Remember when you were a kid and you had to do all your chores before going outside? So you’d finish putting away the dishes, or whatever, and ask your parents to go outside, and they’d keep adding chores. “Clean the cat litter,” they’d say. Hours later, the sun would be setting, and you’d be crying at your window, like Cinderella. Okay, so maybe that was Cinderella. The point is, that’s precisely what seems to be happening with the new gTLD process — we want the new gTLDs to come out to play, but now the GAC (Governmental Advisory Committee) has a few more things they need new TLDs to do before they can leave the house.
So what’s going on with new TLDs, why does the GAC want ICANN to consider new safeguards, and what does that mean for the whole process? Here’s a breakdown:
On April 11th, the GAC released its Beijing Communique, outlining recommendations for new TLDs. The communique basically let ICANN know that the GAC isn’t currently satisfied with the direction of many new TLDs, including closed generic terms and market sector terms. You can download the full communique here, but the advice section contains the following notable recommendations:
- Due to lack of community support, .ISLAM and .HALAL ought not to proceed.
- .SHENZHEN, .PERSIANGULF, .GUANGZHOU, .AMAZON, .PATAGONIA, .DATE, .SPA, .YUN, .THAI, .ZULU, .WINE, and .VIN should not be allowed to proceed past the Initial Evaluation stage due to their perceived negative effect on the communities they might be associated with.
- ICANN should reconsider their stance on singular and plural strings, as the inclusion of both may be confusing to users.
- Six new safeguards, outlining security and privacy practices, should be put in place by contract, putting more weight on applicants and registries to make sure their new TLDs are run with utmost concern for safety and credibility.
- Strings that are related to market sectors ought to operate within applicable laws, should act in the public’s interest, and should adhere to multiple safeguards that ensure the strings are used to help markets function healthily — the GAC includes a “non-exhaustive” list of over 180 different proposed strings that ought to be included.
- .WTF, .GRIPE, .SUCKS, .FAIL ought to be regulated to reduce cyber bullying and misuse.
What’s Happening Now: Community Forum
In response to this advice, on May 10th, ICANN opened a community forum to collect feedback and responses concerning the communique and how it ought to be implemented, including this timeline, that branches all the way out into late June. The comment period ended on May 14 and there are over 90 responses in the thread inbox of community input, which you can access here. ICANN’s review of the comments will take until June 20 to complete.
The responses range in tone and direction, from concerned trademark holders and communities standing with the GAC and against allowing certain threads to be approved without added safeguards (such as Michelin Tires objecting the use of .TIRES by Bridgestone), to applicants that are sick of waiting through another advisory process and want to see the new TLD process move forward, instead of inching back (such as Google’s concern that the GAC has overstepped its bounds in advising how the new gTLD program should perform as a whole).
It seems that once again, the ICANN community, and it’s stakeholders are in a locked horns position, between those who have an invested interest in new gTLDs making it through, and those who have an invested interest in certain nTLDs failing.
While ICANN doesn’t have to accept all of the GAC’s recommendations, its clear that for the time being, its New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC) will takes it time in reviewing all the safeguards and recommendations, as well as try to discern whether or not the GAC is maintaining its stance as one advisory component in a multi-stakeholder, bottom-up democratic approach, or if it’s being heavy-handed. Until then, many applications will be on hold, including closed generics, market sector related TLDs, and so on.
Because the GAC’s list is non-exhaustive, and the GAC states that more safeguards may have to be put in place for certain strings than others, the recommendations have the ability to affect a very large amount of applicants. Aside from the broad range of the recommendations, the GAC states that their next meeting will be at the next ICANN convention in South Africa on July 14, which many applicants worry will mean decisions on their applications might not be made until late July.
What Do You Think?
Weigh in. It’s no secret that we, as a registrar, really kind of want new TLDs to start launching already. We’ve been waiting for a long time, and we’re excited to see how the new Internet is going to react. But, what do you think? Do you think the GAC has gone too far, or is the measure of their concern mirrored in the community? What would you do, if you were in charge of ICANN?
Let us know — and keep an eye on the new TLDs, as they make their way through the application process, by signing up for our watcher.