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“Just give up!” ICANN tells its most stubborn new gTLD applicant

Kevin Murphy, April 8, 2019, 16:08:13 (UTC), Domain Policy

ICANN has urged the company that wants to run .internet as new gTLD to just give up and go away.
The India-based company, Nameshop, actually applied for .idn — to stand for “internationalized domain name” — back in the 2012 application round.
It failed the Geographic Names Review portion of the application process because IDN is the International Standards Organization’s 3166-1 three-letter code for Indonesia, and those were all banned.
While one might question the logic of applying for a Latin-script string to represent IDNs, overlooking the ISO banned list was not an incredibly stupid move.
Even a company with Google’s brainpower resources overlooked this paragraph of the Applicant Guidebook and applied for three 3166-1 restricted strings: .and, .are and .est.
But rather than withdraw its .idn bid, like Google did with its failed applications, Nameshop decided to ask ICANN to change its applied-for string to .internet.
There was a small amount of precedent for this. ICANN had permitted a few applicants to correct typos in their applied-for strings, enabling DotConnectAfrica for example to correct its nutty application for “.dotafrica” to its intended “.africa”.
But swapping out .idn for .internet was obviously not a simple correction but rather looked a complete upgrade of its addressable market. Nobody else had applied for .internet, and Nameshop was well aware of this, so Nameshop’s bid would have been a shoo-in.
To allow the change would have opened the floodgates for every applicant that found itself in a tricky contention set to completely change their desired strings to something cheaper or more achievable.
But Nameshop principal Sivasubramanian Muthusamy did not take no for an answer. He’s been nagging ICANN to change its mind ever since.
There’s a lengthy, rather slick timeline of his lobbying efforts published on the Nameshop web site.
He filed a Request for Reconsideration back in 2013, which was swiftly rejected by the ICANN board of directors.
In July 2017, he wrote to ICANN to complain that Nameshop’s string change request should be treated the same as any other:

It seems that if ICANN can allow string changes from a relatively undesirable name to a more desireable name based on misspelling, then ICANN should allow a change from a desireable name in three characters(IDN) to longer name in eight characters (Internet) based on confusion with geographical names

Meetings with ICANN staff, the Ombudsman, the Governmental Advisory Committee and others to discuss his predicament several times over the last several years have proved fruitless.
Finally, today ICANN has published a letter (pdf) it sent to Muthusamy on Friday, urging him to ditch his Quixotic quest and get his money back. Christine Willett, VP of gTLD operations, wrote:

Given we are unable to take further action on Nameshop’s application, we encourage you to withdraw the application for a full refund of Nameshop’s application fee.

I doubt this is the first time ICANN has urged Nameshop to take its money and run, but it seems ICANN is now finally sick of talking about the issue.
Willett added that ICANN staff and directors “politely decline” his request for further in-person meetings to discuss the application, and encouraged him to apply for his desired string in the next application round, whenever that may be.

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Comments (5)

  1. Richard Funden says:

    A full refund? That is more than most denied applicants got.

  2. wanker says:

    It’s a clever move though. Get the .internet through the backdoor.

  3. Dear Kevin Murphy,
    Thank you for your article, and for your attention to the published letter even ahead of it reaching my mailbox. I was a little taken aback by ICANN’s attempt to refuse a meeting during Marrakesh, which I am challenging by a reply.
    The logic of applying for .IDN as an ASCII string was to offer it as an ASCII layer and pointer to the IDN web-spaces that typically have domain names in ‘local’ scripts that are not easily used globally beyond their respective language spaces. An additional ASCII domain name for IDN Registrants would help extend the reach of their IDN webspaces to the rest of the Internet (and in the process, help preserve the Internet as One Internet).
    As you have noted, .IDN as originally applied for, happened to be an alpha3 country code, which was “not to be allowed”. The ambiguity about the rule was that the rule was not mentioned in the Applicant Guide Book in the relevant sections on prohibited strings or reserved strings, but somewhere else.
    When the “Change Request” process was announced by ICANN, there were no restraints on the type of change to be asked for. Applicants could apply to change patterns of ownership, location, business plan, or anything else, as nothing was prohibited as a change request.
    Nameshop applied to change the string to .Internet, a string which equally represented the idea of expanding the reach of the IDN web-spaces across the Internet. The string .IDN was not allowed, so I requested .Internet. Nameshop’s change request confirmed to all the criteria as laid down, but ICANN has not yet approved the change, nor assigned reasons for denying this string change while others were allowed.
    The string .Internet is not a reserved string, not a string applied for by other applicants, not a geographical string or under contention in any other manner.
    There are various process gaps and gross omissions in ICANN’s treatment of this application, both during the evaluation and reconsideration, but Nameshop’s focus has been on moving ahead only by assuring the ICANN Community that the string would be operated around its elaborate Public Interest Commitments, which far exceed in scope than that of many other applicants. The TLD .Internet would be of immense value to the DNS including that of resolving a human-level “Universal Acceptance” problem, that concerns the difficulty for the global user to read, write or use a domain string in in an unfamiliar script. ICANN’s GDD refuses to go into this and several other merits of the application and its Public Interest Commitments. The GDD hasn’t looked into the contents of the application, but says that it followed all processes. On its persistent refusal to evaluate the application for .Internet in good faith, the only response is that a process was followed (No, not even by the book) and that there is no process to review its own prejudicial rulings, no process to revisit its own gaps, no process to correct the course at least now.
    Instead it tries to resolve the issue by causing duress. As you have rightly observed, this is not the first time ICANN has asked us to take the money back, I have already written to ICANN not to force a refund which would be most unfair.
    Thank you. I am available for any further clarifications or details.

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