The ICANN Board met on September 24-25 2010 in Trondheim, Norway, to consider and act on the impediments still in the way of the new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) program. They passed a number of resolutions that provide very clear indications of how things are going.
The short version is that the news is good for new gTLDs. ICANN is nailing down the final outstanding issues and the timetable is clearer than ever.
The Board is determined to make gTLDs happen soon
On a number of contentious issues, the Board resolutions gave some finality. In general, they stuck with what they had already decided. Some highlights:
To give a sense of the Board's determination, here's an excerpt from ICANN's post-retreat bulletin:
The detailed Board discussion was guided by recent community input and provided direction in the implementation of trademark protections, the new registry agreement terms, measures to mitigate malicious conduct, and ensuring root zone stability. The resolutions indicate that many important issues have been addressed, including trademark protection, morality and public order, and vertical integration.
Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush indicated that "The board made considerable progress on the remaining issues and has asked staff to prepare additional working papers and a modified applicant guidebook for public review prior to the upcoming ICANN meeting in Cartagena in December 2010. The meeting results represent a key milestone after years of work by the ICANN community as we prepare for community discussion and debate in Cartagena."
Reviewing the Board direction, President and CEO Rod Beckstrom stated, "ICANN is prepared to implement this important new offering to increase consumer choice and to promote competition."
The official kick-off will be at ICANN San Francisco in March 2011
The March meeting will take place in the front yard of the tech industry, which in general pays little attention to the domain name world. This time, they will be watching, and therefore this is a perfect place for ICANN leaders to cover themselves in glory and boast of their achievement in finally getting gTLDs going. It doesn't require much of a crystal ball to predict that this is where and when the new gTLD program will get its final blessing.
Applicants will have plenty of information before March
It seems that the plan is to publish a version of the Applicant Guidebook before Cartagena, take comments, then release a final version sometime after the December ICANN meeting in Cartagena, Colombia. Since this will be the final guidebook, it should include all the information pertinent to an application, including the dates of the application window. The San Francisco meeting is likely to be a coronation, not an election. To the extent possible, everything will already have been decided, and everything will be choreographed. Which means we'll probably hear about stuff well in advance.
We all know better than to say "sure thing" when it comes to ICANN, right? Right…
Still, the momentum is palpable and the timeline is clearer than it has ever been. The main risk factor is new obstructionism by GAC, fueled by lobbying by trademark owners, who continue to claim that the program will be too expensive for them. But it looks as if the ship is edging into the destination harbor at last.
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