ICANN GNSO Council gTLDS committee v2

Background on establishment of the committee

October 2002, the ICANN CEO's action plan on gTLDs made the recommendation below.

Part III Recommendation: As ICANN proceeds with its new TLD evaluation process - and, if the Board concurs, with an additional round of new sponsored TLDs - this basic question of taxonomic rationalization should be addressed within the ICANN process. Accordingly, it is my recommendation to the ICANN Board that the DNSO and its Names Council be requested to develop and submit its advice and guidance on the issue.

December 2002, the Board agreed with the recommendation and made the three resolutions below.

Whereas, the Board accepted the report of the ICANN New TLD Evaluation Process Planning Task Force (NTEPPTF) at its meeting on 23 August 2002;

Whereas, at that meeting the Board instructed the President to develop a plan for action for approval by the Board;

Whereas, the President presented An Action Plan Regarding New TLDs for discussion at the Public Forum in Shanghai on 30 October 2002, and posted that Action Plan for public comment on 8 November 2002;

Whereas, comments have been received, posted, and evaluated regarding that Action Plan;

Whereas, the Action Plan was again discussed at the Public Forum in Amsterdam on 14 December 2002; and

Whereas, the Action Plan recommends that key recommendations of the NTEPPTF report be implemented; that certain questions regarding the future evolution of the generic top-level namespace be referred for advice to the GNSO described in Article X of the New Bylaws approved in Shanghai on 31 October 2002 and as further refined at this meeting; and that steps be taken towards approval of a limited number of new sponsored gTLDs;

February 2003, ICANN's general counsel has clarified that the Board asked for the GNSO Council to formulate and communicate its views on two separate questions. The questions are:

  1. whether to structure the evolution of the generic top level namespace and,
  2. if there should be structuring, how to do so.

Preliminary conclusions following the meetings of 6 February and 6 March 2003

Constituency positions

The Business Constituency and the Non-commercial constituency have submitted papers. The ISPCP and gTLD constituencies expect to have a paper in around one week. Other constituencies hope to achieve something shortly, which may include reacting to the committee's on-going discussions.

Participants had in some measure or other a vision of how the gTLD namespace should look. It was agreed that a future expansion should take place in such a way that was demand-driven and bottom-up and in a way that increased competition while avoiding net user confusion and deception. To the extent that these objectives outline the need for criteria, it would seem there is general support for the idea that the future gTLD namespace should be structured. The challenge for the committee going forward is to determine the nature of that structuring.

Points of common agreement and points for future debate

    Goals of expanding the name space

  1. Future expansion should increase the level of competition.
  2. Future expansion should avoid names that are confusingly similar so as to avoid confusing net users[*].
  3. Future expansion should avoid names that might deceive or defraud net users[*].
  4. Future names should be both for commercial and non-commercial purposes.
  5. Future names could be in any language, subject to the technical recommendations coming out of the existing work on internationalized domain names. A significant limiting factor is the stability of the namespace.

    [*] tests for these will need to be considered.

    Drivers of expansion

  6. Expansion of the gTLD namespace should be demand-driven. There should be a bottom-up approach with names proposed by the interested parties to ICANN. There is no support for a pre-determined list of new names that putative registries would bid for.
  7. Registries could operate multiple gTLDs. A single registry need not be linked uniquely with one name. However, in order to meet the goal on competition, this flexibility will need to be limited to the extent that it might lead to barriers to entry.
  8. Sponsors would typically sponsor a single gTLD, though it should be possible for a sponsor to sponsor additional names where the nature of the sponsored space is complimentary.

    Technical and financial qualification

  9. Registries should be required as at present to demonstrate technical and financial competence during the contract-negotiation stage with ICANN[**].
  10. The bid price of future applications for names should discourage spurious applicants, but should also not penalize losers beyond the actual administrative costs.

    [**]ICANN general counsel will be asked for clarification

    Registry/sponsor failure.

  11. The investment made by registrants in their name should be protected from the consequences of registry failure.
  12. There need to be rules to determine the conditions under which a transfer of name and registry data would take place[**].

    [**]ICANN general counsel will be asked for clarification

    Segmentation, differentiation and competition

    There was wide support for what was termed variously segmentation, differentiation, and value added. To some extent these concepts logically lead support for sponsored names - a process which self-determines a segment or differentiated space where the sponsor wishes to be.

    There is a balance to strike between the need for differentiation and the need for competition. Differentiation is at the heart of value-added competition - a me-too competitor is a weak competitor. A competitor with an improved offering adds value to users. But applied too rigidly, differentiation can ring-fence local monopolies, which in the way of monopolies, is likely to poorly serve their users. A hypothetical example may clarify this open question. Should an objective of differentiation prevent a bid for a dot ngo, because this is insufficiently distinct from the aspirations of the new dot org? Or should a dot ngo be allowed precisely because it promises to add value by more tightly defining what dot org has been unable to do?

    One answer may be more pragmatic than intellectually rigid. Given the objective of a demand-driven bottom-up space, ICANN need not be in a position to have to judge differentiation beyond the obvious. If a new registry/sponsor proposed a name and promised differentiation, that could be sufficient.


    It will be useful to have your comments by e-mail to the above. The numbered conclusions are where there seems to be wide support. Elsewhere more discussion is needed. Please comment to the new gTLDs committee list and not the main Council list. Our ALAC member is not on the Council list (and indeed your committee chairman is excluded from the Council list during the Board election period).

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DGSO Council