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ICANN Moves Forward On New gTLDs

Roland LaPlante

The introduction of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) to the Internet moved a step closer Friday, when the ICANN Board laid out its plan for the final stages of approving the new gTLD program. In a lengthy resolution, passed unanimously at the conclusion of a week of consultations in Cartagena, Colombia, the Board sought to draw a line under some policies where it believes the community has reached agreement, while highlighting others where further discussions are needed before the doors are opened to applications next year.

According to ICANN, topics such as intellectual property protection and malicious conduct mitigation have been heavily debated over the last year, but ICANN has produced policies that "substantially reflect the negotiated position of the ICANN community", leaving them subject only to minor future revisions. But the Board said that subjects such as objections to gTLD applications based on public policy grounds and the treatment of geographic-based gTLD strings still need further work. This latter set of issues is set to be the key topic of bilateral talks between the Board and the Governmental Advisory Committee scheduled for February 2011.

The Cartagena resolution seems likely to mean that the previously announced target date of May 2011 for the opening of the first gTLD application window is unlikely to be met. While this may be disappointing news for some, it will give many potential gTLD applicants — including companies considering applying for a ".BRAND" to represent their brands on the Internet - some extra breathing space to refine their new gTLD plans, more fully consider their go-to-market strategies, and select the right technology partners to strengthen their applications and streamline their launches.

The Board's actions last Friday are encouraging news for the ICANN community and the Internet at large, underlining ICANN's commitment to enlarging the gTLD universe "as soon as possible", increasing both competition and the representation of under-served communities in the DNS. It now seems more certain than ever that potentially hundreds of new gTLDs will be introduced over the next few years, possibly changing the way the Internet is navigated forever.

The resolutions are a wake-up call for those who believed there was a chance the program could be delayed indefinitely or killed off. ICANN has signaled that new gTLDs will become a reality in the short term, making it imperative for organizations large and small to consider how they can most effectively benefit from the program, protecting and strengthening their online brands.

By Roland LaPlante, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Afilias. An expert on new TLD development, LaPlante is an original member of the management team at Afilias and has over 30 years' senior marketing experience building brands at companies like Procter and Gamble, Citibank, and McGraw-Hill.

Related topics: DNS, Domain Names, Registry Services, ICANN, Top-Level Domains

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