MLS Domains Association LogoThe Los Angles Times reported today that ICANN, the international non-profit that manages internet top level domains has indicated that they will not be releasing any new TLDs at this time. If you believe the article, this will stall the efforts of the MLS Domains Associationand the Canadian Association of REALTORS who were hopeful that they would be successful at securing the .MLS domain extension for real estate. (MLS Domains and the Canadian Associaton of REALTORS announced that they are working together). But alas, the news sometimes gets it wrong. Which may be the case here according to MLS Domains Association director, Brian Larson:

“The news story on which your post is based misstates the situation (or perhaps overstates it). Only digital archery was suspended. According to ICANN, the evaluation process is continuing as designed.”

As many know, the efforts to secure the .MLS domain name has two separate but important strategic goals that will benefit the real estate industry. The first goal is defensive: block some third party from securing the .MLS extension. The second is aspirational: to create a place for listing content on the internet that assures consumers that they are viewing listing data derived from the MLS and displayed by authorized site owners who agree to a rules structure. Both excellent strategies.

The Times cited a mirage of reasons behind their decision to suspend the release of new TLDs. To summarize, it seems that the ICANN organization is unorganized and remarkably incompetent. In fairness to ICANN,  their task is not simple.

When the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers decided to expand the domain landscape — letting brands and anyone else with the money apply for the rights to own and run .anything — it did so to create competition in a world of expanding demand. And competition is what it’s getting. That’s clear now that ICANN has revealed who’s going after what domain extensions and where there are competing applications.

1,409 unique domain names applied for
116 are Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), meaning they use non-Latin script
230 domain names have more than one applicant vying for the same name
13 applicants for .app
10 applicants for .art
11 applicants for .home
3 applicants for .sucks
Microsoft is applying for 11
Twitter and Facebook are applying for zero
The big collision among the applicants: Amazon vs. Google. Google is going after 101 new domain extensions — not just names like .Youtube, but odd ones like .Dog. And Amazon is going after 76.

The Times Article cited the following issues facing ICANN:

In April, ICANN temporarily suspended receiving applications after discovering software glitches. It reopened the process last month. This month, another glitch left sensitive information of some applicants exposed online.

Then Saturday, ICANN halted the complicated selection process citing an unspecified glitch. The computerized system was designed to pick proposed extensions impartially.

Either way, applicants found the system unfair and difficult to use, said Michael Graham, a Chicago intellectual property lawyer who specializes in Internet cases.

The problems have led to increased scrutiny of the obscure organization.

“It’s a scary thought considering what they’re trying to do in changing the Internet architecture,” said Scott Bain, a lawyer with the Software & Information Industry Assn.

ICANN has been in charge of the Internet domain name system since 1998. Before that, the system was regulated by the U.S. government, but the Clinton administration transferred authority to the Southern California nonprofit as the Internet’s global reach made oversight by a single government unworkable.

But the organization is overseen by a hodgepodge of representatives from governments, businesses and academia who often disagree on how the Internet should be run.

“Inherently, when a bunch of divergent voices come together and voice what they want, not everyone’s going to walk away happy,” said Michael H. Berkens, chief executive of Worldwide Media Inc. and editor of the blog the Domains.

ICANN last week hired Fadi Chehadé, most recently the head of cloud-based software provider Vocado, as chief executive to replace Rod Beckstrom. Chehadé, who will take over in October, portrayed himself as a consensus builder at a news conference in Prague on Friday.

“Issues do occur. The question is, ‘What are we doing about the issues?’ ” Chehadé said. “Do we have the processes in place to deal with them, and I believe we do.”

Some say a large United Nations-like organization should be in charge of regulating the Web. “The question, from other countries’ points of view is, ‘Who died and made you boss?’ ” said Joe Touch, director of USC’s Internet research group, the Postel Center.

Others say the organization’s convoluted structure is necessary to keep Internet regulation independent. The contrasting interests of the various stakeholders force compromise, said Tamar Frankel, a Boston University law professor who was involved in ICANN’s development.

“For the Internet to be a useful and successful service to the world, there should never be one ruler,” Frankel said. “There should always be a conglomerate of conflicting interests. Every rule should be hashed out by many. No one should be a winner.”