The ICANN comment period on its new gTLD policy is over. The comments reflect overwhelming opposition to the Council's attempt to impose a standard of “morality and public order” on new TLD strings. The vast majority of comments — about 60 of the 75 or so comments — criticized the policy of censoring TLD strings and asked ICANN to stick to technical and operational criteria. Only one comment — by Vittorio Bertola, putative leader of ALAC — called for ICANN to retain limitations on expression. About 50 of those critical comments came from the “Keep the Core Neutral” campaign. It is unfortunate that the effort to create a process for adding new gTLDs will be slowed as the policy must be redrafted to take this opposition into account. There was, at one point, an agreement within a subcommittee to remove the words “morality and public order” from the recommendation, but a single trademark constituency member insisted that it be put back in.
A more subtle issue also emerged from the comments. There was significant opposition to Recommendation 19, which would require all new top level domain registries to rely on ICANN-accredited registrars as the distributors of their services. This opposition not only came from former Board member Michael Palage, but from a domain name registrar from China and a representative of CNNIC, the Chinese country code registry. Both comments argued that it was inappropriate for applicants for internationalized (non-ASCII) domains to rely on ICANN-accredited registrars, because “local registrars best understand local users’ needs.” A Beijing-based registrar made the odd (and obviously false) comment that IDNs are “territory-oriented.” Quite apart from the economic issues associated with requiring registries to follow a particular business model, the resistance from China will be an interesting test of the global nature of the ICANN regime.