100 million. If he wins the domain, his operations will be governed by a contract he would sign with ICANN. The proposed contract says that Seitz will return 67 percent of the profits from .gay to the community.

“We’re the only ones committing by contract in the end to a community relationship,” he said. “We have to get comfortable with transparency.”

At present, there are 22 top level domains, such as .com or .org, with an additional 200 or so country or government domain names. ICANN is releasing another 1,400 top level domains and that launched an application frenzy among businesses and communities to win the names. ICANN appears to be overwhelmed by the volume of applications.

“Because this is all new, they’re really not hitting any of their deadlines at all,” Seitz said, adding that the .gay application was slated to have been decided three years ago. “It was supposed to be done by 2011.”

With the support of 239 queer groups representing 200,000 businesses and seven million people from around the globe, Seitz is competing against three companies that have filed business applications for .gay. Those businesses have applied for other top level domain names, with one seeking to own 10 names. The other two have collectively applied for hundreds of names.

Two of the companies — Top Level Domain Holdings Limited and United TLD Holdco Ltd., a subsidiary of Demand Media, a Seattle company — either did not respond to a request for comment or declined to comment.

Raymond King, the chief executive of Top Level Design, LLC, the third applicant, referred Gay City News to editorials he has published on gay websites. In effect, King argues that the dotgay, llc proposal will constrain speech and limit access to the .gay domain. That view has some support in the queer community.

GOProud, the gay conservatives group, and the Metroplex Republicans of Dallas filed objections with ICANN to the dotgay, llc application. They argued that given the wider community’s hostility to gay conservatives and Republicans, they were likely to be barred from using the .gay domain, while a free market would afford them the same access as anyone else. It costs 5,000 euros, or just under $7,000, to file an objection.

GOProud’s objection was disallowed after it filed one that was over the word limit and it did not respond in a timely fashion to a request from ICANN to remedy that. A September 2013 ruling by an ICANN expert dismissed the Metroplex objection.

Seitz readily concedes that .gay domains will be more expensive under the dotgay, llc proposal, but the benefit is that the community will have substantial participation in and control over the .gay domain. That does not guarantee that there will not be disputes, but it does mean that, for example, small queer businesses won’t be competing with large businesses that buy and sell domain names.

“It doesn’t mean you’re not going to have conflict because there is going to be theeagle.net, theeagle.biz, theeagle.com, but they’re going to be community names against community names and we’ll try and work with them to find resolution,” Seitz said. “In that case, it’ll be a little bit of an auction, but it’s going to be a limited auction to a handful of people in the community that want it instead of an auction with domain grabbers.”

13 Responses to High Stakes in .Gay Top Level Domain Ownership Battle

  1. Leslie Phillips January 8, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Hi Duncan – this is a good story.

    I wanted to let you know that Scott Seitz will be speaking at a conference February 19 in Washington DC at the Newseum on how new gTLDs will affect end-users. It would be great if you could come.

    The conference Beyond the Dot 2014 will bring together policymakers, corporate representatives, non-profit staff, government officials, and average Internet users to explore how new gTLDs will change the way we approach Internet navigation, commerce, search, security and more.

    This conference will be the first about the expansion of the TLD space to be held in the Washington area and the first of its kind to address how the addition of 1,400 new TLDs will affect the average Internet user.

    Confirmed speakers so far are:

    John Negroponte, former Ambassador and former Director of National Intelligence
    David Weller, head of global trade policy at Google, .
    Kathy Baird, SVP, Adjunct Professor, Masters in Public Relations and Corporate Communications, Georgetown University
    Akram Atallah, President, Global Domains Division, ICANN
    Dr. Laura DeNardis, Internet governance scholar and Professor in the School of Communication at American University
    David McAuley, BNA
    Scott Seitz, President, dotgay LLC
    Will Martinez, Director .GOP Registry, Republican State Leadership Committee
    Nils Wollny, Managing Director Strategy at SinnerSchrader
    Jeff Neuman, Vice President, Registry Services at Neustar, Inc.
    Shaul Jolles, CEO, Dot Registry, LLC
    Dustin Trevino, CFO, Dot Vegas, Inc

    FairWinds Partners is an Internet consultancy with many Fortune 1-50 clients who applied for new top level domains. (Did you know that some corporates have tens of thousands of domain names? And they need someone to manage, advise, and strategize about them. That's where FairWinds comes in).

    This link will take you to our website invitation page: http://www.fairwindspartners.com/Events/Beyond-th
    Obviously the media get free admission, as do non-profits, govt officials, etc.
    I hope you can mention the event in a posting or calendar.

    One more tidbit – http:///wwwbeyondthedot.com is an educational website FairWinds created to help the general public understand what is upon them. Check it out. It's really good. Any mention of that website would be much appreciated as well, and would also be a public service.

    If you continue to write about .GAY or other new top level domains, please consider calling us for expert commentary, analysis, and explanations. Thanks!

    Best,

    Leslie Phillips
    SVP Marketing and Communications
    FairWinds Partners
    1000 Potomac St. Suite 350
    Washington D.C. 20007
    Office: 202-499-4419
    Mobile: 202-531-4767
    FairWinds Domain Name Strategy Blog
    gTLD Strategy Blog @fairwindspartners http://www.facebook.com/FairWindsPartners

    Reply
  2. Harris Lirtzman January 9, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Duncan,

    Really interesting and informative article about an important topic.

    Keep us posted on developments.

    Reply
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  3. TheBrutalKremlin January 9, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Oh G-R-E-A-T, one lone company in the queer "community" is going to govern an entire section of the entire section of the internet?? Is this going to work as well as the current "Rainbow Businesses" who surcharge gays for the same goods and services listed at lower rates in/on non"rainbow" venues?

    Or, rather, is it just going to boil down into another gay-for-pay advert-driven Politically Correct load of crap like the rest of the offically 'administered' 'community'?

    This wreaks of corruption.

    Reply
    • scott January 10, 2014 at 2:55 pm

      Hi

      Totally get your concern, and I am sure you are not alone in asking this. take a look… we have been working in the community for 18 years and know how this could appear. for that reason we have a commitment (even by contract with ICANN) to be inclusive of the community and we know that to keep it real. To validate and that we are not cooking the books, we are making a pledge to transparency as well. We cant say that we are giving 67% of profits back and not expect to demonstrate we are in fact doing that. Its in more detail on the website http://www.dotgay.com . We totally get your concern and have gone out of our way to try and provide proof that its not a scam. Our business competitors on the other hand have no website nor are they obligated to live up to anything that they promise since the "standard"/business applications are under less scrutiny from ICANN. We have created this program with conversations with hundreds of people in the community, I truly believe it will be amazing. thanks again! Scott

      Reply
  4. SupporterofDotGay January 10, 2014 at 9:01 am

    @TheBrutalKremlin – you are obviously sadly misinformed. Get your knowledge up to speed. dotgay llc is your absolute best option.

    Reply
  5. E.A. Lent AVM January 10, 2014 at 10:04 am

    At last! Someone who is personally committed to the GAY community. Thank you! Mr Seitz, we've been lazy and busy at Starbucks or the gym thinking we are just like everyone straight! We are not! There are places in America were we can be fired because we are gay, places in the world where we can be raped or killed because we are gay. If we ever needed a hero it's in these uncharted waters. It's as if all we wanted to do was get married and now that that's done we can shop online getting cute gifts and go back to sleep. We cannot rest, we can never rest in fighting fairness. We are not equal and now even a straight domain grabber could buy HRC.gay or GLAAD.gay and hold them for ransom to purchase their own organization back and make a profit. We need protections from hate, locally,nationally and globally. The gay community needs advocates like mr seitz to help us up by our bootstraps and Merrill's. The original gay ancients had hearts, they gave back to the community because they wanted us to be more than happy hour beer blasts, designer under wear with enhancing pouches and the right sunglasses. Thank you for your generosity, for gay Americans here who's life partners must be invisible, gay moms and dads who can't adopt, that could stop a young boy being beaten and tied to a fence, for the uncounted millions of gay people around the world who can be hanged for being gay.

    I run a support group for gay disabled people who worry that they will be kicked out or loose their jobs or apartments not due to their disability but because they are gay. Next door, gay teens meet who have been thrown out of their homes because they are gay. The AIDs project downstairs started a food bank because funding has been cut and men and women with AIDS are in greater need not just for drugs but to eat.

    The world is primitive and cruel, the internet still the Wild West. You have my vote, my blessing and thanks.

    Reply
  6. spyboy January 10, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    It seems to me that this will all work much better within a focused framework, and better yet with one that is community based. I also feel this is a logical approach that would make more sense for users while presenting a more unified voice at a critical time. Clearly x billion people on a rock hurtling through space singing “I Got to Be Me” is not working well.

    Reply
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  10. Llexen June 4, 2014 at 4:57 pm

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