*Editor’s Note: Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with two different groups, each with the intention of acquiring and managing the “.gay” top-level domain, and each looking for community support. True to our motto at QBlog, “ALL Voices or NO Voices”, I have decided to give both parties equal ground to state their case on our platform.
Q Center is not endorsing either of these candidates with these posts. It is our intention to let you, the readers, decide for yourselves about how you feel after reading the two perspectives on this issue.
To choose which post would be Perspective A or B, I flipped a coin. Jamie Baxter’s post is just below. To read Perspective A, click HERE. We encourage you, the community, to weigh in on these issues in the comment field below each post.
Top Level Domains: The Future Of “.gay” (Perspective B)
by Jamie Baxter.
As the world prepares to start typing new endings on website addresses, the familiar .COM and .ORG risk becoming less common in lieu of more descriptive, more meaningful alternatives. Included in the list is one word that has the potential to become a powerful online platform for our entire community of LGBTQIA+ people: .GAY
ICANN, the governing body of the Internet, is full swing into a new program that will produce upwards of 1,000 new top level domains (TLD) on the Internet. TLDs are commonly understood as Internet namespaces, identified most easily as the word that comes after the final dot of a website address. With the Internet still in its infancy, new TLDs will bring new opportunities in growth markets and extend into non-Latin scripts for the first time. We often forget how English centric the Internet currently is, but the addition of a .GAY TLD sets the stage to defy geography, language and culture as an immediate identifier for the global community.
Despite the near invisibility and varied public opinion of ICANN’s program, there has been strong and consistent momentum within the community to ensure that any new TLDs that target LGBTQI people get introduced with the correct safeguards against abuse and misuse, including proper community oversight and give back. dotgay LLC, a Certified LGBT Business Enterprise, stepped into the fold in 2009 to spearhead the community-based approach to introducing .GAY, taking the lead and enlisting the community’s support to maneuver through the complicated maze of ICANN policies and processes. What started as a defensive move to prevent .GAY from being handed to Internet investors hoping to profit from the opportunity, has built into a globally endorsed initiative that is poised to address an important mission based on safety, visibility and support for all community members.
At the head of the dotgay LLC application is CEO Scott Seitz, a community leader in his own right with over two decades of work and dedicated service creating change by advancing community issues through business. Scott has played an instrumental role in helping corporate and non-profit clients intersect in ways that positively impact the community, including work with the Trevor Project, GLAAD, Outserve/SLDN and OutFest. His stewardship has been instrumental in helping the community understand the new TLD opportunities, while empowering them to claim ownership and oversight.
Bringing the ICANN program to the community has been Scott’s passion for the past 5 years. The collaborative community effort has included townhall style discussions on every continent, conference presentations and organizational meetings globally, extensive press campaigns and social media efforts, and a robust website detailing the overall model and ongoing community efforts. High priority has been given to creating a safe space, protecting community assets, finding solutions for inclusion of all interested community members and future segments, providing ongoing engagement and financial support, as well as continued Internet advocacy on behalf of the community.
ICANN’s reveal of the 1,900+ applications it received in May 2012 included 4 for .GAY and 1 for .LGBT. dotgay LLC’s single application for .GAY was the only one submitted as a community-centric application, with all others representing commercial interest from businesses with a combined number of applications of over 125 new TLDs. At $185,000 per application, community interests were certainly not the deciding factor in determining fees, however community interests were offered a unique advantage if they fit ICANN’s definition of “community.” The official ICANN community test is expected to begin very soon and as the only “community” applicant for .GAY, only dotgay LLC is eligible to participate.
Despite the last minute attempt by competing Internet investors to shift momentum in the community’s collaborative effort to safeguard all community related TLDs in the ICANN program, there continues to be a strong and steadfast movement from LGBTQIA people and organizations to support the only community endorsed bid by dotgay LLC. This includes the global support of over 200 endorsements from 50+ countries.
Endorsers have become advocates too. With the support of a variety of community interests including lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex groups, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) in Brussels, with the endorsement of over 50 other national and international organizations including the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), InterPride and CenterLink, have filed official objections with ICANN to prevent non-community models for .GAY and .LGBT from moving forward in the program. ILGA’s Executive Director Renato Sabbadini provides a synopsis of the rational for the objections in a public comment posted on the ICANN website and he makes it clear that ILGA and the organizations supporting ILGA’s objections are not in opposition to .GAY or .LGBT as new TLDs, just to the non-community models that have been submitted.
After almost 5 years of work with the community to create a dotgay LLC application for .GAY, we now have only a short time before ICANN will choose a winner. dotgay LLC recognized the opportunity and importance of establishing a global LGBTQI platform for change, visibility and benefit, and stepped in with a personal and legal commitment to become community advocates. ICANN’s ultimate decision will carry far-reaching and everlasting impact into the community, so getting it right does matter and accountability plans should be scrutinized carefully.
With so much at stake, non-community applicants for .GAY and .LGBT have begun a smear campaign with the sole intent to create negative infighting in the community that will disqualify dotgay LLC as a community applicant, initiating a bidding battle with venture capital groups hoping to capture .GAY by price tag alone. Lost forever will be the chance to have this global platform create massive change in our community.
The overall plan presented by dotgay LLC puts community accountability at the forefront ensuring that .GAY becomes a long-term platform to address community issues related to the overall mission around safety, visibility and support. With a community advisory board, operational transparency and a detailed give back component, dotgay LLC is the only applicant for .GAY or .LGBT willing to write these promises into a contract with ICANN.
To help clarify and dispel recent blog attacks on the community model for .GAY, these points will give you accountability highlights from dotgay LLC’s application, which was developed in collaboration with leadership from national and international organizations with longstanding reputations of community service in LGBTQIA issues around the globe.
The facts about dotgay LLC’s application, supported in writing to ICANN, make it clear that the application is;
- The only one to offer a comprehensive plan inclusive of all community segments (LGBTQIA+)
- The only one with policies to be created by the community
- The only one to propose policies against anti-gay hate speech in keeping with the international norms and law
- The only one to offer protections for the names that community organizations and business already have a presence on the Internet with, but that are not national or multi-national trademarks
- The only one to present policies combating domain speculation
- The only one to offer a detailed give back component
- The only one with a commitment to ongoing operational transparency and community oversight
- The only one committed to the principle that ‘Gay rights are Human Rights’ and to advocacy for those rights on the Internet
- The only one willing to contractually commit with ICANN to carry out all of the above
It is without question that dotgay LLC stands behind a plan that is held accountable to the community it serves. It is also important to note that based on the proposals submitted, if any other applicant is awarded community related TLDs by ICANN, their commitment to the community ends when they sign their contract and their only obligations will be to their investors and to selling our community’s linguistic heritage to the highest bidder.
For further information on dotgay LLC’s community model visit www.dotgay.com or email us at email@example.com. dotgay LLC is available to speak to any group interested in learning more about our plans for community involvement in our policy and governance processes.
Jamie Baxter is the Vice President of Marketing and key community liason for dotgay LLC, the only community endorsed application for .GAY. A self-proclaimed community advocate, Jamie’s fifteen years of work and commitment raising funds and awareness for LGBTQI issues are now focused on the new gTLD program with ICANN. Canadian born and educated, Jamie now resides in New York City.
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