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Supporting ICANN Community Progress: The Issue of Closed Generics

19 April 2022
By Maarten BottermanMaarten Botterman

There are many topics and questions that must be addressed and answered as we move toward a next round of generic top-level domains (gTLDs). One of these topics is closed generics. As noted in the Subsequent Procedures Policy Development Process Working Group (SubPro PDP WG) Final Report, a closed generic is "a TLD representing a string that is a generic name or term under which domains are registered and usable exclusively by the registry operator or its affiliates."

The Final Report is the culmination of years of working group deliberations and community input to produce final recommendations, implementation guidance, and other content on topics within the working group's charter. Despite extensive discussions and deliberation, the working group did not reach consensus recommendations on closed generics.Overall, the public comments revealed a sharp divergence in the community's views on this topic. There are strongly held views that all closed generics should be allowed. Conversely, some feel that closed generics should not be allowed in any circumstances. These divergent views were reflected in the various policy development process (PDP) reports and public comment processes.

In the interest of supporting the community to help make progress on the issue, the ICANN Board has invited the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) Council and the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) to start a dialogue on a workable framework for closed generics.

The Board has suggested this dialogue to the GNSO Council and GAC. It also published a framing paper to outline the scope of the proposed discussions. As indicated in the Framing Paper, if the Council and GAC are in agreement to pursue this dialogue, the first step would be to agree on scope, timing, rules of engagement, and whether or not to accept the offer of a Board-appointed facilitator.

About the Issue:

Consistent with the recommendations from the GNSO's 2007 PDP on the Introduction of New Generic Top Level Domains, the 2012 Applicant Guidebook did not address closed generics, thus implicitly allowing them. In March 2013, the GNSO Council confirmed this implicit permission, noting that "it should not be the responsibility of ICANN to restrict the use of gTLDs in any manner, but instead to let new gTLD applicants propose various models; open or closed, generic or not.'' The subsequently issued 2013 Beijing GAC Advice stated that for "strings representing generic terms, exclusive registry access should serve a public interest goal."

To address this policy in light of the GAC advice, the ICANN Board New gTLD Program Committee took action in 2014 to create a solution for applications in process and to reinforce the importance of policy issues being resolved through the multistakeholder process. The Board asked "that the GNSO specifically include the issue of exclusive registry access for generic strings serving a public interest goal as part of the policy work it is planning to initiate on subsequent rounds of the New gTLD Program." As noted above, the SubPro PDP WG did consider the issue extensively in its work, but did not include recommendations on closed generics in its Final Report.

Next Steps

If the dialogue yields a possible framework, the Board expects that the GNSO Council, in its role as the manager of the policy development process, will determine the most appropriate way forward to address the lack of policy recommendations on closed generics. For example, the framework could serve as a starting point to develop consensus policy recommendations on closed generics. As with all policy recommendations it considers for approval, it is the Board's expectation that such a process will be an open, transparent, and inclusive process. We are looking forward to supporting this dialogue.

Additional information about the New gTLD SubPro PDP is available here.

Authors

Maarten Botterman

Maarten Botterman

ICANN Board Member
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