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Community gTLD applicants flunk on “nexus”

Kevin Murphy, March 19, 2014, Domain Policy

The first four Community Priority Evaluation results are in, and all four applicants flunked by failing to prove a “nexus” between the new gTLD string and the community they purport to represent.

No applicant score more than 11 points of the 14 necessary to pass. A total of 16 points are available.

Winning a CPE automatically wins a contention set — all the other applicants for the same new gTLD must withdraw — so it’s a deliberately difficult test.

The scoring mechanism has been debated for years. Scoring 14 points unless the gTLD string exactly matches the name of your organization has always struck me as an almost impossible task.

The first four results appear to substantiate this view. Nobody scored more than 0 on the “nexus” requirement, for which 4 points are available.

The four CPE applicants were: Starting Dot (.immo), Taxi Pay (.taxi), Tennis Australia (.tennis) and the Canadian Real Estate Association (.mls). All four were told:

The string does not identify or match the name of the community, nor is it a well-known short-form or abbreviation of the community.

In some cases, the evaluation panel used evidence from the applicant’s own applicant to show that the string “over-reaches” the community the applicant purported to represent.

The application for .Taxi defines a core community of taxi companies and drivers, as well as peripheral industries and entities.

While the string identifies the name of the core community members (i.e. taxis), it does not match or identify the peripheral industries and entities that are included in the definition of the community

In other cases, the panel just used basic common sense. For example, Tennis Australia was told:

Tennis refers to the sport and the global community of people/groups associated with it, and therefore does not refer specifically to the Tennis Australia community.

Starting Dot (.immo) and Taxi Pay (.taxi) both also scored 0 on the “Community Establishment” criteria where, again, 4 points were available.

In that part of the CPE, the applicants have to show that their community is clearly delineated, organized, and long-standing.

In both cases, the panel found that the communities were too eclectic, too disorganized and too young — neither existed before the new gTLD program kicked off in September 2007.

It’s not looking promising for any of the 14 CPE applicants listed by ICANN here. I’ll give $50 to a charity of the applicant’s choosing if any of them scores more than 14 points.

Plural gTLDs could be a casualty as ICANN accepts big chunk of GAC advice

ICANN has accepted nine pieces of Governmental Advisory Committee advice pertaining to new gTLDs, essentially killing off two applications and putting question marks over many more.

Notably, the question of whether plural and singular versions of the same string should be allowed to coexist has been reopened for debate, affecting as many as 98 applications.

ICANN’s New gTLD Program Committee, which carries board powers but does not include directors with conflicts of interest, this week passed a resolution that addresses a good chunk of the GAC’s Beijing communique.

It does not discuss any of the amorphous “safeguard” advice from the document, which was subject to a recently closed public comment period and is likely to take much longer to resolve.

By far the line item with the broadest immediate impact is this:

The NGPC accepts this advice and will consider whether to allow singular and plural versions of the same string.

That’s right folks, singular and plural gTLDs (eg, .car and .cars) may not be allowed to coexist after all.

Using a broad interpretation (that treats .new and .news as clashes, for example), 98 applications could be affected by this decision.

Singular vs plural is a contentious issue with some strongly held religious views. Whether you come down on one side or the other depends largely on how you see new gTLDs being used in future.

Proponents of coexistence see a future of 30,000 gTLDs being used as direct navigation and search tools, while opponents worry about the risk of freeloading plural registries making a killing from unnecessary defensive registrations.

The NGPC did not say how the debate would be moved forward, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t involved the broader community through public comments or meetings in Durban next month.

Ding dong…?

Two line items appear to put the final nails in the coffins of two new gTLD applications: DotConnectAfrica’s .africa and GCCIX WLL’s .gcc.

Both clash with the names of geographic regions (.gcc is for Gulf Cooperation Council, a name often associated with nations in the Arabian/Persian Gulf) and received the GAC’s strongest possible form of objection.

In both cases, the NGPC said the applications “will not be approved” and invited the applicants to withdraw.

However, it gave both applicants the right to appeal using “ICANN’s accountability mechanisms”.

Islamic strings on life support

Some governments in the GAC had taken issue with the applications for strings such as .islam and .halal, and the NGPC said it “stands ready to enter into dialogue with the GAC on this matter”.

That’s the Applicant Guidebook-mandated response when the GAC cannot reach a consensus that an application should be killed off.

Amazon among geo strings delayed

As expected, the NGPC decided to work with the GAC’s extended timetable for the consideration of 19 applications whose chosen strings clash with geographic names such as .thai and .persiangulf.

Basically, the GAC asked for more time to discuss them.

In response, ICANN will not delay Initial Evaluation for these applications, but it will not sign contracts with the applicants until the GAC has issued its final advice.

The list includes two big trademarks: retail giant Amazon and the clothing brand Patagonia.

Both will have to wait until at least Durban to discover their fate.

The list also includes .wine and .vin, because some in the wine industry have been kicking up a stink about the protection of special geographic identifiers (eg Champagne, Bordeaux) at the second-level.

Weasel words on community objections

There’s one piece of advice that the NGPC said it has “accepted” but which it clearly has not.

The GAC had said this:

The GAC advises the Board that in those cases where a community, which is clearly impacted by a set of new gTLD applications in contention, has expressed a collective and clear opinion on those applications, such opinion should be duly taken into account, together with all other relevant information.

I think any reasonable interpretation of this item would require ICANN or somebody else to make a subjective judgement call on which applications should win certain contention sets.

To my mind, the advice captures contested strings such as .book (where publishers hate the idea of Amazon running it as a closed generic) and .music (where the music industry favors a restricted registration policy).

But ICANN, always reluctant to have to pick winners and losers, seems to have chosen to interpret the advice somewhat differently. In its response, it states:

The NGPC accepts this advice. Criterion 4 for the Community Priority Evaluation process takes into account “community support and/or opposition to the application” in determining whether to award priority to a community application in a contention set. (Note however that if a contention set is not resolved by the applicants or through a community priority evaluation then ICANN will utilize an auction as the objective method for resolving the contention.)

I don’t think this covers the GAC’s advice at all, and I think the NGPC knows it.

As the parenthetical comment says, communities’ views are only taken into account if an applicant has filed a formal “Community” bid and chooses to resolve its contention set with a Community Priority Evaluation.

To return to the above examples, this may well capture .music, where at least one applicant intends to go the CPE route, but it does not capture .book, where there are no Community applications.

There are 33 remaining Community applications in 29 contention sets.

Will the GAC accept the NGPC’s response as a proper implementation of its advice? If it’s paying attention and feels strongly enough about the issue, my guess is probably not.

More special favors for the Olympics

The International Olympic Committee holds extraordinary power over governments, which has resulted in the GAC repeatedly humiliating itself by acting an Olympic lobbyist before the ICANN board.

In the Beijing communique, it asked ICANN to make sure that the temporary temporary protections granted to Olympics and Red Cross are made permanent in the Applicant Guidebook.

Prior to April, the Registry Agreement in the Guidebook said that the protected strings “shall be initially reserved”, but this language has been removed in the current version of the RA.

The NGPC said that this was due to the GAC’s advice. Box ticked.

But here’s the kicker: the protections will still be subject to a Generic Names Supporting Organization Policy Development Process.

In other words, the discussion is not over. The rest of the ICANN community will get their say and ICANN will try to reconcile what the GNSO decides with what the GAC wants at a later date.

While “accepting” the GAC’s advice, it’s actually proposing something of a compromise. The NGPC said:

Until such time as the GNSO approves recommendations in the PDP and the Board adopts them, the NGPC’s resolutions protecting IOC/RCRC names will remain in place. Should the GNSO submit any recommendations on this topic, the NGPC will confer with the GAC prior to taking action on any such recommendations.

New gTLD registries will not be able to argue in future that their contracts only require them to “initially” protect the Olympic and Red Cross strings, but at the same time the GNSO as a whole gets a say in whether permanent protections are warranted.

It seems like a pretty nice compromise proposal from ICANN — particularly given the problems it’s been having with the GNSO recently — but I doubt the GAC will see it that way.

Other stuff

There were two other items:

  • The GAC had advised that no new gTLD contracts should be approved until the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement is finalized. ICANN agreed. It’s already built into the timetable.
  • The GAC wanted its existing views taken into account in the current, ongoing, formative discussions about a replacement service for Whois. That’s already happening.

In summary…

…it’s a pretty sensible response from the NGPC, with the exception of the weaselly response to the “community views” advice.

Taken as a whole, it’s notable for its respect for other stakeholders and processes, which is admirable.

Even in the case of .africa and .gcc, which I firmly believed would be dead today, it’s given the applicants the opportunity to go through the appropriate appeals channels.

The GAC, it seems, doesn’t even get the last word with its kiss of death.

Who’s objecting to .sport, .health, .kids and more

Kevin Murphy, August 2, 2012, Domain Registries

Today, the number of comments filed with ICANN on new gTLD applications surpassed the number of applications themselves, and we’re now starting to see more significant objections.

At the time of writing, 1,939 comments have been filed on 584 applications by 834 unique individuals and organizations.

Here are some recent comments from notable organizations.

Save the Children

The international charitable non-governmental organization Save the Children has expressed concerns about all four .health applications.

Here’s a snippet:

The health Internet is a vital means of health information access worldwide. Thus, “.health” and health related top level domains should be trusted and reliable resources which take the public interest into account and are based on broad-based, multi-stakeholder consensus. In this regard, it is particularly worrying that the current applicants intend to sell the “.health” gTLD on a ‘first-come, first-served’, wholesale and auction basis, placing private interests ahead of the public interest.

We urge ICANN to postpone the assignment of “.health” until such time as following broad-based consultation of the health community, including the public and private sectors, adequate baseline conditions for their operation are elaborated and their implementation and observance is ensured.

The same comment was filed by International Medical Informatics Association, indicating an orchestrated campaign is underway.

All were filed as Community Objection Grounds, suggesting that .health could run into objection delays down the road.

But Save the Children, which has better things to do with its money, may not necessarily object itself. I’d say .health is a prime candidate for a community-based intervention by the Independent Objector.

I’m also expecting the Governmental Advisory Committee to take a healthy interest in these applications.

International Olympic Committee

The International Olympic Committee has, as expected, thrown its support behind the .sport application filed by SportAccord, which already has strong ties with the Olympic movement.

There are only two applications for .sport (though Donuts is going for .sports) and while SportAccord’s is a community-based bid, a successful Community Priority Evaluation is by no means assured.

However, if the IOC is half as belligerent about .sport as it has been about the new gTLD program in general then I expect Famous Four Media, the other .sport applicant, has a fight on its hands.

Notably, the IOC invokes ICANN’s new IANA contract to back up its claim that SportAccord should be the rightful owner of .sport:

new IANA contractual requirements require ICANN in connection with new gTLDs to document “how the process provided the opportunity for input from relevant stakeholders and was supportive of the global public interest. “ Therefore, SportAccord is the only applicant for the .SPORT gTLD which can serve the global public interest in connection with the operation of the gTLD on behalf of the global sports community.

Lego Juris

Lego Juris, the extremely brand-conscious producer of overpriced kids’ building blocks, has filed complaints about 80 applications, all of which appear to be the same form letter.

As you might imagine from the most prolific filer of UDRP complaints in history, Lego’s primary concern is cybersquatting and preventing the need for defensive registrations.

Here’s Lego’s comment:

While we of course support enhanced fair competition, we call on the evaluators to ensure the maintenance of a clean Internet space by impressing on the new registries the importance of not accepting second level names within their gTLDs that may be confusingly similar to our trade marks, especially from applicants believed to be registering in bad faith.

To avoid consumer confusion and the wasted resources of needless dispute resolution procedures, legal actions and defensive registrations (none of which benefit consumers), as well as proving to the entire community that the registries do wish to act in good faith in a clean space, we request that new registries develop “blocked” lists of brand names that should not be registered absent evidence of good faith. Such lists could take the form of “white lists” at the second level that could only be lifted if requested by and for the brand owner.

This comment was filed against .kids, .group, .inc, .gmbh, .discount, .deals, .direct and many, many more.

All of these comments, incidentally, are logged in the DI PRO new gTLD application database.