New gTLD registries will have to wait a bit longer before they’re allowed to start selling two-character domain names, after ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee controversially issued new guidelines on their release.
The registries for hundreds of gTLDs will be affected by the delays, which could last a few months and were put in place by the ICANN board of directors at the request of the GAC at the ICANN 52 meeting in Singapore last week.
The two-character domain issue was one of the most contentious topics discussed at ICANN 52.
Exasperated registries complained to ICANN’s board that their requests to release such domains had been placed on hold by ICANN staff, apparently based on a letter from GAC chair Thomas Schneider which highlighted concerns held by a small number of governments.
The requests were frozen without a formal resolution by the board, and despite the fact that the GAC had stated more than once that it did not have consensus advice to give.
Some governments don’t want any two-letter domains that match their own ccTLDs to be released.
Italy, for example, has made it clear that it wants it.example and 1t.example blocked from registration, to avoid confusion.
Others, such as the US, have stated publicly that they have no issue with any two-character names being sold.
The process for releasing the names went live in December, following an October board resolution. It calls for a 30-day comment period on each request, with official approval coming seven to 10 days later.
But despite hundreds of requests going through the pipe, ICANN has yet to approve any. That seems to be due to Schneider’s letter, which said some governments were worried the comment process was not transparent enough.
This looked like a case of ICANN staff putting an unreasonable delay on part of registries’ businesses, based on a non-consensus GAC position that was delivered months after everyone thought it was settled law.
Registries grilled the board and senior ICANN executives about this apparent breakdown in multi-stakeholder policy-making last Tuesday, but didn’t get much in the way of an explanation.
It seems the GAC chair made the request, and ICANN implemented a freeze on a live business process, without regard to the usual formal channels for GAC advice.
However, the GAC did issue formal advice on two-letter domains on Wednesday during the Singapore meeting. ICANN’s board adopted the advice wholesale the next day.
This means that the comment period on each request — even the ones that have already completed the 30-day period — will be extended to 60 days.
The delay will be longer than a month for those already in the pipe, however, as ICANN still has to implement the board-approved changes to the process.
One of those changes is to alert governments when a new registry request has been made, a potentially complex task given that not every government is a member of the GAC.
The board’s resolution says that all comments from governments “will be fully considered”, which probably means we won’t be seeing the string “it” released in any new gTLD.
The GAC has also said it will publish a list of governments that do not intend to object to any request, and a list of governments that intend to object to every request.