Chehade: “Honestly, if it was up to me, I would delay the whole release of new gTLDs by at least a year…”

Kevin Murphy, January 25, 2013, 20:04:08 (UTC), Domain Policy

“…but I’m not going to.”

CEO Fadi Chehade this afternoon delivered a blisteringly frank assessment of ICANN’s new gTLD program, admitting that if it were up to him he would delay the whole thing by a year.

Speaking bluntly, mainly to registries and registrars, at a regional ICANN meeting in Amsterdam this afternoon, Chehade painted a stark picture of the challenge ICANN faces in meeting its deadlines.

It’s worth quoting at length:

Honestly, if it was up to me, I would delay the whole release of new gTLDs by at least a year.

I’m being very candid with you. I know none of you want to hear this, and I’m not going to do this — let me repeat, I’m not going to do this — but you should know that a lot of the foundations that I would be comfortable with, as someone who has built businesses before, are just not yet there.

I’m being super-candid with you because many of you wrote me in the last three weeks to say: ‘Be up-front with us, we’re business-people, tell us the truth.’ Well, the truth is that the people, processes and tools to enable a sector such as this are being built as the car is already running very fast.

We’re putting enormous pressure on our team to not to slip by a day. I’m now managing them with Akram [Atallah, COO] down to days. Before I came it was by quarters, by months, and I say no — every day we slip we’re delaying this industry from serving the market it’s supposed to serve.

It’s just a different mindset. And it’s a difference set of, frankly, talents that we’re bringing to the table. We have people who took six years to write the [new gTLD Applicant] Guidebook and we’re asking engineers and software people and third-party vendors and hundreds of people to get that whole program running in six months.

When the number two at IBM called me, Erich Clementi, after we signed the deal with them to do the [Trademark Clearinghouse] he said “Are you nuts?”. Literally, quote. He said: “Fadi you’ve built these systems for us before. You know it takes three times the amount of time it takes to write the specs to build reliable systems.”

But that’s the position we’re in, guys. I’m being candid with you. I know all of I know all of you want me to have this thing up and running yesterday. I want it running the day before yesterday. But this is what we’re facing. We’re facing a difficult situation, we’re working hard as we can, our people are at the edge. We have people who are working seven days a week now — it’s never happened before — on the new gTLD program.

We’re hiring as fast as we can. We’re now taking away from Christine [Willett, new gTLD program manager] some of the work she had to do so she can communicate better with you.

We’re doing a whole bunch of things so we can deliver this for you.

I don’t mean to scare you, because I know many of your businesses rely on this, but the right people are now in place, we’re building it as fast as we can but I want you to understand that this is tough, and I wish it were different. I wish you would all raise your hands and say: “You know what? Let’s take a break and meet in a year”.

I know you can’t do that, I know I can’t do that, and I know that the market can’t wait for that.

We’re going to do our best, and if in the process if we miss telling you something, if we move too fast on something before we share it with everybody as we normally should… give us a little bit of a break.

I don’t want to delay this program, but under all circumstances my mind would tell me: stop.

Chehade’s remarks come two weeks after new gTLD applicants gave new program manager Willett a good kicking during a webinar updating them on the program’s progress, during which it was revealed that a key deadline had been missed for at least the fourth or fifth time.

What else can we learn from his comments?

Well… here’s my interpretation:

  • Put down the mic and back off, Kinderis. Yeah, that means you too, Fausett, and you, Neuman.
  • It will be an absolute miracle if the Trademark Clearinghouse doesn’t suffer from teething troubles.
  • Applicants are almost certainly going to see more delays of some form or another (always a safe prediction), and probably from the place they least expect it.
  • The program wasn’t ready when it was approved in May 2011 (as many people, including yours truly, said at the time and have continued to say since).
  • It’s probably not much fun working at ICANN right now, but at least the new boss knows what the hell he’s doing.

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Comments (11)

  1. Scott Pinzon says:

    I have sheer admiration for this kind of candor. To me, Fadi’s comments show exactly the kind of transparency the community has long sought from ICANN.

  2. I’m pleased he’s saying what he’s thinking and it is not surprising that he feels that way. But work expands to fill the time allotted to it (or in ICANN’s case, beyond the time allotted to it), so if he had another year I have no confidence that the result would be better — just later. Deadlines are very useful, and thank goodness ICANN is finally feeling that they have one.

  3. @Domains says:

    It’s ok Fadi, we can wait another year. Keep up the good work and we’ll all meet back here in 2014.

  4. KD says:

    Fadi is a very respectable person and taking some great initiatives recently. It is nice to see such a new face on ICANN and where he is aiming. And now he comes out telling it how it is, not how it should be. Chehade keeps earning my respect…

  5. uhm really says:

    This is really no different than it always has been, and several people at icann, some past employees, have always worked for 7 days a week.

  6. Ron Andruff says:

    While those bedeviled with investors will push back on it, Fadi is exactly right. Anyone in the ICANN community with a 20 meeting pin or more has to agree with his assessment. If you are still not sure, look again at Fadi’s resume.

    Time “to put your hands in the air,”as Fadi asks, or prepare yourself for a debacle created as much from the holes in the ‘Swiss cheese’ new gTLD process is at the moment, as from applicants’ unreasonable desire to move forward even when told that there are no rails to run on just up the track…

  7. Gideon Rop says:

    Wow ! i admire the honesty.

  8. zack says:

    Sure…honesty is great for Chehade…even if it is at the expense of the management team he inherited…including his buddy Akram. Now, he will come across as being the honest savior of a flailing organization.

    I’ll give him this…he his much better at taking credit for himselft than the ever so blunt (i.e., in your face) Bob Reckstr….uhhh…Rod Beckstrom.

    • Rubens Kuhl says:

      I’m not impressed with some of the new people he brought in, specially in the new gTLD arena. Will see if he can get the team, either inherited or new, do a better job, but for now the job is not getting done.

  9. No You Can'T says:

    That boat full of pork is going to sink and he doesn’t want to be on it when it does, but alas, he will need to go down the with sinking .ship

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