Free Market Domain Illusions
It may perhaps be an illusion that there exists somewhere or anywhere a free market, in some democracy in the world. This is a bold statement and perhaps presumptuous.
But if there is a place in the world with a truly free market economy, then I would like to be the first to know about it. In many seeming free market economies there is much red tape that still restricts the buying, selling and trading of goods and services. As well there are monopolies that govern the marketplace and which form collective partnerships with related businesses to control the market.
One such example is the domain name industry. In this electronic realm of commerce there is almost no regulation. Registrars do as they please with domain names they sell. They can and do set the price of domain extensions in partnership with Registries. They limit the listing of domain names for auction on their websites. all the while allowing nearly identical domain names to be listed for sale on their portal.
This control and autonomous power of the Internet is due to the fact that the Internet is not regulated by the government. “The Obama administration is months away from deciding whether the United States Government will continue to provide oversight over core functions of the Internet and protect it from authoritarian regimes that view the Internet as a way to increase their influence and suppress freedom of speech,” Cruz said in a statement.“1
In the article on this link: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/06/09/obama-administration-backs-plan-to-relinquish-internet-control.html various details are provided, which explain how the US government will relinquish what remaining control it has over the Internet. Initially the plan was to cede control to ICAAN, which is a so-called not for profit agency with assets of $99.82 million USD and revenue of $72.02 Million USD, as at 2011 (https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/proposed-opplan-budget-v1-fy12-17may11-en.pdf). Now there are plans to let the United Nations govern the Internet. It is uncertain what this will mean for the World Intellectual Property Organization WIPO and its role in regulating internationally protected trademarks.
Now that we can be sure that there will an increasing number of countries involved in Internet regulation, it is certain that no one will really know the rules of the game. Moreover, how can non profit organization have assets of nearly $100 Million USD and revenues of more than $70 Million USD. It seems clear that no one is really overseeing the Internet, which is perhaps the largest business in the world that continues to grow at an ever-increasing rate daily.
Some domain Registrars boast of revenue of more than $1.05 Billion and some Registries, which own hundreds of the nearly 2000 new gTLDs (generic Top-Level Domains) have assets in the high Billions USD with expenditure cash of more than $100 Million USD.
Can we be sure, with all of the above said that are interests are being protected; as consumers or domainers (people who buy, sell and trade domain names)? If the domain name industry is for the most part unregulated or self regulated and the Internet will soon be totally regulated by an entity whose purpose is to govern international matters of peace and harmony, then who is ‘minding the online store’?