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ICANN 45: New gTLDs Not Far Away Now

Reported by Roland LaPlante (Bio/CircleID), Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Afilias, who recently attended the ICANN meetings in Toronto.

ICANN 45 Toronto – gTLD Registries Stakeholder Group Meeting (Image Soruce: ICANN)Just a few days have passed since the most recent ICANN meeting in Toronto ended and, like always, it was a whirlwind of activity and information. But this time around, with a new CEO and accompanying organizational changes, it felt like the winds were all moving in the same direction: towards a new era of ICANN effectiveness and, of course, new gTLDs.

The new gTLD program was formally approved at ICANN 41 in Singapore only 15 months ago, but we've all learned a lot since that time. ICANN has now returned to an earlier practice of announcing dates for new gTLD program milestones, which I think is a combination of two things:

  1. ICANN has already resolved many of the key issues, and has a lot more experience on which to base timetables for resolution of the remaining ones, and
  2. The new CEO, Fadi Chehadé. At the start of the weeklong event, He presented an ICANN overview to the entire Internet community, which outlined his plans, organizational changes, and ICANN's weaknesses and strengths. Everything he said emphasized transparency, and infused the community with a new sense of cautious optimism.

It's definitely a brighter day at ICANN.

Trademark Clearinghouse

One of the most charged new gTLD topics at ICANN 45 was the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH), which is one of several rights protection mechanisms that have been built into the program. The TMCH is expected to play an important role in ensuring protection of trademark rights during new TLD launches under the program.

With the concept firmly established, TMCH discussions focused on implementation details. Conceptually, information about each new registration will be checked against the TMCH for possible infringement. When issues are flagged, both the registrant and the affected party of record in the TMCH will be informed, and appropriate action can then be taken. However, the process for checking — including when the check takes place and who does it — is still undefined. This is a critical item, since both registrars (who sell domains to the public) and registries (who maintain the master databases for each TLD) must incorporate the check into their processes before any TLD can launch. Fortunately, progress is being made.

Batching and Prioritizing

Now that its digital archery concept has been scrapped, ICANN is proposing a new and simpler way to decide the order in which new gTLDs would be processed and delegated: a lottery drawing. In essence, ICANN is going to "pull names out of a hat" in a drawing similar to what might happen at a small town social or local church. Names drawn first will be prioritized, names drawn later will wait. After claiming for months that such a system would violate California gaming rules, ICANN has recently learned that a drawing approach may be permissible, and has applied for a license to operate this "game." (The license expected in November ...stand by).

The drawing is a pretty good solution; sometimes, the simplest, low-tech solution can be the best one. I'm just sorry that ICANN didn't find this solution before digital archery was announced.

Regardless of the drawing outcome, however, Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) TLDs are going to the front of the line. It's likely that the IDN TLDs will not get much use initially (second level IDNs have been a fizzle), but this will help expand Internet usability to more people around the world, especially those who do not use ASCII characters.

After that, all the other applications (including those for dot Brand and dot City domains) will be processed and delegated in order of the drawing results. Hopefully, that means we'll be seeing dozens of new gTLDs go live by this time next year.

Today, though, businesses and brand owners should be thinking about how these new options can help them to connect more effectively with their customers in the years ahead. They should also consider whether they should apply for a dot Brand in the next ICANN round if they missed this one.

And start preparing: coming up in April 2013 is ICANN 46: Beijing!

About Afilias

Afilias

Afilias is the world's second largest domain registry, with more than 20 million names under management. Afilias powers a greater variety of top-level domains than any other provider, and will soon support hundreds of new TLDs now preparing for launch. Afilias' specialized technology makes Internet addresses more accessible and useful through a wide range of applications, including Internet domain registry services, Managed DNS and mobile Web services like goMobi® and DeviceAtlas®. (Learn More)

Related topics: DNS, ICANN, Internet Governance, Top-Level Domains

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