In an announcement published over the weekend, ICANN issued a request for community input on “requirements for an evaluation and delegation process” for new gTLDs. Essentially, questions raised during the Public Meeting in Prague about the order in which new gTLD applications would be handled – whether at the evaluation, release, or delegation phases – are still without answers, so now ICANN is once again turning to the community for advice.
Let’s recap what we know so far: first off, Digital Archery was officially killed via an arrow to the heart at the beginning of the Prague meeting. During that meeting, the ICANN Board repeatedly asked different stakeholder groups and community members for insight into how the issue of batching (or sequencing, or metering, or ordering, whatever term you choose) should be handled – because whether applicants like it or not, at some point in the process, someone has to go first and someone has to go last.
And why is that? The answer basically comes down to volume. ICANN received 1,930 applications for 1,409 new gTLDs. Even with certain applicants dropping out, it is still likely that over 1,000 (many say it’ll be more like 1,200) gTLDs will pass evaluation and need to be entered into the root. But only 1,000 new gTLDs can be entered into the root in a given year. An even bigger but: the 1,000 per year limit is a limit on the rate of change to the root, not some arbitrary cut-off, meaning that the 1,000 new gTLDs will likely have to be entered over the course of the full year, not on a single day. That means that even if there were only 1,000 new gTLD applications, certain applications would be delegated in January and others in December. That’s a significant stretch for those who want their gTLDs to be among the first launched.
At the end of the Prague meeting, the ICANN Board promised to come back to the community in approximately three weeks with a solution for batching and a roadmap for this next phase of the New gTLD Program. But the batching issue is proving a tough nut to crack.
In Sunday's announcement, ICANN did say that Initial Evaluation had begun, and that the organization is operating according to a tentative project plan that involves processing all applications in a single batch and releasing the results of Initial Evaluation all at once. If ICANN sticks with that plan, then batching/sequencing/ordering/metering will have to take place at a later stage, such as when the applications are released into pre-delegation/contract negotiation or when they are delegated into the root.
Additionally, ICANN noted that under that plan, Initial Evaluation could be completed in 11 to 12 months, or possibly less, with the results published in June or July of 2013. That would mean that the first gTLDs would launch late in the third quarter of 2013, about six months later than ICANN originally estimated.
In this request for comments, ICANN is basically asking if “metering” should take place at the release of evaluation results (meaning results would be released at different times, causing applications to move to contract negotiation at different times), or if metering should take place “downstream,” at contract execution, pre-delegation testing, or delegation.
Commenters have until August 19 to weigh in, and can do so by emailing email@example.com.