Well, looks like the European Banking Authority’s urging for a ban on the establishment of .bank top level domain (TLD) earlier this year has fallen on deaf ears at ICANN. In fact, not only is ICANN prepared to go ahead with such a TLD, more than one entity has applied to operate not only the .bank TLD, but also .banque. So, who are behind these applications?

The applicant for one of the .bank TLDs is fTLD Registry Services, a coalition of financial associations and institutions led by The Financial Services Roundtable and the American Bankers Association (ABA). According to its website, The Financial Services Roundtable represents “100 of the largest integrated financial services companies providing banking, insurance, and investment products and services to the American consumer.” According to the ABA’s website, it represents banks of all sizes and charters and “is the voice for the nation’s $13 trillion banking industry and its two million employees.” In December of 2011, BITS (The Financial Services Roundtable’s technology policy division dealing with issues such as fraud protection) and the ABA submitted 31 proposed elevated security standards to ICANN for evaluating the security level of applicants for financial TLDs. Their application was filed as a community based TLD, which means it is being operated for the benefit of a clearly delineated community (i.e., the financial services industry).

Radix FCZ is behind the other application for .bank. Its application was filed as a “standard” application, which means it can be used for any purpose consistent with the requirements of the application and evaluation criteria, and with the registry agreement. In contrast, Radix advertises itself as “an active participant in ICANN’s process to expand the internet naming system,” aiming to obtain rights to operate several new generic top-level domains. While Radix claims it intends to operate this TLD to create a “trustworthy namespace for the Internet banking industry,” the only details on its website for how it will achieve this goal is to require registrants to achieve “specific verification as a bank institute from a recognized authority of national, provincial or state jurisdiction.”

Gexban SAS has applied for the .banque TLD. Gexban is a newly created entity formed to apply for the .banque TLD and includes the following entities as its members: BNP Paribas, BPCE, Caisse Centrale de Credit Mutuel, Credit Agricole SA, La Banque Postale and Societe Generale. As with Radix, this application was filed as a standard application and Gexban’s website also provides little detail on how it intends to run this TLD other than to develop it within a “framework of trust.”

Thus, while it would appear that fTLD Registry Services has the better pedigree to operate the .bank TLD, anyone who follows ICANN knows not to count their eggs before they hatch. Under ICANN’s examination procedures, any entity can file public comments/objections regarding these applications. To date, of the five public comments submitted, four are in support of fTLD Registry Service’s application. Public comments can be found at https://gtldcomment.icann.org/comments-feedback/applicationcomment/viewcomments. Even if all three applications pass initial examination (or extended evaluation, where applicable), they will be placed in contention sets, and in the absence of resolution by the contending applicants, the winner will be decided either through a community priority evaluation (assuming fTLD Registry elects it) or through an auction. One need only review ICANN’s guidelines for community priority evaluation to know that this is no slam dunk for fTLD Registry Services. In the case of an auction, it’s simple; just follow the money!