ICANN issues early warnings over controversial top level domains

Problems arise where one entity is seeking exclusive use of strings with broad applicability

A panel representing about 50 of the world's national governments has revealed a list of the proposed generic top-level domain (gTLD) names to which there have been objections.

Back in May, the ICANN registration process for new gTLDs finally drew to a close, and in June ICANN published a list of which domain names had been applied for and by whom. A total of 1,930 applications were received for suffixes such as .cloud, .music, .docs and .lol.

ICANN said at the time that anyone who objected to an application and believed they had the grounds to do so could file a formal objection within seven months.

In August it was revealed that Saudi Arabia had objected to a variety of new gTLDs including .gay, which it said promotes homosexuality and could be offensive to societies that consider it to be contrary to their culture.

People from other countries also complained about some of the proposed gTLDs, for example about the use of the .patagonia, which is said to be the name of a geographical region and should not be assigned to a private company.

Now the the Government Advisory Committee (GAC), which provides advice to ICANN on issues of public policy, has filed 242 "Early Warnings" on applications that are thought to be controversial or sensitive.

Early Warnings mainly consist of requests for information, or requests for clarity on certain aspects of an application. They are intended to give the applicant an opportunity to withdraw their application and recover the bulk of their $185,000 (£116,300) registration fee.

Applicants have 21 days to respond to the Early Warning. If the matter is not resolved amicably, the GAC can lodge a formal complaint in April.

"They are looking for strings that have broad uses and where one entity is seeking exclusive use," Bruce Tonkin, vice-chair of ICANN's board told the BBC. "What that means is that they are worried about things like Google running .search, or Amazon running .book."

The GAC's Early Warnings list, which is available here, also indicates problems with religious terms like .islam, .bible and .church.

ICANN has also announced it will review the the purpose of collecting, maintaining and providing access to gTLD registration data. The move follows the recommendations of a review team that examined implementation of WHOIS data policy.

WHOIS is a listing of domain registrants and their contact information which was standardised in the early 1980s, before the creation of the World Wide Web.

"The Board wants to make certain that enforcement of existing WHOIS reporting requirements is strengthened in conformance with the Affirmation of Commitments and the recommendations of the WHOIS Review Team," said Dr. Stephen D. Crocker, ICANN Board Chair.

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