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New TLDs Are Coming, and They Are Coming Fast

Krista Papac

Despite what you may have read about possible delays to the rollout of the new Top-Level Domain (TLD) program, all the available evidence points to ICANN approving the applicant guidebook shortly after its San Francisco conference in March.

My feelings about the timing of the new TLD program were further buoyed by Kurt Pritz, ICANN's Senior Vice President of Stakeholder Relations, who gave a presentation at the .nxt conference I attended in San Francisco this week. Mr Pritz said the applicant guidebook is currently in a "proposed final" version and should be approved after ICANN's San Francisco conference in March.

However, there are still some significant hurdles to overcome.

A recent comment by ICANN Board Chair, Peter Dengate-Thrush, indicated ICANN may not be able to approve the applicant guidebook in March, and reports about the GAC's veto power-play, have created more uncertainty in the final timelines associated with the approval of the applicant guidebook.

The GAC has made a number of recommendations to ICANN about the implementation of the new TLD program and there are currently12 remaining points of contention to be discussed later this month at a special inter-sessional meeting of the GAC and the ICANN Board. In addition, the US Government wants the GAC to have a level of control over what TLDs can be applied for. If the US Government had its way, all new TLD applications would require GAC approval.

However, under its constitutional bylaws, ICANN must hear and consider GAC advice but it does not have to accept the GAC's recommendations, no matter how strongly they are worded.

My interpretation is that ICANN are finally doing what they need to do, both politically and operationally, to properly execute the new TLD program. By invoking the bylaws, ICANN is demonstrating its determination to see the new TLD program implemented without any further delays, while also appreciating the importance of solid consultation with the GAC and ICANN community.

The January board resolutions show ICANN will be working closely with the GAC in an attempt to quickly resolve any outstanding disagreements. Following the inter-sessional meeting, ICANN will hold a consultation meeting with the GAC on 17 March and I expect them to announce a final decision shortly after.

This means ICANN's San Francisco conference (13 — 18 March) is looming as a very important milestone on the path towards the realisation of the new TLD program. Although the applicant guidebook will most likely not be signed off in San Francisco, it should be the last time ICANN meets without it being finalised.

In all of my experience within the domain industry, I strongly believe we will see the guidebook signed off very soon. In fact, my response when asked over the past two years about when I thought new TLDs would be approved has always been, "I don't know", or "your guess is as good as mine".

Now, I'm more inclined to say "soon, very soon" with a lot of confidence and certainty. In fact, I'm going to make my first ever TLD prediction — I believe the new TLD application window will open in August 2011. So don't be discouraged. Be excited. New TLDs are coming and they are coming fast!

By Krista Papac, Chief Strategy Officer, AusRegistry International – Krista Papac is based in California at AusRegistry International's US office. She provides advice on all domain name industry policy matters as AusRegistry International's Chief Strategy Officer. Visit Page
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