Lately there has been a lot of commotion about the new top level domains that will be released to the internet in the next few months. My question is what happened to the closely held belief that internet name space should be sacred and sparse?

It was acknowledged long before ICANN’s existence that top level domain name space should exist for a clear and defined reason. Initially TLDs such as .Com (for commercial use) .Org (for non-profit organizations) .net (for network providers) , .gov (for governmental use) and .edu (for educational institutions) were used on the internet whereby the end user would have a clear understanding as to what the extensions meant and it gave instant recognition and credibility to certain websites such as those used by universities and the government.

Please see RFC 1591 – whereby it states clearly tells us about Name Space.
Each of the generic TLDs was created for a general category of organizations.
The name space concept was placed deep in ICANN’s mission, core values and even its motto of “One World, One Internet.” These concepts were formed by years of intellectual study, research and deliberation on how the internet should be organized and laid out and literally hundreds of engineers, end users and internet professionals devoted their time, resources and knowledge to contribute to a logical, secure and stable organization.

The Applicant Guidebook is just that, a guidebook on ICANN’s policies and procedures. It in no way replaces those procedures nor changes them. All counter arguments mention that Applicant Guidebook which has several iterations including the last published version which contains edits that have no documented reasoning and have been objected to by the GNSO. Al information, meeting, discussions and determinations that have been made were attempted to be conveyed in the AGB but where the guidelines become vague and even inexplicably altered, one must rely on the policies and procedures that were intended. While the Applicant Guidebook mentions visual similarity test to be performed by the Name Similarity Panel, does not indicate that this is the only test to be performed and it also alludes to the other tests including sounding the same and similar or confusing meaning. Why else would you elect linguists to such a panel?

All of this hard work, dedication and documentation has now, somehow been thrown out by what seems to be the “new” ICANN management. My question is WHY?

When applications for new TLD’s were accepted in 2012, an Applicant Guidebook had been developed which took over four years to complete. In this guidebook as well as in public meetings worldwide, it made clear the steps to be followed in order for a new TLD to be delegated. One of the primary steps involved taking all of the applied for TLDs and placing them into contention sets whereby all TLDs that had similar meaning or would be confusing in any way to the end user would be grouped together and only one in that group would prevail and be awarded the single TLD for that name space.

For instance, in the eCommerce arena, TLDs applicants such as .shop, .store, .buy, .supplies, and .services would all be grouped together and only one would be successful to be delegated the much sought after eCommerce name space. This would be similar to have TLD’s like .com1 .com2 .com3 .com4, through .com22. If I instructed someone to go to “MYHATSHOP.com16,” what would be the chances of them remembering the .com16? Not likely, thus enforcing the value of the most used .com and effectively making the gTLD expansion for complete failure.

Well apparently ICANN screwed up and neglected to properly instruct the Name Similarity Panel on how to make the determination for confusingly similar. Christine Willett, ICANN’s VP of gTLD operations, in charge of the domain name process stated on a recorded phone call that she instructed the name similarity panel to only perform a visual check instead of the long decided review for Visual, aural, same or similar meaning or confusing in any way. In fact, when we saw that the AGB specifically only mentioned visual similarity, we addressed in public on two separate occasions and directly asked them to confirm or deny whether or not all similarity tests would be performed and Kurt Pritz refused to answer the question in both forums.

They did not bother to go to their Mission, Core Values, nor the hundreds and hundreds of pages of formalized documentation that explained this concept and therefore when the name similarity panel gave its results out of 1930 or so application the committee only found a total of four (4) applications that were found to be similar or confusing based on what they were instructed. They also ignore all GNSO advice that was charged with developing and providing the policies and procedures necessary to implement the new gTLD process. Letters of concerns, pleading and even outright complaining was met mostly with silence by ICANN.

Please see the GNSO Board Report indicating why the string similarity test is so important and how they mention that it is contained in Mission statements 1 through 3 and Core Values C1 – 6 through 11 and mentions again in reference to stability in Core Value 1. -

The mission of The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ("ICANN") is to coordinate, at the overall level, the global Internet's systems of unique identifiers, and in particular to ensure the stable and secure operation of the Internet's unique identifier systems. In particular, ICANN:
  1. Coordinates the allocation and assignment of the three sets of unique identifiers for the Internet, which are
    a. Domain names (forming a system referred to as "DNS");
    b. Internet protocol ("IP") addresses and autonomous system ("AS") numbers; and
    c. Protocol port and parameter numbers.
  2. Coordinates the operation and evolution of the DNS root name server system.
  3. Coordinates policy development reasonably and appropriately related to these technical functions.

In performing its mission, the following core values should guide the decisions and actions of ICANN:
  1. Preserving and enhancing the operational stability, reliability, security, and global interoperability of the Internet.
  2. Respecting the creativity, innovation, and flow of information made possible by the Internet by limiting ICANN's activities to those matters within ICANN's mission requiring or significantly benefiting from global coordination.
  3. To the extent feasible and appropriate, delegating coordination functions to or recognizing the policy role of other responsible entities that reflect the interests of affected parties.
  4. Seeking and supporting broad, informed participation reflecting the functional, geographic, and cultural diversity of the Internet at all levels of policy development and decision-making.
  5. Where feasible and appropriate, depending on market mechanisms to promote and sustain a competitive environment.
  6. Introducing and promoting competition in the registration of domain names where practicable and beneficial in the public interest.
  7. Employing open and transparent policy development mechanisms that (i) promote well-informed decisions based on expert advice, and (ii) ensure that those entities most affected can assist in the policy development process.
  8. Making decisions by applying documented policies neutrally and objectively, with integrity and fairness.
  9. Acting with a speed that is responsive to the needs of the Internet while, as part of the decision-making process, obtaining informed input from those entities most affected.
  10. Remaining accountable to the Internet community through mechanisms that enhance ICANN's effectiveness.
  11. While remaining rooted in the private sector, recognizing that governments and public authorities are responsible for public policy and duly taking into account governments' or public authorities' recommendations.

It is reconfirmed by the GNSO in documents affirming the necessity of conducting all string similarity tests including visual, aural and same or similar meaning.

Discussions and comments are made for string similarity tests – Please see In this vital document on Page 70, after restating all comments – there are decision made on which similarity tests will be performed as stated:
The comments regarding the scope of the similarity assessment are well taken. As has been stated in relation to previous public comment periods, the string similarity assessment in the initial evaluation is solely focused on visual similarity. The support from many for that approach is noted, as is the diverging view that aural similarity be considered, an approach that is controversial in principle and very difficult to perform in practice, while such similarity can indeed be invoked in a subsequent string similarity objection process. The proposed position is to keep the established approach unchanged. One comment suggests that, ―Aural and meaning similarity should not be considered at all. As reinforced by community discussion, possible examination for these types of similarity was included in the policy recommendations of the GNSO that was approved by the Board.

The idea is that user confusion should not be likely to occur – no matter what the cause of that confusion, Therefore, absent other policy advice, the current objection model that includes all types of confusion will remain in place, although the similarity assessment during initial evaluation will be limited to visual similarity.

So back to my question, WHY? Is ICANN being un-wittedly manipulated so that the key portfolio applicants (Applicants that have applied for dozens if not hundreds of new TLDs) can acquire an unmanageable and possibly majority share of new TLDs (thus allowing these portfolio applicants to possibly present issues of unfair competition or even racketeering) while throwing out the concept of name space and practically destroying the functionality and logic of the internet naming system? Is this is not the case, is the only other answer simple misconduct and/or corruption?

Has the new ICANN group lost the accumulation of knowledge gathered by its predecessors? Do they simply not understand what secure and stable mean? Many groups have asked ICANN to get the Name Similarity Committee to reconsider its results by providing this committee the necessary education and background as to why the grouping is necessary and request that they adhere to the name space concept and group the domain names accordingly.

With a published study commissioned by the eCWR we have estimated close to 647 unique Brand Strings, 89 unique geographic strings, this leaves about 966 applications competing for 706 unique generic strings of which they are only 56 unique meanings. In other words, it would help all 706 applicants to know if there will only be 50-75 new generic TLDs delegated and the sooner the better for all involved.

This could and probably should mean that out of the 1706 or so Generic TLD Applications, only about 60 unique name spaces would result. Yes, this was the original plan and what was promised to the US government when we had senate hearings on this subject as well as what was promised to the business community when they complained about the extreme expense of protecting trademarks with new TLDs.

Is it possible that because of the “gold rush” of the new gTLDs, all of the elite, informed members of ICANN’s community have left to become part of a biased organization looking to financially gain from this process? Are these keepers of the common good now too busy to concern itself with ICANN’s lack of knowledge management?

As a member of eCommerce World Retailers, we are formally requesting that ICANN adhere to their founding principles and be restrictive and conservative as to how new TLDs are delegated. More TLDs do not allow for competition but will only create confusion and chaos. The TLD market is not an open market, it plainly is a monopoly which ICANN is charged with diligently entrusting one entity per name space to operate. Inside of those name spaces, competition and free flow of ideas are strongly encouraged.

We at eCommerce World Retailers have strived since 2004 to support and develop a mechanism to operate an open, transparent and safe eCommerce environment which we have entrusted Commercial Connect, LLC. and their application for .shop to convey. Commercial Connect, LLC., the original final applicant for .shop in 2000, to make it through the entire ICANN process for eCommerce without being denied but has yet to be awarded the .shop delegation. There are approximately 38 other applicants and 22 variations for eCommerce TLDs with only one or two claiming to represent community. Community, transparency, secure and stable are all concepts conveyed in Commercial Connect’s .shop application and are solely missing in all of the others. Community applications have historically been ICANN’s preference to delegating TLDs and should remain a central focus to properly determine community support without erroneously disallowing applicants with no significant objections.

It would be unclear to any end user as to which eCommerce solution is the safe and trusted community supported TLD if in fact 20+ other similar TLDs existed in the same name space.

In addition, it is dangerous to award 23 eCommerce TLDs as the business plans and models would vary significantly. Thus the cost of $1 to $3 million per year to operate a back-end registry would prove to many of these companies to be cost prohibitive and eventually lead to failure for many, if not most, of these delegates. At this point, ICANN would have succeeded at one of the most horrific failures in internet history, the destruction of TLDs.

Another unintended consequence of failure to properly perform string similarity criteria is by allowing the IDN strings to be delegated first, say a string for store in Chinese; it will effectively give them legal and procedural rights at ICANN to block any other string with similar or confusing meaning including our .shop community application. So in essence you will quash what we spent over 13 years in trying to build, an open, transparent and safe eCommerce name space.

So again, WHY is ICANN not doing their best to correct this severe deficiency? So many people and companies have complained but it seems only the portfolio applicants are getting their way.

I am clearly concerned about eCommerce and its ability to survive and even thrive on the internet but other name spaces will face similar challenges. TLDs with similar meaning to .KIDS whereby one could be a policed safe and secure segment for children and others could potentially be used as predatory segments that could possibly target and cause harm.

While this seems like we are beating a dead horse by discussing the subject of string similarity, this horse keeps rearing its ugly head currently in the form of name collision and recently in the absurd number of Requests for Reconsideration that ICANN has received in regards to the very inconsistent decisions from ICDR’s (Non-expert) panels on name similarity.

If the string similarity panel would be reconvened, and this is not against the AGB and instructed properly and provided full documentation of all of ICANN’s discussions, polices, procedures, core values, missions relating to this issue, and allow them to make full determinations on which strings should belong to which contention set, the process could once again get on track to becoming an asset to the internet.

The issue that we have been facing over the last eight (8) months is who to address this request to. There have been many letters generated and submitted but they have been delivered to many different recipients. Most are not aware of the specifics of the issue and for certain, no one has managed to follow-up or compare their letters with those that other have received.

There seems to be no one at ICANN who will champion this issue and make it right. Mr. Chehade has requested information as to where ICANN has been deficient in accountability and transparency and it has been presented to him that the Name Similarity issue is highest on the list. This was provided to him by Chuck Gomes former chair of the GNSO.

I also personally wrote to Mr. Chehade last year asking him to consider carefully the instructions presented to the string similarity panel as it could result in severe consequences for the internet and its stakeholders.

In a letter from Senator Rockefeller to Steve Crocker, after learning that the string similarity panel neglected to consolidate the 706 generic strings into the expected 50-75 strings, he urged ICANN to move cautiously on the issues.

A recent letter dated September 13, 2013 from Jonathan Robinson, Chair, ICANN GNSO Council to Dr. Steve Crocker, ICANN Board and Cherine Chalaby, Chair of the New gTLD Program Committee he notifies the ICANN Board that certain recommendations have not been properly implemented. Specifically recommendation 2- Strings must not be confusingly similar and recommendation 9 there must be a clear and pre-published application process using objective and measurable criteria.

Again, there are significant individuals as well and ICANN committees and councils that are aware of the issue but no effective action is taking place. Instead ICANN is currently delegation and making active new gTLDs that could have significant consequences on other applicants without following the basic steps which include full string similarity review in order to place the applications into proper contention sets.

In a recent draft for a five year strategic plan by ICANN the third Focus Ares is entitled “Supporting a healthy unique identifier ecosystem.” We are certainly off track and what is done today will amplify in the not too distant future.

The request for ICANN to properly perform the name similarity steps only brings more competition to the much sought after .shop eCommerce TLD name space. It delays the delegation period and can potentially delay the review for community priority evaluation. However, we all feel that the process should be done fairly, done efficiently and most of all done correctly. In order to achieve this, the name similarity panel must reconvene and assess the strings for aural, similar and/or confusing meanings. Who can make this decision and implement this? How quickly can it be done and what will the published pre-determined instructions that are provided be?

We need an ICANN leader who can assist in seeing that ICANN delivers on the integrity of the process. We feel these issues and questions need immediate answers so we can restore our faith in ICANN’s ability to effectively manage the internet name space.