domains EFF Giving Big Corporations “Closed Generic” Top-Level Domain Names - Bad Idea



_____Top Contributor
Electronic Frontier Foundation

No business can own the generic word for the product it sells. We would find it preposterous if a single airline claimed exclusive use of the word “air,” or a broadband service tried to stop its rivals from using the word “broadband.” Until this year, it seemed settled that the internet’s top-level domain names (like .com, .org, and so on) would follow the same obvious rule. Alas, ICANN (the California nonprofit that governs the global domain name system) seems intent on taking domains in a more absurd direction by revisiting the thoroughly discredited concept of “closed generics.”

In a nutshell, closed generics are top-level domain names using common words, like “.car.” But unlike other TLDs like “.com,” a closed generic TLD is under the control of a single company, and that company controls all of the domain names within the TLD. This is a terrible idea, for all of the same reasons it has failed twice already. And for one additional reason—defenders of open competition and free expression should not have to fight the same battle a third time.

Closed Generics Rejected and Then Resurrected

The context of this fight is the “new generic top-level domains” process, which expanded the list of “gTLDs” from the original six (.com, .net, .org, .edu, .gov, and .mil) to the 1,400 or so in use today, like .hot, .house, and .horse. In 2012, during the first round of applications to operate new gTLDs, some companies asked for complete, exclusive control over domains like .baby, .blog, .book, .cars, .food, .mail, .movie, .music, .news, .shop, and .video, plus similar terms written in Chinese characters. Most of the applicants were among the largest players in their industries (like Amazon for .book and Johnson & Johnson for .baby).

The outcry was fierce, and ICANN was flooded with public comments. Representatives of domain name registrars, small businesses, non-commercial internet users, and even Microsoft urged ICANN to deny these applications.

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Top Contributor
That’s where things sat until early this year, when the Chairman of the ICANN Board, out of the blue, asked two bodies who don’t normally make policy to conduct a “dialogue” on closed generics
Something smells fishy.



www.DataCube.comTop Contributor
That’s where things sat until early this year, when the Chairman of the ICANN Board, out of the blue, asked two bodies who don’t normally make policy to conduct a “dialogue” on closed generics: the ICANN GNSO Council (which oversees community policymaking for generic TLDs) and the ICANN Government Advisory Committee (a group of government representatives which as its name indicates, only “advises”). The Board hasn’t voted on the issue, so it’s not clear how many members actually support moving forward.

The Board’s letter was followed up a few days later by a paper from ICANN’s paid staff. It claimed to be a “framing paper” on the proposed dialogue. But in reality, the paper presented a slanted and one-sided history of the issue, suggesting incorrectly that closed generics were “implicitly” allowed under previous ICANN policies. The notion of “implicit” policy is anathema to a body whose legitimacy depends on open, transparent, and participatory decision-making. What’s more, the ICANN staff paper gives no weight to a huge precedent – one of ICANN’s largest waves of global public input, which was almost unanimously opposed to closed generics.

As the ICANN Board (or at least some of its members) try to start a “dialogue” that would keep the closed generics proposal alive, the staff paper went even further and tried to pre-determine the outcome of that dialogue, by suggesting that some closed generic domains would have to be allowed, as long as lawyers for the massive companies that seek to control those domains could come up with convincing “public interest goals.”

Gee, I am so surprised.

ICANN has a history of doing stuff like this.

They basically ignore common sense and actual community feedback and just do whatever they want anyway.

EFF was a major force behind the fight to keep .ORG from being sold to a private equity company, which was clearly not in the interest of the vast majority of stakeholders.

During that comment period there were thousands of comments against the takeover, and only a handful for it.

In that situation ICANN released a misrepresentative report that basically dismissed the sentiment against it as invalid.

They were likely on track to approve it before the California AG stepped in.

ICANN does not operate in the community's interest. They are a bloated bureaucracy that largely operates in their own interest.

There are also massive conflicts of interest as they are basically a revolving door when it comes to ICANN connected parties moving back and forth between ICANN and private companies in the field.

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Made in CanadaTop Contributor
This isn't the same as branded TLDs, say like Amazon owning .amazon. It basically obliterates any domain stewardship outside the company, thus seemingly eliminating competition on the generic word in one fell swoop.

I don't know that it necessarily would though. If only one entity has control over the TLD, people may get discouraged from visiting it as it only points to products by a sole company. The power of generic usage TLDs lies in domain name choices, people look to options for their interests.

A strong domain name, say like cars.com, may point to a huge corp indeed, and that corp may also own various combinations of similar terms to further strengthen their presence, but people like that they can find other car companies under the dot-com banner.

This is kind of like what's already happening at Handshake, where owners have total control over a top-level domain. It makes for very attractive positioning from a starter line stance, but how and where it goes is due to be just as disruptive.

If Toyota owned the TLD .cars, do you think it would discourage the populace from visiting other car manufacturers under other domains? Even if the company did, I have never once visited a .car extension while car shopping, simply because it's almost TOO generic of an extension. Just never occurred to me. Plus never seen a site marketed on one.

Still, TLD stewardship comes with an immense advantage and responsibility, and deserves a hard look into a closed-generic process.