For the past year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit entity that runs the web’s naming system, has been wading through proposals for over 1,400 new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). These are the end bits of a web address, such as the .com in qz.com. ICANN wants to open up the internet’s naming system; some 2,000 companies have applied to control a piece of all the new internet real estate on offer. Forget about .com and .net. Pretty soon you could find yourself navigating to addresses that end with .tickets, .cloud or even .wtf.
This is a fraught process and one with much scope for confusion, as Quartz has highlighted earlier. But there are more than 600 addresses that will be unavailable on all the new gTLDs—so they can’t be registered whatever the suffix that comes after them (.tickets, .cloud etc.) The Red Cross alone accounts for one-tenth of those (so redcross is off limits, but so are redlionandsun, croissantrouge, 红-新-月 and plenty more). The International Olympic Committee is responsible for taking another 19 addresses off the market. So long “olimpíada,” farewell “олимпийский.”
But the biggest chunk was added earlier this year, after the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), which advises ICANN on matters of policy and objections from governments, decided that intergovernmental organizations “perform an important global public mission with public funds, they are the creations of government under international law, and their names and acronyms warrant special protection in an expanded DNS. Such protection, which the GAC has previously advised, should be a priority.”
Thus were 549 new addresses added to the list of protected names and acronyms that none of the prospective new gTLDs will be able to register. These include the names of international agencies ranging from the United Nations and the European Union (so euroskeptics can forget about registering eu.sucks) to the Postal Union of the Americas, Spain and Portugal and the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies. Even the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts warrants special protection.
The plot thickens
It appears these reservations may change, and the list of off-limits gTLDs could be expanded. Yet not everyone, even within ICANN, is convinced. Avri Doria, a voluntary policy officer, wrote a stinker to the ICANN group responsible for gTLD policy. In an email with the subject line “why are we doing this?” she complains that the group is being over-ridden and notes that “The list of names, e.g, includes acronyms, but the nearly complete PDP [policy development process] indicates that acronyms are not to be supported.”
But here’s the really strange bit: these new reserved names apply only to the new gTLDs being considered and not to any of the ones that exist at the moment (of which there are dozens), as noted over on Circle ID by John Levine, an expert on these matters. He has already registered www.bureauinternationaldespoidsetmesures.com. Loads more are still up for grabs. Here’s the full list.