Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.
ICANN Posts New gTLD Questions Paper

6 July 2005

In September 2004 ICANN published a strategy for the implementation of new top-level domains (TLDs). The strategy called for the implementation of a strategy that would appropriately take into account many relevant technical, economic, socio-political and cultural issues. In light of several new developments regarding DNS operations and structure, ICANN has developed a plan to facilitate implementation of the strategy for the designation of new TLDs.

The staff paper has been drafted to inform about the current status of the implementation of the "New gTLD Strategy". It is also intended to solicit public comments on the completeness of the list of questions therein as well as on the consultation matrix enclosed.

Please also note the following: The paper is a draft and does NOT foreclose any procedures or outcomes of consultations. The draft questions in the question list are open and are NOT to be read as implying particular preferences. Future consultations will welcome contributions from ALL and the draft consultation matrix does NOT imply any exclusivity provisions.

Please submit your comments to You can view comments at Deadline for comments is 1 August 2005.

This is part of a long process of trying to decide if and how new top-level domains should be allocated. Many people complain that ICANN decides these things behind closed doors without taking input from the public. In fact, ICANN tries very hard to solicit input to develop consensus. The question about whether and how new top-level domains should be allocated is an important issue. ICANN is currently soliciting input on whether we are asking the right questions. If you have an opinion on top-level domains, I urge you to read the document above and submit your opinion. I promise you that we read all of the comments and will try to address and include them in our discussions.

For those not familiar with the debate, there are proposals including 1) no more top-level domains, 2) auctions, 3) sponsored top-level domains and 4) a first-come first-serve laissez-faire approach. Each of these proposals have interesting arguments for and against them and the questions we are asking help define the debate. Please take a look at the questions with these various scenarios in mind.

Dennis Howlett brings up a good point. Do US visa requirements for journalists cover bloggers? Foreign journalists visiting the US, even from friendly countries, have to obtain a special "I visa". This is a rule from 1952 (according to Slate) which hadn't been enforced until the Department of Homeland Security took over INS in March 2003. According to the same Slate article, "at least 15 journalists from friendly countries have been forcibly detained, interrogated, fingerprinted, and held in cells overnight—with most denied access to phones, pens, lawyers, or their consular officials."

This is something to consider before declaring ourselves journalists or having others do so. I have a basic question for anyone who understands this policy better than me - why is the US singling out journalists for special visas? Maybe the answer to this question will help shed light on whether DHS would consider a blogger a journalist.

via Loic


From the US State Department web site:


A citizen of a foreign country, who wishes to enter the United States, generally must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The type of visa you must have is defined by immigration law, and relates to the purpose of your travel. The "media (I)" visa is a nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily who are representatives of the foreign media traveling to the United States, engaging in their profession, having the home office in a foreign country. Some procedures and fees under immigration law, relate to policies of the travelers home country, and in turn, the U.S. follows a similar practice, which we call “reciprocity”. Procedures for providing media visas to foreign media representatives of a particular country, consider whether the visa applicants own government grants similar privileges or is reciprocal, to representatives of the media or press from the United States.


Under immigration law, media visas are for “representatives of the foreign media,” including members of the press, radio, film or print industries, whose activities are essential to the foreign media function, such as reporters, film crews, editors and persons in similar occupations, traveling to the U.S. to engage in their profession.


Other examples include, but are not limited to, the following media related kinds of activities:

* Primary employees of foreign information media engaged in filming a news event or documentary.
* Members of the media engaged in the production or distribution of film will only qualify for a media visa if the material being filmed will be used to disseminate information or news. Additionally, the primary source and distribution of funding must be outside the United States
* Journalists working under contract- Persons holding a credential issued by a professional journalistic organization, if working under contract on a product to be used abroad by an information or cultural medium to disseminate information or news not primarily intended for commercial entertainment or advertising. Please note that a valid employment contract is required.
* Employees of independent production companies when those employees hold a credential issued by a professional journalistic association.
* Foreign journalists working for an overseas branch office or subsidiary of a U.S. network, newspaper or other media outlet if the journalist is going to the United States to report on U.S. events solely for a foreign audience.
* Accredited representatives of tourist bureaus, controlled, operated, or subsidized in whole or in part by a foreign government, who engage primarily in disseminating factual tourist information about that country, and who are not entitled to A-2 visa classification.
* Technical industrial information- Employees in the United States offices of organizations, which distribute technical industrial information.

When I enter the US with my Japanese passport, I use a visa waiver that asks me if I am coming to the US on business or as a tourist. Even if I am a businessman, if the purpose of my trip is for tourism, I am supposed to check the tourism box. So I would assume that even if bloggers are considered journalists, if the nature of your trip is not to engage in "news gathering" then you're probably OK. On the other hand, I suppose if you're going to the US to cover the President's speech, maybe you're getting close. I also wonder if bloggers who are not professionals would be considered "news media representatives/employees". Does anyone have a more informed opinion?

UPDATE: From a friend of a friend in the US State Department

The "I" visa category for journalists is really an employment-related category - it allows professional journalists to pursue their work as "representatives" of foreign media while in the U.S. I don't know that we have yet addressed the issue of bloggers. I think the key question is whether they would be receiving pay for their work in the U.S. or not. A blogger who represented an e-journal, for instance, might fit this description. Otherwise, they would travel on regular B-1/B-2 visas.

This widget suddenly become a bit more interesting...
Lufthansa just upgraded the plane they use for LH711, the flight from Tokyo to Frankfurt. This is the flight that I use for nearly all of my European travel. The new seats are nice, but more importantly, they now have they have Internet on the flight as well as a multi-standard AC plug. Many of my friends have already been on flights with wifi, but this is my first time. I'm also excited because LH711 is probably one of flights I take the most. It's $29.95 for the whole 12 hour flight. See you online!


A few observations. I'm online right now when normally I would probably be sleeping. I usually try to crunch through my email flagged for followup during the flight. It's a bit slower now since I'm not as focused, but I just realized that the mad rush to sync my email when I land will be gone. It is going to be odd getting off of the plane without, "where should I connect to the Internet" being the main thing on my mind...


I also just realized that my habit of staying up late the night before doing a lot of work and sleeping on the plane is now a out-dated practice. I should sleep at home and work on the plane...


I unfortunately didn't bring my headset or I would have tried Skype. Warcraft worked, but was showing a red alert for latency. I transfered a fairly large mp3 to someone over iChat without much trouble. (Sorry, didn't check the speed.) I'm trying BitTorrent now, but it doesn't seem to be finding peers... Pings to Google are taking about 770 ms and it takes 11 hops to get out of Boeing and 14 hops to get into Google. Bandwidth Speed Test says I've got 137.7 kilobits per second of bandwidth.


I lied. The first thing I did when I got off the plane was look for wifi...


I reviewed a picture I took of the jacks and it is 110V 60Hz power. It also seems to have a USB plug in addition to the ethernet plug. I wonder if you can mount the plane as an external device...

I am glad that Europe has once again rejected software patents by voting 648 against and 14 for the ruling of the patent - software directive.

I hear that arguments have been made that software patents are helpful for innovation and that venture businesses may in some way benefit from software patents. I can of course imagine cases where software patents might be helpful for startup companies, but from my personal experience, they are generally more of a burden on innovation at the venture level than a benefit.

Generally speaking, filing for patents is an expensive and time consuming task. Most startup CEOs don't understand and can't afford a patent strategy. I have done a number of calculations on the cost of filing and maintaining software patents, and one estimate we did for a company that I am working on was that it would cost about $750,000 to file and maintain a single patent in the major markets over the lifetime of the patent. Most companies I invest in raise only $1M or less their first round. In addition, to properly protect a technology and continuing developments around a technology, a portfolio of patents must be filed or you can be "surrounded" by application patents and derivatives filed by competitors. In away, filing a patent is practically like putting up an ad balloon for people to see where you are focusing.

Some startup companies I have looked at and worked with have in fact, invested in a portfolio of patents, but from my experience, most of these companies end up spending so much time on their patents that often the products never make it to market. The patents just become fodder for some large company when they are purchased in the bankruptcy fire-sale.

For companies who are working in a patent riddled space, I definitely do a mental calculation of the added risk of litigation and subtract that value from the valuation of the company or decide to not invest at all. I've heard to software patents referred to as land-mines in this context. The problem is, big companies gobble up patent portfolios from bankrupt startups and then have teams of lawyers who use these to go after competition. There is a measurable chilling effect. (Note also that some of the technology oriented anti-file-sharing bills that have been proposed will have a similar effect.)

The only practical use of software patents that I have seen are defensive. Many Internet companies that I have worked with have one or a few broad software patents that they wield to threaten potential assailants. Typically, these company spend very little or no time trying to extract license fees from competitors, but just use the patent like some sort of legal scarecrow. Patents are supposed to be an incentive to innovate and this defensive use really is just a cost and does not serve to cause innovation.

I personally believe that software patents are primarily the tool of large companies with portfolios of patents which they cross-license with each other. Generally, it serve to keep competition out of the market and allows those with patents to push those without patents around or cut them out of markets entirely. A number of open source licenses are now dealing with software patent issues by creating incentives for participants not to litigate against each other. A focus on open standards is also another important way to try to keep innovation unencumbered by patents.

I am not against patents generally and I have worked in materials science and manufacturing technology companies where patents serve as a strong incentive for innovation and royalties provide a fair return for the investments. I just believe that the notion that software patents somehow help venture businesses is a red herring and that software patents are primarily a tool for software monopolies to stay keep the little guys out.

I am basing my opinion on personal experience. Your mileage may vary. I would be interested in the opinion of any VCs who feel strongly that software patents generally increase innovation and investment in venture businesses.

Anyone who is tuning in right now... about 2 hours ago a series of explosions were reported in London involving the Underground and a bus. The BBC reports "Large numbers of casualties have been reported after at least six explosions on the Underground network and a double-decker bus in London."

UPDATE: Most big media sites are slow or down. You can get to many of the blogs post via Technorati for queries such as "London explosions". Lots of pictures on the Flickr London Explosions Group / Flickr Bomb tag. Wikinews article. (Note: I think Wikinews has had the fastest and most substantive news so far. Good job folks.)

UPDATE 7/7/2005 10:50 UTC

#joiito @
antoin - there's someone on the irish radio says there were warnings about bomb scares as early as 7am.
JoiIto - Can I quote that on my blog Antoin?
antoin - sure. i should stress that it's a person who rang into the station, recounting
antoin - so it's a bit third-hand
We're having a real-time global discussion on #joiito on Freenode if you want to join us.

UPDATE 7/7/2005 11:03 UTC: Blair says G8 will continue.

I notice that the Japanese news has just started picking this up. I just remembered that I was listening to a Japanese radio station just about when this was happening. They were reporting about how GW Bush ran into a policeman on his bike and fell over and was saved from injury by his red helmet. Doh.

UPDATE 7/7/2005 11:08 UTC:

jbond - heard on radio4. "sources who follow Al Qaida, are saying it's likely they were involved"

UPDATE 7/7/2005 11:32 UTC:

[11:32] felix - we are jammed in between aldgate station and whitechapel hospital it's a bit like a war zone
[11:32] felix - RJ and mischa live right above aldgate station they are not allowed to leave the house
[11:33] felix - seems like the carefully crafted emergnecy plan works smoothly
[11:35] felix - like I said london is cool
[11:35] felix - everybody is really calm.
[11:36] felix - as the shut the whole public transport down
[11:37] felix - it's kinda weird how everything is so business as usual
[11:38] felix - I would have thought there would be more panic

UPDATE 7/7/2005 13:10 UTC: They have just closed the bathrooms on BART. (The California Bay Area Rapid Transit.)

UPDATE: Lots of good links on Boing Boing.

UPDATE: Roundup of Muslim bloggers responding to London Blast on Global Voice by Rebecca MacKinnon. Dedicated page on Technorati for posts about the London Bombings.

UPDATE: Loic blogs about John Gibson from Fox News saying that he wished it had happened in Paris. Ugh.

UPDATE: Julio points us to David Horovitz writing "And now as then, one suspects, the response of the targeted nation will be resilience and a determined response, rather than capitulation. London is not Madrid." in the Jerusalem Post.

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