It’s been more than two months since ICANN first announced its plans for how to deal with the “batching” issue – how it will order new gTLD applications for evaluation – and yet there still seems to be rampant confusion around the basics of the process and its implications.
Let’s start with the basics: what exactly does ICANN mean by “batching”? Well, according to the New gTLD Applicant Guidebook, if ICANN receives substantially more than 500 new gTLD applications, which we know with certainty that it will, it will divide those applications into groups in order to evaluate them. The first batch will consist of 500 applications, and subsequent batches will each contain 400 applications. In an announcement on May 4, ICANN stated that the TLD Application System (TAS) held 2,091 applications, plus 214 potential applications for which the payments had yet to be reconciled. Assuming that all 2,305 applications make it through, there will be a total of six batches.
It is currently unknown how long it will take ICANN’s evaluators to process each batch. ICANN’s recently published financial projections for the next few years, however, suggest that it is planning to process two batches per year. If all goes smoothly, that would mean that Batch 6 will complete evaluation in three years, or in 2015. But this is ICANN, and as we’ve seen, timelines for various initiatives have a tendency to get… prolonged. If contentions and objections arise, then each batch could take much longer. In the event that each batch takes a year to process, Batch 6 applications could be pushed back until 2018 or later.
So how will ICANN determine which applications are included in each batch? In a nutshell, ICANN is basically leaving it in the hands of applicants, by implementing a process by which they can vie for which batch they will be placed in. Colloquially, the process is known as “Digital Archery;” more formally, it’s called the “Target Time Variance Procedure.” Under this process, applicants will have to acquire a “secondary timestamp” for their applications by selecting a target time and then clicking a submit button as close to that target time as possible. The applications with the shortest amount of time between their target time and their actual submit time will be placed into the earliest batches.
However, if there are multiple applications for the same string, all applications for that string will be placed in the same batch as the application that performed best in Digital Archery and landed in the earliest batch. So if there are three applications for .STRING, and according to Digital Archery, two have ended up in Batch 4 and one has ended up in Batch 2, all three applications will be evaluated in Batch 2.
Just this week, we learned from an ICANN-led Twitter chat that the Digital Archery process will open before Reveal Day and run for approximately three weeks. As a reminder, the TAS officially closes and the application period ends on May 30 at 23:59 UTC, or 7:59 PM EDT. ICANN indicated that Reveal Day could take place two weeks after the TAS closure, putting that right around June 13. If that holds true, then we could see the Digital Archery process opening anywhere from May 31 to June 8, and closing anywhere from June 21 to June 29. However, ICANN also said that it plans to publish an updated timeline on or around May 29, which will include information about Reveal Day and the dates for Digital Archery.
So what are the implications of this process for applicants? What will it mean to be placed in certain batches, and how can applicants try to be placed in earlier batches? Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of this post.