You can hardly swing a dead cat around NewTLDland without hitting some controversy — particularly concerning closed generic new gTLDs. March’s conversation concerning the possible consequences of allowing them, and what ICANN should do concerning their implementation, resulted in the GAC (Governmental Advisory Committee) issuing a broad recommendation a couple weeks ago, stating that “strings representing a generic term,” that are also restricted, should “serve a public interest goal.” It’s still up to ICANN to decide what that means, and whether or not to follow the guideline in the first place, and until they make the decision plenty of sources are weighing in.
In the spirit of camaraderie, we’d thought it would be fun to take some time, examine the issue, and try and predict the future without any actual ability to predict the future.
What is a “Closed Generic” new TLD?
“Closed generic” refers to any proposed new TLD that embodies a generic term, like .app, .cloud, and .car, but with closed registration, meaning that the registry selects who can register based on their own criteria, often limiting registration to the company. One example is the possibility of Amazon becoming the registry for .book and closing the registration to only allow those who publish e-books for Amazon’s Kindle service to apply for a .book domain.
In a lot of instances, proposed generic term new TLDs have more than one applicant. Community applicants get first dibs on whatever extension they apply for, but if there is no community application, generic term extensions are up for grabs, and are often applied for by both open and closed registry applicants, which is why the conversation has become so heated.
The Arguments on Either Side
Some believe that generic new TLD registrations should remain open to every Internet user, regardless of the ramifications. To those who support completely open registrations, the free market takes the place of any restrictions, or policies, in controlling a new TLD and determining the direction and definition of any given term. According to these opponents, restricting a generic term registration damages the market related to the generic term, closes smaller businesses out, reduces competition, and acts against public interest.
Others argue that a free market is a free market, no matter where that market starts. Any entity with the money could apply for a TLD, and when an applicant gets the registry rights, that applicant can do whatever they want with the registry, says those who support closed registrations. Because the registry rights also represent a free market. Those who support closed generic term registries also argue that open registries increase phishing, cyber squatting, and scams, and create a market that cannot gain credibility because anyone can register, and therefore fails as a go-to source.
So, what will ICANN do?
ICANN has a few options with how to deal with this dilemma, but no easy solutions. There’s nothing in the guidebook, according to ICANN, to restrict closed generic registries (others interpret the guidebook code of conduct to include taboos on running exclusive or closed generic term registrations), so ICANN is not obligated to change their proceedings at all.
ICANN could amend their policies, stress the approval of open generic registries over closed, like they have with community registries, request that applicants redefine their registry terms, or do nothing at all. However, in light of the recent GAC advice, and objections, the chances of ICANN doing nothing seems slim.
Let us know what you think. What should ICANN do? If you’re watching new gTLDs, then the discussion is worth keeping your eye on, as it will likely dictate what extensions you’ll keep watching and which ones are going to be closed off to you, and other users like you. Keep an eye on your favorite nTLDs with our watcher, and keep checking back here – we’ll update information as the discussion continues.