Recently, the French Government launched a vitriolic attack on ICANN's multi-stakeholder model, saying it was "no longer the appropriate forum to discuss Internet governance" in response to the decision by the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) that the new gTLD applications for .wine and .vin would not be given any special protective measures under the geographic restrictions policy that had been afforded to .amazon.
The French are incredibly protective of their wine industry, still producing around 500 million cases per annum. However, production from France along with Italy and Spain is falling sharply, with output down 9.5% between 2011 and 2012, with France suffering an even sharper fall of 18% according to research from Morgan Stanley. The rise in popularity of New World wines, plus the rapidly emerging production in the likes of China, mean the once noblest of French industries is now under serious threat.
This is one of the core reasons why they feel so strongly over the potential availability of a .wine and .vin Top Level Domain. Three separate applicants applied for .wine and it appears they are not prepared to give up their applications without a fight. Two of the applicants, Donuts (who have also applied for .vin) and FamousFour Media will be looking at making the TLD as open to register as all of their others, believing that the new gTLD programme is all about competition and consumer choice. Why would .vin or .wine be treated any differently to .beer, an open TLD, free for anyone to register?
Last week the US Association of Winemakers threw their lot into the vat. Their view echoed the sentiments of their counterparts in France.
"If granted to unscrupulous bidders, second-level domain names such as napavalley.wine or wallawalla.wine could be held in perpetuity by a company or individual that has never seen a vineyard, cultivated fine wine grapes or made a single bottle of wine.”
At the ICANN 50 meeting in London, the US representative on the GAC stated that the vast majority of the US wineries did not support any protection mechanism for the two gTLDs, a statement in direct contradiction to the US Association's view which has now left the whole matter as much in the air as it has been since the big reveal of applicants was made in June 2012.
Without the consensus of the GAC on whether these terms should be afforded Geographical Interest status nothing will change. The applications are currently on hold, as ICANN's request, but that status cannot remain in place forever. All three of the applicants will soon start to put pressure on ICANN to make a decision - they have invested significant sums in their TLD applications to date and will want to see a return on their investment. The grapes of wrath await I fear.
Written by Stuart Fuller, Director of Commercial Operations and Communications, NetNames.