Advocacy groups will have open season on new top level domain name applications.
On page 1-6 of the fourth draft applicant guidebook for new top level domain names, ICANN has moved its language regarding a comment periods. I hadn’t really paid attention to it before. Essentially, once applications for new top level domains (such as .sport or .nyc) are posted, anyone will be able to submit a comment that will be considered by the application evaluation team:
In the new gTLD application process, all applicants should be aware that public comment fora are a mechanism for the public to bring relevant information and issues to the attention of those charged with handling new gTLD applications. Anyone may submit a comment in a public comment forum.
As we saw with the recent comment period on .xxx, this could create a lot of “form letter” submissions. I expect these form letter submissions to be organized against particular types of domain names (adult and religious come to mind). If someone applies for .sex, you can bet that Focus on the Family and American Family Association will organize its troops. If .god is proposed, a whole host of groups will come out in opposition. Practically speaking the comments will carry little weight on such applications, though.
The number of half-automated submissions could overwhelm ICANN’s systems. Perhaps it’s time to upgrade the comment system: require registration or filter out duplicate content submissions.