For the last few weeks I’ve been attempting to write a sensible analysis of the Governmental Advisory Committee’s advice on new gTLDs without resorting to incredulity, hyperbole or sarcasm.
I failed, so you’ll have to read this instead.
I’m sorry, but the GAC’s Beijing communique (pdf) just has too much stupid in it to take seriously.
As a quick reminder, the bulk of the GAC’s advice was taken up by a list of hundreds of applied-for strings, in 12 categories, that “are likely to invoke a level of implied trust from consumers”.
The GAC said that any string on the list should be subject to more stringent regulation than others, turning their registries into data security regulators and creating an obligation to partner with “relevant regulatory, or industry self-regulatory, bodies”.
The GAC, having advised the creation of these unexpected obligations, decided that it wasn’t its responsibility to figure out whether any of them would be feasible to implement.
That’s apparently up to ICANN to figure out.
But that’s not the most infuriating part of the advice. The most infuriating part is the list of strings it provided, which by the GAC’s own admission was unhelpfully “non-exhaustive”.
When one performs a cursory analysis of the list, and compares it to the strings that did not make it, the dumb just accumulates.
My spies tell me that the GAC worked into the early hours on a few occasions during the Beijing meeting in order to put this advice together, and some might say it’s unfair to expect its members to have read and formed consensus opinions on all 1,930 original new gTLD applications.
But the GAC wasn’t expected to read them all, nor did it. Its job was originally conceived of as commenting on the strings alone, and that appears to be what it ultimately did limit itself to.
I think it’s fair to try to get some insight into the GAC’s collective thought process by looking at the “Category 1” strings that it did put on the list and those that it did not.
Not because I think there’s a coherent thought process at work here, but because I think there isn’t.
Remember, the GAC had nine months to come up with its list. This article was written in an afternoon.
Here’s my list of bizarre inconsistencies, failed reality checks and pure dumb I found in the Beijing communique.
Destroy all pirates!
The GAC is clearly a bit worried that people might use new gTLDs to offer pirated and counterfeited goods (like they do in existing TLDs), so it has placed a few dozen content-related strings on its list.
The intellectual property list is one of the longest of the 12 categories in the Beijing communique.
But it could be longer.
I wonder why, for example, the GAC doesn’t consider .stream a threat to copyright? Streaming sites are frequent targets of takedown notices.
Why does .hiphop get a mention but not .country, a gTLD specifically designed for country music lovers?
Why are .photography, .photo, .photos, .pictures and .pics not on the list? Image theft is pandemic online, enabled by default in browsers (no P2P required) and utterly trivial to execute.
And if .tours is considered a problem, why not .events, or .tickets?
We’re talking about sectors with abuse potential here, and ticketing is considered worthy of legislation in many places. Here in England you can get a £5,000 fine for reselling a ticket to a football match.
Why is .tours even on the intellectual property list? It could just as easily refer to organized vacations or guide services provided by museums. Or the French city of the same name, for that matter.
Why aren’t our friends in Tours getting the same GAC love as Spa and Date — towns in Belgium and Japan — which have caused the delay of advice on .spa and .date respectively?
And why are .free, .gratis and .discount considered intellectual property problems?
How is the .free registry supposed to follow the GAC’s demand that it partner with “relevant regulatory, or industry self‐regulatory, bodies” for free stuff? Does “.free” even have an “implied level of trust”?
Is the GAC’s goal to kill off the bid by the back door?
Goodbye .free, you couldn’t guarantee that there wouldn’t be piracy in your TLD so your application is forfeit? A potentially cool TLD, sacrificed on the altar of Big Copyright?
Don’t even get me started on .art…
Won’t somebody think of the children?!
The GAC did not say why the “children” category exists, but I assume it’s about ensuring that the content in TLDs such as .kids and .school is suitable for “kids” (pick your own definition, the GAC doesn’t have one).
It goes without saying that any TLD that is obliged to follow child-friendly rules will be saddled with a commercial death sentence, as the US government already knows full well.
The GAC didn’t include .family on the list for some reason, but it did inexplicably include .game and .games.
In the last game I played, my character stabbed a guy in the neck with a broken bottle, stole his clothes and threw his body off a cliff. Gaming is a predominantly adult pastime nowadays.
Suggesting that .games sites need to be child-friendly is just as stupid as saying .movie or .book sites need to be child-friendly.
I’m sure GAC chair Heather Dryden is far too sensible and grown-up to play games, but I’d be surprised if not a single member of the committee owns an Xbox. One of them should have pointed this nonsense out.
If the GAC is not saying this — if it’s merely saying the .games registry should work cooperatively with the gaming industry — then why is .games in the “Children” category?
The GAC Diet
Another couple dozen strings are listed under the “health and fitness” category, ranging from the not-unreasonable, such as .doctor, to the terrifically broad, such as .diet and .care.
Donuts, the .care applicant, has to partner with some kind of medical register in order to sell a TLD that could just as easily be used for customer support by a company that sells shoes?
And .diet? If the GAC is concerned about internet users getting dodgy dieting advice from a disreputable .diet registrant, why not also issue advice against .eat and .food?
If .fitness is a problem, why isn’t .yoga?
Why isn’t the GAC bothered by .tattoo and .ink? Where I live, you need to be a licensed professional in order to stick people with an inky needle.
For that matter, why aren’t .beauty and .salon a problem? Pretty much every beauty salon I’ve walked past in the last couple of years wants to inject toxins into my face for a fee.
If we’re already saying games are for kids, that free equals fake, and that tours can be pirated, it doesn’t seem like too unreasonable a leap to to regulate .beauty too.
You feed beefburgers to swans
There’s a provision in the Beijing communique saying that every string on the GAC’s list must force its registrants “to comply with all applicable laws, including those that relate to… organic farming.”
So why the hell doesn’t .farm appear on the list?!?
Really, it doesn’t. I’ve triple-checked. It’s not there. According to the GAC’s advice, a .bingo registrant has to abide by organic farming laws but a .farm registrant does not.
Some professions are more equal than others
For all of the “Category 1” strings the GAC has advised against, the headline argument is this:
Strings that are linked to regulated or professional sectors should operate in a way that is consistent with applicable laws.
But there are plenty of strings that are “linked to regulated or professional sectors” that don’t merit a mention in the communique.
Alcohol, for example. The sale of booze is regulated pretty much everywhere — in some places it’s illegal — but .pub and .bar don’t make it to the GAC’s advice. Neither does .vodka.
If the GAC wants .weather to have strict controls — with no abuse scenario I can think of — why not a couple of TLDs that could, potentially, be used to sell alcohol over the internet?
What of construction? There may have been advice against .engineer, but .construction, .building, .contractors and .build got a pass. Why? Governments everywhere regulate the building industry tightly.
Here in the UK, if you want a plumber to come over and tinker with your heating you’d better hope they’re on the Gas Safe Register, but .plumber doesn’t show up in the Beijing communique.
Why not? An abusive .dentist registrant could mess up my teeth, but he’ll need an expensive surgery to do it in. An abusive .plumber, on the other hand, can come over and blow up my house with no such outlay.
Taxis are regulated in most big cities, but .taxi and .limo escaped GAC advice. Hell, even porn is strictly controlled in many countries, but .porn got a pass.
I could go on.
You might think I’m being petty, but remember: the GAC got the list of applied-for strings last June the same as everybody else. It had plenty of time to get its advice list right.
The GAC has a big responsibility in the multi-stakeholder process and by presenting advice that appears half-assed at best it makes it look like it doesn’t take that responsibility seriously.
I know it does, but it doesn’t appear that way.