This time last year, the applicants for the internet top-level domain .gay were stunned to find that their application to be recognized as a "community" was rejected because they weren't gay enough.
After successfully arguing for re-evaluation and waiting nine months for the result, Dot Gay LLC has now been told the self-same application has been rejected again. But this time because it was too gay.
In October 2014, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) gave the application from Dot Gay LLC just 10 out of 16 possible points, missing the 14-point threshold for acceptance. The key reason it failed was that it received 0 out of 4 points for having no "nexus between proposed string and community."
Why? Because according to the economists' stats, "the group of self-identified gay individuals globally is estimated to be 1.2 per cent of the world population (more than 70 million), while the application states that the size of the community it has defined ... is 7 million."
After bitter complaints, ICANN's Board ordered a re-evaluation – but only a technicality of the process. And when the revised result came down on Friday, it received the exact same score on each of the four criteria, including 0 out of 4 for "nexus."
This time, however, the same application was rejected for being too gay.
"To receive a partial score for Nexus, the applied-for string must identify the community ... 'Identify' means that the applied-for string closely describes the community or the community members, without over-reaching substantially beyond the community," said the evaluators' decision [PDF].
But, they noted, the application has said that its use of the word "gay" covered not just homosexuals but also "individuals who identify themselves as male or female homosexuals, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex." The word "gay," the application said, would act as an "umbrella term" for all these people.
The sexual identity experts at the EIU did some research and decided this was wrong. "Despite the applicant's assertions to the contrary, its own evidence here shows that 'gay' is most commonly used to refer to both men and women who identify as homosexual, and not necessarily to others."
Is that right?
What about "gay pride," where all sorts of groups covering sexual issues join under one banner in countless annual marches across the globe? Nope.
"Transgender people's participation in these activities no more identifies them as gay than allies' participation in transgender rights advocacy identifies them as transgender."
And so it decided that the application, which has the support of hundreds of gay organizations across the globe, and which promised to give 67 per cent of any profits to the gay community, was trying to cover too many people. Last time, of course, it was covering too few people.
The judgment is all the more absurd when you consider that the same panel considered that applications for "radio," "hotel," and "spa" do in fact meet the criteria to be considered a community. Economists often decide they are able to statistically measure complex social issues; society rarely agrees.
It is also far from the first time that the EIU's decisions on community evaluations have been questioned. A number of other decisions have been taken to the ICANN Board, and when the Board has refused to acknowledge flaws, have been taken, at great cost to the applicants, to ICANN's independent review panel.
The issue of how the community evaluations have been carried out is also one of the key topics that the internet community has identified as needing an overhaul before ICANN opens a second round of applications for new dot-words.
None of that is likely to be of much consolation to the Dot Gay LLC, however, which has spent years building up support across the gay community. Now it has to decide whether to appeal the decision.
If it chooses not to appeal, it will enter in an auction with three other companies who have far deeper pockets and who intend to run the top-level domain as an open registry where anyone can register a .gay domain. ®