Top Level Domain Holdings is the latest portfolio applicant to slate the Governmental Advisory Committee’s advice on new gTLDs, calling it “troubling in principle” and “terrifying in practice”.
The company, which applied directly for 70 gTLDs and is involved in several others, filed its comments on the “safeguard advice” in the GAC’s Beijing communique with ICANN today.
The comments focus mainly on the overarching issues of governmental power and process, rather than delve into the nitty-gritty implementation problems presented by the advice.
TLDH CEO Antony Van Couvering wrote:
The Communiqué’s prescriptions define the opposite of a well-regulated sector. Instead of a clear process in which all concerns are weighed, the Communiqué sets up an ad-hoc GAC process from which the views of applicants are excluded.
Instead of clear rules to which industry players must adhere, ill-defined categories have been set up that applicants have a hard time even to understand.
Instead of a clear authority on who will determine policy, the ICANN community must now wonder who is in charge.
The comment points to the fact that the GAC’s 2007 principles on new gTLDs state that applicants should have a clear, objective process to follow, and that Beijing undermines that principle.
It also puts forth the view that the GAC appears to be trying to create policy unilaterally, and in a top-down manner that doesn’t give the Generic Names Supporting Organization a role.
The GAC Beijing Communiqué as enunciated in Section IV.1.b [the safeguard advice] unilaterally expands the role of the GAC from an advisory committee, with a remit of providing advice on policy originating in the GNSO, into a policy-making body from which other members of the ICANN community are excluded.
TLDH also notes that some parts of the advice are “not in themselves bad ideas” and that the company has offered to adopt some of them already in the Public Interest Commitments appended to its applications.
It comments follow those from rival Demand Media, which questioned the feasibility of implementing the GAC’s advice, last week.
Separately, over the weekend, Medicus Mundi International Network — an organization of healthcare non-governmental organizations — filed comments saying that the GAC advice does not go far enough.
Rather, it said, ICANN should delay the introduction of .health until a “broad-based consultation of the health community” can be carried out and a “multi-stakeholder” governance model for it created.
Directi appears to be the last man standing in the three-way tie-up for .online, following the latest new gTLD withdrawals.
Namecheap has dropped its .online application, closely following Tucows, which dropped its bid a couple of weeks ago.
The three companies announced a deal in March to see them cooperate to win the contested TLD, but at the time it wasn’t clear which applicants would pull out.
Directi’s bid (filed by DotOnline Inc under the Radix brand) remains. It has already passed Initial Evaluation, which may be part of the reason its application was chosen as the “winner”.
The gTLD is still contested, however. Directi is competing with Donuts, I-Registry and Dot Online LLC.
Separately today, a curious two-way dot-brand battle seems to have had its final twist, with Guardian Life Insurance’s withdrawal of its application for .guardianlife.
The insurance company and newspaper publisher Guardian News and Media had both applied for gTLDs containing the string “guardian”. There were originally five, but only two remain.
It now looks like Guardian News will get .theguardian, having previously conceded .guardian to its brand rival and dropping its bid for .guardianmedia.
It appears that there’s been more than a bit of strategic applying, and maybe some deal-making, here.
Neither remaining application is contested, and neither have objections. It’s likely that .guardian is captured by the Governmental Advisory Committee’s advice against “closed generics”, however.
ICANN’s evaluators have passed 56 more new gTLD applications through Initial Evaluation.
The latest weekly batch of published results cover bids for the following strings:
.aig, .airforce, .art, .axa, .baby, .basketball, .bid, .business, .bzh, .cal, .center, .ceo, .cisco, .cloud, .coach, .codes, .contractors, .cpa, .dell, .diet, .docomo, .duns, .durban, .esurance, .film, .forex, .goo, .got, .guide, .hgtv, .hotels, .itau, .mattel, .mcd, .mcdonalds, .melbourne, .mobile, .mobily, .monash, .nowtv, .onl, .paris, .passagens, .plumbing, .poker, .property, .red, .safety, .silk, .study, .talk, .travelguard, .webcam, .weibo, .wolterskluwer and موبايلي. (Arabic for “Mobily”)
There are now exactly 300 applications with passing scores on IE, one that failed, and 49 that despite their prioritization numbers have yet to receive an answer one way or the other.
For the last few weeks I’ve been attempting to write a sensible analysis of the Governmental Advisory Committee’s advice on new gTLDs without resorting to incredulity, hyperbole or sarcasm.
I failed, so you’ll have to read this instead.
I’m sorry, but the GAC’s Beijing communique (pdf) just has too much stupid in it to take seriously.
As a quick reminder, the bulk of the GAC’s advice was taken up by a list of hundreds of applied-for strings, in 12 categories, that “are likely to invoke a level of implied trust from consumers”.
The GAC said that any string on the list should be subject to more stringent regulation than others, turning their registries into data security regulators and creating an obligation to partner with “relevant regulatory, or industry self-regulatory, bodies”.
The GAC, having advised the creation of these unexpected obligations, decided that it wasn’t its responsibility to figure out whether any of them would be feasible to implement.
That’s apparently up to ICANN to figure out.
But that’s not the most infuriating part of the advice. The most infuriating part is the list of strings it provided, which by the GAC’s own admission was unhelpfully “non-exhaustive”.
When one performs a cursory analysis of the list, and compares it to the strings that did not make it, the dumb just accumulates.
My spies tell me that the GAC worked into the early hours on a few occasions during the Beijing meeting in order to put this advice together, and some might say it’s unfair to expect its members to have read and formed consensus opinions on all 1,930 original new gTLD applications.
But the GAC wasn’t expected to read them all, nor did it. Its job was originally conceived of as commenting on the strings alone, and that appears to be what it ultimately did limit itself to.
I think it’s fair to try to get some insight into the GAC’s collective thought process by looking at the “Category 1″ strings that it did put on the list and those that it did not.
Not because I think there’s a coherent thought process at work here, but because I think there isn’t.
Remember, the GAC had nine months to come up with its list. This article was written in an afternoon.
Here’s my list of bizarre inconsistencies, failed reality checks and pure dumb I found in the Beijing communique.
Destroy all pirates!
The GAC is clearly a bit worried that people might use new gTLDs to offer pirated and counterfeited goods (like they do in existing TLDs), so it has placed a few dozen content-related strings on its list.
The intellectual property list is one of the longest of the 12 categories in the Beijing communique.
But it could be longer.
I wonder why, for example, the GAC doesn’t consider .stream a threat to copyright? Streaming sites are frequent targets of takedown notices.
Why does .hiphop get a mention but not .country, a gTLD specifically designed for country music lovers?
Why are .photography, .photo, .photos, .pictures and .pics not on the list? Image theft is pandemic online, enabled by default in browsers (no P2P required) and utterly trivial to execute.
And if .tours is considered a problem, why not .events, or .tickets?
We’re talking about sectors with abuse potential here, and ticketing is considered worthy of legislation in many places. Here in England you can get a £5,000 fine for reselling a ticket to a football match.
Why is .tours even on the intellectual property list? It could just as easily refer to organized vacations or guide services provided by museums. Or the French city of the same name, for that matter.
Why aren’t our friends in Tours getting the same GAC love as Spa and Date — towns in Belgium and Japan — which have caused the delay of advice on .spa and .date respectively?
And why are .free, .gratis and .discount considered intellectual property problems?
How is the .free registry supposed to follow the GAC’s demand that it partner with “relevant regulatory, or industry self‐regulatory, bodies” for free stuff? Does “.free” even have an “implied level of trust”?
Is the GAC’s goal to kill off the bid by the back door?
Goodbye .free, you couldn’t guarantee that there wouldn’t be piracy in your TLD so your application is forfeit? A potentially cool TLD, sacrificed on the altar of Big Copyright?
Don’t even get me started on .art…
Won’t somebody think of the children?!
The GAC did not say why the “children” category exists, but I assume it’s about ensuring that the content in TLDs such as .kids and .school is suitable for “kids” (pick your own definition, the GAC doesn’t have one).
It goes without saying that any TLD that is obliged to follow child-friendly rules will be saddled with a commercial death sentence, as the US government already knows full well.
The GAC didn’t include .family on the list for some reason, but it did inexplicably include .game and .games.
In the last game I played, my character stabbed a guy in the neck with a broken bottle, stole his clothes and threw his body off a cliff. Gaming is a predominantly adult pastime nowadays.
Suggesting that .games sites need to be child-friendly is just as stupid as saying .movie or .book sites need to be child-friendly.
I’m sure GAC chair Heather Dryden is far too sensible and grown-up to play games, but I’d be surprised if not a single member of the committee owns an Xbox. One of them should have pointed this nonsense out.
If the GAC is not saying this — if it’s merely saying the .games registry should work cooperatively with the gaming industry — then why is .games in the “Children” category?
The GAC Diet
Another couple dozen strings are listed under the “health and fitness” category, ranging from the not-unreasonable, such as .doctor, to the terrifically broad, such as .diet and .care.
Donuts, the .care applicant, has to partner with some kind of medical register in order to sell a TLD that could just as easily be used for customer support by a company that sells shoes?
And .diet? If the GAC is concerned about internet users getting dodgy dieting advice from a disreputable .diet registrant, why not also issue advice against .eat and .food?
If .fitness is a problem, why isn’t .yoga?
Why isn’t the GAC bothered by .tattoo and .ink? Where I live, you need to be a licensed professional in order to stick people with an inky needle.
For that matter, why aren’t .beauty and .salon a problem? Pretty much every beauty salon I’ve walked past in the last couple of years wants to inject toxins into my face for a fee.
If we’re already saying games are for kids, that free equals fake, and that tours can be pirated, it doesn’t seem like too unreasonable a leap to to regulate .beauty too.
You feed beefburgers to swans
There’s a provision in the Beijing communique saying that every string on the GAC’s list must force its registrants “to comply with all applicable laws, including those that relate to… organic farming.”
So why the hell doesn’t .farm appear on the list?!?
Really, it doesn’t. I’ve triple-checked. It’s not there. According to the GAC’s advice, a .bingo registrant has to abide by organic farming laws but a .farm registrant does not.
Some professions are more equal than others
For all of the “Category 1″ strings the GAC has advised against, the headline argument is this:
Strings that are linked to regulated or professional sectors should operate in a way that is consistent with applicable laws.
But there are plenty of strings that are “linked to regulated or professional sectors” that don’t merit a mention in the communique.
Alcohol, for example. The sale of booze is regulated pretty much everywhere — in some places it’s illegal — but .pub and .bar don’t make it to the GAC’s advice. Neither does .vodka.
If the GAC wants .weather to have strict controls — with no abuse scenario I can think of — why not a couple of TLDs that could, potentially, be used to sell alcohol over the internet?
What of construction? There may have been advice against .engineer, but .construction, .building, .contractors and .build got a pass. Why? Governments everywhere regulate the building industry tightly.
Here in the UK, if you want a plumber to come over and tinker with your heating you’d better hope they’re on the Gas Safe Register, but .plumber doesn’t show up in the Beijing communique.
Why not? An abusive .dentist registrant could mess up my teeth, but he’ll need an expensive surgery to do it in. An abusive .plumber, on the other hand, can come over and blow up my house with no such outlay.
Taxis are regulated in most big cities, but .taxi and .limo escaped GAC advice. Hell, even porn is strictly controlled in many countries, but .porn got a pass.
I could go on.
You might think I’m being petty, but remember: the GAC got the list of applied-for strings last June the same as everybody else. It had plenty of time to get its advice list right.
The GAC has a big responsibility in the multi-stakeholder process and by presenting advice that appears half-assed at best it makes it look like it doesn’t take that responsibility seriously.
I know it does, but it doesn’t appear that way.
Demand Media has become the first new gTLD applicant to put its head above the parapet and tell ICANN that its latest batch of Governmental Advisory Committee advice is unworkable.
While its comment on the GAC’s Beijing communique is very diplomatically worded, it’s obvious that Demand reckons most of the “safeguard” advice it contains would be difficult, if not impossible, to implement.
The company has urged ICANN to refuse to adopt the advice, saying:
the spirit and actual letter of the GAC Advice related to these additional safeguards comes in a manner and form that is completely antithetical and contrary to ICANN’s bottom-up, multi-stakeholder, consensus-driven policy development process. Because the proposed safeguards, if implemented, would effectively change how new gTLDs are managed, sold, distributed, registered, operated, and used in the marketplace, the GAC Advice is tantamount to making “top-down,” dictatorial, non-consensus, policy which undermines the entire ICANN model. If ICANN chose to adopt any one of these three safeguards, ICANN itself would lose all legitimacy.
Demand seems to agree with many of the points raised in this DI post from a few weeks ago related to the GAC’s demand that hundreds of new gTLD registries should compel their registrants to stick to data security standards when they handle sensitive financial or healthcare data.
The GAC’s advice is extremely broad here and pays scant attention to the innumerable implementation questions raised. As such, Demand says in its comment (filed by applying subsidiary United TLD Holdco):
United TLD believes applicable laws and recognized industry standards should be developed and implemented by appropriate legislative, law enforcement and industry expert bodies and should not be developed by the registry operator.
It also takes issue with the GAC’s demand for registry operators to “establish a working relationship with the relevant regulatory body including developing a strategy to mitigate abuse.”
The company points out that many TLDs listed in the Beijing communique will have multiple uses, and even if there is a regulatory body for a subsection of registrants, it may not cover all.
For example, should a software engineer (an unregulated profession) have to agree to abide by rules developed for civil engineers when they register a .engineer domain name?
it would be inappropriate, and impossible, to find a “relevant regulatory body” with whom to establish a relationship related to the use of .ENGINEER. Additionally, what if the relevant regulatory body simply declined to work with a registry operator or does not respond to requests for collaboration?
The Demand comment is full of examples of problems such as this.
In broader terms, however, the registrar and applicant is utterly opposed to the GAC’s insistence that “certain” unspecified gTLDs representing regulated sectors should be forced, in effect, to transform into tightly restricted sponsored gTLDs.
The GAC wants these applicants to forge tight links with regulatory and self-regulatory bodies and vet each registrant’s credentials before allowing domains to be registered.
applicants, including United TLD, submitted their new gTLD applications believing that that they would be operating, managing and distributing generic TLDs. These three Safeguards completely change the nature of the new TLDs from being generic and widely available, to being “sponsored” TLDs restricted only to those individuals who must prove their status or credentials entitling them to register domain names with certain extensions. These three Safeguards are patently adverse to the core purpose of the new gTLD program and ICANN’s mission generally which is to promote consumer choice and competition.
While Demand is the first application to slam the GAC advice as a whole (a few others have submitted preliminary comments on specific subsets of advice), I’m certain it won’t be the last.
That said, .secure applicant Artemis Internet submitted what is possibly the most amusing example of “sucking up” I’ve ever seen in an ICANN public comment period.
The company actually requests to be added to the list of strings covered by the GAC advice on the grounds that its application was so gosh-darn wonderful it already planned to do all that stuff anyway.
I expect, by the time the comment period closes next Tuesday the prevailing mood from applicants will be more Demand and less Artemis.