ICANN will use a lottery to decide the order in which to process new gTLD applications, after a surprising U-turn.
ICANN this morning published a proposal that would prioritize applications based on a $100-a-ticket prize draw that would run in early December.
The results of the draw would be used to sequence applications for Initial Evaluation and, if successful, contract negotiations, pre-delegation testing and eventual delegation.
ICANN says the draw would give it an exemption to California’s anti-lottery laws, which was the primary reason it has so far resisted chance-based solutions to the batching/sequencing problem.
It’s applied for a special “fundraising drawings” license based on its non-profit status, which it expects to be granted before the end of November.
The license appears to have certain restrictions that confuse matters for applicants — they won’t be able to buy their tickets over the internet.
They’ll have to pay, in-person, for a paper ticket. But ICANN says that it can supply proxies for applicants at no cost, eliminating the need to fly a representative to California.
The whole process will be manual, so there’s little risk of an embarrassing Digital Archery-style snafu.
Applications for internationalized domain names would be given priority.
The draw would be run at some point between December 4 and 15.
Under the proposal, the results of Initial Evaluation would start to be released from March next year, starting with IDNs, at a rate of about 150 per week.
ICANN has also decided to extend the period for official objections to March 13, 2013, two months more than the current plan, due to requests for more time from potential objectors.
But the extension is unlikely to appease these objectors, which will still have to file objections before they know whether applications have passed Initial Evaluation, wasting money.
New gTLD applicants that pass Initial Evaluation, are not in contention and have no objections will have the option to immediately sign the standard registry contract.
Applicants wishing to negotiate their contracts will be processed according to their draw number.
However, no contracts will be signed before the ICANN meeting in Beijing next April. This is because the Governmental Advisory Committee does not expect to issue its formal Advice on applications before then.
ICANN expects to sign contracts and do pre-delegation testing at a rate of about 20 per week, which is roughly within the maximum 1,000-per-year delegation rate it has committed to.
The effect of this is that the first new gTLDs are expected to go live in the DNS root in the second quarter of 2013, rather than the third quarter.
I believe most of the proposals will be welcomed by most applicants. A lottery was always the most favored solution.
There will be some criticisms, however.
There does not appear to be a method envisaged for swapping slots, for example, so portfolio applicants probably won’t get to choose which of their gTLDs is delegated first.
The whole proposal is open for public comment here.