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The Rules for Guys

Bill Gates

You may wonder about the Apple example, since Apple is an ordinary word. Apple Computer's trademark, however, only applies in the computer industry. In spite of what you might think, they don't own the word "Apple" on its own, they only own it when it comes to computers. The word "apple" has no meaning in the computer field. Within that sphere it's just a random word. So it's a suitable trademark. Apple Records, the Beatles' label, owns the trademark in the field of music.

You could not, for example, get a trademark for a "Binary Computer." "Binary" is a word that has real meaning when it comes to computers, and even if you try to pretend you own that name, anybody making a binary computer can call it that. Nobody is allowed ownership of the word "binary" when it comes to computers.

Yet in DNS we have let people get ownership of ordinary words or special words with established meanings. Apple Computer's ownership of "apple.com" means that Apple Records, Apple Auto Glass and the Washington Apple Board can't have what they would view as the obvious name for a commercial entity known by the name "apple."

It's my contention that most of the problems in DNS have come from us ignoring the lesson of trademarks, and letting people have monopoly ownership of generic words and phrases.

By saying, "there is one proper domain for commercial domains, named .com" we made every domain within .com a monopoly over that name in the commercial space. That included both generic terms, and even non-generic terms which have different meanings in different commercial spaces.

The Answer

If you've read the sheet of goals you might quickly conclude that there's no way to reconcile all the goals in one place. And indeed, within one hierarchy like .com there is not.

And alas, there is no way to reconcile the other goals with the goal of control. If powerful forces decide that not only do they want certain names for themselves but that there is a range of domains that nobody else can have, in no directory in the world, nothing can reconcile that desire except an equal amount of power allied against it.

Nonetheless, I believe the right answer is to allow lots of competing systems. Different TLDs in which different sets of goals can be attained. Completing ICANNs, each with its own rules, and each with its own brand-name TLD.

Thus, it is important that no one TLD be given an inherent advantage over any other TLD. Aside from the value of the goalset and rules it chooses, and the value it builds for itself over time, no TLD should be a better place than another for somebody seeking to register a domain name.

TLDs, as it turns out, are lookup-tables or directories, much like telephone white pages. As such, their names should be names that would be suitable trademarks for a directory service.