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Thursday, November 8. 2012
ICANN (Internet technical coordinator), NTIA (the US National Telecommunications and Information Administrations) and Verisign (operator of .COM and manager of key Internet root servers) have all come together to send a strong signal that the Internet root is ready for new Top Level Domains (TLDs).
In a letter dated November 5 2012, the 3 "Root Zone Partners" highlight the work done to automate the process of inserting a new TLD into the Internet root.
On July 21 2011, the partners deployed the Root Zone Management (RZM) system. This introduces a much-needed measure of scalability in the root. It is estimated that the system will be able to process at least 100 new TLDs per week once ICANN begins to approve new Internet suffixes for delegation and insertion into the root.
Given the current number of new TLDs being evaluated (1923), this means that even if all were approved by ICANN at the same time, it would only take 20 weeks for them to become active on the Internet.
Obviously, this is only a theoretical number. ICANN will not approve all TLDs at once (it will be running a draw in December to prioritize their evaluation) and even if it did, not all prospective TLD operators would be ready to launch at the same time.
Nonetheless, with the biggest launch of new TLDs in history just around the corner, beefing up a process that not long ago was still mostly manual is an absolute necessity.
Thursday, October 25. 2012
Governments are set to play a key role in ICANN's new gTLD program as they are able to object to specific applications.
Individual countries may, for instance, feel that a proposed new gTLD would infringe their national laws and may wish to raise this as a red flag to both the applicant and ICANN. The new gTLD applicant guidebook calls this an "early warning" and advises recipients of such a warning to seek to address it before the string they have requested comes up for evaluation by the ICANN Board.
It's not only individual governments that can object. The Government Advisory Committee (GAC) groups governments together in a single ICANN structure. The GAC can also flag problems with applications. This is done through "GAC advice" given to the ICANN Board. If an application is the object of GAC advice, it has very little chance of being approved unless the applicant is able to make changes required to satisfy the GAC.
Both early warnings and GAC advice are important steps in the new gTLD program for which ICANN needs a clear timetable to work with. Obviously, the work of evaluating applications cannot be completed by ICANN until it knows when it should expect input from the GAC, as that input may have significant impact on applications.
Continue reading "Governments to process new gTLDs by April 2013"
Monday, September 10. 2012
As ICANN continues to evaluate the first 2,000-odd next generation gTLDs, it is providing regular updates on its landmark program.
The latest is dated September 5, 2012.
7 applications withdrawn
Highlights are that there have been 7 requests for withdrawal of applications. Four are known and have already been approved by ICANN, with 3 being applications from Google that would have been blocked by the fact that they are also geographical designations (.AND, .ARE and .EST). The fourth was an application for .KSB submitted by German pump and valve system heavyweight KSB Group. The remaining 3 withdrawal applications are currently pending.
57 applications changed
Although ICANN had not originally included a process for changing applications in its program, subsequent requests by applicants have pushed it to implement one. The process is being kept simple and so far, 57 requests for changes have been sent in. No detail has been provided on what these requests cover, but changes probably range from simple typos to major deviations from the original application, and ICANN will post amended applications for public comment for 30 days before approving them.
Talking of comments, ICANN received a total of 6,687 on the applications posted on its June 13 Reveal Day. The comment period remains open until September 26. All comments received by that date will be considered by the relevant evaluation panel.
The 5 evaluation panels (Financial, Technical, String Similarity, DNS Stability and Geographic Names) are being kept very busy. For the Financial and Technical panels, the target is 300 applications processed per month. These are the panels handling the most complex evaluation work so the others are expected to reach higher throughput levels. The Geographic Names panel, for example, expects to finish its work by November 12.
Upcoming key dates
These have not changed and remain as follows:
Monday, August 27. 2012
Prospective new gTLD operators have been looking into the possibility of making their TLD a key word as part of their new online strategy. A report by ICANN's Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) now out for public comment may mean they will now have to rethink that strategy.
An example if a dotless domain is http://netnames, where netnames is a TLD. Some existing registries use domains that look very much like dotless domains today (http://www.tv is an example of such a domain that resolves on the Internet). Another potential dotless domain application is email addresses of the type example@netnames.
SSAC has determined that dotless domains would not be universally reachable on the Internet and should therefore either be contractually banned (i.e. the contract ICANN signs with a new gTLD registry would prohibit their use) or at the very least be strongly discouraged.
As a result, prospective TLD operators wishing to use dotless domains would have to provide detailed rationale for doing so to ICANN and face the prospect of having to go through extended evaluation as a result, thereby risking more time (and possibly expense) for their new gTLD application to be approved.
Monday, August 27. 2012
A few days before July 12 of this year, ICANN began evaluating those applications out of the original 1930 received that haven't since been withdrawn, i.e. all 1924 of them.
At this year's ICANN StudienKreis which I attended in Oslo last week, we learned that the evaluation work is being handled through several panels, each with a specific focus and based on partnerships with specialised firms which have been chosen to fit into the following categories:
After ICANN gave up on the proposed Digital Archery method of putting applications in batches of about 500, it turned to its evaluation partners for help. Simply put, they were asked to do more in less time as ICANN now embarked on an ambitious plan to handle all applications in one single, continuous batch.
The first step was to allocate applications to the different panels and begin the evaluation work. At the time of writing, the geographic name, string similarity and DNS stability panels were all fully allocated, i.e. they were processing the complete pool of applications. The financial capability and technical & operational capability panels had each received 342 of the 1924 applications to be evaluated.
To ensure that evaluators were able to meet the high standards set by ICANN for this crucial part of the program, they were given training and enrolled in a pilot program to test their capabilities. Results showed a reassuringly high level of consistency in how the partners evaluated applications.
Continue reading "A closer look at the new gTLD evaluation program"
Friday, August 24. 2012
I recently attended the 12th meeting of the ICANN Studienkreis in Oslo. An excellent event, the Studienkreis started out in 1999 as a meeting of mostly German-speaking Internet experts and has since morphed into an international discussion forum mainly focussed on Internet Governance.
I was invited to speak on a panel dealing with the new gTLDs where the first presentation was given by a member of ICANN staff and provided information on what is currently going on in the new gTLD program. This is an overview of some of the main points discussed during that panel.
New gTLD program watchers will know that the application window closed on May 30 and that ICANN organised an event in London on June 13 called "Reveal Day" where the full list of valid applications was disclosed. 1930 applications were received, of which 116 were for IDN (non ASCII script) TLDs, 84 were self-designated by their applicants as being community-based (as defined in the ICANN new gTLD application guidebook), 66 as geographic names, and 3 requested financial support (under the ICANN applicant support program).
Since Reveal Day, ICANN's new gTLD Customer Service Center has received 6 requests from applicants to withdraw their applications. ICANN has not revealed what TLDs have been withdrawn, but one example of a reason for making such a request might be an applicant realising that the TLD is also a 3 character country or territory designation on the ISO list, which would therefore automatically prevent it from being approved. The Service Center also had 49 requests to change parts of an application.
Although it abandoned plans to evaluate applications in formal batches at the Prague meeting last June, ICANN has not been idle since. Initial Evaluation officially started on July 12, although the evaluators were already at work a few days earlier.
ICANN is currently optimistic that it can complete this Initial Evaluation stage for all the applications in June or at the latest July 2013.
The new gTLD Customer Service Center
To handle applicant enquiries, ICANN has set up a new gTLD Customer Service Center.
Prior to Reveal Day, the Center carried out the administrative completeness checks needed to verify applications had been properly formatted and therefore would be able to proceed.
Going forward, the Center will process refund and change requests from applicants. It is obviously also fielding questions from applicants on the program or its processes. To date, it has received almost 20,000 such enquiries.
The Center will not be US-centric and ICANN is currently developing regional Customer Service points, with one staff member operating out of ICANN's Brussels office for example.
To finish this overview, here are some key dates to come for the new gTLD program:
Thursday, August 2. 2012
As GNSO Chair, I am in receipt today of a letter from the United Nations. The letter, dated July 26, is also addressed to Heather Dryden, Chair of ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee. An excerpt from the letter reads as follows:
Dear Ms. Dryden and Mr. Van Gelder
I would like to bring to your attention the letter of 11 July 2012 (…) from the United Nations to Mr. Akram Atallah, Acting Chief Executive Officer of (…) ICANN.
This letter, sent by Mr. Thomas Stelzer, Secretary of the Chief Executives Board for Coordination at the United Nations, on behalf of the UN Secretary-General, expresses the deep concern of Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs) that ICANN has, to date, not accepted the general principle of an exclusion of IGO names and acronyms in the Domain Name System, in the context of the general Top Level Domain Name (gTLD) expansion plan…
As a reminder, at the behest of the ICANN Board, the GNSO did undertake policy work on the protection of two specific organisations, the Red Cross (RC) and the Olympic Committee (IOC). These had already been afforded special protection by the Board as part of its June 20, 2011 resolution greenlighting the new gTLD programme.
The GNSO's work culminated in a recommendation being sent to the Board improving the protection level which had previously been hastily added as part of that June 20 Board resolution.
The GNSO recommended:
The Board opted not to implement those recommendations and left the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook – the programme's rulebook – unchanged as far as this issue was concerned. Nor were any other organisations afforded any protection.
It now remains to be seen what reaction this new letter from the UN on the more general issue of IGO name protection will elicit from the ICANN leadership…
Wednesday, August 1. 2012
Domain Incite reports that Boston law firm McCarter & English has written to ICANN Board Chair Steve Crocker, GAC Chair Heather Dryden and GAC US representative Suzanne Sene to request that new gTLD applicants Demand Media and Donuts be rejected.
The letter states that "Demand Media, Inc. (“Demand Media”) and Donuts, Inc. (“Donuts”) appear to have applied for at least 333 top-level domains" but argues that they "should not survive the Background Screening standards set forth in §§ 1.2.1 and 2.1 of the gTLD Applicant Guidebook, Version 2012-06-04".
McCarter & English assert that due to Demand Media's history of cybersquatting and its close corporate relationship to Donuts, both should be barred from successful new gTLDs applications. Their 24 page letter lists a large number of rulings against Demand Media and explains their rationale for suggesting that ICANN should consider both Demand Media and Donuts as a single entity for the purposes of its new gTLD background screening.
The letter reads as a damning indictment of Demand Media and Donuts, with various allegations and accusations made, in turn, against share holders, investors and staffers of each and sometimes both companies. Clearly, it will not be possible for ICANN to ignore this letter, especially as it is being sent as part of the new gTLD comment mechanism. The law firm even ends its letter by asking ICANN whether it should submit the same text for each of Demand Media and Donuts' 333 applications!
The consequences of this letter will be interesting to see. Throughout the run-up to the new gTLD program, some have decried the "insider effect", i.e. the fact that through good knowledge of ICANN and the domain industry in general, some actors might be able to gain a first-mover advantage in applying for gTLDs.
As a scathing attack on one of the most savvy new gTLD applicants, and an in-depth deconstruction of its business model (the letter ends, for example, with a long list of the subsidiaries presumably set up by Demand Media specifically to apply for new gTLDs) the McCarter & English letter may also be seen as an attempt to counter the insider effect and redress the balance towards more generic applicants, i.e. ones that are not domain industry specialists…
Wednesday, May 23. 2012
ICANN has indicated that it will reveal the list of applied-for TLDs before its Prague meeting. The second of ICANN's 3 yearly international meeting officially opens on Monday 25 June.
Wednesday, May 9. 2012
This just in...
Statement by Akram Atallah, COO
8 May 2012
ICANN is targeting 22 May 2012 as the intended reopening date for the TLD Application System. It is anticipated that the system would remain open for five business days and close on 30 May. This takes account of the 28 May Memorial Day holiday in the United States.
We took TAS offline following a technical glitch that may have allowed some users to see some file names and user names of other users. We have seen no evidence that any TAS user intentionally did anything wrong in order to be able to see other users' information.
We have met our commitment to provide notice to all users on or before 8 May 2012 by sending out notifications today.
The large majority of users are unaffected by the glitch. We continue to review the extensive database of system logs and system traffic, and any new and relevant information that emerges from this analysis will be shared with applicants in a timely way.
Even as late as yesterday, 7 May 2012, our packet-level research uncovered a new set of instances (in addition to those previously announced) where another applicant might have viewed a set of system-generated file names. It is possible that further analysis will also show that some of the parties that we have notified were not affected, but notice was provided out of an abundance of caution.
We thank everyone for your patience and apologize for the inconvenience the delay has caused.
Friday, April 20. 2012
As of today, April 20, 2012, ICANN's TLD Application System (TAS) remains offline, and no restart date has been given.
So 8 days after the scheduled close of the first new gTLD application window on April 12, the programme remains in limbo. Initial criticism at ICANN's decision to take the system offline has now made way to stunned silence, as everyone wonders just how long this can go on.
I personally take a small measure of consolation from the fact that ICANN has apparently followed my advice and decided to be as communicative as possible. Updates have been posted nearly everyday, and today a video interview with ICANN Chief Security Officer Jeff Moss offers an honest response to what evidently remains a difficult technical problem.
Highlights of the Moss interview include:
Monday, April 2. 2012
What happens if "significantly more" than 500 TLDs are applied for in the first round of new gTLDs? ICANN Staff have been pondering this conundrum for many months. The answer: batch the applications. The reason: ICANN's processing capabilities do not allow it to realistically deal with more than 500 applications at any one time.
ICANN has always said that there would be no first come, first served for new gTLDs. So some kind of random selection process would have made sense if the number of TLDs applied for was greater than 500. How much greater? ICANN's Kurt Pritz told the GNSO Council at the recent Costa Rica meeting that anything much over 510 applications would force ICANN to adopt a batching solution.
But random selection has been deemed a no-go due to the dangers of ICANN being seen as a lottery operator. So what to do? Especially as an auction type selection process was deemed unacceptable (for the obvious reason that richer applicants would then be put at a significant advantage).
The solution ICANN has adopted (the Board signed off on it on March 28) is dubbed "digital archery". The idea is to set a target time for applicants and ask them to click on a button as close to that target time as possible. The closer you get, the better your chances of being in the first batch.
The process is explained in detail here. It was first shown by ICANN Staff in Costa Rica, where it was not well received. Nonetheless, it looks like applicants need to sharpen their digital bows and begin practicing hitting a virtual target. With 839 registered users in ICANN's application system 4 days before its March 29 cut-off date, it is now a mathematical certainty that batching will be needed.
Friday, March 30. 2012
ICANN's application system for new gTLDs (TAS) closed to new registrants yesterday (March 29) as planned. The total number of registrants on the system isn't known yet, but ICANN has indicated that there were 839 registered TAS users on March 25.
In the run-up to the April 12 cut-off date for the first new gTLD application window there's been a real surge of TAS registrations. Each registered user can submit up to 49 TLD applications, so the latest numbers put the total potential number of new gTLDs that could come out of this first round at 41,111!
Final TAS user numbers should be higher than the 839 figure and could in fact be close to a thousand. It's clear that most users will never get anywhere near applying for the total number of TLDs their TAS slot would entitle them to, but some will definitely apply for more than one.
So total number of TLDs applied for? My guess at this stage would have to be somewhere in the region of 1,500.
Saturday, March 10. 2012
Dot Africa has ambitious plans to develop a TLD by Africans and for Africans. "Around 1.3 millions US dollars has been invested in making the TLD a truly representative label for the continent of Africa," Koffi Djossou, Africa Liaison for the project, told me as we were both flying to Costa Rica for this week's ICANN meeting.
The initiative sounds impressive, because it has been thought up as a way to stimulate Africa's domain industry. So the seed money and the registry systems are African. "There is so much potential in Africa," Djossou says. "This is a way to highlight that potential and group the continent behind its own online identity. It's also a good opportunity to boost the domain name industry in Africa, and to develop use of the name system by Africans. We see this as a great opportunity for Africa."
Saturday, January 7. 2012
I think it's fair to say that ICANN is in a state of near meltdown at the moment. With less than a week to go before the new gTLD program's first application window is opened, on Thursday January 12, 2012, the amount of work being done is mind-bending.
The ICANN Board held a special meeting on January 5 to determine the program's state of readiness ahead of the launch. Out of that meeting comes a roadmap showing key dates, major steps already completed, and others still to complete.
Biggest shock to prospective applicants might be that a new version of the applicant guidebook - the program's bible - is scheduled for release on January 11. The day before the program launches!
And while the application and fee processing systems are now listed as ready, the batch processing mechanism will not be completed until February 29. That's more than a month into the Jan 12 to Apr 12 application window.
The entity tasked with running the trademark protection database known as the Trademark Clearinghouse won't be selected until the end of February either. While the governmental early warning system designed to enable states to point out those applications they don't like will have to wait until the end of March.
However, this is part of the normal launch program and should not give cause for concern. Apart from the late publication of a new version of the guidebook, the other steps can be covered concurrent to the launch window. And ICANN is being very open about these final preparations so that applicants are not taken by surprise.
Bottom line, there can now be little doubt. The new gTLD program will launch on January 12… and ICANN will be ready!