ICANN may have to decide which of its babies it loves the most — the GNSO or the GAC — after receiving conflicting marching orders on a controversial rights protection issue.
Essentially, the GAC has previously told ICANN to protect a bunch of acronyms representing international organizations — and ICANN did — but the GNSO today told ICANN to un-protect them.
The GNSO Council this afternoon passed a resolution to the effect that the acronyms of IGOs and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) should not be blocked in new gTLDs.
This conflicts directly with the Governmental Advisory Committee’s longstanding advice, which states that IGOs should have their names and acronyms reserved in all new gTLDs.
The Council’s resolution was passed unanimously, enjoying the support of registries, registrars, non-commercial users, intellectual property interests… everyone.
It came at the end of a Policy Development Process that kicked off in 2011 after the GAC demanded that the International Olympic Committee and Red Cross/Red Crescent should have their names protected.
The PDP working group’s remit was later expanded to address new demands from the GAC, along with a UN-led coalition of IGOs, to also protect IGO and INGO names and acronyms.
The outcome of the PDP, which had most of its recommendations approved by the GNSO Council today, was to give the GAC most of what it wanted — but not everything.
The exact matches of the full IOC, RC/RC, IGO and INGO names should now become permanently ineligible for delegation as gTLDs. The same strings will also be eligible for the Trademark Claims service at the second level.
But, crucially, the GNSO Council has voted to not protect the acronyms of these organizations. Part of the lengthy resolution — apparently the longest the Council ever voted on — reads:
At the Top Level, Acronyms of the RCRC, IOC, IGOs and INGOs under consideration in this PDP shall not be considered as “Strings Ineligible for Delegation”; and
At the Second level, Acronyms of the RCRC, IOC, IGOs and INGO under consideration in this PDP shall not be withheld from registration. For the current round of New gTLDs, the temporary protections extended to the acronyms subject to this recommendation shall be removed from the Reserved Names List in Specification 5 of the New gTLD Registry Agreement.
The list of reserved names in Spec 5, which all new gTLD registries must block from launch, can be found here. The GNSO has basically told ICANN to remove the acronyms from it.
This means hundreds of strings like “who” and “idea” (which would have been reserved for the World Health Organization and the Institute for Development and Electoral Assistance respectively) should now become available to new gTLD registries to sell or otherwise allocate.
I say “should”, because the Council’s resolution still needs to be approved by the ICANN board before it becomes a full Consensus Policy, and to do so the board will have to reject (or reinterpret) the GAC’s advice.
The GAC, as of its last formal Communique, seemed to be of the opinion that it was going to receive all the protections that it asked for.
It has told ICANN for the last year that “IGOs are in an objectively different category to other rights holders” and that “their identifiers (both their names and their acronyms) need preventative protection”
It said in its advice from the Durban meeting (pdf) three months ago:
The GAC understands that the ICANN Board, further to its previous assurances, is prepared to fully implement GAC advice; an outstanding matter to be finalized is the practical and effective implementation of the permanent preventative protection of IGO acronyms at the second level.
The key word here seems to be “preventative”. Under the resolution passed by the GNSO Council today, IGO acronyms would be allowed to enter the Trademark Clearinghouse and participate in the Trademark Claims service, but Claims does not prevent anyone from registering a matching domain.
It’s looking like the ICANN board is going to have to make a call — does it accept the GAC advice, or does it accept the unanimous consensus position of the GNSO?
Given that much of ICANN 48 here in Buenos Aires this week has been a saccharine love-in for the “multistakeholder process”, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which the GNSO Council does not win out.
Get ready for a backlash — Nominet has committed to start offering second-level domain names under .uk for the first time.
Starting next year, you’ll be able to register example.uk, rather than only third-level names such as example.co.uk and example.org.uk.
Concerns were raised that allowing .uk would allow names to fall into the hands of the wrong people, and that the cost to UK business would be prohibitively high.
“We all want shorter, snappier names,” CEO Lesley Cowley said. “But we appreciate that not everyone shares that view so as a board we had to very carefully consider what’s in the best interest of the public.”
Nominet has introduced a few new ideas that seem to be designed to address these criticisms.
First, every owner of a .co.uk domain name will be given a free five-year reservation on the matching .uk SLD. If you own example.co.uk, you’ll have five years to decide whether to pay for the .uk version.
Cowley told DI that Nominet’s market research suggested that UK businesses repaint their trucks and get new stationery every five years anyway, so the pressure to rebrand around a new domain would be alleviated.
“There was some concern that businesses would feel forced to register a .uk,” she said. “We would not want that to be the case. We want people to consider in their own time whether they want to move.”
In cases where matching .co.uk and .org.uk (or .me.uk etc) domains are owned by different people, the .co.uk gets the free reservation and the .org.uk is locked out for five years.
Where there’s a .org.uk with no matching .co.uk, the .org.uk registrant gets the free reservation, Cowley said.
Domains registered prior to October 28 2013 — when the Nominet board voted on the proposal — will qualify for the free reservation, as will domains registered after that date when there are no colliding third-level domains.
The price for a .uk SLD is to be set at £3.50 for a one-year reg and £2.50 for one year of a multi-year registration. That’s the same as .uk wholesale prices today.
Why do it at all?
While Cowley admitted that .uk registration growth has been slowing recently, something being experienced by many ccTLDs and gTLDs, she said the main reason for the SLD change was demand.
Nominet has done some market research showing only 2% of UK businesses do not want the SLD option in .uk, compared to 72% that do, according to the company.
“People have been saying for some years that it would be good to drop the ‘co’ in .uk,” said Cowley. “It’s clunky. The French and Germans manage to have direct in .fr and .de, so why can’t we do that as well?”
Having spent the last 36 hours crunching ICANN’s lists of almost 10 million new gTLD name collisions, the DI PRO collisions database is back online, and we can start reporting some interesting facts.
First, while we reported yesterday that 1,318 new gTLD applicants will be asked to block a total of 9.8 million unique domain names, the number of distinct second-level strings involved is somewhat smaller.
It’s 6,806,050, according to our calculations, still a bewilderingly high number.
The most commonly blocked string, as expected, is “www”. It’s on the block-lists for 1,195 gTLDs, over 90% of the total.
Second is “2010”. I currently have no explanation for this, but I’m wondering if it’s an artifact of the years of Day In The Life data upon which ICANN based its lists.
Protocol-related strings such as “wpad” and “isatap” also rank highly, as do strings matching popular TLDs such as “com”, “org”, “uk” and “de”. Single-character strings are also very popular.
The brand with the most blocks (free trademark protection?) is unsurprisingly Google.
The string “google” appears as an exact match on 930 gTLDs’ lists. It appears as a substring of 1,235 additional blocked strings, such as “google-toolbar” and “googlemaps”.
Facebook, Yahoo, Gmail, YouTube and Hotmail also feature in the top 100 blocked brands.
DI PRO subscribers can search for strings that interest them, discovering how many and which gTLDs they’re blocked in, using the database.
Here’s a table of the top 50 blocked strings.
The Belgian government has denied claims that the city of Spa tried to shake down new gTLD applicants for money in exchange for not objecting to their .spa applications.
The Belgian Governmental Advisory Committee representative said this afternoon that Belgium was “extremely unhappy” that the “disrespectful allusions” got an airing during a meeting with the ICANN board.
He was responding directly to a question asked during a Sunday session by ICANN director Chris Disspain, who, to be fair, didn’t name either the government or the gTLD. He had said:
I understand there is at least one application, possibly more, where a government or part a government is negotiating with the applicant in respect to receive a financial benefit from the applicant. I’m concerned about that and I wondered if the GAC had a view as to whether such matters were appropriate.
While nobody would talk on the record, asking around the ICANN 48 meeting here in Buenos Aires it became clear that Disspain was referring to Belgium and .spa.
It was not clear whether he was referring to Donuts or to Asia Spa and Wellness Promotion Council, which have both applied for the string.
The string “spa” was not protected by ICANN’s rules on geographic names, but the GAC in April advised ICANN not to approve the applications until governments had more time to reach a decision.
My inference from Disspain’s question was that Belgium was planning to press for a GAC objection to .spa unless its city got paid, which could be perceived as an abuse of power.
Nobody from the GAC answered the question on Sunday, but Belgium today denied that anything inappropriate was going on, saying Disspain’s assertion was “factually incorrect”.
There is a contract between Spa and an applicant, he confirmed, but he said that “no money will flow to the city of Spa”.
“A very small part of the profits of the registry will go to the community served by .spa,” he said.
This side-deal does not appear to be a public document, but the Belgian rep said that it has been circulated to GAC members for transparency purposes.
There are several applicants whose strings appeared on ICANN’s protected geo names list that have been required to get letters of non-objection from various countries.
Tata Group, for example, needed permission from Morocco for .tata, while TUI had to go to Burkina Faso for .tui. Both are the names of provinces in those countries.
It’s not publicly known how these letters of non-objection were obtained, and whether any financial benefit accrued to the government as a result.
Donuts had seven new gTLDs added to the DNS root zone today.
The strings are: .diamonds, .tips, .photography, .directory, .kitchen, .enterprises and .today.
The nic.tld domains in each are already resolving, redirecting users to Donuts’ official site at donuts.co.
There are now 31 live new gTLDs, 26 of which belong to Donuts subsidiaries.