Industry objection forming to Google and Amazon’s keyword gTLD land grab

Kevin Murphy, September 19, 2012, 19:11:06 (UTC), Domain Registries

Members of the domain name industry, led by Michele Neylon of Blacknight, plan to complain to ICANN about dozens of single-registrant new gTLD applications filed by Google and Amazon.

The signatories of a new letter are bothered by plans by these companies and others to hold dictionary word gTLDs for their own exclusive use, not allowing regular internet users to register domains.

While the letter does not call out applicants by name, it specifically mentions .blog, .music and .cloud as examples of potentially objectionable single-registrant gTLDs.

Google has applied for .blog and .cloud for its own use, among many others. Amazon has done the same for .cloud and .music and dozens of others. All three are heavily contested.

The letter is so far signed by 13 people, many of whom work for registrars. It states in part:

generic words used in a generic way belong to all people. It is inherently in the public interest to allow access to generic new gTLDs to the whole of the Internet Community, e.g., .BLOG, .MUSIC, .CLOUD. Allowing everyone to register and use second level domain names of these powerful, generic TLDs is exactly what we envisioned the New gTLD Program would do. In contrast, to allow individual Registry Operators to segregate and close-off common words for which they do not possess intellectual property rights in effect allows them to circumvent nation-states’ entrenched legal processes for obtaining legitimate and recognized trademark protections.

The ICANN Applicant Guidebook gives certain special privileges to single-registrant gTLDs.

In its discretion, ICANN can release such registries from the Code of Conduct, which obliges them to treat all accredited registrars on a non-discriminatory basis.

The condition for this exception is that “all domain name registrations in the TLD are registered to, and maintained by, Registry Operator for its own exclusive use”.

The measure was designed to capture dot-brand gTLDs such as .google and .amazon, where only the registry itself controls the second-level domain names.

But Google seems to want to benefit from the exception to the Code of Conduct while still offering second-level domains for use by its customers, at least in some applications.

In its .blog application, for example, it states:

Charleston Road Registry [the applying Google subsidiary] intends to apply for an exemption to ICANN’s Registry Operator Code of Conduct and operate the proposed gTLD with Google as the sole registrar and registrant. The proposed gTLD will specifically align with Blogger, an existing Google product, and will provide users with improved capabilities that meet their diverse needs.

The specialization goal of the proposed gTLD is to provide a dedicated second-level domain space for the management of a userʹs Blogger account.

However, the same application also states:

The mission of the proposed gTLD is to provide a dedicated domain space in which users can publish blogs. All registered domains in the .blog gTLD will automatically be delegated to Google DNS servers, which will in turn provide authoritative DNS responses pointing to the Google Blogger service. The mission of the proposed gTLD is to simplify the Blogger user experience. Users will be able to publish content on a unique .blog domain (e.g., myname.blog) which will serve as a short and memorable URL for a particular Blogger account.

“Google want .blog to be only for Blogspot users, which is insane,” Neylon told DI. “No one company should have control of a generic name space like that.”

“The new TLD project spent thousands of hours working on protecting IP rights, and then you get big companies blatantly abusing the system,” he said.

It’s not at all clear whether Google’s plan for .blog is a permitted use case. Does Google’s plan for .blog and other gTLDs mean third parties will be “controlling” and/or “using” .blog domains?

Or is its plan more akin to a dot-brand offering its customers vanity URLs, such as kevin.barclays or john.citi?

I err to the former interpretation.

When a new gTLD applicant asked ICANN for clarity on this matter last December, ICANN’s response was:

“Exclusive use” has its common meaning. The domain name must be exclusively used by the Registry Operator, and no unaffiliated (using the definition of “Affiliate” in the Registry Agreement) third-party may have control over the registration or use of the domain name.

Neylon said he plans to send the letter to ICANN management, board and new gTLD program Independent Objector next week. There’s no target number of signatures.

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Comments (5)

  1. Tom G says:

    Where do I sign and will the letter be going to the GAC also?

  2. Rubens Kuhl says:

    Although ICANN staff said that any publicized comment can be considered by the Independent Objector, it probably doesn’t hurt to also make a new gTLD public comment with the content.

    I don’t agree with this objection, but that may be the most important decision of all in this round of new gTLDs so it’s probably one to have a clear standing from DRPs, competition authorities and ICANN board so all parties can plan accordingly to round 2.

    What also should be planned is what happens if such closed mechanisms are found as grounds for an application to fail. If there is contention, it’s probably an easy finding that the application is out and the TLD goes to others.

    But what happens if that was the only application to that TLD, or if all applications were of closed nature ? Could they submit changes and request extended evaluation ?

  3. Dave Tyrer says:

    I’m in the process of building a whole website dedicated to this disturbing aspect of the new gTLD debacle. It’s a challenge to say the least.

    Since time for objections is running short, I’ll launch it as a work in progress no later than Sunday night (Australia time). That should be lunch time Sunday in the US.

    For those interested, the domain is: SuperMonopolies.com

    Michele’s letter is excellent, the site will link to it and I will try to contact her on the weekend about signing it and any possible cooperation with the site if she is interested in that.

    Phil Corwin wrote a superb, prescient and benchmark intro which also covers this topic in Domain Name News back in June. It’s a must read:

    http://www.domainnamenews.com/new-gtlds/new-gtlds-competition-or-concentration-innovation-or-domination/11833

    I tried to comment positively but it failed to print or was rejected:-(

    Few people seem to have given much thought to the possibility of a single entity privately owning every possible application of some of the new extensions. Once they do, it could be a fait accompli.

    • Rubens Kuhl says:

      That possibility was quoted in many materials about new gTLDs as “new business models”. I would rather see only brand, community and geo TLDs instead of more generics (either open or closed registration) , but that possible outcome were in people’s minds. What they failed to foresee was the arrival of Billion dollar companies applying for more than a 100 of those, including some of the most demanded strings. If there were just a few, from some entrepreneurs, and were not competing in contention sets, they would be under the radar.

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