After a flood of Brand TLDs delegated and in September very few TLDs delegated, ICANN is back to adding strings to the root zone at a steady clip with three generic TLDs added this month.
The three generic TLDs delegated this month pose the question: Who is the best steward of a TLD closely associated with real world organizations?
The application process and final delegation results for .radio, .basketball, and .baseball provide an answer to this question. But not without some messy fights between some of the respective applicants.
.radio — October 12
There were four applicants for .radio, three of which—BRS Media Inc. (registry for .am and .fm), Donuts (who submitted a PIC) and Afilias—submitted a standard application while the fourth, the European Broadcasting Union (or EBU) submitted a Community Priority Application.
If you're familiar with the Eurovision contest, then you're at least passingly familiar with EBU (in fact, they also applied for .eurovision as a Brand TLD). Besides that, they are an international association composed largely of national, government-sponsored or government-run broadcasters. Their application was additionally supported by the World Broadcasting Unions (WBU) and the Association Mondiale des Radiodiffuseurs Communautaires (AMARC) as well as a number of other amateur and professional radio organizations.
Because EBU submitted their application for this domain as a Community Priority Application, ICANN considered their application first, before any of the standard applications were considered. For obvious reasons, the companies who had submitted their applications as standard applications opposed EBU's community application. BRS Media attacked EBU with particular vehemence.
Community Priority Applications are evaluated by a panel of ICANN-appointed but independent experts who score applications on numerous criteria with a total possible score of 16. A minimum score of 14 is required to pass, and EBU's application barely cleared this hurdle.
The specific objections to the decision came down to the question of whether EBU should represent the "radio community." BRS Media in particular vocally complained that ICANN's decision would create a narrow definition of the radio community. They also asserted EBU had a conflict of interest for having joined ICANN's GAC (Government Advisory Committee) as an observer. BRS, along with Affilias and other standard applicants, filed a request for independent review of the ICANN board's final decision, which was flatly denied and ultimately withdrawn.
With the delegation of .radio, EBU plans to set up a World .Radio Advisory Board to define policies on accepting domain applicants, with preference being given to broadcast radio stations and then internet radio.
.basketball — October 19
Next up, .basketball was delegated to FIBA (Fédération Internationale de Basketball Amateur), the international basketball organization responsible for, among other things, establishing the rules of the sport, appointing referees and establishing control for international competition such as in the Olympics.
In their application, FIBA partnered with ROAR Domains, a New Zealand based company that also supported the International Rugby Board in its .rugby application.
Among FIBA's competition for .basketball was Donuts, the "portfolio" registry co-founded by current CEO Paul Stahura, also founder of the registrar eNom and winner of the 2012 Domainer of the year award. ROAR attempted to wield this reputation against Donuts, telling Donuts that they would seek Donuts's disqualification not just for .baskteball but as a registry
Donuts, of course, is now the registry for nearly 200 TLDs comprising almost 2 million domains.
However, .basketball is not one of them.
.baseball — October 30
A final entry in this month's study of who makes the most appropriate steward of a TLD focused on a specific group or topic is .baseball. There were two applicants for this TLD: Donuts (under the guise of Silver Pass LLC), and MLB Advanced Media DH, LLC, which is a partnership of Major League Baseball team owners for the purposes of running MLB-branded internet and "interactive" media, including MLB's website and the websites of each of the individual teams.
This was the least contentious of the three TLDs we're covering this month, but with this we'll point out that .baseball's technical backend will notably not be handled by MLB Advanced Media itself but Neustar, a well-established registry.
Likewise, .basketball's technical backend will be managed by CentralNic, another established registry founded in 1995. The technical backend for .radio, however will be handled by Knipp Medien und Kommunikation GmbH, a small registrar and more recently registry based in Germany.
The point though, is that the question of whether each of these TLDs should be managed by a company or organization close to the existing industry or activity represented by that TLD is largely irrelevant on a technical level. Where it matters is in deciding who should be the one to market the new TLD to the niche market covered by it.
In many cases, ICANN has entrusted so-called portfolio registries to market extensions as they see fit. In these three delegated this month, ICANN has accepted applications, in some cases despite occasionally significant contention, from groups associated with the meaning of the TLD itself.
These examples don't necessarily prove that one model is better than any other, but as .radio, .basketball, and .baseball enter the market, we'll see whether these decisions were good for marketing these TLDs.
Keep an eye on this page as well as ICANN's delegated strings page for updates and remember:
Just because we've featured a TLD in this feature doesn't mean Gandi will be offering it any time soon. We don't know yet how they'll be rolled out to the market, so we can't say for sure whether we'll be offering them at Gandi. We'll try our best, though.