ICANN Opens Comment Period On Closed Generic New gTLD’s

Well ICANN is addressing what has become the hottest topic of the new gTLD program by just opened the comment period on the subject of “closed generic” gTLD applications and whether specific requirements should be adopted corresponding to this type of application.

Stakeholder views are invited to help define and consider this issue. In particular, comments would be helpful in regard to proposed objective criteria for:

Classifying certain applications as “closed generic” TLDs, i.e., how to determine whether a string is generic, and
determining the circumstances under which a particular TLD operator should be permitted to adopt “open” or “closed” registration policies.
The New gTLD Program Committee of the ICANN Board of Directors has discussed this issue and has also directed completion of a set of focused research and analysis items to inform any possible action to be taken.

At its 2 February 2013 meeting, the Committee passed the following resolution:

Whereas, the New gTLD Program Committee has received correspondence from the community addressing “closed generic” TLDs and understands that members of the community term a “closed generic” TLD as a TLD string that is a generic term and is proposed to be operated by a participant exclusively for its own benefit.

Whereas, ICANN implemented the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) policy recommendations on the “Introduction of New Generic Top-Level Domains”, and within those policy recommendations there is no specific policy regarding “closed generic” top-level domains (TLDs).

Whereas, members of the community have expressed concerns regarding applications for “closed generic” TLDs.

Whereas, the New gTLD Program Committee considers that it is important to understand all views and potential ramifications relating to ‘closed generic’ TLDs.

Resolved (2013.02.02.NG01), the New gTLD Program Committee directs the President and CEO to open a 30-day public comment forum on this topic, which should include a call for identification of proposed objective criteria to classify applied-for TLDs as “closed generic” TLDs.

Resolved (2013.02.02.NG02), the New gTLD Program Committee directs the President and CEO to, concurrently with the opening of the public comment forum, request the GNSO to provide guidance on the issue of “closed generic” TLDs if the GNSO wishes to provide such guidance. Guidance on this issue is requested to be provided by the close of the public comment forum.

Resolved (2013.02.02.NG03), the New gTLD Program Committee directs the President and CEO to:

Summarize and analyze all comments submitted in the public comment forum.

Review materials supporting the policy development process resulting in the GNSO policy recommendations on the Introduction of New Generic Top-Level Domains and provide analysis of any discussions relating to the limitations on potential new gTLDs.

Analyze the feasibility of objectively classifying applied for TLDs as “closed generic” TLDs.

Provide an analysis as to whether the public interest and principles of international law are served by adopting a clear approach regarding ‘closed generic’ gTLDs.

Provide a report to the New gTLD Program Committee informed by the comments received and analysis conducted, including alternatives to addressing this issue.

Following the publication of the gTLD applications in June 2012, concerns have been brought to ICANN’s attention regarding some applications for strings which are labelled as “closed generic.” These applications are considered problematic by some due to the proposed use of the TLD by the applicant, e.g., using the TLD in a manner that is seen as inappropriately exclusive, particularly in the sense of creating a competitive advantage. These applications have been the subject of public comments and Early Warnings.

Many of the communications link the issue of registration restrictions for a TLD with the Code of Conduct (Specification 9 to the gTLD Registry Agreement).

However, it should be clarified that the Code of Conduct refers to registry-registrar interactions, rather than eligibility for registering names in the TLD. Rather than the Code of Conduct, the true issue of concern being expressed appears to be that in certain applications, the proposed registration policies are deemed inappropriate by some parties.

The New gTLD Program has been built based on policy advice developed in the GNSO’s policy development process. The policy advice did not contain guidance on how ICANN should place restrictions on applicants’ proposed registration policies, and no such restrictions were included in the Applicant Guidebook.

Defining a “generic” category of strings is a complex undertaking as strings may have many meanings and have implications for several languages. However, there are mechanisms built into the program (e.g., objection processes, GAC processes) as a means for concerns about specific applications to be considered and resolved as they arise.

Recent correspondence has expressed concerns about the potential impact on competition and consumer choice, as well as phrasing the issue in terms of potential impact on the public interest. The New gTLD Program Committee considers it important to understand all views and potential ramifications relating to “closed generic” TLDs.

To comment to ICANN on closed generic strings you need to send an email to: comments-closed-generic-05feb13@icann.org

You will get an email back asking you to confirm your comment, your comment will not be accepted or posted unless you send the email back confirming your comment.

The comment period closes on March 7th.


  1. Dave Tyrer says

    Some of the new gTLD applications are pure closed registry plays like this Amazon application for the highly valuable .news string:
    “.NEWS will be a single entity registry, with all domains registered to Amazon for use in pursuit of Amazon’s business goals. There will be no re-sellers in .NEWS and there will be no market in .NEWS domains. Amazon will strictly control the use of .NEWS domains…” (Amazon application)
    Other players seem to have been more aware of the possible risk of influential objections to their “walled garden” applications. Accordingly, they seem to have included reluctant caveats to their preferred outcomes to avoid jeopardizing their applications. For example, this application for the .beauty string:
    “Given the fact that L’Oréal will have full control over the number of registrations in the .BEAUTY gTLD namespace, L’Oréal expects that the number of domain name registrations will be less than 10,000 in the first three years of operation…

    “It is anticipated by L’Oréal that changes to the domain name industry, and particularly the impact of new generic-term gTLDs, may take approximately five years to be realized and assessed. Any decision to expand the gTLDs beyond corporate, licensee, and partner use would likely be predicated by a L’Oréal market analysis of both the market at the time for new gTLD registrations and consumer adoption of these new Internet addresses.” (L’Oréal application)
    So after cherry picking the best 10,000 domains in the .beauty category, and after five years of delay, L’Oréal might just be persuaded to release some other .beauty names to “the public” though under strict conditions. Conditions so strict they would likely exclude their competitors. And only after “a L’Oréal market analysis”.

    The issue of closed versus open registries raises a completely new and challenging question – how many domains can a registry withhold before opening the remainder to the public?

    As you can see above, L’Oréal plans to begin with the best 10,000 .beauty domains, then maybe, just maybe, they will sell others to the public. But will there be any decent names left? It’s very very hard to try to write down a list of 10,000 .beauty domains, even including geo’s like Paris.beauty. I have listed a bunch on the dot beauty page at SuperMonopolies.com but I’m about 9,950 short of the 10,000.

    Or consider the .insurance string. One single registry might reserve Life.insurance, Home.insurance, My.insurance, Car.insurance, Online.insurance, Health.insurance, Travel.insurance, PublicLiability.insurance etc etc – let’s say the top 50 .insurance domains. Then, suppose they release the leftovers to their competitors. Technically, they are running an open registry. But in reality, they have gained a massive anti-competitive advantage over all other insurance companies.

    In some niches, 90% of the value of an entire domain string could lie in just the ten best domains.

    Even so-called “open registries” can in effect be highly monopolistic.

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