By Stephane Van Gelder
Head of Group NBT New gTLD Team
Chair, ICANN's Generic Names Supporting Organization
As the start of the new gTLD application window draws close, NetNames has noted a high level of uncertainty from its clients as to when the best time is to apply.
As a reminder, the key dates are as follows:
• Thursday 12 January 2012: Application window opens
• Thursday 29 March 2012: Applicant registration system closes
• Thursday 12 April 2012: Application window closes
Many potential applicants are keen to submit their applications as early as possible, and have set the Thursday 12 January 2012 date as their goal for being ready to do just that. This is a prudent strategy, and NetNames advises its clients to continue aiming for that date for the completion of their new gTLD application form.
However, recent developments are making it clear that while being ready as soon as possible is a must, applying as soon as the window opens may not be the best strategy.
ICANN still has some work left to do to finalize its new gTLD program. In particular, finalizing applicants' financial requirements and certain technical aspects of the operation of a prospective TLD remain subject to ICANN community input.
The completion of this work is not expected by the Thursday 12 January 2012 launch date.
Further, at its meeting on Thursday 8 December 2011, the ICANN Board resolved that, with regards to the processing order of applications in the event that the number of applications received makes it necessary to process them in batches:
• "There will be no preference given on the basis of whether an application is submitted in the beginning, middle or end of the application window."
• "The Board will not approve a system that would include random selection process for determining the development of batches."
ICANN will "develop a plan and propose to the community that a ’secondary time stamp’ be used for purposes of determining the processing order in the event that multiple batches of applications are to be processed under the new gTLD Program. A ‘secondary time stamp’ would require applicants who are interested in participating in early batches to obtain a time-stamp through a designated process following the close of the application window."
In addition to clearly stating that there will be NO first come, first serve selection mechanism in this first round of new gTLD applications, this Board resolution also confirms that ICANN still has some work to do before finalising its program.
The implementation of the secondary time stamp mechanism, details of which remain unclear at this stage, becomes yet another element to be tackled by ICANN's new gTLD program implementation team.
It is therefore NetNames’ advice that potential applicants should not submit on Thursday 12 January 2012, but instead wait until these issues have been resolved by ICANN before submitting their applications.
Not only does this mean that applications can take into account the latest developments by ICANN (do not forget that once submitted, an application cannot be changed in any way), it may also give some applicants time for some final fine tuning.