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ICANN's Tokyo Meeting Provides a Little More Clarity on the New gTLD Program

Tony Kirsch

New gTLDs continue to be a major topic of discussion within ICANN circles, and the regional meeting currently underway in Tokyo has revealed some interesting updates for potential applicants.

ICANN's Chief gTLD Registry Liaison, Craig Schwartz, delivered a great presentation on the progress being made behind closed doors at ICANN and provided the attendees with an insight into a couple of key changes that are likely to be seen in the Final Applicant Guidebook. As many of our readers would be aware, we have been waiting in anticipation for the new gTLD Final Applicant Guidebook to be approved at a previously unconfirmed meeting of the ICANN Board. The date for this meeting was today announced as September 10th.

Like many others in the industry, we'll be actively watching for the outcomes of this Board retreat where the focus will be on the new gTLD program's remaining unresolved issues. In particular, the Board's willingness to address the complicated Vertical Integration topic (given the inability of the VI Working Group to reach consensus) will be of interest to the many applicants likely to be affected by the outcome.

On another interesting note, one very important topic that has been flying under the radar is Registry Transition, namely the current requirement for new gTLD applicants to provide both a backup Registry Services organisation and a financial instrument sufficient to guarantee a minimum of three years of Registry operations in the event of the TLD owner being unable to operate it.

Obtaining a backup Registry Services provider is not particularly difficult. However, for many potential applicants (in particular smaller community-based applicants) the requirement to obtain a letter of credit from a financial organisation is an enormous burden and a significant additional cost.

Acknowledging this today and noting that the protection of the Registrant is paramount to this process, Schwartz said that ICANN had invested significant time and will further expand the recent concept of Emergency Backend Registry Operator (and yet another acronym, EBERO) whereby qualified applicants (i.e. Existing Registry Operators) could tender to ICANN to provide 'temporary' Registry Services in the event of critical failure of the Registry Operator to operate the gTLD.

This is a great initiative and should be welcomed by the community for two key reasons:

a) It has the potential to remove the requirement to name a pre-organised backup Registry Service.

b) It has the potential to reduce the level of financial guarantee to ICANN from applicants.

Other interesting points worthy of note from yesterday's session:

  • Communications Plan – This is being worked on by ICANN currently but won't be rolled out until the Final Applicant Guidebook is approved, almost guaranteeing that the earliest date for applications will be March or April 2011
  • DAGv4 Summary of Analysis – This won't be released to the public until after the Board's retreat, which is a surprise given that the public comment finished quite some time ago
  • IDN ccTLD Fast Track – ICANN have 33 applicants, representing 22 languages, currently under review as this program continues to drive the expansion of the internet across the globe

All in all, these small yet important pieces of information represent yet another positive step forward in the new gTLD process. I for one can't wait to see what the next few months will bring.

Click here if you want to see the presentations from the Tokyo meeting as provided by ICANN.

By Tony Kirsch, Head of Professional Services at Neustar
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Thanks for update, one question Christopher Parente  –  Aug 27, 2010 8:52 AM PDT

Tony — thanks for a very information post. One question — regarding this point:

However, for many potential applicants (in particular smaller community-based applicants) the requirement to obtain a letter of credit from a financial organisation is an enormous burden and a significant additional cost.

How big a problem is this really? Shouldn't qualifying be somewhat difficult? Seems to me it's not good for just anyone to be granted a gTLD, if they don't have the financial resources to run it well. After all, we've seen what happened to the housing market when credit restrictions were relaxed far too much.

re. Thanks for update, one question Tony Kirsch  –  Aug 30, 2010 8:41 PM PDT

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the query/feedback. Let me try and clarify my position on this.

Qualification or acceptance criteria for new TLD applications in my view should absolutely be rigorous given the responsibility that comes with owning a new TLD and the potential impacts of Registry failure (be that either technical or financial failure) to Registrants. ICANN have done a great job in this regard over the course of the Applicant Guidebook journey.

I agree with your point entirely and the fact is that we are going to have many new TLD owners globally which in turn increases ICANN’s/Registrant’s exposure to risk. Despite the fact that we hope it never happens, Registry failure is clearly a possibility and as such, Registry Transition is a vital component of the process.

I am personally a supporter of the work that ICANN has been doing in this regard, in particular the concept of the Emergency Backend Registry Operator (EBERO) as I was highlighting in the blog.

My point was that the EBERO concept reduces overall risk for ICANN/Registrants and thus, it would make sense, in my opinion, if the requirement to provide a financial instrument to support 3 full years of operation was reduced slightly.

I would not support the idea of removing the requirement for financial instruments entirely. However, as these can be often be expensive/onerous to obtain, even a small reduction in that requirement could potentially facilitate investment in other areas such as providing more robust technical Registry operations, additional marketing capacity etc. for applicants, or even reduce the barrier to entry for smaller community based applicants that represent genuine value for the internet community.

Regards,
Tony

A (non-certified, non-program) for backend registry operators Eric Brunner-Williams  –  Sep 01, 2010 7:28 PM PDT

It occurs to me that rather than continue to kvetch about the absence of a certification program for backend registry operators, with all the benefits that has to offer existing RSPs, and the potential it has to offer ICANN during the evaluation process, and during failover events, it is sufficient to simply create a list, not ICANN's, naturally, of backend registry operators that those of us in the trade know are capable, which applicants can refer to during the pre-application process.

This has been done ad hoc in the "catwalks" (for applicants) at Paris and subsequent, and the "speed dating" things (for RSPs) at Paris and subsequent meetings.

So to generalize on my efforts to provide the League of Arab States with as large an RFI response community of provider comments as possible, mostly by mailing people I know in gTLD registry operations organizations, or gTLD registry operations capable organizations, and the Vertical Integration WG list, I'm going to start just such a list. Of course my shop will be on it, but that would be true no matter who decided to "start an industry-qualified RSP list". The point is, we competitors can do what ICANN can't, and provide applicants the means to ask "who the hell remotely meets my criteria and lives in my neck of the woods?"

I'm open to suggestions (via email) on what is a convincing test for RSP competency. List to go up this week, hurricanes, heat waves, children, back-to-school press of events, work and working group commitments allowing, and cultivated continuously thereafter.

Sept 10th or Dec 10th Michael D. Palage  –  Aug 27, 2010 11:50 AM PDT

Tony,

Could you please clarify. I think the Board retreat is scheduled for Sept 23/24 and the annual Board meeting is scheduled for Dec 10th.

Best regards,

Michael

There is no September 10 meeting Antony Van Couvering  –  Aug 27, 2010 3:46 PM PDT

On an ICANN working group list, ICANN Counsel John Jeffries confirmed that there is no Sept. 10 board meeting.  This must be a typo by Tony (or by Craig Schwartz, relayed by Tony).

Re. Sept 10th or Dec 10th Tony Kirsch  –  Aug 27, 2010 6:44 PM PDT

Mike,

Thanks for the clarification, you are indeed correct.

Craig explained it perfectly in Tokyo, I inadvertently typed a confused version of the December meeting and the September Board Retreat in my haste.

Regards,
Tony

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