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ICANN: Buenos Aires

FairWinds Partners —  November 15, 2013 — 1 Comment

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is holding its 48th public meeting in Buenos Aires from November 17 to 21, and FairWinds Partners will be on the ground gathering intelligence.

A lot has happened in the world of generic top-level domains (gTLDs) since ICANN’s last meeting in July. Most significantly, ICANN has signed contracts with applicants for 115 new gTLDs. Twenty-three among that group have moved forward to launch sunrise periods, during which trademark owners may register second-level domains that match their marks. The internationalized domain name شبكة. which means .WEB in Arabic and is known as DotShabaka in English, was the first to launch its sunrise period and, therefore, likely will be the first new gTLD to launch publicly in the first days of 2014.

Despite the progress in rolling out new gTLDs, ICANN is still mulling a number of difficult decisions related to the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) Advice issued at ICANN’s April meeting in Beijing. Members of the ICANN community and brand owners will be anticipating developments if not resolutions to these thorny issues.

  • Chief among the outstanding issues is the GAC’s “safeguard advice” pertaining to gTLDs that represent sensitive subjects or regulated businesses, such as .BANK or .CHARITY. ICANN has agreed that these gTLDs will be subject to additional constraints but has provided little guidance on what those constraints might be, so Buenos Aires attendees will be eager for some news.
  • ICANN has moved faster on the GAC Advice relating to generic strings. Its New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC) has added language to the Applicant Guidebook that essentially prohibits closed generic gTLDs. Still to be resolved, however, is whether applicants for closed generic strings must open registration to the public or to a more limited cross section and the timing of when they must open their gTLDs.
  • A third area about which attendees will be anticipating some development involves geographic identifiers in new gTLDs, such as Mexico.Google or China.Walmart. Geographic identifiers must be approved by the GAC representative from the relevant country, but no process is in place for timely approval. FairWinds has been working to help create an orderly process by talking to GAC members about the need for a plan.
  • Finally, ICANN is still in discussions with brand owners about potential changes to the base contract to account for their brand specific needs. Although several issues, such as rights upon termination and transfer of a brand gTLD, are still under discussion, a number of brands have signed the contract as is, undercutting the bargaining power of all brands.

For on-the-scene FairWinds reports from the meeting, check our blog and Twitter feeds.

Among the hurdles brand applicants for new gTLDs must still clear is gaining access to geographic domain names at the second level. For example, will applicants be able to buy domains such as Canada.FairWinds or DE.FairWinds (DE is the two-character label for Germany).

According to the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook, ICANN prohibits the registration of these geographic domain names unless the Registry Operator gets explicit approval from the corresponding country’s members of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). This policy was adopted out of respect for geographic regions to prevent misuse and misrepresentation of their governments, cultures, people, or reputations. And the process for obtaining approval is an onerous one.

The Registry Operator must approach each GAC member individually to ask for permission to use their respective country names and two-character country code TLDs. The GAC member must in turn petition his or her home government, a process that undoubtedly will involve multiple layers of government, and therefore delay.  The registry operator and each petitioning GAC member will have to expend precious resources and energy to gain approval. And, considering that over one-third of the 1,400 applications headed for launch are from branded companies, many of them global, the process will quickly become cumbersome and perhaps unworkable.

The solution? An expedited process for evaluating brand-owner requests for geographic domain names, one that standardizes requests and validations through established evaluation criteria. Criteria could include examining the gTLD’s proposed business model, the string, and the applicant’s use cases for the requested geographic domain names.

FairWinds Partners has proposed this streamline solution in a letter sent to the GAC in advance of ICANN’s next meeting in Durban in mid-July. We look forward to a full discussion on the topic, as the community marches onward – hopefully with some efficiency – to the launch of new gTLDs.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently released an update on the New gTLD Program Committee’s (NGPC) discussion about how and when it would address the Governmental Advisory Committee’s (GAC) advice from Beijing.

ICANN has stated that the NGPC’s goal is “to carefully consider GAC advice and community input and to make decisions that will allow the greatest number of new gTLD applications to move forward as soon as possible.” This may be difficult given that the GAC advice, if accepted, could significantly delay gTLD applications.

In its update, ICANN restates that the NGPC’s discussion was structured around the GAC Advice Framework to organize and prioritize individual advice items. ICANN is developing a scorecard to do just that.

The update also reveals that the NGPC has begun discussing the GAC Advice on Safeguards. ICANN is seeking input on this topic via an open Public Comment Forum, which closes on June 4, 2013.

ICANN also reminds us that over the next few weeks, the NGPC will be holding a series of calls “to discuss applicant responses to the GAC advice, the Safeguard advice and related public comment, and other matters including the GAC’s advice on singular and plural strings, its questions in Annex 2 [of its Advice], and its requests for briefing papers.”

As a special holiday treat, FairWinds is releasing the next three videos in its new gTLD series. Today’s videos feature FairWinds’ Engagement Manager Alex White and Samantha Demetriou, Director of Marketing and Communications, explaining ICANN and the various stakeholder groups that make up the ICANN community, with a special focus on the GAC.

This will likely be the last gTLD Strategy post of 2012, so we wish all of our readers a happy and safe holiday season. Check out the last video in the post for a special holiday message from the FairWinds team. For each view, we will make a donation to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Incredible Teddy Foundation. Continue Reading…

As we mentioned in our last post, GAC Early Warnings came out late last Tuesday night. In total, 39 GAC member countries issued 242 Early Warnings on 143 unique gTLD strings.

Then this week, certain new gTLD applicants received another notice, not from the GAC, but from Linda Corugedo Steneberg, Director at the European Commission’s Communications Networks, Content and Technology Directorate. This letter named 28 applied-for gTLD strings (some with multiple applications) that may “raise issues of compatibility with the existing legislation and/or with policy positions and objectives of the European Union.” Some of these strings had also received Early Warnings, but there were also some new faces that popped up on the list. The letter pointed out that an application’s inclusion on the list should in no way be considered a form or representation of GAC Early Warnings, but rather a signal to applicants that they should engage in further discussions with the European Commission. Continue Reading…

As promised, ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) filed its Early Warnings on individual applications for new gTLDs on November 20.  The 242 Early Warnings can be found here.

As outlined in the New gTLD Applicant Guidebook (Section, the GAC can use Early Warnings to send a notice that an application may be regarded as potentially sensitive or problematic to certain governments or that the application could violate national laws. These Warnings are only notices and not formal objections, and as ICANN stated when it filed the Warnings, the Early Warnings “mainly consist of requests for information, or requests for clarity on certain aspects of an application.” Continue Reading…

If you’re anywhere near the East Coast of the U.S. like we are at FairWinds, then you’re likely in the throes of Hurricane Sandy right now. We closed our Washington, DC office and had our employees work from home today – but that didn’t stop us from thinking about new gTLDs. Continue Reading…