September 28 could be (won’t be) the launch date of the first new gTLD sunrise period, according to a (unrealistic) timetable released by ICANN yesterday.
During a webinar for new gTLD applicants, program head Christine Willett presented the following slide:
As you can see, using this timetable the first registry contract would be signed one month from now and the TLD itself would hit the root around August 28. Sunrise would follow a month later.
Willett was very clear that the timetable represents the absolute shortest path an application could take, and that it’s unlikely that any application will actually make it.
What the timetable deliberately fails to include is any delay caused by Governmental Advisory Committee advice.
The GAC’s Beijing communique had advice for all applicants, remember, but the response is currently being handled by the ICANN board and not new gTLD program staff, so the outcome is unknown.
The communique contains six “Safeguards Applicable to all New gTLDs” which are controversial because they appear to duplicate or preempt existing policy work, for example on Whois rules.
If ICANN adopts the advice wholesale, it’s difficult to see how these safeguards could be enforced if not by contract, which could delay the contract approval or contracting phases of the timeline.
If ICANN does not adopt the advice wholesale, it will have to consult with the GAC to find a “mutually acceptable solution”.
Last time it deviated from GAC advice, which covered considerably less complex ground, there was a great deal of to-and-fro over the space of months along with four days of face-to-face meetings.
The only hint so far that ICANN may be creating a fast-track for applicants came in notes from its May 18 New gTLD Program Committee meeting, which said:
The Committee agreed that it would adopt a strategy that permits full consideration of the ongoing community comment forum while resolving GAC advice in a manner that permits as many applications as possible to keep making forward progress.
Speculatively, could we be looking at some kind of hack? A way for new gTLD applicants to blindly sign up to whatever future agreement the GAC and ICANN come to, in exchange for a speedy delegation?
Or is it an indication that ICANN is leaning towards approving the “safeguards” that apply to all new gTLDs?
The GAC advice is open for public comment until June 11, so we won’t find out until the second half of the month at the earliest.