ICANN is now allowing applicants for generic-termed top-level domains (TLDs) – unbranded extensions such as .MUSIC or .SHOP – to move forward if applicants are willing to sign the current Registry Agreement (RA) “as is”. But there’s a catch.
Because the RA includes a clause that prohibits generic-termed TLDs from operating as “closed” registries – which will not sell second-level domain names to the public – only those applicants willing to operate “open” gTLDs can sign the contract as currently written. The path for “closed” generic applicants who want their gTLDs to remain closed continues to be unclear.
These are the results of the most significant resolution passed during ICANN New gTLD Program Committee’s latest meeting on the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) Advice issued following the Spring ICANN conference in Beijing. With this resolution (which you can view here, on page 5), the New gTLD Policy Committee (NGPC) lays out the following three options for applicants whose closed generic applications were specifically singled out in the GAC Advice:
- Applicants willing to sign the RA in its current form may do so. But given Specification 11 (the clause prohibiting generic termed TLDs from being “closed”), applicants for closed generics will likely encounter problems and difficulties during the contracting process.
- In this resolution, the NGPC asked the ICANN Staff to prepare a proposal for how to implement the GAC’s Advice for closed generics that plan to remain closed. Those applicants can choose to wait for that proposal before moving forward.
- Since there is no deadline for signing the RA or moving forward, applicants may continue to wait and see how this issue progresses or they may open up a process to negotiate their RA with ICANN.
So, closed generics willing to open up have a clear path toward delegation, whereas closed generics that wish to stay closed remain in limbo or can play the odds. The question that remains unaddressed with this latest resolution is exactly what qualifies as “closed” versus what is “open enough” to be considered “open”.