As was the case last month, this month, new TLDs delegated to ICANN have been overwhelmingly BrandTLDs. Check out last month's post for more details.
Four new generic TLDs were also introduced in the past month, all of which highlighted aspects of how contentions arise and are resolved in the TLD application process.
.secure — August 10
It should come as no surprise that there would be some contention around the applications for a domain synonymous with safety, privacy and protection, all special concerns for the Internet age.
There were two applicants for .secure: Artemis Internet and Amazon. The controversy here comes from the CEO of a company called Domain Security Company, who essentially accused Artemis of stealing her idea to create a high-security TLD.
Precluding this controversy, though, is the fact that in the end .secure was delegated to Amazon, not Artemis. Presumably, Artemis's allegedly stolen plans for a .secure TLD will not be implemented.
.hot — August 10
One lesser-known aspect of ICANN's new gTLD program was the position of Independent Objector.
ICANN selected Alain Pellet from the University of Paris as their legal expert for this role, who had a year to file objections based on his international law expertise.
The role of Independent Objector, or IO for short, was to assess applications and submit objections on Limited Public Interest or Community related grounds. In legalese: "the applied-for gTLD string must be contrary to generally accepted legal norms of morality and public order that are recognized under fundamental principles of international law," or translated into English, the IO can only object to domain applications that might violate international law.
The IO can also object on Community grounds, but .hot doesn't meet the criteria.
Where .hot does come in, though, is in the IO's "controversial strings" comments, which were his first comments in this round of TLD applications. Specifically, he pointed out that .adult, .sex, .porn, .sexy, .hot, .gay, .lgbt, .persiangulf, .vodka and .wtf might run contrary to the public interest. He picked these because they had received the greatest number of comments during the public comment period.
The fact that Mr. Pellet, the first and so far only IO to serve for assessing ICANN's nTLD program, ruled that even though these domains are controversial, ICANN should not consider them "offensive to the public interest," is a good thing.
.diy — August 25
It was between Google and Lifestyle Domain Holdings for the .diy TLD. The Scripps Network, owners of HGTV, the Travel Channel, the Food Network and, maybe you've guessed by now, the DIY Network. Scripps Network, who own a trademark for its DIY brand, filed an objection with WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization, which in addition to being a specialized UN agency was also selected by ICANN to act as a legal mediator.
The Scripps Network claim boiled down to the fact that Scripps owns trademarks and copyrights on "DIY". They claimed that Google "aspires
to become an authoritative online resource for content related to do-it-yourself activities," and that consumers might be confused into thinking the material on .diy domains would be coming straight from Scripps.
In another victory for common sense, though, WIPO determined that the acronym DIY is generic enough to reject Scripps's objection.
Ultimately, though, it seems that in the application process, Scripps won out.
.eco — August 28
Finally, the tale of .eco is one of the most interesting stories to come out of the new TLD application process, for obvious reasons.
There were five applicants for .eco:
- Big Room Inc
- Dot Eco LLC
- Top Level Domain Holdings Ltd. (aka Minds + Machines)
And while Donuts also submitted a PIC, the real contention came between two competing bids from Big Room Inc., planet.ECO and Dot Eco LLC, both of which threw the weight of their environmentalist backers.
The Economist Intelligence Unit, a unit of ICANN that evaluates community priority, initially scored Big Room Inc.'s application 14/16 points. Big Room Inc. is itself a certified B corporation and is thus required to balance environmental and social interests with financial interests. In 2009 they had already begun the process of consulting stakeholders in the international environmentalist community. They conducted seven consultations on five continents and drafted policies with three public comment periods lasting thirty days each.
The stakeholder-community they assembled consisted of organizations such as WWF International, Greenpeace International, and Green Cross International. All of them collaborated in defining the mission, purpose, and policies for the Community represented by Big Room Inc.'s Community application. The group adopted a charter and conducted meetings in Brussels and Washington.
However, in August 2009, Dot Eco LLC released a paper criticizing Big Room Inc., claiming that Big Room Inc.'s plan is "unworkable," and included "cumbersome registration policies."
The policies in question include a questionnaire about environmental performance, commitments, and actions of domain name registrants and the creation of a public ".eco system" that profiles registrants' ecological commitments. Presumably, this was to avoid criticism that a .eco TLD would allow companies the ability to "greenwash" their brands by purchasing their .eco TLD without making any commitment to ecological causes.
But dig beneath the surface, and you also find that Dot Eco LLC enjoyed the support of climate change advocate and Internet inventor Al Gore, the Alliance for Climate Protection, the Sierra Club and the Surfrider Foundation, while Big Room Inc. was closely associated with the Green Cross International and its founder Mikhail Gorbachev. But by the end fo 2011, Al Gore, had dropped his support.
The next bit of contention came from planet.ECO LLC, a small company that filed a trademark infringement case against Big Room Inc., and Dot Eco LLC. Since Big Room is based in Canada, planet.ECO had no jurisdiction, though, and eventually Planet.ECO also dropped its case against Dot Eco LLC.
Then, after ICANN gave Big Room Inc. the favorable community priority score mentioned above, all but ensuring they would be delegated the extension, Donuts, the other PIC submitter, filed a reconsideration request with ICANN. The reconsideration request was denied, and then ICANN convened an independent review panel last December to review whether they had acted with impartiality. They finally ruled in favor of their initial decision this past March and now, .eco has finally been delegated.
Is it really any surprise that it was that difficult, though? As the controversy and contention around these four TLDs demonstrates, ICANN's new gTLD program sometimes reflects societal fault lines crystal clear.
These TLDs are on the bleeding edge of the new TLD program. 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.