There were long faces all over the new gTLD ecosystem yesterday — applicants, consultants and technical operators alike — when ICANN took their Application System (TAS) offline and announced that it would not be brought back up for 5 days.
As a result, the long-anticipated close of the first new gTLD application window was pushed back from April 12 to April 20, 23:59 UTC. You could almost hear the groans of dismay spreading over social cyberspace!
What is going to be interesting to watch now is how ICANN handles itself through this crisis. When the TAS outage was announced, a variety of rumours, from a systems hack to fake glitches so ICANN could rake in an extra week's worth of applicant money, immediately hit the web.
To deal with this, ICANN needs to go into full communication mode! If ICANN is transparent here, then it's just another unfortunate computer glitch. And let's face it, who hasn't had one of those?
Attending an industry event yesterday, I was amazed to hear French registry AFNIC's CEO Mathieu Weill rip ICANN on its inability to keep to its April 12 timeline in a public speech he was giving. This from a man who runs a registry with technical systems that sometimes cause its accredited registrars real headaches… and on who's watch AFNIC has so badly botched its dispute resolution procedure that it was taken to France's (distant) equivalent of the supreme court. As a result, the French government has had to restart a tender process that had seen it award management of Dot FR to AFNIC only two years previously! Ever heard of the parable of the speck and the plank?
What comments like Weill's show is that if ICANN doesn't communicate well on what happened, others will be quick to kick it while its TAS is down.
ICANN may have understood this already. Its COO Akram Atallah posted a note on the ICANN website today to explain that the system had to be taken down because "the TLD application system software that has allowed a limited number of users to view some other users' file names and user names in certain scenarios."
You can imagine the agonising moments in the ICANN office: take the system offline and push back on a date that ICANN itself had set in stone, or risk confidential applicant data leakages. In that light, ICANN's decision to push back on the April 12 date almost starts to look brave.
So the more info ICANN puts out on what happened (why not do daily updates on the ICANN website?), the better its crisis management will be…
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