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ICANN Clarifying Questions - How Are They Structured? (Part 1 of 3)

John Matson

Several weeks ago ICANN issued clarifying questions to approximately 50 of the 1,930 new gTLD applications submitted last spring. Some of our clients were selected for this pilot effort and we've had the opportunity to review seven sets of clarifying questions totaling approximately 30 individual questions.

ICANN has indicated that in late November they will begin issuing Clarifying Questions to the balance of applicants. My goal with this blog series is to give those of you who did not participate in the pilot some advanced understanding of questions you are likely to receive and our recommended approach for answering them.

First, let's look at the structure of the questions. Each has three sections: 1) an intro paragraph describing the context of the question, 2) a specific paragraph describing the part of the answer that requires clarification and 3) a specific paragraph describing what you are being asked to provide.

The first paragraph can either start "Question XX of the AGB states" or "Question XX of the AGB states that to score 2 points". If it is a 2pt question, this indicates that you have achieved 1pt on the answer but still requires additional points to pass the technical or financial scoring.

If the question does not reference two points you can assume that the clarifying question is aimed at the pass/fail 1pt evaluation. It is essential to understand that these clarifying questions addressing 1pt scoring must be successfully answered to pass the application scoring requirements.

The second paragraph provides the specifics about ICANN's concerns regarding your initial answer. ICANN is giving you invaluable feedback on what is deficient in your answer. While you may be tempted to argue with the information presented in paragraph two, we are advising our clients to take the comments at face value and work to clearly respond to ICANN's concerns.

The third paragraph is the critical part. ICANN is providing clear direction on the information that they are looking for to resolve the issue with your application. Fortunately, you are not left to guess how best to answer the concerns of paragraph two. In the twenty plus examples of questions that we have reviewed, ICANN was very consistent in providing the applicant with clear direction on what additional information they are requesting. The tendency may be to overthink the answer. Don't. Simply provide specifically what is asked.

Next week I'll provide an overview of the scoring in Part 2 of this series.

By John Matson, Co-Founder and COO of Architelos. Mr. Matson has advised Fortune 500 companies on cost structures, margin enhancement and implementation of new growth-oriented business models. He has performed several projects for ICANN, including advising on the new gTLD program and benchmarking previous gTLD launches. Architelos provides Top-Level Domain (TLD) application guidance and front-office services for clients in the DNS and IP industry. Mr. Matson can be reached directly at jmatson@architelos.com.

Related topics: ICANN, Top-Level Domains

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