Yesterday at the New gTLD Program Session at the current ICANN Meeting in Dakar, Senegal, ICANN released an updated timeline for the new gTLD Program (SEE page 15 and 16 here).
Important news are: The order of Application Evaluation will NOT be based on FCFS!
IF ICANN receives more than 500 applications the batching of applications into groups of 500 (or more) applications, which will be evaluated first, will NOT be based on a "first-come-first-served" basis. ICANN will define (not done yet) other metrics for the batching of applications.
In other words: You don't have to submit the entire application as soon as you have the chance upon the opening of the application window (January 12th). On the other hand, I donøt see how it could hurt to deliver as soon as possible...
Another news to me was the statement that you are entitled to edit your application right until April 12th, even after you have paid the application fee and submitted the application, should you decided to do that very early.
So what counts is: Get your access to the application system as soon as possible (wire 5,000 USD), no reason to risk anything there, and don't rush your application.
However, as an application is not simply answering 50 Questions, but actually describing and documenting your business model and policies for the lifetime of your TLD, applicants should already now begin the process of creating policies, budgets, as well as gathering and producing documents and preparing funds for their new gTLDs.
More important dates in 2012:
1 May Strings Posted Opens:
Application Comment Process
GAC Early Warning
GAC Advice Period
Initial Evaluation Begins
Application Comment Process Closes
GAC Early Warning Closes
Initial Evaluation Closes all Results are Posted
Last day to elect Extended Evaluation
Transition to Delegation (for Clean Applications)
String Contention (for Applications not in Dispute Resolution or Extended Evaluation)
GAC Advice Period Closes
Last Day to file an Objection
Notably, one can actually wait complaining against another application, until the particular application has passed the ("initial") evaluation. This may save money for objectors, who will not have to object against applications, who are not deemed qualified, and to defending applicants this means that they can now expect to risk a smaller refund, in case someone else successfully objects against their application, as these objections are now expected to be filed after and not during the initial evaluation...
It is comforting to know when the deadline for a GAC Advice is (Dec 1st, 2012)
Dates in 2013:
Extended Evaluation Closes
Dispute Resolution Closes (Nice to have a deadline here as well, let us see if this is realistic...)
Results & Summaries Posted
String Contention Opens (for Applications with Variables)
String Contention Closes (for Clean Applications)
I did not quite catch, if String Contention Opens means this is the time frame for Auctions, and did not get either, what was referred to by "Clean Applications," ...winners maybe?
Can anyone answer that? I will try to ask during the Application Session later today.