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The plurals debate is over as ICANN delegates 17 more new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, December 18, 2013, 09:19:13 (UTC), Domain Policy

Another 17 new gTLDs were delegated to the DNS root last night, most of them belonging to Donuts.

Notably, Donuts now runs .photos and .careers, the first two delegated gTLDs where live applications also exist for the singular form of the string.

Uniregistry is currently contracted and awaiting the delegation of .photo, while dotCareer is already contracted for .career.

The debate about whether ICANN should permit singular and plural versions of the same string to coexist is now surely over.

Just a week ago, the Internet Association — a trade group comprising Amazon, Google, AOL, Yahoo, Salesforce, Zynga and many others — called on ICANN to rethink its policy of coexistence.

Calling the policy a “violation of user trust”, the Association said (pdf), “the existence of these domain names poses significant risks to the DNS, Internet companies, and their users”.

The Association noted that the Governmental Advisory Committee had strong concerns about singular and plural coexistence, due to the risk of consumer confusion.

String Confusion Objection panels have reached quite different conclusions about whether adding an “s” makes a string confusingly similar to another.

Personally, while I’m all for competition, I believe coexistence will lead to parasitical business models that will bring the domain name industry into further disrepute.

I know for a fact that some registries are considering the merits of tailgating their confusingly similar competitors.

But it seems ICANN’s decision was final.

There’s currently no mechanism for ICANN to un-approve a gTLD once it’s been delegated — failing serious wrongdoing by the registry — so it’s difficult to see how it could now decide that plural and singular forms of the same string should be mutually exclusive.

While I’m sure the Internet Association and others will carry on complaining, I think they’re now talking to deaf ears.

There were 17 new gTLDs delegated yesterday in total, 15 of which were in Donuts portfolio.

Donuts has also added the following to its portfolio: .cab, .camp, .academy, .center, .company, .computer, .domains, .limo, .management, .recipes, .shoes, .systems and .viajes (Spanish for “travel”).

CONAC, the China Organizational Name Administration Center had .政务 (“government”) and .公益 (“public interest”) delegated.

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Comments (11)

  1. Somebody who owns, say, .car has to wonder if Internet users will be confused when .cars comes along. The same applies to the owner of .bikes, suspiciously eying the newly created .bike. Whoever owns the original word stands to lose business when the variant word pops up. This poses an unintended harm (negative externality) to the Internet. To compensate for the harm, ICANN would have to charge the variant name’s owner. If ICANN doesn’t, the government can levy some kind of tax on the variant’s owner and raise the money that way. Although there might be other sources of harm caused by the introduction of the new gTLDs, there isn’t much that ICANN can do now, given that it did not impose any such penalties in the first round of new gTLD allocations.

    It has been suggested that current owners should have right of first refusal of any gTLDs that are variants of words they already own Hypothetically, this could create a dilemma for ICANN if allocation was done by beauty contest instead of auction. In the second round, a bidder might be more “qualified,” based on published requirements. If the owner of a current word turns down a variant, buying it would probably not have added value. With an auction, of course, right-granting issues would not exist, and the entity that won the bid would be the one that valued it the most. Under a non-auction sale, ICANN would need to prohibit current owners from abusing their first-refusal right through buying them only to flip them.

  2. Dan says:

    This is madness, it makes it even more obvious that the gtld roll out will fail. Imagine how much a business now has to buy to cover themselves. Here’s a wild example of the reality of what a customer is going to have to get to probably protect their business:

    LondonAutos.car
    LondonAutos.cars
    LondonAutosCar.com
    LondonAutosCars.com
    LondonAutos.co.uk
    LondonAutosCar.co.uk
    LondonAutosCars.co.uk
    add .limo maybe? .taxi, .shop?!!………………………..

    Utterly Ridiculous. Or they could just stick with good old LondonAutos.com or LondonAutos.co.uk and people know where to go.

    (I have no idea what is on London Autos, I use this purely as the first example that came to mind!)

  3. Richard Funden says:

    Where is Mr. Schreiber when you need him?

  4. Andrew says:

    I find it humorous that your original version of this post confused .photo and .photos 🙂

    This will be interesting to watch

  5. Not-Com Tom says:

    Ugh. From a consumer/user perspective this will damage credibility.

    People ‘get’ new tlds for categorizing of the web, making information easier to identify. But when we’re duplicating topics, they see it as confusing.

    Unfortunate

  6. Philip Corwin says:

    We have reached the point where refusing to make a decision becomes the default decision. If ICANN were to say it backs the decisions of its objection panels and explain why that would at least be taking a stand, but by saying it won’t second guess them, even when they are inconsistent, it is just ducking its responsibility to shape a DNS that serves the public interest.

    To magnify the clusterf**k aspects of this, just imagine when the registrant for Londonautos.car files a UDRP or URS against the separate registrant for Londonautos.cars.

    • Andrew says:

      “We have reached the point where refusing to make a decision becomes the default decision.”

      Absolutely. This is always easier up front, and always causes problems down the road.

    • John Berryhill says:

      Since when is “LondonAutos” a trade or service mark?

      Why doesn’t this happen right now between LondonAuto.com and LondonAutos.com?

      There is, right now, a UDRP proceeding against BusinessForSale.com, brought by the operator of BusinessesForSale.com. Just out of curiosity, Phil, whom do you think should win and why?

      Or do you think that ICANN should decide?

  7. Kassey says:

    I think the plurals will fail as the general public are used to the singular extensions (.com, .net, .org etc).

    Just a side note. .政务 may better be translated as “government affairs” not “government(.政府)”

  8. Philip Corwin says:

    @John–Agree completely that there is already potential for confusion, per your Business/Businesses example. Having singulars and plurals of the same term at the right of the dot just squares the potential.
    In this regard ICANN seems to be adopting the role once ascribed to the Chicago Police Department by Mayor Daley during the 1968 riots — they are not there to create disorder, they are there to preserve disorder.

    Whatever the correct answer on this issue, it diminishes ICANN’s credibility when one ICDR arbitrator declares that .car and .cars are not confusingly similar while another says the opposite regarding .pet and .pets. Unfortunately, I feel safe in predicting that similar inconsistencies will arise when different panelists handle post-launch UDRP and URS cases involving identical domains at related singular/plural gTLDs.

    As for your question, I couldn’t even begin to venture an opinion without knowing much more about the registration dates, use, and any rights held in the two domains. In many instances such domains must coexist and expect confusingly comingled traffic.

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