A few weeks ago, we blogged about ICANN's recent reluctance to own up to its role as an advocate of new gTLDs (according to statements by CEO Rod Beckstrom, the organization is just educating people about the new extensions). But over the past few months, as we here at FairWinds have been studying the New gTLD Applicant Guidebook inside and out, we've noticed a few other instances where ICANN seems to be trying to evade responsibility when it comes to new gTLDs.
We have known for some time that ICANN itself will not be evaluating the new gTLD applications – rather, it will hire an independent evaluator to take on that tast (it says as much in the Guidebook). But in the meantime, ICANN and the Guidebook are the only two definitive sources for information about the New gTLD Program.
That's why it can be so frustrating when ICANN doesn't seem to have answers to issues that are not covered in the Guidebook. For example, when one of our Associates asked ICANN's New gTLD Customer Service what would happen if a new gTLD is not operational within one year of delegation (as the Guidebook states it must be), the response she received was...a reiteration of the assertion that ICANN expects all gTLDs to be operational within a year of delegation. The response in no way addressed what could happen if a new gTLD operator failed to make his or her new gTLD operational within a year, like the Associate had asked.
Similarly, the New gTLD Agreement Specifications in the Guidebook state that two-character labels must initially be reserved at the second level in all new gTLDs. That means that if, say, FairWinds applied for .FAIRWINDS, we could not initially use the domain name DC.FairWinds. Seems straightforward enough. But when one of our Associates emailed ICANN to ask if two-character labels will be permitted at the third level (like DC.Offices.FairWinds), she received the following response from ICANN's New gTLD Customer Service email: "We are currently looking into your inquiry. A final response will be provided as soon as details and information becomes available. We appreciate your patience."
When questions arise that cannot be answered by the information in the Guidebook – or worse, when those questions result from ambiguity within the language of the Guidebook – new gTLD applicants, consultants, or really anyone should be able to turn to ICANN, the architects of this program, for answers. So if ICANN doesn't know, then who does?