When talking about new gTLDs, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of new marketing possibilities or the drama of ICANN controversy. Today, we’re going to be talking about something slightly less titillating, but highly necessary: data escrow.
Part of a new gTLD operator’s registry responsibilities is to contract an independent entity to act as a data escrow agent. The full details of the data escrow process are described in Specification 2 of the New gTLD Agreement, but it basically amounts to keeping records of all the data pertaining to “registry objects,” including domain names, contacts, name servers, registrars, etc. and submitting that data into escrow at regular intervals.
Data escrow is different from registry infrastructure services. For most brand owners who apply for a new gTLD, it will be necessary to partner with a third-party registry infrastructure technology provider. This will allow them to avoid having to learn the business of operating a registry, investing in personnel and infrastructure, and other operational headaches. But it is not mandatory. If a gTLD applicant wants to handle the registry functions by itself, it is allowed to do so. Data escrow, on the other hand, has to be contracted out to an independent third-party for reasons of transparency in every case. Arguably one of the best-known data escrow service providers is Iron Mountain, a company that specializes in data backup and recovery services, but NCC Group is also very well established and regarded in this area.
Of course, this extra service comes at an additional fee, and it is one that many future applicants have not considered. The New gTLD Applicant Guidebook is extremely complex and contains various gems like this one that seem tangential, but are actually necessary to operating a new gTLD registry. Brand owners (or the companies they hire to handle the application preparation and registry launch) need to be on the lookout for these details so they know exactly the scope of responsibilities they will be facing once they are awarded their gTLD.