ICANN has published a tentative timeline outlining key steps until the launch of the first new gTLD.
If all goes to plan, ICANN predicts that the first of the new generation web suffixes would be delegated on 28 August of this year.
Delegation means the TLD is technically live on the Internet. It then becomes up to the TLD's operator, its registry, to launch it.
Basing the time estimates on the assumption that the registry would initiate the first launch phase (the Sunrise) as soon as delegation occurs, ICANN sees a Sunrise notice period span from 29 August to 27 September, and the actual Sunrise phase from 28 September to 27 October.
This could potentially pave the way for a full go-live date before the end of the year.
But what does ICANN's timeline really tell us? As the absolute shortest possible path to a new gTLD launch, this timeline is highly unlikely to turn from theory into fact.
There are still numerous possible pitfalls which may create additional delays. The aftermath of recent government advice is one, with the ICANN Board still thinking exactly how to deal with the wide-ranging marching orders it received from governments last April. The continued negotiations over the contracts registries and registrars will have to sign with ICANN is another.
So the real lesson here is that new gTLDs should not start to really appear until the first half of 2014, but that this early next year launch is now looking more likely than ever.
Written by Stéphane Van Gelder (Chairman and Managing Director of Stéphane Van Gelder Consulting Ltd.)