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Is Nomulus the Answer?

Jean Guillon

Google announced Nomulus: a tool to operate a new generic Top-Level Domains technically. In the world of new gTLDs, this announcement sounds like it is going to replace, or come as an alternative to backend registries. It could, but this sounding is incomplete.

Understanding how it works

To create domain names ending in a brand new Top-Level Domain, an applicant had to submit an application to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) during the first round of the new gTLD program. The application procedure required selecting a service provider who would be able to operate the registry technically: operations such as the creation of a domain name.

In the domain name pyramid, the ICANN allows the creation of a new gTLD so a Registry can exist. The ICANN sits on top of this pyramid: registries and backend registries, registrars and registrants sit below in the pyramid.

End-users (also called "registrants") buy a domain name at an accredited registrar, who then requests the creation of the domain name at the registry. The backend registry is the technical side of the registry to take care of this.

During the registration process of a domain name, the end-user pays the registrar for the creation of the domain name. The registrar pays the registry to create the domain name technically and administratively. In this procedure, the registry pays the backend registry to take care of this but the backend often takes care of other services for the registry. They previously signed a contract together and this is where it becomes interesting.

What about Nomulus?

Prior to having their application published on the ICANN website in 2012, all new gTLD applicants had to have chosen a backend registry. The backend registry was usually the one to fill in the technical questions asked by the ICANN application form prior to submitting the application. Without a backend, an application was rejected: a registry cannot run without one. A question to have is: "who would fill-in these questions in Round 2 if you decided to apply using Nomulus?" Another question to have for existing applicants wanting to change their backend registry today is: who would take care of this in the ICANN technical review?

There are 40 backend registries worldwide who, not only provide the tool to offer such service to registries, but who also provide other services to operate this tool. Running a registry requires to report to ICANN and this is another question to have: who will do this for your next project? Will you have the knowledge to answer ICANN?

Nomulus is a tool, produced by Google and Google does not have to prove that it is reliable, but unless the giant makes another announcement; something like "to apply for your .BRAND, click here", Nomulus requires being operated by the right people with the right level of knowledge and service.

Facts

I wrote to the Google Cloud Platform for more details about Nomulus, asking if an offer was coming and here is the answer I received:

"Hi Jean,
Apologies on the delay and thank you for reaching out to the Google Cloud Platform team.
I have not managed to find a Google site stating this, however please see this link as I believe it confirms what you are looking for: http://www.circleid.com/posts/20161018_google_announces...
Hope this helps!

Sounds like a wrong answer, doesn't it?

Google is famous at never revealing details about future projects and I admit that they are very good at keeping secrets but isn't something missing about revealing Nomulus and...nothing more?

  1. Google is a registrar too and it is able to offer a simple interface to register and manage domain names: this is typically what a .BRAND new gTLD applicant needs to register its personalized domain names;
  2. ICANN is working hard on making it more simple (and faster) for trademarks to be able to apply for their ".BRAND" new gTLD;
  3. Donuts, the largest "generic" new gTLD applicant — worldwide — has helped Google improving Nomulus.
  4. Nomumlus is already "connected" to Google Registrar. In one word it could mean that new gTLD applicants wanting to submit a generic application to ICANN (dedicated to selling domain names) wouldn't have to stand in line at registrars to have their extension listed and their domain names made available for sale. One might think that registrars run after new gTLD applicants to sell their domain names but reality is different.
  5. Nomulus is a tool which can be used by any other Registrar.

Am I the only one to feel that the combination of Google Registrar and Nomulus are a perfect match for future new gTLD applicants to launch, operate and manage their registry?

Patience is a virtue

Thinking about migrating to Nomulus is far too early unless for existing registries with a strong technical preparation and an excellent knowledge of the ICANN new gTLD application process. "Budget" is also to be considered since changing backend registry requires a review by the ICANN and of course, this is not free. In some cases, there is a "leaving fee" to be considered too.

The interesting point about the Nomulus announcement by Google is that it is a fresh news and flowers need to grow to become beautiful. More should come, and if the news does not come from Google, expect more companies to take advantage of this announcement.

By Jean Guillon, New gTLDs "only".
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Related topics: Registry Services, New TLDs
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