It’s looking like ICANN won’t ban companies from applying for plural versions of existing singular gTLDs, and vice-versa, after all.
Among the pieces of the GNSO’s new gTLD policy advice ICANN’s board of directors rejected at the weekend was a proposal to essentially ban potentially confusing singular/plural combos coexisting in the DNS.
The board threw out the advice because it reckons ICANN would be put in a position where it would have to police internet content, which is outside its mission and something it is very averse to.
The recommendations would have prevented two strings existing in the DNS if one was the plural of the other, but only if they were in the same language and had the same intended usage.
The example the GNSO gave was applications for .spring and .springs — if both were intended for English-language sites related to bouncy metal coils, they would be deemed confusingly similar and only one would be allowed to exist. But if .spring was intended to relate to the season, both would be permitted to coexist.
But ICANN is uncomfortable with this because no matter what an applicant says in its application about intended language and intended use, without some post-delegation policing actual use may vary.
“Though a gTLD applicant can arbitrarily set the language of a TLD during an application round, a registrant and end-user can only see
the script of the TLD string in its practical usage. So the singular/plural determination by the gTLD applicant does not carry
onward to the registrant and end user,” the board wrote.
“Restricting the use and potentially the content of strings registered in TLDs based on the intended use therefore raises concerns for the Board in light of ICANN’s Bylaws Section 1.1 (c),” it said, referring to the part of its bylaws that says it is not allowed to regulate internet content.
So it seems likely that plural/singular clashes are probably going to be permitted in future new gTLD round after all.
This, of course, reopens the business model of a lazy applicant going after the singular/plural of an existing registry’s string and piggybacking on its installed user base or marketing budget.