String Similarity Panel
The String Similarity Panel, also known as String Similarity Examiners, are responsible for determining if there are any similar gTLD strings that will likely and significantly confuse Internet users. The panel will compare new gTLD strings with any reserved name, existing TLD, requested IDN ccTLD, and other new gTLD string proposals. It will also examine the IDN tables submitted by applicants. String similarity evaluations is done during the initial evaluation phase of the new gTLD application review process.
On February 25, 2009, the ICANN Board issued a call for Expressions of Interest (EOI) for individuals interested in becoming string similarity examiners. ICANN selected InterConnect Communications in partnership with the University College London to identify string similarity.
It remains unclear whether or not many of the 3 character new gTLD applications will face high probability of being deemed too similar to existing ccTLDs. According to industry blog, Domain Incite, 304 of 375 applications for three-letter gTLDs have only one character variance with one or more existing ccTLD. In total, if a single additional character is enough to create similarity, there are 368 potential ccTLD/gTLD conflicts in the current application round. Furthermore, the visual similarity ratio between ccTLDs and gTLDs, as measured by ICANN's SWORD Algorithm is generally only a few percentage points lower than in the case of TLDs that have already been rejected on confusing similarity grounds.