.Shop Applicant Tells ICANN On String Similarity There are Only 56 Unique Generic Strings

A letter sent by one of the .Shop applicants to ICANN chats about what I see as the next big issue for the ICANN new gTLD process which is String Similarity.

The letter was written by Jeffrey Smith, CEO Commercial Connect, an applicant for .Shop, who not only applied for the new gTLD .Shop but was an applicant for .Shop way back in 2000,  we have edited the letter to keep it on point but you can read the entire letter here

The letter was sent to ICANN in November but just published on MyICANN.org today.

“We have identified concerns that we believe should be addressed to save significant time and effort on the part of ICANN as well as the 1900+ applicants of new gTLDs. It seems there are two major issues that need immediate attention.

The first issue is that of string similarity.
Throughout the process, there has been an understanding that no new gTLD would be released that had similar meaning, sound, or appearance to any existing TLD.
This has roots in protecting the end user from being confused about which TLD should be used and lends credibility to the intent of the process.
The premise of keeping the internet a safe, secure and user friendly environment for all stakeholders supports this rule.

It seems that many influential entities and individuals have purposely tried to ignore and/or change this. It is clearly contained in the guidebook and should not be ignored nor downplayed for financial gain.

After many discussions and research, Commercial Connect LLC and eCommerce World Retailers along with various community members, ICANN members, applicants, consultants and academia collaborated and performed a mock similarity analysis on the new gTLD applications. Since there have been no defined rules/processes proposed, published, nor provided, this analysis was difficult. However, assuming a marginal allowance, you may find the results useful.This analysis removed some 647 unique branding applications as well as some 89 unique geographic applications and assumed that these TLDs would be granted as stated in the guidebook. This leaves only 966 applications for the “generic” TLDs.

We reviewed the strings for the 966 applicants and grouped by their meanings. For the purpose of the analysis, we treated the IDN the same as other applications. Of the 966 applications, only 56 appeared to be unique. In other words, there were only 56 words or “meanings” that were applied for. (emphasis added)

“While some may disagree as to which groups the strings belonged, they hopefully would agree on how they could be confused with other strings. ”

“For instance, .auto and .car have the same or similar meaning. O”

“n a much broader scoper, .shop, .store, .buy, etc. would confuse the end user as to which TLD would be appropriate for eCommerce”.

“If we look at the number of TLDs that need to be analyzed instead of the number of applications, the near insurmountable task suddenly becomes much more manageable”.

“With only 56 TLDs in contention and 37 of these are community applications, (community represents 66% of the applications) there remains a few as 19 that may have to go to auction”.

“While it is understood that some of the community applicants may not qualify for community status, the more relevant data indicates that the numbers are rapidly decreasing for contention sets”.

The result could mean that only 19 TLDs remaining with threat of going to auction.

I have attached a copy of our analysis for public perusal and invite any and all comments.
The next realization might be that if only 56 or so true generic applications will be delegated, the issue of flooding the root of an excess of 1,000 applications is now quashed. Transparency is restored and ICANN’s processes are once again aligned to its mission””.
Unfortunately the study that was attached to the letter was not published with it on the ICANN site so I can’t see it or republish it.
The letter does bring up the issue of vertical competition, with many verticals having multiple applications such as .law, .lawyers, .attorney and .esq or the example contained in Mr. Smith’s letter, its going to be interesting what ICANN does and more importantly if all go live what the market does in reaction to them.


  1. Adam Strong says

    One person or group’s idea of “similar” is not going to be enough is it. If I use my gTLD for a community, only allowing certain people to register the domains and your “similar” extension is closed or used for another purpose, are we still similar ? Say .auto is used for only auto manufacturers but .car is open to all to register. Is there a problem then ?

  2. Zany says

    Confusing to the user to not know if they should go to .shop or .buy for e-commerce? That’s hilarious. Cool – let’s eliminate the competition for each string.

    I believe the Guidebook says that they (ICANN) will not allow strings that are confusingly similar from a visual perspective. It further states that applicants could file an String Similarity objection if they believe it is confusingly similar on other grounds (e.g. meaning).

    I guess Mr Smith will be filing a lot of objections.

  3. says

    If ICANN held such a broad view of string similarity then much of what it has done so far, including the prioritization lottery, would have been unnecessary. If it adopts it going forward it may not cause many applications to be moot, as the letter suggests, but instead could massively expand the number of parties in contention sets.

  4. L. Asher Corson says

    It’s always sad to see when a Registry doesn’t protect or look after the interests of their domain registrants. You would think that Affilias would fight like holy hell to stop .mobile but they stand to make too much in the new gTLDs by providing backend services.

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