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No. 253 The Debate on ‘Closed’ Generic Top Level Domains

William Drake
U. of Zurich



Critical Internet Resources

ICANN’s New gTLD Program has given rise to business interest in running registries for so-called “closed”  gTLDs (generic Top Level Domains).  “Closed generics” are common words for which the applicants do not have trademarks but nevertheless would be the exclusive registrants, i.e. only they could have names under them, or “to the left of the dot.”  Examples include proposed gTLDs like .antivirus, .app, .baby, .beauty, .blog, .book, .broker, .cars, .cloud, .courses, .cruise, .data, .flowers, .food, .game, .hotel, .movie, .music, .news, .search, .store, .tires, .video, and .weather, as well as some related multilingual domain names.  Many of the applications for particularly choice character strings have been made by major corporations that heretofore have not been significantly involved in the domain name industry or in ICANN’s policy processes.

“Closed generics” have become a subject of great debate within the ICANN community.  Critics argue, inter alia, that common words should be viewed as part of mankind’s shared heritage rather than private property; that closure is anticompetitive for domain suppliers and users alike; and that closure is contrary to core Internet principles.  Supporters counter that the possibility of closed generics was accepted long ago within ICANN’s bottom up multistakeholder policy process; that the late opposition is driven mainly by registrars who would like to be able to sell names under these new gTLDs; that closed generics could stimulate the development of innovative, pro-consumer business models; and so on.  Proponents of these polar positions and others it between can be found within as well as across stakeholder groups like civil society and the private sector, making this a particularly interesting debate characterized by unusual alignments and cleavages.  

At ICANN’s April 2013 meeting in Beijing, the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) advised the Board of Directors that exclusive registry access should serve a public interest goal. In late June, the Board's New gTLD Program Committee decided to prevent applicants for closed generic from signing registry contracts, pending more talks with the GAC.  To sign a registry agreement, applicants will have to agree to Public Interest Commitments, which include obligations to operate in a transparent and non-discriminatory manner, and to not impose eligibility requirements limiting registrations exclusively to a single person or entity or its affiliates.  In addition, with the United States remaining neutral, the Government Advisory Committee decided to file a formal consensus objection against Amazon’s application for the .amazon gTLD; a legal challenge may ensue.  Hundreds of “category 1” applications are now on hold, but many applicants have signaled their desire to go ahead and accept a Registry Agreement that prohibits the use of their proposed strings as closed generics.

Regardless of the current state of play and eventual outcomes, the proposals for closed gTLDs raise a range of issues that merit serious consideration by the global community, including actors who do not participate in ICANN processes. But regardless of any near-term policy decisions, the proposals for closed gTLDs raise a range of issues that merit serious consideration by the global community, including actors who do not participate in ICANN processes.  Accordingly, the purpose of this workshop is to foster multistakeholder debate on this range of economic, socio-cultural and political issues associated with closed gTLDs in a manner that is suited to a diverse global audience. 


Has the proponent organised a workshop with a similar subject during past IGF meetings?


Background Paper

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Mr. William Drake, Noncommercial Users Constituency, ICANN , Civil Society, SWITZERLAND, Western Europe and Others Group - WEOG

Mr. Adam Peake, Center for Global Communications (Glocom), International University of Japan , Civil Society, JAPAN, Asia-Pacific Group

Ms. Olga Cavalli, Government of Argentina , Government, ARGENTINA, Latin American and Caribbean Group - GRULAC

Mr. Thomas Schneider, Federal Office of Communication, Government of Switzerland , Government, SWITZERLAND, Western Europe and Others Group - WEOG

Mr. Patrick Ryan, Google, Private Sector

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Panellists and Moderator

Invited panellists, individuals and organisations

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William Drake, International Fellow and Lecturer, University of Zurich; Chair, Noncommercial Users Constituency, ICANN , Male, Civil Society, SWITZERLAND, Western Europe and Others Group - WEOG, Organizer, ModeratorBiography

Rafik Dammak, Engineer, NTTCom, Male, Private Sector, TUNISIA, African Group, Remote ModeratorBiography

Olga Cavalli, Representative to the Governance Advisory Committee, Government of Argentina; and former Vice Chair of the GNSO Council , Female, Government, ARGENTINA, Latin American and Caribbean Group - GRULACBiography

Kathy Kleinman, Internet Counsel, Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth , Female, Civil Society, UNITED STATES, Western Europe and Others Group - WEOG, Region tab not workingBiography

Stéphane Van Gelder, Chairman and Managing Director , Male, Private Sector, Western Europe and Others Group - WEOGBiography

Thomas Schneider, Deputy Head of International Relations Service and International Information Society Coordinator, Federal Office of Communication, Government of Switzerland , Male, Government, SWITZERLAND, Western Europe and Others Group - WEOGBiography

Joy Liddicoat, Association for Progressive Communications, Female, Civil Society, NEW ZEALAND, Asia-Pacific GroupBiography

Avri Doria, NCUC, Female, Civil Society, UNITED STATES, Western Europe and Others Group - WEOGBiography


William Drake

Remote Moderator

Rafik Dammak


1.Introduction & overview by the moderator
2.Opening comments by the panelists based on pre-agreed list of guiding questions
3.Moderator poses integrative questions to panelists, inviting them to react to each others' comments, clarify areas of (dis)agreement, etc.
4.Open discussion with Bali and remote audience participants (minimum 30 minutes)

Inclusiveness of the Session

The session will be run in highly interactive, moderator-driven "talk show" format, essentially as a debate.  The Moderator is experienced in running such events and in keeping speakers on time.  There will be at least 20 minutes for question and answer with the on-site and remotely participating audiences.

Suitability for Remote Participation

The Moderator will be in close contact with the Remote Moderator to ensure that remote participants' questions and comments are incorporated into the discussion.

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