GTLD background

In 2008, the Internet Corporation for the Assignment of Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organisation in charge of coordinating the Internet Domains Names Space (DNS), took the landmark decision to open widely the creation of new generic top level domains.[1] Currently, the Domains Names Space consists of 22 gTLDs and over 250 ccTLDs. Since its inception, in 1998, one of the main duties and challenges of ICANN has been to introduce more competition in the generic top level domain space, which originally was conformed of only 9 foundational gTLDs, like .com, .net, .org, .gov, or .edu. Since then, by the mean of two previous rounds calling for the application for new gTLDs, in 2002 and 2004, ICANN has added 13 new gTLDs to the generic root zone, 6 of them, like .info and .bizz are not sponsored gTLDs, while the other 7, like .mobi, .job, .cat and .asia are sponsored gTLDs. In contrast with these two previous rounds, in this third round and the followings to be launched later on, almost any string may be added to the generic root zone. In particular, a great opportunity is now opened to cities and regions which are allowed to create their own “dotCity” or “dotRegion” and to corporations and companies which are allowed to create their own “dotCorp”or “dotBrand”.

After a lengthy process of discussion, related mainly to potential disputes regarding trademarks and to the flexibilitation of the prevailing impeachment of vertical integration between registries and registrars in the generic domain space, ICANN published the last version of the Application Guide Book, last may 2011.[2] It has to be noticed that ICANN has a multi-stakeholder governance structure in which decisions are adopted in a bottom up process. The main organisation within ICANN involved in this discussion is the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO), whose structure is composed by two Houses – Contracted Parties House and Non Contracted Parties House – and the GNSO Council.[3] Another stakeholder in this discussion is the Government Advisory Council (GAC) that represents Governments. However, even if GAC’s advices to the ICANN Board are not bidding, the ICANN Board has to justify the reasons why a particular advice has not been followed. Regarding the DAG, the GAC expressed during the last year a wide range of concerns, related mainly to trademark issues, the reserved names for IOC and Red Cross, the sensitive strings, vertical integration and root scaling. A substantial work was accomplished between the GAC and the ICANN Board to solve controversies rose, however there are still a number of non solved issues.[4]

Finally, ICANN officially adopted its new policy on the new generic top level domain names at its Singapore meeting, in June 2011.[5]

According to the new timetable, local authorities and companies will have to register their application for their own gTLD during a 3 months period, probably between 12/1/12 to 12/4/12. New rounds should be opened later, but that will depend on the feedback from this third round and of the results of the Review setup by the Affirmation of Commitments.

Between now and the end of 2011, cities, regions, companies and corporations have to decide whether or not they are going to apply for their own dotCity, dotRegion, dotCorp, dotBrand or any other string. Anyone in a position of responsibility to a particular name will have to decide YES or NO whether the creation of a new top level name is in their interests.

A failure to act now could result in the city mayor, company president or CEO discovering too late that its own organization has not alerted him about this opportunity.

[1] Formally, the ICANN Board ratified a policy regarding the creation of new gTLDs, adopted in a bottom up process by the GNSO Council in 2007, after 2 years of consensus building, and instructed the ICANN staff to draft an Application Guide Book (DAG), which would be the core of the respective RFP.

[3] The Contracted Parties House is composed by two Stakeholders Groups: Registries and Registrars. The Non Contracted Parties House is composed by two Stakeholders Groups: Commercial and Non Commercial.