*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. Ray King’s post is just below. To read Perspective B, 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 A)
by Ray King.
The Internet’s web addresses are currently defined by a small number of top-level domains (TLDs), such as .com, .org, and .net. However, about 1,400 new TLDs are coming, including two intended for LGBTQ+ folks: .gay and .lgbt.
I am a Portland-based entrepreneur and have been involved in the domain name industry for over a decade. When the governing body of the Internet’s domain name system, ICANN, opened up an application process for new TLDs, I launched a company, Top Level Design LLC, with my brother-in-law and applied for 10 new TLDs, including .gay.
I was encouraged to apply for .gay by my gay family and friends. I knew it would make a powerful TLD since it is an identity that people are passionate about and not just an industry or market. Over time, our conviction has gotten stronger — here’s why:
Our vision for .gay is one that is accessible to the entire diverse world of LGBTQ+; this means that there will be no registration requirements, no content restrictions, and the price will be competitive ($10 – $20). I do not believe that anyone should have to “authenticate” themselves as gay just to own a .gay domain name. I do not believe that individuals should have to join LGBTQ+ organizations to register a .gay domain, they should not have to pay membership fees to these organizations, and they should not have to publicly identify.
I think bloggers in Russia should have access to .gay, that young adults should have access to .gay, and that those who cannot live freely and openly as gay should be given a level of freedom on .gay that is otherwise denied them.
There are 4 total applicants for .gay, and our vision differs substantially from that of one of our competitors, dotgay LLC, who we are sharing this blog space with. The remaining 2 applicants, while arguably not as passionate as us, also believe in an open system, whereas dotgay LLC will restrict registration to those that can “authenticate” themselves as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
I believe that dotgay LLC is sacrificing three important freedoms on the Internet:
1.) The Freedom of Choice – dotgay LLC’s coalition partners are in a formal proceeding to block an open application for .lgbt from reaching the Internet. They act as if ILGA, HRC, and themselves are the only organizations that have the right to the terms “gay” and “LGBT.” Choice is important, and they should not be the LGBTQ+ spectrum’s self-appointed gatekeepers.
2.) The Freedom of Speech – dotgay LLC plans to censor “objectionable” content. Given the amount of dynamic debate in LGBTQ+ discourse, this is simply misguided. They have not addressed important inevitables, such as how reclamation of slurs, criticism of prominent LGBTQ+ organizations, and other contentious issues are to be dealt with. LGBTQ+ folks have been resilient and prideful in the face of discrimination and hate, and they do not need their freedom of speech compromised to benefit a regime of censorship.
3.) The Freedom to Register – I believe that dotgay LLC’s restrictions on who can register a .gay domain name will irrevocably damage the TLD’s diversity. So many LGBTQ+ individuals do not have the access or resources to participate in formal LGBTQ+ organizations, which is a requirement to be “authenticated” and thereby qualify to buy a .gay domain name. Then, of course, there are the multitudes of people that avail their right to not participate in formal organizations.
I respect dotgay LLC but I strongly disagree with their vision for the .gay TLD. While our background is in the domain business, their primary background is in LGBTQ+ advertising, and I see their plan leading to low registrations, high entry barriers, and a .gay that is used predominantly by marketers and advertisers.
They have certainly done some good work in spreading the word about .gay, but their .gay will ultimately be restricted. To register a .gay domain name under their model, any individual or organization would first need to become a verified member of one their “Authentication Partners,” pay any dues that this organization may assess, and thereby qualify to then purchase a .gay domain. Essentially, they want to ensure that everyone using a .gay domain is, in fact, sufficiently “gay enough.”
This will keep prices high (they have been quoted as saying registrations will run between $50-$100 per domain! – not to mention any dues necessary to join an authenticating entity), and it will also keep out young adults, people in developing countries, people without the security to associate with a public LGBTQ+ organization, and other folks that are disenfranchised due to access and financial concerns.
dotgay LLC and their coalition, notably including the ILGA and HRC, have applied as “Community Priority” applicants, meaning that they purport to represent the entirety of the “gay community,” which they say is synonymous with the LGBTQ+ spectrum, all the while claiming that “gay” is the right umbrella term for all LGBTQ+. Furthermore, their coalition is trying to block a separate application for .lgbt from reaching the Internet, with the argument that it is not “community supported.” They chose .gay as the appropriate umbrella term for their community, they did not apply for .lgbt, and now they want to regulate who and what is appropriate on a .gay website while simultaneously blocking an open .lgbt. This is not the open Internet I believe in, this is not the community mindset I associate with LGBTQ+, and this is not the right future for the .gay TLD!
Our .gay would be similar to .com – the same international and national laws will apply, including those related to inciting violence. Yes, our .gay may allow some contentious material on its webpages, like the rest of the Internet, but this is because we will not be censoring content or deciding what is and is not “distasteful,” as dotgay LLC plans to do. The LGBTQ+ spectrum is home to some of the world’s most diverse groups, and we do not pretend to think that we can judiciously determine what is “distasteful,” given that there is certainly no consensus across the spectrum.
dotgay LLC plans to give 67% of its net profit back to its supporters. However, they, like us, are a for-profit company. They are not a non-profit and they have made no commitments related to their gross profit. Their model is ostensibly well-intentioned but it is further muddied by the fact that the majority of their supporters are ILGA affiliates, and they promise to give to “client organizations.”
We at Top Level Design LLC know the .gay TLD has the potential for great social good, and we are promising an affordable and accessible platform. I believe that giving the entire world an equal voice on .gay is a huge benefit that is unjustly characterized as negative by dotgay LLC. Furthermore, I am committed to using our resources and voice for LGBTQ+ advocacy which I look forward to defining after the creation of a viable .gay business.
We have become increasingly passionate about managing the .gay TLD and keeping it open and accessible. This has caused great reflection and been a fantastic learning experience for me, my employees, and my family and friends. Unfortunately, as I’ve taken to blogs to present our side of the story, we have been accused of spreading lies, misinformation, and starting a “smear campaign.” Again, I respect dotgay LLC and the hard work they have done – I just know that this is a “forever” decision and I believe that my outreach is educational and inclusive, and I look forward to a respectful debate on how accessible .gay should be to the entire world. My main goal here is to have a conversation.
The issue, as I see it, is whether the LGBTQ+ world needs a paternalistic model for .gay, which regulates who can buy a .gay and what can be said on a .gay website. I am for an open and unrestricted .gay, and .lgbt, and hope that these can pave the way for further LGBTQ+ related TLDs.
If you want to influence this process, regardless of which side of the issue you support, you can make your voice heard where it matters most by posting to the ICANN Public Forum. You will need to create an account and be prepared to be contacted via email by evaluators.
-Raymond King, CEO, Top Level Design LLC
You can find more on the topic here:
Raymond King is a Portland-based serial entrepreneur, and has founded and led such local companies as SnapNames and AboutUs Inc. His newest venture, Top Level Design LLC, is an applicant for 10 new top-level domains. His recent life developments include receiving 3 pygmy goats from his wife and daughter as surprise birthday presents.
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