opinion

What’s the Story With the New gTLDs?

Diane Duke

Recently, several members have asked for an update on ICANN’s new gTLD program and the timeline for its implementation. However, there is not an easy answer, because as with all things ICANN, the gTLD program is mired in confusion and uncertainty.

Here is what we do know. On June 13, the gTLD application window closed. ICANN received 1930 applications for 1409 new gTLDs. Many of these proposed gTLDs will be of interest to the adult community: .shop, .store, .buy, .chat, .date, .dating, .blog, .forum, .group, .gay, .lgbt, .movie, .video, .film, .hot, .love, .sexy, .sex, .adult, .porn, and 66 geographic names — just to list those that jumped out at me.

Evaluation of the applications is happening currently and will continue until May 2013.

However, since that time, ICANN’s gTLD application system had to be shut down because it exposed the personal information of applicants. ICANN hired a new CEO. The New gTLD Program Director resigned. ICANN’s process for handling the applications had to be scrapped because it was vulnerable to legal challenge, and U.S. legislators “persuaded” ICANN to extend the public comment period. Obviously, ICANN’s original implementation plan is no longer applicable.

So, where does that leave us? Well, today, in an attempt to answer that question, ICANN published “Roadmap for Processing New gTLD Applications.” The Roadmap lays out a timeframe for the next phase of the program. According to the Roadmap, the public comment period is currently open and will remain open until Sept. 26.

Evaluation of the applications is happening currently and will continue until May 2013. During this time, evaluators perform the following functions: determine if the applicant meets the technical requirements, determine if the applicant meets the financial requirements, consider and evaluate any formal objections, consider GAC (Governmental Advisory Committee) advice, and analyze the string for confusing similarity to existing strings. The results of the evaluations will be published in June 2013.

Between July 31 and Dec. 19, ICANN will develop a system for processing the applications. The U.S. government will not allow ICANN to add more than 1000 gTLDs to the root. If more than 1000 gTLDs pass the evaluation, ICANN must have a system for choosing the 1000 that will be added, one that can stand up to legal challenge — which they don’t currently have.

If an applicant passes the evaluation, if there are no competing applications for that string, and if the applicant is selected by ICANN’s still-to-bedefined process for selecting the 1000, then the applicant would move on to contract execution in August 2013. However, if there is more than one applicant for that particular string, then that string moves on to auction.

So, the answer to the original question is that the absolute soonest we will see any of these gTLDs go live is September 2013. However, a word of caution: based on five years of experience working with ICANN, the road ahead is not likely to be smooth.

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