A few early technical hiccups with the system streaming it live did not prevent ICANN's prioritization draw from running smoothly yesterday, December 17, 2012.
All 1917 remaining applications (out of initial 1930 announced last June) were processed in one of the meeting rooms at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton, starting at 13:00 local time. Shortly before midnight, or more than 10 hours later, Google's Dot MBA was the last application to be pulled out of the box. Priority number 1917 was assigned to it (for more on the process used, read here).
Priority number 1 went to a Chinese script application for Dot Catholic.
The first standard Latin script application drawn was Amazon's bid for Dot Play (3 other applicants, including Google, are also in the running for this domain) which received priority number 109. The full list can be found here).
So what happens now? Getting a low priority number does not guarantee an applicant expeditious processing through ICANN's new gTLD evaluation and delegation process because several interim steps remain.
Formal objections. The new gTLD program allows for objections to be made against applied-for strings. The period for this ends on March 13, 2013.
Contention sets. Where the same string has been applied-for several times by different applicants, these go into a "contention set". There are several ways for these to be sorted out, but the end result has to be that only one applicant per string remains.
Initial evaluation. ICANN will release the results of its initial evaluation of new gTLD applications after the close of the objection period. Applications for IDN strings will be given priority.
80 new gTLDs a week
ICANN will begin contract negotiations with applicants that are free of any contention, technical or objection issues (the others will have to wait until those issues are resolved). If those applicants are willing to sign the ICANN new gTLD contract as-is, they will immediately proceed to the next steps. Contract negotiations are allowed, but will of course take more time.
All applicants with a contract agreement can then make an appointment to be "pre-delegation tested", where their readiness to operate a TLD will be examined. ICANN will do this at the rate of around 20 appointments a week, or 80 a month, and will use the prioritization draw order.
Once an applicant has passed, then ICANN will sign their new gTLD contract. This process will only begin after April 2013's Beijing ICANN meeting and once again, ICANN will process applicants at the same rate of around 80 to 85 gTLDs a month.
The importance of the draw
What this all means is that the first new gTLDs can expect to clear the ICANN approval process by the end of the second quarter of 2013.
What the system also highlights is the importance of yesterday's draw for applicants.
The first non-IDN application drawn yesterday that is not involved in a contention set was Dai Nippon Printing Co's Dot DNP at priority number 111. Taking the lower end of ICANN's expected processing rate of 80 applications a month, this means that the applicant with priority number 211, Sener Ingenieria y Sistemas' Dot SENER (also not requested by any other applicant) will be processed two months later by ICANN.
But looking a thousand places down the list, at priority number 1111 for the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts' Dot REIT (also uncontested), that will go through the ICANN process a full year later! Google's Dot MBA will only be processed 22.5 months after Dot DNP!
Whilst this may be a problem for some applicants who will end up going to market with their TLD several months after direct competitors get to launch theirs, it is the only way ICANN was able to stick with the limit of 1000 TLDs a year that the technical community has imposed on it as part of the new gTLD program.