New generic extensions: Governments give their views!

Illustration nom de domaineOf the 1930 applications announced by ICANN in June 2012, approximately 500 are due to reach the delegation phase which equates to integration in home territories. This estimation is an indication of the number of safeguards established by ICANN to filter applications.

In addition to ICANN’s examination structure and the objection procedures, candidates also have to face the scrutiny of the GAC1, the organization defending government interests at ICANN. By November 20 2012, 56 governments had issued 242 early warnings against 218 candidates, targeting amongst others the .sucks, .wtf and .vin. These warnings did not necessarily sound the death knell for the applicants targeted: candidates had the possibility of following advice from the GAC in order to modify their application.

Besides, more formal recommendations have also been made by the GAC – GAC Advices – concerning problematic extensions. This is particularly the case where an extension broaches a sensitive area or contravenes existing legislation.

The full list of GAC Advices was communicated on 11 April last year. Targeting over 500 applications, several categories of recommendations can be highlighted:

  • First of all, the GAC expressed formal opposition to the extensions .africa and .gcc (Gulf Cooperation Council)
  • Without reaching consensus, certain members of the GAC considered that extensions featuring religious terms (.halal, .islam) are targeting a sensitive issue.
  • For a series of extensions, the GAC recommends additional examination criteria before the application process may continue. Amongst others this would include the .date, .vin, .persiangulf or .thai.
  • ICANN had not considered that the question of singular/plural could cause confusion. The GAC recommends that ICANN change its stance on this point: such co-existence could lead to a risk of confusion amongst consumers. Such cases should be referred to the contention sets for a ruling to be made.
  • According to the GAC, three areas require particular attention: extensions classed as sensitive, consumer protection and regulated sectors. In this way certain families of extensions are under scrutiny, such as: intellectual property (.video, .app, .online, .zip, .movie, .radio), company identifiers (.corp, .inc., .sarl, .limited) or child protection (.kinder, .kids, .toys, .school, .games). To proceed, security measures must be imposed, in particular: the operator of the extension must include in the registration contract a clause confirming that the user will abide by the laws pertaining to the collection of personal data, consumer protection or financial information.
  • For certain categories, the GAC goes even further and requires the inclusion of other additional measures. This particularly applies to family extensions involving gambling (.bet, .casino, .poker), the environment (.eco, .organic, .earth) or health (.fitness, .doctor, .medical, .dental) for which the operator of such extensions will have to check official documents such as licenses or authorizations verifying that the operator has legitimate access to such extensions. Post agreement checks should even be made periodically to guarantee maximum security for Internet users.
  • Finally, the GAC shared its view on extensions whose registration will be limited or closed. For these groups of extensions, it seemed desirable to filter access to them, provided that the administration of the extension by the operator is carried out in an open and fair manner.

On the other hand, generic extensions (.theatre, .salon, .game, .baby, .beauty, .blog) closed to the general public must be administrated, according to the GAC, in the public interest.

On April 18 last year, ICANN gave formal notification to candidates concerned by a recommendation in the publication of the aforementioned GAC Advices. They then had 21 days in which to present their response to the American authority. In parallel to this, an invitation for public comments was opened by ICANN (from April 23 to May 14 2013). ICANN will take into account both candidates’ replies and public comments in its handling of the GAC Advices, without, however, being bound by their views.

Of the 500 extensions that should be integrated into home territories from this summer, over half (approximately 300) should be .marks with a closed and protected registration, the remainder being generic terms. A new landscape of domain names is looming on the horizon.

To be continued…