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New gTLD registry contract approved, but applicants left hanging by GAC advice

Kevin Murphy, July 3, 2013, 13:13:25 (UTC), Domain Registries

ICANN has approved the standard registry contract for new gTLD registries after many months of controversy.

But its New gTLD Program Committee has also decided to put hundreds more applications on hold, pending talks with the Governmental Advisory Committee about its recent objections.

The new Registry Agreement is the baseline contract for all new gTLD applicants. While some negotiation on detail is possible, ICANN expects most applicants to sign it as is.

Its approval by the NGPC yesterday — just a couple of days later than recently predicted by ICANN officials — means the first contracts with applicants could very well be signed this month.

The big changes include the mandatory “Public Interest Commitments” for abuse scanning and Whois verification that we reported on last month, and the freeze on closed generics.

But a preliminary reading of today’s document suggests that the other changes made since the previous version, published for comment by ICANN in April, are relatively minor.

There have been no big concessions to single-registrant gTLD applicants, such as dot-brands, and ICANN admitted that it may have to revise the RA in future depending on how those discussions pan out.

In its resolution, the NGPC said:

ICANN is currently considering alternative provisions for inclusion in the Registry Agreement for .brand and closed registries, and is working with members of the community to identify appropriate alternative provisions. Following this effort, alternative provisions may be included in the Registry Agreement.

But many companies that have already passed through Initial Evaluation now have little to worry about in their path to signing a contract with ICANN and proceeding to delegation.

“New gTLDs are now on the home stretch,” NGPC member Chris Disspain said in a press release “This new Registry Agreement means we’ve cleared one of the last hurdles for those gTLD applicants who are approved and eagerly nearing that point where their names will go online.”

Hundreds more, however, are still in limbo.

The NGPC also decided yesterday to put a hold on all “Category 1” applications singled out for advice in the Governmental Advisory Committee’s Beijing communique.

That’s a big list, comprising hundreds of applications that GAC members had concerns about.

The NGPC resolved: “the NGPC directs staff to defer moving forward with the contracting process for applicants who have applied for TLD strings listed in the GAC’s Category 1 Safeguard Advice, pending a dialogue with the GAC.”

That dialogue is expected to kick off in Durban a little over a week from now, so the affected applicants may not find themselves on hold for too long.

Negotiations, however, are likely to be tricky. As the NGPC’s resolution notes, most people believe the Beijing communique was “untimely, ill-conceived, overbroad, and too vague to implement”.

Or, as I put it, stupid.

By the GAC’s own admission, its list of strings is “non-exhaustive”, so if the delay turns out to have a meaningful impact on affected applicants, expect all hell to break loose.

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