Thursday, March 9, 2017

ICANN new gTLDs: I made it to "participate"

As a proud member of the PDPGW, the PPDWG, sorry, the PDDWG, sorry again I'll make it simple, the New gTLD Subsequent Procedures Working Group, I could finally make it to join discussions and PARTICIPATE.

ICANN wants/needs more people to help, they can be individuals and professionals...politicians too.

I once tried to participate in the .WINE and .VIN new gTLD discussions in 2011 and in 2013 but the ICANN seemed more interested in answering to French ministry Axelle Lemaire on the 18 June 2014 with zero knowledge on the subject, rather than to me a year before on the 3 April 2013, and with concrete solutions. But we all know how it works, don't we? ;-)

Anyway...
This time I decided to "participate" in the ICANN process the right way and joined the right working group. At ICANN, it is how you participate: you join a Working Group (often called "WG") to add what you think is good, to improve the next round of the ICANN new gTLD program. Then, some other people deal with it. There are conference calls you can attend and meeting where all these people can gather to discuss. Then these solutions are presented to - I am not sure about my answer - "a council" but the ICANN board is the one to have the final decision. Can someone help me here because I did not find who decides in the official doucumentation.

My contribution: Singular and Plural TLDs are "a mess"
For a consumer (the "registrant" for geeks), it is already difficult to choose if a domain name will be registered with or without an "s" (at the second level for geeks) so one can imagine how COMPLEX it is when the exact same domain name extension also exists in its plural version with another "s" (at the first level for geeks). A list of all these extensions is available here.

An example
An example to give - and which did not exist prior to the launching of new gTLDs - is this owner of a gift shop, planning to register a domain name for his online boutique, who does not know that he can register the same domain name ending in ".gifts" (with an "s") when he registered myonlineboutique.gift (with no "s").

How I made it to "participate"
The issue of Singular coexisting with Plural TLDs is an issue that I wanted to see resolved in the next round of the ICANN new gTLD program, so I added my explanation and solution to the draft on Work Track Three: Objections. Basically, I added to saying that it was an issue and that, as a solution, either one or the other TLD should be validated, but not the two of them because it is very confusing for consumers.

I don't know how other participants make it to spend SO MUCH time on this, and I admit that I am impressed and would like to be able to contribute as much as them, but unfortunately, I cannot afford it: time is money and days are shorts. I received a lot of emails from the organizers with updates and offerings to join calls and meet in the next ICANN meeting in Copenhagen but again...even if I live in France, Copenhagen is not next door: my clients are.

So: what's next?
The result of my contribution now appears in the COMPETITION, CONSUMER TRUST AND CONSUMER CHOICE REVIEW TEAM DRAFT REPORT. It is a 144 pages document which lists everything that is being discussed as improvements for Round two of the ICANN new gTLD program.
Don't expect to find a solution to the problem in this document because, at this stage, the wording looks more like:
"it would appear there was not a clear consistent ruling in all cases. In some cases, singular and plural versions were not considered to be confusingly similar" or "It would appear that inconsistency in outcome on singular/plural cases arose because the DRSP process allowed for different expert panelists to examine individual cases although they were based on similar situations".
Five years after, we are still in the "analysis mode" rather than in the "solution mode" but some possible solutions to the problem start to appear:
"This could be avoided in future by ensuring that all similar cases of plural versus singular strings were examined by the same expert panelist or by determining in advance that strings would not be delegated for singular and plurals of the same gTLD" and "The Subsequent Procedures PDP should consider adopting new policies to avoid the potential for inconsistent results in string confusion objections".
A consensus?
A "success measure" appears on page 117 and says:
"...should singular and plural versions be allowed, objection panels evaluate all such cases with a consistent approach such that all single or plural disputes are resolved in the same manner".
If this is no final decision to definitely kill singular VS Plural versions of a TLD, it definitely is a good start. Let's hope  that such isolate problem won't take years to be solved.

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