An Open Letter and Call for Support
Dear DotAsia Board and the Asia Pacific Internet Community,
Thank you for the invitation for me to submit to you my ongoing commitment and vision for DotAsia to be a contributor to the regional and global Internet community as the CEO of DotAsia. Please allow me to share my thoughts in two parts:
First of all, however, let me take this opportunity to thank the unwavering support for DotAsia from those in the community who knows the work of DotAsia, including many of whom we have worked with closely, and especially through the challenges that DotAsia is facing.
You are the reason the DotAsia team remains resolved to deliver our contributions to the community even in difficult times and against severe accusations and disinformation attacking on the integrity of our work.
I will include more information on this towards the end of this letter, but allow me to emphasize that, as we defend DotAsia against the perpetrators of discord, I am confident that the truth maintained in the proper records of DotAsia shall shine through, but we will very much need your support to persevere through the disinformation and attacks. Your participation will make a difference.
Let me also take this opportunity to thank the dedicated DotAsia team who are continuing to fight the good fight along my side. I am particularly proud of the highly motivated team at DotAsia, who are always prepared to go above and beyond their duties to provide support and contribute to the community through our work. As a small team of just over a dozen people, I am confident that those who have worked with us see how we consistently hit above our weight to bring positive impact for the wider community. I thank all in the team wholeheartedly for their great work.
Recent Successes at IGF 2022 and .KiDS Launch
A great case in point is the DotAsia presence at the recent United Nations Internet Governance Forum (UN IGF 2022), which was held just a little over a month ago. The DotAsia team was involved in speaker or moderator roles in 18 sessions with a wide array of partners, including at multiple main plenary sessions and our own Phyo speaking on behalf of youth around the world at the closing ceremony. Besides contributing in a speaking role, our team also engaged in discussions as participants at many more sessions establishing DotAsia as thought leaders in youth issues, DNS abuse, Internationalized Domain Names and Universal Acceptance, children’s rights online, as well as Internet and the environment. I dare say that this coverage goes well beyond that from much larger and better resourced teams and organizations, and is a testament to dedication and good work from the DotAsia team.
Another recent exemplary team effort is the successful launch of the .KiDS community gTLD. Firstly, after ten years persevering through the ICANN process, DotAsia successfully navigated the new gTLD process in support of the children’s rights and welfare community to become the only applicant that was successful in the ICANN Applicant Support Program, and to outlast the competition from multinational companies who were contending for the TLD. In the launch of .KiDS, against the backdrop of TLD fatigue, the DotAsia team was able to sign on over 50 accredited registrars for the startup, and more importantly, able to get one of the largest registrars who have not participated in Sunrise and startup phases to be onboard. The .KiDS community gTLD launched fully just a bit more than a month ago, and has brought in a turnover of more than US$120,000 through the Sunrise and the first month of General Availability.
Responsible Growth & Market Development for .Asia
As for our core work in the .Asia Sponsored gTLD, while it is operating at steady state now, we continue to innovate in our market development efforts. Some criticism had been aimed at the lack of growth of Domains Under Management (DUM) in .Asia. Today .Asia maintains around a quarter of a million domain names registered. DotAsia has worked with accredited registrars on many different market development campaigns in the past and we are recognized for our innovative approaches. Specifically on DUM, the team did experiment with aggressive price promotions which rapidly pushed the total .Asia DUM to over 500K. However, that attracted a lot of domain name abuse issues, and as a responsible gTLD, DotAsia took a strong stance against abuse and responded assertively, sending a message to the market that .Asia takes mitigation against abuse seriously. That inevitably led to a retraction of DUM on one hand, but it also established DotAsia’s position as a responsible gTLD operator. DNS abuse has been a hot topic for the community in recent years, but DotAsia has been a vocal proponent of industry efforts to mitigate abuse since 2011 in one of the first ICANN DNS Abuse forums. Last year, DotAsia further joined forces with TWNIC to develop a mutual trusted notifier framework that can enhance international industry cooperation on the issue.
DotAsia Sets the Benchmark for gTLD Launch
All of these are built on the highly acclaimed and successful .Asia launch, when we worked closely with the DNS industry, intellectual property interests and government representatives around the region to deliver a smooth launch that effectively curbed abuses through policies developed with the community. In contrast to thousands of disputes erupting from new gTLD launches prior to .Asia, the .Asia launch achieved zero disputes and in an online poll obtained 100% “satisfied” or “very satisfied” responses from the rights protection community.
DotAsia’s management of Sunrise, auctions, pioneer domain processes set the benchmark for future new gTLD launches and elements of which made its way into ICANN’s new gTLD policies, contributing to the global community. That was back in 2007 and 2008, but the recent success of the .KiDS launch demonstrates that the DotAsia team remain well attuned and connected to the present dynamics of the DNS industry.
Developing the Brand Value of .Asia
The scale of .Asia DUM must also take into consideration market realities. Data shows that only about 15% of domain names globally are registered from the Asia Pacific region, which means the Internet-user to domain names registered ratio is substantially lower in Asia Pacific than in the US and many European countries.
Of course, this does not lead to any excuse for DotAsia to give up on continuing market development works. Quite the contrary, building on more methodical review, the DotAsia team had been realigning our efforts towards:
- Identifying and cultivating customer personas of .Asia initiatives, based on the observed .Asia registrant profiles;
- Focusing on developing the moment of emotional impact of .Asia as the top-of-mind TLD of choice, understanding the nature of .Asia neither as a global general term (like “com”, “org”, “app”, etc.) nor as a ccTLD that commands natural monopolistic market power, but rather as a niche option when the local initiative expands regionally, when international initiatives seek an Asian beachhead, and when initiatives cross borders relevant to Asia; and,
- Expanding the .Asia brand to Asian American and Asian European markets, leveraging the more developed domain markets as explained above.
These efforts drive the long term brand value of .Asia and takes time to germinate, but with observable increase in the usage of .Asia domain names within and beyond the Asia Pacific region, we believe that we will see the fruits of the work as we drive the growth of .Asia uptake.
Community Contributions as a Core part of the DotAsia Vision
The .Asia gTLD is not DotAsia’s only business within the stated vision since the beginning: “The Vision of DotAsia is to create a globally visible domain that embodies the successful, cooperative atmosphere established within the Pan-Asia and Asia-Pacific Internet community to accelerate the overall growth of the region.”
To foster collaboration among the community and to support the development of the Internet across the global Asia Pacific community is as much part of DotAsia’s core. Towards this goal, over the last decade, DotAsia has:
- Pioneered youth engagement programs to bring new Asia Pacific voices to the global Internet Governance discourse;
- Led in the development of Internationalized Domain Names (IDN) and Universal Acceptance (UA) initiatives to bring Asian languages to the Internet’s unique identifier systems; and,
- Helped to continually bring together the regional community for the development of the Internet in Asia Pacific.
Global Leader in Youth Internet Governance Engagement
NetMission.Asia is one of DotAsia’s flagship project. Launched in 2009, NetMission is the longest standing youth Internet Governance development program around the world. NetMission Ambassadors and alumni put together the oldest and continuously running Youth IGF initiative beginning at the 2010 Asia Pacific Regional IGF (APrIGF). DotAsia’s consistent support and our work to foster constant evolution of the program through youth-led approaches set the standard for YIGF initiatives in Asia Pacific and around the world. NetMission also initiated and implemented, in collaboration with ICANN, the first NextGen@ICANN program, which has now become a staple at ICANN meetings.
NetMission alumni, as well as others that DotAsia and NetMission has trained, have been elected to different community leadership positions, such as the UN IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG), the ICANN GNSO Council, the Youth Coalition on Internet Governance (YCIG), and are increasingly employed in important community engagement positions at Internet organizations, such as at ISOC, ccTLDs, etc., in the region and beyond.
Global Pioneer of IDN and UA
DotAsia’s work in IDN and contributions to UA has created lasting impact. DotAsia’s IDN Variants policy handling of Chinese, Japanese and Korean (CJK) shared usage of Han characters for IDN .Asia registrations, developed after working closely with the respective communities, set the guiding reference for the Root Zone Label Generation Ruleset (LGR) project at ICANN, especially when managing characters shared across languages and homoglyphs across scripts. DotAsia’s groundwork of bringing together the GNSO and ccNSO on the issue of UA helped lay the foundations for the development of the Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG) which continues to bring positive impact to addressing the UA issue to upgrade the Internet.
Advocate of Global Multistakeholder Internet Governance
In fostering collaboration among the Asia Pacific Internet community, besides continuing to support the APrIGF as its secretariat, DotAsia had previously underwritten the first ever APRICOT-APAN joint meeting, initiated and continued to support the APAC Space to nurture and champion Asia Pacific voices at ICANN, as well as many other events and activities, including the APNG, AP* Retreat, etc..
One of the most significant contribution is our collaboration with ISOC SG to serve as the secretariat for the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG), which oversaw the transition of ICANN’s global multistakeholder governance model between 2014 and 2016. DotAsia led the secretariat work that supported this successful transition, which marks a major milestone for the global multistakeholder Internet Governance ecosystem. DotAsia’s work is highly regarded by the ICG.
Enhancing Social Impact and Realizing the Vision of DotAsia
Since 2020, to better account for DotAsia’s continued community contributions and social impact of our activities, DotAsia has developed a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) framework that both sets the goals of our work as well as assesses its impact. An annual SIA report has been produced since 2020 and presented to the DotAsia Board and Advisory Council, and is expected to be published soon when we have a meaningful track record of 3 years of reports. As part of the SIA framework, DotAsia has set out dual objectives to create community impact as well as to create synergy for the market development of the .Asia gTLD. As part of the goals, we have set out to build on the NetMission program to become a leader in youth Internet Governance engagement regionally and globally, and we have also set out to position DotAsia as a thought leader in Internet Governance and to advance collaboration regionally and globally building on our work at APrIGF and participation across the Internet Governance ecosystem.
In 2022, coming out of the pandemic, DotAsia worked closely with APNIC to deliver the first ever joint APNIC-APSIG-APrIGF event which brought the Asia Pacific Internet community together after over two years of lockdown. During the event, a Youth Engagement Track was organized bringing together youth Internet governance leaders from around Asia Pacific. This served as a lead-in event to the global Youth Summit at the UN IGF later in December 2022, where, as mentioned earlier, the presence of DotAsia team spanned across multiple aspects, speaking and leading discussions not only in the many sessions where we were speakers or moderators, but also in other sessions related to youth and topics such as environment, DNS abuse, Internet fragmentation, children’s rights and more. The aspirations we have set out to achieve are becoming realized as the team work diligently in alignment with the DotAsia vision.
Bullying Against DotAsia
While DotAsia remains a small team of just over a dozen staff, DotAsia’s contribution and presence has continued to grow beyond its physical size and resources it commands. Unfortunately, much of DotAsia’s achievements have been overshadowed in some parts of the community by accusations and smearing against our works. Because some of the matters are subject to ongoing litigations against DotAsia, it is not appropriate for me to go into details that may include confidential information. However, I am taking this opportunity to provide a high level picture of the attacks against DotAsia that we have been defending in the last few years so that more in the community can have a better understanding of the situation.
In 2012, when the ICANN new gTLD program was launched, DotAsia resolved to contribute its knowledge and experience through an entity that would engage in new gTLD projects to support new gTLD applicants. Because prior to the 2012 round of new gTLDs, the ICANN gTLD evaluation process had been very demanding and selective, some of our partners therefore were looking to leverage on DotAsia’s reputation as well as understanding of the ICANN dynamics in navigating the process. As it turned out, the vetting process for the 2012 round was implemented with much more leniency. As a result, the perceived value of DotAsia’s participation, on hindsight at least for some of our partners, became depreciated. Manipulations to gain additional interests from the joint projects pursued, and exploiting DotAsia’s nature as a not-for-profit organization, our partners, turned into the opposition, resorted to bullying tactics of filing lawsuits against DotAsia and engaging in disinformation campaigns striking at the governance of DotAsia. The claims against DotAsia include such allegations that DotAsia personnel pretended to be ICANN experts, that denies DotAsia’s continued support to the projects, and that DotAsia abandoned its commitments in projects that the team worked and continued to work diligently for, which cannot reasonably be true for people who know about DotAsia and our works.
Defending Against Disinformation with Truth Maintained in Proper Records
The DotAsia Board had earlier issued a Special Advisory calling out the lack of truth in such assertions. Nevertheless, the perpetrators continue their pursuit, advancing their own self-interest, sowing distrust and instigating confusion through conflation of issues, and then in turn, pointing to such discord which they had introduced in the first place to make further accusations claiming that DotAsia’s governance is in disorder.
In fact, the truth is that DotAsia and its governance had been robust. While prior to 2019, we have operated relatively informally, there is no truth in that the integrity of the governance was compromised. DotAsia was blessed with distinguished individuals on the Board and the DotAsia team have maintained proper records, recordings, accounts, especially financial records in an orderly manner. This is evidenced by the publishing of annually audited financials for all related entities on the DotAsia website (contrary to the claims against us), and the upholding of DotAsia’s financial integrity by multiple auditors in the past.
Since early 2019, under the guidance of the DotAsia Board, the governance processes and policies had been formalized to mitigate against unfounded disruptions and distortion of truth. Furthermore, it is the truth contained in the well-organized records of the organization that forms the core of the defense in the litigations and against the onslaught of disinformation.
Your Participation Will Make the Difference for DotAsia
DotAsia is indeed facing severe attacks on its governance and its integrity. In the past few years, the DotAsia team has continued and even expanded our work in collaboration with community members and organizations to bring positive contribution to the Asia Pacific Internet community despite the ongoing challenges. I have mentioned at previous DotAsia AGMs regarding the challenges we face, and we are generally on track to bring settlement and reconciliation to the disputes after working diligently on it with our legal counsels. To bring it to fruition, we will need your support. We call now on you for your support to denounce the disinformation and defend the good works of DotAsia. Every bit of support in upholding the integrity of DotAsia’s work makes a difference. Your participation in the DotAsia governance processes will be the difference.
From Asia, For Asia
Finally, I believe with great conviction that the DotAsia team, a team that comes from Asia, who works for Asia, and is passionately dedicated to the global Asia Pacific Internet community, remains the best team to continue to realize the vision of DotAsia to champion collaboration in the community, to responsibly steer the operations of the .Asia Sponsored gTLD, as well as to contribute to the development of and bringing the voices from the wider Asia Pacific community to relevant global forums. DotAsia belongs to the Asia Pacific Internet community and we will need the community’s support to continue to be a strong advocate for Asia Pacific from Asia Pacific.
I humbly submit this petition for your continued support for DotAsia and the DotAsia team.
Chief Executive Officer
Jan 9, 2023