Yesterday evening, the GNSO held its last teleconference of the year. We had invited ICANN's new gTLD supremo Kurt Pritz to give an update on the recent US Congress hearings.
Kurt was ICANN's spokesperson in both hearings, and felt that the first was more favourable to ICANN than the second. When I asked him if he thought the launch of the new gTLD program might be delayed as a result of these hearings, his response was a cryptic: "the risk is greater than zero".
Although there are calls for a delay to the program, it was fiercely defended by both Pritz and some American politicians who want to see ICANN's unique model of non state-centric governance succeed. "The New gTD Program demonstrates the strength of the bottom-up, multi-stakeholder process," Pritz said in his testimony to the US House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. "The New gTLD Program under discussion today is the implementation of an ICANN-community policy recommendation to achieve one of ICANN's foundational mandates."
As part of its drive to open up its new gTLD program to potential applicants that do not have the financial resources to fulfil the full program requirements, ICANN is reducing the fees from USD 185,000 to USD 47,000. A 76% rebate!
But before applicants decide to drop their current business model and relocate to an under privileged country, they should know that there are strict criteria to qualify for the rebate. The first prerequisite: that their TLD serve the public interest and operate in the benefit of the public.
Applicants applying for the support will also have to accept being evaluated later. ICANN needs the extra time to evaluate the requests for support. Those TLD applications that are successful will then be evaluated in the same way as all the others.
However, applicants requesting support and not passing that evaluation would then be invalidated for the whole TLD application process. A logical attempt to discourage those that do not need support from "trying it on".
The amount of applications that can be supported will be limited by the amount of money available in the support fund. So far, ICANN has set aside USD 2 million for the fund, and has called for others to chip in. If no-one does, then a maximum of 14 needy applicants will be supported. That means some applicants may qualify for support, but ICANN may not have the funds to grant it. In such cases, the applicants will be given the choice to either continue as non-supported applicants and pay the full fee, or withdraw from the process.
ICANN's plan is to recruit the applicant support evaluation panel by June 2012 and to be able to notify those applicants that have been deemed in need of support by November of next year.
Does ICANN have its head stuck in the sand on new gTLDs? The campaign against the Internet governance organisation has been building up in the past few months, with public protests from entities like the American national advertisers' association ANA or CRIDO, a group of major corporations.
The protest themselves play like a broken record.
"Where's the economic studies to show that new gTLDs are needed?" or "new gTLDs will make it more difficult to deal with crime on the Net."
ICANN has done economic studies. But how can a study predict innovation? Did studies prove that Facebook or Google might work? Thankfully, there was no need. Those major Internet initiatives where the result of private enterprise doing what it does best: innovating without being constrained by politics.
Those worried about crime point to the WHOIS as a potential flaw that might be exploited by cybercrooks. There again, this is waving away years of policy development by the ICANN community to try and find solutions to these (very real) problems.
That community is still working hard. Recent results include fresh proposals on how to improve WHOIS.
Worse, this is the second such hearing where ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom has chosen not to attend in person but rather to send his Senior VP Kurt Pritz. While Kurt, as the man in charge of the new gTLD program, is probably one of the most knowledgeable people in the world on this topic, you might have expected ICANN to front its CEO for such an important event.
Because despite the fact that the launch date has been set at Jan 12, 2012, new gTLDs aren't here yet. And as storm clouds gather in an ever-more ominous show of protest from the new gTLD naysayers, ICANN needs to be as convincing as it can be today in front of the US Senate, with a panel where Kurt Pritz can expect to feel very much on his own opposite staunch critics like ANA VP Dan Jaffe or ex ICANN Board member turned ICANN opponent Esther Dyson.
A promoted .XXX tweet appearing as a permanent fixture at the top of a #icann search column.
I'm obviously way behind the times here, not being a Twitter fanatic, but thanks to the domain name industry, I've just noticed a new development on the short message site: promoted tweets. Perhaps Twitter has been doing this for months and I've just not seen it…
Today, I noticed one American registrar using these, as well as .XXX registry ICM.
According to Twitter's help center, promoted tweets will stay at the top of a search page used to display all tweets related to the promoted search term. And it works. For example, the .XXX promoted tweet that I can see now sits at the top of my #icann search column in my (excellent) Twitter client Tweetdeck.
Looks like Twitter's actually got around to selling stuff, and promoted tweets comes across as a good idea and an unobtrusive way of doing advertising.