The last time we wrote about new gTLD application batching (or metering or sequencing) here on the gTLD Strategy blog was over a month ago, when we discussed some of the comments applicants had submitted to ICANN on the matter. Now, according to an announcement made in the early hours of the morning, ICANN is proposing a new plan for prioritizing applications through the steps leading up to launch. And much to everyone’s surprise, it involves a lottery – and a surprisingly old school lottery, at that.
Here’s how ICANN proposes this process will go (key points have been bolded):
Each application will receive a Draw Number, which will be used to schedule the release of Initial Evaluation results, pre-delegation testing, and signing the contract with ICANN. Draw Numbers will be assigned in the style of a raffle – applicants must purchase paper tickets and ICANN will draw these tickets to assign each Draw Number. For readers who remember that ICANN had dismissed similar random assignment procedures because those procedures would violate California’s anti-lottery laws, this proposal should raise eyebrows.
It turns out that ICANN got around these laws by applying for a “fundraising drawings” license. But with that license comes certain restrictions. Most notably, applicants are required to purchase their tickets, which cost $100 apiece, in person. ICANN has offered to supply proxy purchasers at no charge for applicants who cannot make the trip. While this may seem onerous, the one upside to a completely manual drawing process is that it removes much of the margin for error that was present in the Digital Archery process. The one outstanding issue? ICANN has not actually been approved for this license yet, but expects to be by the end of November.
ICANN has stated that the Draw will occur between December 4 and 15 of this year, but has not yet confirmed an exact date. As stated above, the Draw Numbers will be used to schedule the release of Initial Evaluation results, which, under this proposal, will occur at a rate of 100 applications per week between March and June 2013. ICANN has said that it will give priority to IDNs to promote diversity within the Domain Name System by releasing the Initial Evaluation results of these applications first.
Later in the year, the Draw Numbers will also be used to order pre-delegation testing and signing of the Registry Agreement (by both ICANN and the applicant). Applicants can still negotiate the Registry Agreement before they begin pre-delegation testing. They will have to reach consensus with ICANN over the terms of the Agreement, and then both parties will officially sign the Agreement after pre-delegation testing. Both pre-delegation testing and Registry Agreement signing will take place at a rate of 20 applications per week, which will allow ICANN to stay within the delegation limit of 1,000 gTLDs per year. Neither Registry Agreement signing nor delegation will begin until after ICANN’s next Public Meeting in Beijing in April.
The timeline ICANN envisions in this proposal is actually slightly altered from previous projections. Whereas common wisdom held that Initial Evaluation would wrap up in June 2013, this timeline has the results being posted as soon as March. Also, the Objection Filing Period is now scheduled to end on March 13, rather than January 12. And most importantly, the first new gTLDs will begin delegating the second quarter of 2013, rather than the third quarter.
ICANN has opened up a Public Comment Forum for this proposal, and it will undoubtedly be a hot topic of conversation during next week’s Public Meeting in Toronto. Members of the FairWinds staff will be attending, and we will be providing regular updates here on the gTLD Strategy blog and on Twitter @FairWinds, so be sure to check back often.