Temporarily freezes move that could have led to global corporates monopolising the WWW by privatising domains like .beauty or .book

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names (ICANN) has put on hold a controversial decision to allot closed generic Top Level Domains (gTLD) to applicants. Governments and activists had feared that allotting such generic domains would lead to a global corporate monopoly over the World Wide Web, by claiming exclusive rights for domains such as .book or .beauty.

“Hopefully this is the end for closed generic Top Level Domains applications and it is a victory for those who have raised their voice against it,” said Parminder Jeet Singh, executive director of Bangalore-based NGO ‘IT for Change.’

Last week, a newly reconstituted gTLD committee paid heed to the objections raised by ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee, which had in April pointed out several problems in the process of handing out gTLDs under a “single registrant” business model.

This differs from the regular business model for TLD names like .com or .org where the domains names are then resold to other users in an open market on first come, first served basis. Under the single registrant model, companies like Amazon and Google could own exclusively .book or .cloud, both generic name strings, thus paving the way for monopolistic branding. The process of handing out the contracts to applicants has been put on hold for closed generic top level domains. It is speculated that over such 70 contract bids have been identified by ICANN.

In April, the Government Advisory Committee of ICANN met in Beijing and prepared what was called as “Beijing Communiqué” in which it had raised, among other things, objections over applications for the generic TLDs .islam or .halal. It raised fears that the applicants did not have community backing. It also requested ICANN to not proceed beyond initial assessment for the bids for domains such as .shenzen, .date, .spa and a few others. Parminder Jeet Singh, had in an article in September in The Hindu, noted that ICANN was taking a decision on behalf of the people of the world in handing out generic domain names to corporates that had the wherewithal to pay the registration fee of $185,000. They also had the potential to invest in building business models on such monopoly use of generic terms as their private top level domains.

However, ICANN has not officially said it has dropped the processing of the closed gTLD applications, but has merely frozen it, pending further consultations with governments. Such consultations may take place when ICANN meets in Durban, South Africa, later this month.

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