Perhaps it is because there has been so little information out of ICANN about the field of new gTLD applicants that the media seem to be giving TAS registration numbers so much attention. ICANN has been publishing the number of applicants registered in its TLD Application System, or TAS, at regular intervals during the application period; as of last week, the number had topped 250. Each time this data point is published, certain members of the media tend to jump on it, attempting to extract some insight into how many applications that will ultimately translate to.
Of course, that number, regardless of how high or low, is inherently ambiguous. .NXT’s Kieren McCarthy points this out in a very amusing post on the .NXT blog. This figure is almost completely meaningless because every applicant, once registered in the TAS, can apply for up to 50 gTLDs.
That’s right, mathletes. That means that 250 registrations could yield anywhere from 250 to 12,500 new gTLD applications. Or less, if any registrants change their minds and decide not to go through with submitting an application (unlikely but not impossible). So really, when we see that 250 figure, we still have no real idea of how many new gTLD applications there will be come April 12. ICANN won’t reveal that to us until at least May 1. There seems to be no good reason for ICANN to withhold this information – at least, not one that we (or Mr. McCarthy, for that matter) can figure out.
In order to try to make some sense of what the number of TAS registrants will ultimately mean for the total number of gTLD applications, we decided to take a look at our own clients.
On average, our clients are applying for 2.72 gTLDs apiece. Some clients are applying for more than 10, while some are applying for just one. These clients are all, for the most part, large companies with major, well-known brands. Some are applying for only “dot brand” gTLDs that correspond to their major business, product, or service names, while others are pursuing generic or category terms as gTLDs. Some are applying for both. We are by no means saying that more gTLDs are better – at this point, until new gTLDs have become an established feature of the domain name space, we cannot know what the “right” number of new gTLDs for any given business or other applicant to pursue is. For some, one application makes perfect sense, while others will likely benefit from applying for more.
At ICANN’s Costa Rica meeting last week, the number of TAS registrants had reached 254. If we multiply that number by the FairWinds average of 2.72 gTLDs per applicant, then we get a total of 691 applications – so far. There is still another week for applicants to register before the March 29 deadline, and there is a good chance that more will register by then. We have also heard rumor of certain investors who plan to apply for larger numbers of new gTLDs; in some instances, applicants may very well use up all 50 of their allotted application slots. Given all this, it would not be unreasonable, at this point, to say that we could easily see 1,000 applications when ICANN reveals the list.
Our clients, like most applicants, have good reason to want to keep the exact details of their new gTLD plans close to the vest until the application period closes and the list is revealed on May 1, at the earliest. But hopefully this bit of transparency can help paint a slightly clearer picture of what the application field will look like after April 12.
UPDATE, March 24, 2012:
As of March 24, the TAS has reached 556 registered applicants, meaning the total number of registrations more than doubled in the last two weeks. Applying the FairWinds average of 2.72 gTLD applications per registered applicant, this could mean there will be over 1,500 applications revealed on ICANN's May 1 "Reveal Day." Moreover, if the number of registrants more than doubled in two weeks, how many more could we see in these last five days before the Mach 29 TAS deadline?