The ICANN board will be asked to untangle the policy mess that currently bans domain name registrars from applying for new top-level domains, after a GNSO working group failed to reach consensus.
The Vertical Integration WG was tasked with figuring out whether registrars should be allowed to own new TLD registries and vice versa, but only managed to reach deadlock.
The GNSO Council is now likely to punt the issue to the ICANN’s September 24-25 retreat, asking the board to consider the issues raised by the WG’s non-committal interim report.
It’s a dismaying case of pass-the-parcel that highlights both the trickiness of the VI problem and the limits of ICANN’s bottom-up policy-making process.
ICANN’s Draft Applicant Guidebook currently says that cross ownership between registrars and new TLD registries should be limited to 2% and that all new TLDs need to be offered to all accredited registrars.
This was in response to fears from some quarters that if a registrar also owned a new TLD registry, it would have an unfair advantage over other registrars, ultimately harming registrants.
The DAGv4 text was an overt, deliberately Draconian placeholder – it would ban all registrars and some registries, as well as making “.brand” TLDs unworkable – designed to force the GNSO find a better solution to the perceived problem.
The WG, which is ongoing, has so far failed to do so, and now seems set to pass the hot potato back from whence it came.
What all this means is that the ICANN board (and, let’s face it, staff) will be forced to assemble a workable VI policy for the first round of new TLD applications from the piecemeal suggestions of the WG; to do over two days or less what the WG failed to do over six months.
What the board will decide remains to be seen, but it could wind up governing the first round of new TLD applications, potentially making it a considerably smaller round.