ICANN Business Constituency: allowing both singular and plural of the same TLD will be an embarrassing mistake

The ICANN Business Constituency sent a letter to the New gTLD Program Committee on December 20th 2013 asking them to reconsider allowing both singular and plural forms of the same TLD string.

The ICANN Business Constituency asks the the New gTLD Program Committee to take immediate action to avoid the significant problems of allowing both singular and plural forms of the same TLD string.

The ICANN Business Constituency said that there is an obvious problem of allowing a single travel company to control .hotels while another applicant had met Community priority for the .hotel TLD. This would discredit the Community Priority program that ICANN supported. Another troubling example seems to be allowing both .car and .cars TLDs, since registrants and users would likely be confused as to which domain they heard in an advertisement.  The .car / .cars situation is especially problematic since conflicting decisions by the International Center for Dispute Resolution (ICDR) undermine the credibility of ICANN’s gTLD program.

Here is the complete letter:

New gTLD Program Committee:  We urge you to take immediate action to avoid the significant problems of allowing both singular and plural forms of the same TLD string.  Fortunately, the ICANN Board has just created a precedent for taking a “second look” at string confusion decisions, as we explain below.   First, consider the obvious problem of allowing a single travel company to control .hotels while another  applicant had met Community priority for the .hotel TLD – a result that would discredit the Community  Priority program that all of us at ICANN supported.  Another troubling example is to allow both .car and  .cars TLDs, since registrants and users would likely be confused as to which domain they heard in an  advertisement.  The .car / .cars situation is especially problematic  since conflicting decisions by the  International Center for Dispute Resolution (ICDR) undermine the credibility of ICANN’s gTLD program.     The Business Constituency (BC) wrote you in October to describe these troubling inconsistencies in  string confusion decisions by the ICDR.  (see Exhibit B for letter).  As seen in the timeline below, the first  three string confusion decisions went against the objector, followed by 5 decisions for the objector.   Then another decision (.cars) went against the objector, followed by another decision against the  objector.

This inconsistency in decisions on precisely the same issue should be adequate justification to revisit all  of the objections regarding string confusion between singular and plural forms of the same TLD, and  certainly at least the very proceedings where the inconsistencies occurred.  In its October letter, the BC  suggested two ways the NGPC could proceed:

First, we request that ICANN publish any evidence considered by expert panels, arbitration  providers, and ICANN staff in its evaluation of these decisions.

Second, we ask that ICANN publish more specific objective criteria used to judge string  similarity, and then allow for an appeal system where applicants can challenge prior ICDR  decisions on singular‐plural TLDs based on this specific criteria.

An officer of the Business Constituency reiterated these suggestions at the public forum in Buenos Aires.   While the agenda for your committee’s 20‐Nov‐2013 meeting included a “Report on string confusion  expert determinations,” the meeting report shows you postponed the discussion for a future meeting.  Then, on 4‐Dec‐2013, ICANN published the Final Implementation Plan for the IDN ccTLD Fast Track,  which includes a “two‐panel string similarity review process”.   While the IDN ccTLD process is not an  exact fit, it is the type of implementation improvement that could resolve inconsistent objection  determinations that have occurred with new gTLDs.    Consider Section 4.3 of the IDN ccTLD process:  (link)

4.3 Extended Process Similarity Review Panel Function   The Extended Process Similarity Review Panel (EPSRP) can be called on to perform a second and final  confusing similarity assessment of the requested IDN ccTLD string if: (1) The DNS Stability Panel, in  performing its string similarity review, deems the string to be invalid; and (2) if the requester seeks review  by the EPSRP within three months of ICANN’s notification of the DNS Stability Panel’s determination.

We strongly encourage you to use the EPSRP decision as a precedent for taking action now, by adopting  a similar two‐panel process for gTLD string confusion objections.

There is still time to do this right, and thereby avoid an embarrassing mistake that will undermine  ICANN’s credibility at a time when ICANN must demonstrate it is serving the public interest of  registrants and Internet users.    Sincerely, Elisa Cooper Chair, ICANN Business Constituency

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About Konstantinos Zournas

Konstantinos studied Computer Engineering and Computer Science in London and lives in Athens, Greece. He works on domain names, websites and software development. Has been online since 1995 & domaining since 2002.

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