ICANN expects to approve the first new gTLDs on April 23, just 68 days from now.
The long-awaited date, which of course comes with certain caveats, was revealed by CEO Fadi Chehade in a video interview with ICANN media affairs chief Brad White today.
We are now targeting to be able to recommend for delegation the first new gTLD as early as the 23rd of April, and I can say this because we have made great progress in the last few weeks in aligning all the necessary pieces that would permit us to recommend a delegation as early as the 23rd of April.
Having said that, I want to be very clear there are some things that we can’t control that may cause this date to slip, but even in that case we are looking for a slippage of days or weeks, not months anymore. So we are definitely now with clear visibility on a set of processes that allow us to hit the first recommended delegation as early as the 23rd of April.
The news is surprising; those following the new gTLD program closely are more accustomed to hearing announcements about delays.
Chehade’s recent comments at a meeting of registries and registrars in Amsterdam, in which he said his personal preference would be to delay the whole new gTLD program by a year, did not suggest the imminent announcement of so ambitious a deadline.
He addresses those comments in the interview.
The news strongly suggests that ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee — arguably the biggest unknown quantity at this point in the process — is on target to submit its formal Advice on New gTLDs not too long after the ICANN public meeting in Beijing, which ends April 11.
I would have put money on that not happening.
The date also suggests that ICANN is unlikely to extend the window for filing objections against applications, currently closing March 13, despite the very tight deadline this will create for potential objectors.
Because the results of the String Similarity Panel’s deliberations — which will very likely create new contention sets — will not be published until March 1, many organizations will only get seven or eight working days to finalize and submit their strategic objections.