CROWDSOURCED, Funded & managed Community City gTLD Application CREATION for the 2020 ICANN new gTLD application round

Prepared by Alexander Schubert, Co-Founder of ".berlin"

CROWDED CITIES - Crowdsourced city gTLD applicant support tools

In 2012 several cities applied for their name as domain suffix (think - but these had sadly no impact to date! We analyzed why - and are preparing a set of tools that would enable a city-based multi-stakeholder body to fund their own non-profit, public-benefit city gTLD applicant entity together with the "crowd", and then manage the city gTLD introduction in a way that maximizes the positive impact for the Internet user (citizen of the city) - instead creating (meager) profits for a for-profit applicant entity.
"Crowded Cities" would be a company helping stakeholders of any city to set up the applicant entity (non-profit company, broadly owned by many stake-holders representing the constituents of the city), provide online tools for the crowd to identify important and impacting domain names, helping stakeholder groups (associations, chambers) to conduct early stage auctions for these domains, financing the application at ICANN with the proceeds, crowd-based online engagement tools, etc.



The past & the current stage of city name based gTLD applications:

  • Since the inception of the DNS (Domain Name System)  only once; in 2012; new gTLDs could be applied for at ICANN ( Together with hundreds of other new domain extensions (.club, .BMW, .bike, .google, etc) some 60+ city gTLDs were created, among them ".berlin" (the first proposed city gTLD; project start: 2005), .london, .paris, .nyc, .tokyo, .moscow, .bangkok, .sidney, etc.
  • City name based gTLD applicants are usually owned by a private entity and operated for profit
  • These applicants have usually been funded by investors (often VC) - who naturally demand short term return of investment
  • In almost all instances the respective city council (major) siphons off revenues by charging royalties from the city gTLD operator; in exchange for the ICANN required "letter of non-objection" (permission to operate the city-gTLD). Sadly in almost all cases the city doesn't contribute anything to create brand awareness for the new city gTLD - usually they do not even utilize the new gTLD for their official websites.
  • Because the applicant entity (gTLD registry) is privately owned and a for profit entity neither the city nor business organizations and eventually also not the media provide any support or aid in creating TLD brand awareness. A vicious circle: the citizens aren't aware about the new city gTLD - the businesses neither - nobody will register domains other than for defensive or speculative reasons.
  • Upon launch of the new gTLD operation the applicant entity usually needs to recoup their investments fast; hence they auction off a large amount of premium domain names right at day one:,,! In most cases prospective buyers within the city aren't informed about the auction - and even IF they are informed they have no trust in the performance and future acceptance of this new domain suffix. As a result most if not all premium domains are swept up by "domain investors" for relatively low prices. These "investors" harm the gTLD brand in many ways: They do NOT develop the "land" they are buying - but either keep it empty or erect "billboards" (parking websites filled with advertisements).  In rare cases they create simple websites with AFFILIATE content - say tires.chicago would lead the visitor to AFFILIATE content of; as a result any purchase of tires on that website would not have ANY positive economic impact on the city - but rather lead to business LEAVING the city.
  • None of the newly minted domain names will be actively marketed by any business, the citizens won't see them in use, not advertised and they will not appear in Google searches. The new gTLD brand (the .city) will have no recognition. The media will not report about it as there is simply nothing to say.
  • In the end all valuable premium domain names will be registered by domain investors, who usually refrain from selling within the first 5 to 10 years - in order to wait for a maximum profit. These domains are then blocked for use. A number of companies will defensive register their brands or company names - but usually doesn't even bother to route them to their original .com domain; and they will especially not start to promote their new domain.
  • They new gTLD will have tens of thousands registrations, the registry operator will make a small profit, but there is no "impact" on the way naming functions on the Internet whatsoever! Neither the city Government nor the citizenry and also not the businesses of the city profit in any way from the existence of the new city gTLD.


The solution: Crowdsourced, crowd-funded, crowd-managed, community gTLD applicants:

  • To eliminate the constraints introduced by "investors" (VC money) the individual gTLD project would be crowd-funded by entities within the target community (the city): for example through fundraiser auctions of "premium" domain names within the different business sectors of the city.
  • The "crowd" would help to identify and authenticate valid, generic term based premium domain names relevant to the respective city. The crowd would also aid in categorizing the premium domains and identifying potential buyers. All this in exchange for small cash-based incentives.
  • Funding the applicant entity through premium domain auctions serves several goals:
    • Funding the application while maintaining a non-profit entity status - independence from investors and the influence of return of investment requirements
    • Making sure that business relevant premium domain names not only stay within the city but are also allocated to matching business entities: tires.denver would be with a Denver based business dealing with tires - and not owned by a domain investor who runs a affiliate program!


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