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A Gap in the New gTLD Applicant Guidebook?

Jean Guillon

Community or Standard?

I strongly believe there is a serious "breach" in the Applicant Guidebook: I checked the scoring, I checked the possible objections, I am aware of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) early warning but I really could not find ...

...how ICANN is going to avoid Community applications to be submitted as Standard ones.

The role of ICANN is to offer a solution to launching new generic Top-Level Domains, it is no party in saying whether a new gTLD is a Community or not. It offers a procedure in which Objections and the GAC (Governmental Advisory Committee) Early Warning* are a solution but it does not offer a final mechanism to block a Community from becoming open to anyone if Objections and GAC fail to do their job.

The example

I think .WINE is a good example of this as there is a strong community behind wine and these domain names should highly be dedicated to wine web sites users worldwide: shouldn't they?

Community applications protect domain name registrants from Standard applications which are "open to all". A community application also has a lot of power to reduce cybersquatting because a Registrant (the person who buys a domain name) must follow more restrictive registration rules.

Shouldn't a wine company be allowed to access to a .wine domain name in priority, even after a Landrush period when domain names can be accessed to anybody?

Of course it should but it probably won't because it is more lucrative to go "Standard" for the applicant rather than "Community". It also takes less time for the Standard applicant to have a Return On Investment as the validation process to acquire a domain name from a Community application can take longer.

Questions and answers

A few questions here:

  • What if there is one standard .WINE application with no objections: will it be accepted?
  • What if there is one standard .WINE application with no GAC early warning: will it be accepted?
  • Will it end in an auction if there are two .WINE Standard applications?
  • Will it cost "much more" to this Community to protect itself when its domain names are open to all?

One answer here: yes it will…

The loser

The result of this is that the end user (the Registrant) is the loser because whatever mechanisms are put in place, there are none which will block such "accidents" from happening: there is absolutely no reason why a Community should be exposed to more cybersquatting and domaining because there is no border line:

  1. Objections allow to object only, they are no guarantee a keyword representing a Community won't be allowed as a Standard application.
  2. "The GAC Early Warning" is just a warning. Is the GAC early warning going to be powerful enough to block a private company to acquire a Community string and allow anyone to register its domain names?
  3. Do I want a generic .wine domain name to be sold as a "Premium domain name" to a domainer so it then blocks a member of this Community to have a good and interesting use of it? It has happened before and it is going to happen again when Community applications are accepted as Standard ones.

So now what?

If a well represented Community has no money to protect itself, nor it knows how to protect itself, nor it understands the complex Applicant Guidebook, I am afraid the only solution left is going to be the same as usual: $$$, cybersquatting, domaining…

Oh I forgot: Public Comments may be a solution but will they really be taken into account if massive organizations apply for multiple strings in standard applications?
Will "someone" dare to do something if it is revealed as a common practice on the first round of applications?

Won't it just be easier to just say: "It's OK, it sticks to the rule".

Probably…

* Concurrent with the 60-day comment period, ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) may issue a GAC Early Warning notice concerning an application. This provides the applicant with an indication that the application is seen as potentially sensitive or problematic by one or more governments.

By Jean Guillon, New generic Top-Level Domain specialist. More blog posts from Jean Guillon can also be read here.

Related topics: ICANN, Top-Level Domains

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Comments

Well, the problem is that ICANN primarely Alexander Schubert  –  Mar 27, 2012 7:48 AM PDT

Well, the problem is that ICANN primarely thinks top down. ICANN claims to be bottom up but it thinks top down. Important to ICANN are RSP's, Registry Operators, the GAC. At the end of importance stands the registrant. The "end user" is now and then mentioned; in a way you mention a weired relative whom you are more happy to not see then to see him.

Whether an application is "community" is simply the wrong question. Therefore it leads to wrong answers. The way it would be right is to ask: Which of the "top" strings are community? Obviously strings like Berlin, Miami, Hotel, Gay and so on. Before letting anyone apply for them ICANN should have requested suggestions from the Interent community to identify community strings. Then these strings should have been reserved and only a community application can prevail.

And it should be the underlying community who decides who is the right applicant! It can't be that one (community) applicant is the perfect match for the community and provides tons of value for them and another applicant goes "standart", shells out a few million Dollars and then "rapes" the TLD by letting it have the fate that .info has: Millions of registrations, no impact in the Internet whatsoever: Happy registry operator but sad community!

Alexander Schubert
co-founder .berlin
founder .gay

The Community should decide, I agree. Jean Guillon  –  Mar 27, 2012 8:17 AM PDT

I agree Community strings should have been reserved (based on the REDCROSS and OLYMPICS examples maybe?) and it would have been a very good idea if ICANN had offered Internet users the possibility to suggest some of them AND BLOCK them from any applicant to apply for their strings - and in multiple languages.

Now, I disagree when it comes to asking the community to select an applicant. Many applicants are also service providers and if their role is to provide a solution, we all know their role is to earn as much money as possible too (I will come back on this in another article). This definitely cannot work...Internet users can't have enough knowledge or understanding of the new gTLD program nor ICANN to select the right applicant.

BUT…

The Community is perfectly able to chose which model is best to protect its end-users and allow them to access these domain names in priority.

Funny, I am reading this again and I think we're talking about the exact same thing: happy service providers but no impact on specific communities.

Bogus Communities Philip S Corwin  –  Mar 27, 2012 12:47 PM PDT

I don't think there is a .wine community any more than there is a .whisky, .cigars, or .coffee community.

Who makes up the .wine community — Producers, retailers, or drinkers? Where is it centered — France, California, Chile, Australia?

The Applicant Guidebook is pretty clear that the "community" moniker is to be narrowly construed because a community applicant gains a giant advantage over strictly commercial applicants for the same string — automatic trumping of competing applications and no need to coombine forces or go to auction. The real problem with the AG is that only someone claining to be the true representative of a bogus community can challenge it directly, not someone who believes that no such community exists. Therefore commercialchallengers will have to resort to other means to protest any bogus community claim.

You answered your question Jean Guillon  –  Mar 28, 2012 12:09 AM PDT

Producers, retailers...there is a list on the Project dotVinum for .WINE domain names. The .wine community is worldwide, certainly not American "or" French "or" Australian "or" anything else.

I think this is the problem here: The benefit of the ICANN new gTLD program should go to consumers, not to "strictly commercial applicants"… Community applications are supposed to allow that as they focus on specific buyers with a need of specific domain names. Strictly commercial applicants' target is to sell.

A community representative can easily be found, there is a major one for wine and I am sure it is reading this :-)

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