Back in February 2017, I published the article “Next gTLD Round — A Seven Year Itch” on CircleID advocating for the Board, ICANN Community, and ICANN org to reach a common understanding of what needed to be accomplished in order to identify a date to open the next application window for new gTLDs.
In the past 18 months, there has been considerable movement toward the goal of opening the next application window for new gTLDs. The ICANN Board acknowledges their responsibility to opening a second application window “as expeditiously as possible”, and the community is working on a number of efforts in parallel that are considered pre-requisites to make this happen.
Neustar is actively engaged in the New gTLD Subsequent Procedures PDP Working Group (PDP WG), which is an important work effort and one of the pre-requisites that needs to be completed in order to bring the next application window to reality. The PDP WG reached an important milestone on 26 September 2018, when it published its Initial Report for public comment. Neustar was one of many who submitted comments, and we would like to take the opportunity to highlight our response to the section that addresses “Applications Assessed in Rounds”. We spent a long time discussing this approach internally and believe that it has the potential to address more than just the question of how to introduce the next round(s) of new gTLDs. We believe that our proposal can address issues of pent-up demand in a deliberate way and provide a number of other benefits such as:
- Enable the ICANN Board to deliver on its commitments to introduce the next application window “as expeditiously as possible”;
- Allow the community to finalize the prerequisite policy and other work efforts in accordance with the phased application process;
- Provide ICANN org with a process that would allow them to develop the requisite systems and processes over time rather than needing everything in place on a single date;
- Reduce the resourcing impact on ICANN staff and third-party vendors by not undertaking the phases concurrently;
- Provide predictability and certainty for potential applicants; and Reduce the risk of excessive demand by spreading applications over three distinct phases.
The Neustar proposal is consistent with the PDP WG recommendation that the next introduction of new gTLDs be conducted in the form of a “round” but expands on that notion by recommending that the round is conducted in three phases — the details of which are provided below. We note that the dates we use may be unreasonable to some, but for Neustar, we believe they are reasonable target dates to aspire to, particularly given the time that has transpired since the last opportunity for anyone to apply for a new TLD.
A three-phase approach to the next application window
In our comments, Neustar proposed the following three-phased approach, opening separate application windows for each TLD category, six months apart:
- Phase 1: Brand TLDs
Indicative application period: 1 October 2019 – 12 January 2020
- Phase 2: Geographic TLDs
Indicative application period: 1 April 2020 – 31 July 2020
- Phase 3: Generic and Community TLDs
Indicative application period: 1 October 2020 – 12 January 2021
These phases could then be followed by an “Open Round”, which would ultimately be followed by a process whereby applications are evaluated on a first-come, first-served basis.
I appreciate this approach will raise a number of questions, so I will do my best to address these as well as possible.
Why Brand TLDs first?
We believe .brand TLDs are the lowest risk category because in the 2012 application process they had the lowest level of contention sets, brand TLDs have historically low rates of abuse and concern for ICANN, and have clearly defined eligibility criteria and requirements that distinguish them from other TLD categories via Specification 13. Not only this, but there is established public demand which assists in creating predictability for the required ICANN resources. This public demand for .brand TLDs also creates great potential for building public awareness of the process which in turn supports the communications for other categories in Phases 2 and 3.
Why Geographic TLDs in Phase 2?
Geographic TLDs, we expect, will also have clearly defined eligibility criteria and consistent with the 2012 application window, we anticipate low to almost non-existent contention sets. The geoTLDs from the 2012 application window are offering localized content and community benefit that we believe should be available on a much wider scale. Providing a six-month window between Phase 1 and 2 should ensure there is a sufficient buffer for Worktrack 5 of the New gTLD Subsequent Procedures process to complete its work and obtain community consensus.
Why Generic and Community TLDs in Phase 3?
Whilst Generic and Community TLDs are highly successful in terms of adding competition and choice, these categories historically have the most challenges from the 2012 application process. Some reasons for this are the increased likelihood of contention, difficulties in resolving contention and public concern around the auction process, highly complex and inconsistent results regarding Community Priority Evaluation, and challenges in determining the right approach for handling some of these concerns in future application windows. Providing a 12-month period before this phase allows substantial time for the community to determine solutions to some of these challenges, reduce the resourcing issues by avoiding including geo and brand TLDs simultaneously, and provide greater data points and confidence around market demand.
Taking steps forward
This is just a snapshot of our proposed model. There are significant details yet to be determined, further questions to be answered, and much more work to be completed.
To be clear — this is by no means an alternative to or replacement for the PDP New gTLD Subsequent Procedures Working Group’s efforts, but rather, a proposal that we hope will be considered and assessed on its merits by the PDP WG and potentially reach consensus around this idea as a path forward
Collectively, as the ICANN community, I do believe we have an obligation to be responsive to our policy decisions of the past and work together to ensure that “as expeditiously as possible” doesn’t mean 10 years between application windows. ICANN’s core values encourage us to, among other things, operate with efficiency and excellence and at a speed that is responsive to the needs of the global Internet community. If an ICANN Board commitment to opening the next application window for new gTLDs “as expeditiously as possible” ends up being 10 years between application windows, then I think we as a community have failed to live up to the expectations of those core values.
I look forward to seeing you all in Barcelona and discussing your thoughts on our proposed path forward.
Written by Donna Austin, Policy & Industry Affairs Manager at Neustar