This is the second post in a two-part series of blog posts explaining String Contention Sets, a complex aspect of ICANN's new gTLD evaluation process.
So you've found yourself in a String Contention Set. Another party has applied for the same new gTLD as you, or one that is so visually similar that ICANN believes that allowing both strings to become full-fledged new gTLDs will cause confusion among Internet users.
Let's assume that the Contention Set consists of you and one other applicant. What happens now? First, ICANN encourages you both to reach an agreement amongst yourselves as to which application will proceed. Both of you can choose to drop out at this point, or one can concede to the other, but there is no way that both applications can proceed with each of you operating a separate registry.
However, it is possible for you and your Contention Set-mate(s) to reach an agreement where you can both use the new gTLD. If, for example, Unilever’s Dove soap and Mars’ Dove chocolate both apply for .DOVE, they can't each operate an independent .DOVE registry (this could cause serious problems for the DNS root). However, they can choose to reach a mutually agreeable deal where one company, say Mars, drops out while the other, Unilever, proceeds with its application and then allows Mars to register certain second-level domains once the .DOVE gTLD goes live. (There are other ways to "share" a gTLD, but this is just one, simple example to illustrate the concept.)
Of course, this kind of agreeable solution will likely not be an option for many applicants that end up in a contention set, especially if the applied-for strings are similar (not identical) and each is the applicant's main brand name. So in the event that you and the other applicant in your Contention Set can't reach an agreement, and neither wants to back down, then the String Contention Resolution proceeds after each party has completed all aspects of the evaluation, including the Initial Evaluation, Extended Evaluation and even Dispute Resolution, if applicable.
If one of the applicants in the Contention Set is community-based, it automatically beats out all non-community-based, or "standard," applicants. If you are a brand owner, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to meet the requirements to qualify as a community-based applicant, so if you end up in a Contention Set with one, your application will be knocked out automatically.
If neither you nor your Contention Set-mate(s) has met the criteria to qualify as a community-based applicant, then an auction will commence and you will have to pony up increasing amounts of money to stay in the game. If you out-spend the other applicant in your Contention Set, then you will be awarded the gTLD.
We don't blame you if you're exhausted after reading this. It's a complicated process with numerous caveats, exceptions and quirks. We hope that these two posts cleared up some of the mystery around String Contention issues, but if you still have questions, please email us at email@example.com.