Monday, 21 March 2011

New TIMELINE - new gTLD Program to be approved by ICANN Board on 20 June

At last week´s ICANN Meeting in San Francisco, the ICANN Board made public that they are now striving at approving the new gTLD program at a dedicated Board Meeting to be held on June 20 at the next Singapore ICANN Meeting.

See the new timeline here.

If everything goes according to Board Plans the last open issues will be tackled following this scheme:

March 25th: Feed back on GAC/ICANN Board consultations by the GAC
April 15th: Board´s publication on changes and new language to the Applican Guidebook based on GAC input/negotiations - open for public comment until May 15th
May 20th: GAC/ICANN Board teleconference on the "GAC Scorecard"
May 30th: Publication of the "Final Guidebook"
June 20th: Board Approval of the new gTLD program

So assuming ICANN will stick to this timeline, we can expect the application window for new gTLDs to open on October 20th, 2011 (after 4 months ICANN "awareness campaign").

To brand owners this means they should start budgetting for dotBrand investments already this fiscal year.

What makes me think that the Board will manage to finalize the policy work for new gTLD programs and in particular to reach agreements with GAC on open issues - or - at least to reach a consensus within the Board on how to explain the rationale behind NOT meeting all GAC requirements (i.e. an extension of variant of Brand names in the URS) - this time?

Well, the fact that the Board did finally make a decision on the controversial topic of .xxx (it was approved by the board with a small majority vote and a number of non voting board members including CEO Rod Beckstrom, who will later publish a written rationale for not voting on the .xxx matter - poor leadership in my view not to vote. He should at least had explained why he abstained from voting...looking forward to seeing his rationale behind that one.), and the fact that in my view there were a much better atmosphere at the GAC / ICANN Board consultations, and the fact that one could easily interpret Bill Clinton´s and other ICANN "founders" speeches as "pro-new-gTLDs" indicate to me that this time - the timeline is trustworthy. I do not think the ICANN Board would risk to publish a new timeline, if they were not convinced they could stick to it this time. Furthermore, the fact that the Chair of Board Peter Dengate Trush after 10 years of duty will leave ICANN following the Singapore meeting in June, makes me assume that he and other board members would do anything (almost however controversial) to approve the new gTLD program while Peter is still in office. There is a hell of a lot difference between having been the chair of an organization that wound in endless negotiations, bureaucratic processes, and lack of reliability, to having been the chair of ICANN when the liberalization of new gTLDs in Latin and non Latin script, extended the structure of the namespace and opened the Internet to new players in all parts of the world.

Hence, I would be extremely surprised, if we do not see the ICANN Board approving the Final Guide Book on June 20, and consequently the application window to open late October 2011.


Thursday, 3 March 2011

New Timeline for new gTLDs again?

After the last two days of ICANN Board/ GAC (Governmental Advisory Committee) face to face meeting in Bruxelles (read transcripts from the last day here ) we need to update the ICANN timeline for the launch of new gTLDs once again.

It was assumed that the ICANN board were planning to approve (resolve) the applicant guide book / the launch of the new gTLD program at the ICANN meeting in SFO in two weeks, and consequently launch the Final Applicant Guidebook mid April 2011, which would lead to an opening of the application window around September 2011.

After two days of intense consultations, where the ICANN board listened to, discussed and finally commented on GAC´s scorecard of 12 issues related to the new gTLD program they still find unsolved. The issue creating most disagreements no doubt is the issue of

Protection of Right Owners (Trademarks and other rights)

Whereas ICANN had expressed that the issue of protection of right holders were resolved and implemented and thereby finalized in the "Proposed Final Version of the Applicant Guidebook (published Nov 12, 2010), amongst several suggestions for improvements GAC still wants ICANN to implement a faster suspension system than what is currently the case for the URS as described in the current Applicant Guidebook version, and GAC wants to include not only "exact" matches of TMs but also add industry/goods/geographical descriptions ("combo-names"such as "KodakOnlineshop." In addition GAC is also requiring a notification service for the IP Claim service in the Trademark Clearinghouse for both exact matches and "combo-names" as previously requested by the IRT.

Other suggestions by GAC relate to increased consumer protection (i.e. implement control mechanisms on who can run .bank, or .dentist - which to me makes sense) and to implement clarifications on application and dispute guidelines for Geographical TLDs (clafiry, or let the local authorities decide, which authority (city or region) can support a geoTLD application, and what happens if a brand name is sharing their name with a city/region?)

As much as the ICANN board is willing to meet the GAC requirements (on most issues not related to Rights Owner Protections) there still remains a number of issues where the two parties have not yet made an agreement, and certainly all 12 issues as listed by the GAC would need to be implemented and agreed upon as final language in the AGB.

In other words....

The launch of the new gTLD program will be postponed once more. (For a good illustrations check

What is realistic to expect now? Application November/December 2011? Launch Q3/Q4 2o12?

Well, I actually believe that the next two weeks and the consultations and meetings in San Francisco will lead to agreements on most of the issues discussed in the over all constructive athmosphere at the ICANN/GAC meeting in Bruxelles. Eventually, the few open issues will have to be negotiated at some point (I.e. whether "combonames" are included in the URS proceedings and IP Claim Notifications etc..) and at the end of the day, I actually believe that GAC will accept most of ICANN´s suggestions for the URS and Trademark Clearinghouse, as long as GAC is not only listened to, but also responded to and given some changes to the AGB. So, I would not be surprised if all the changes to the AGB would be negotiated and formulated prior to the ICANN meeting in Singapore in June and the final Applicant Guidebook then published shortly after. Adding the 4 months global awareness campaign the application window might open at the end of will require a constructive, focused and open-minded effort from ICANN staff, board and GAC members.

Clearly, and somewhat understably, ICANN is eager to get the program launched.They will, however, have to be patient and carefully address and solve the last remaining issues to get there, as much as I understand their frustrations.

To me - albeit this should have been addressed long ago in the policy and AGB process - it does make sense to implement control mechanism to assure that gTLDs such as .bank, .insurance, .pharma are operated or at least controlled by relevant industry bodies, as does it make sense to me, to make sure that city/region TLDs are supported by proper authorities.

I certainly look forward to an interesting ICANN Meeting, and not least to hopefully getting more answers to all our questions related to the AGB...such as;

"Why do you have to pay the same application fee (185k USD) for each translation/variant of your string (brand), if the applicant, technical backbone, financial solidity, operational capacity are identical for each and the registration policies are intertwined?" -

"Will ICANN (external panelist) accept that brands apply for community based TLDs defining their brand as a community?"

"Will "รถ" be interpreted as a "Variant" or "Translation" of "oe"? or of "o "?

But first of all: When can we expect ICANN to launch the new gTLD program, so that our clients can budget for dotBrand?