Closed generic gTLDs are likely off the table for ICANN’s next application round, after a secretive policy development working group failed to reach a consensus on how they could be permitted.
The chairs of the ALAC-GAC-GNSO Facilitated Dialogue on Closed Generic gTLDs have put their names to a draft letter that essentially throws in the towel and recommends ICANN sticks to the status quo in which closed generics are not permitted.
The chairs of the three committees write that they “believe that it is not necessary to resolve the question of closed generic gTLDs as a dependency for the next round of new gTLDs, and we plan to inform the ICANN Board accordingly.”
In other words, whatever latency related to needing a closed generics policy that was built in to ICANN’s recent April 2026 target for opening the next application round could be eliminated from the timeline.
The three chairs added (emphasis in original PDF):
We agree with the ICANN Board (in its original invitation to the GAC and the GNSO to engage in a facilitated dialogue) that this topic is one for community policy work, rather than a decision for the Board. As such and based on our collective belief that there is neither the need nor the community bandwidth to conduct additional work at this stage, we also plan to ask that, for the next round, the Board maintain the position that, unless and until there is a community-developed consensus policy in place, any applications seeking to impose exclusive registry access for “generic strings” to a single person or entity and/or that person’s or entity’s Affiliates (as defined in Section 2.9(c) of the Registry Agreement) should not proceed. Finally, we also plan to inform the Board that any future community policy work on this topic should be based on the good work that has been done to date in this facilitated dialogue.
But that position — still a draft — is already facing some push-back from community members who disagree about what the current status quo actually is.
The 2012 application round opened up with the assumption that closed generics were A-okay, and it received hundreds of such applications.
But the governments of the GAC, no doubt stirred by competition concerns, balked when they saw big companies had applied for gTLD strings that could enable them to dominate their markets.
The GAC demanded that closed generics must service the public interest if they were to be permitted, so ICANN Org — in what would turn out to be an Original Sin injected into the destiny of future rounds — retroactively changed the rules, essentially banning closed generics but allowing applicants to withdraw for a refund or open up their proposed registration policies.
The third option was to defer their applications to a future application round, by which point it was assumed the community would have established a closed generics policy. No applicant took that option.
But making that policy was the job of a committee called SubPro, but when turned its attention to the issue, entrenched positions among volunteers took hold and no consensus could be found. It couldn’t even agree what the status quo was. The group wound up punting the issue to the ICANN board.
The discussion moved on last year when ICANN decided to launch the “Facilitated Dialogue”, forcing the GAC and the GNSO to the negotiating table in last-ditch attempt to put the issue to bed for good.
Ironically, it was the 2013 GAC advice — made at time when the governments drafted their advice in secret and were deliberately ambiguous in their output — that killed off closed generics for a decade that ICANN used to reopen the issue. The GAC hadn’t wanted a blanket ban, after all, it just wanted to mandate a “public interest” benefit.
The assumption was that the Facilitated Dialogue would come up with something in-between a ban and a free-for-all, but what it actually seems to have come up with is a return to the status quo and disagreement about what the status quo even is.
It really is one of those situations where ICANN, in its broadest definition, can’t see to find its ass with two hands and a flashlight (and — if you’ll indulge me — a map, GPS coordinates, and a Sherpa).
The post Closed generics ban likely to remain after another policy group failure first appeared on Domain Incite.