If only I had been able to predict the new gTLD future, but alas my crystal ball (well, really it's a Magic 8 Ball ®) did little to help me. And I really doubt that 5+ years ago, when this new gTLD journey began, that anyone could have predicted where we are now.
All that said, back in 2008, I wish I could have known that:
Contention Sets Would be Based Upon Poor Eyesight
I remember very clearly having discussions about whether something like .place and .theplace would fall into a contention set. While my colleagues and I generally agreed that those would not be viewed as confusingly similar, we were not 100% certain. But when it came to singular and plural versions of the same term, I think we felt pretty sure that those would fall into a contention set, although (again) we were not 100% certain. So were we surprised to see just two contention sets? You betcha.
It would have been great if I had known that simply squinting would have provided me with the necessary measure to determine string similarity. (Go ahead, try it with .unicorn and .unicom — squinting really works). Honestly, if I had any inkling that both singulars and plurals would have been allowed to proceed, I would have advocated against it after the release of the first Applicant Guidebook in 2008.
Timelines Published by ICANN Were Wild Guesses
I don't know how many times I've given a date for the launch of new gTLDs and been wrong. Maybe 20 times? Even last week I told clients that the first new gTLDs Sunrise would potentially close November 5, but now based on a recent ICANN webinar, the first Sunrise period might close November 25? I really am the little boy who cried wolf, except that I'm a girl.
Obtaining the Required Letters of Credits Would be The Most Difficult Task in the Entire Process
While many applicants spent considerable amounts of time collecting confidential information from company executives and officers, and drafting answers related to Mission & Purpose, I had absolutely no idea that the most difficult task would be getting banks to issue unconditional Letters of Credit, which many simply refused to do. And frankly, for large, profitable companies the process of obtaining Letters of Credit for such a relatively small amount was completely foreign to them. If I had known just how difficult obtaining this Letter of Credit would be, I would have made it my very first priority for completion.
Fundamental Changes to the Program Would be Implemented Years Later, at the Direction of the GAC
Oh, where to begin with this one. Let me start by saying that I am generally supportive of the GAC. However, their Communiques have resulted in some pretty major changes to the program, including the implementation of additional contractual requirements for policing and remediating abuse, prohibitions on Closed Generics, and potential delays stemming from the mitigation of risks due to Namespace Collisions. To be clear, it's not that I disagree with any of their recommendations, but to the extent that their input has impacted the launch of new gTLDs, I actually blame ICANN for creating false timeline expectations.
Of course I am writing this like we are at the finish line, which clearly we are not. And I may be jinxing myself so that I am writing another post in a month when some significant new change or issue arises. Let's hope that doesn't happen, and we just get on with the inevitable.
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