ICANN posted its proposed final Applicant Guidebook for new top-level domains a couple hours ago.
The document is now subject to public comment until noon UTC, December 10, just before the ICANN board convenes in Cartagena.
As I speculated earlier in the week, ICANN has reduced the length of the feedback window from 30 days in order to hit its launch deadlines.
Here’s a review of some changes, based on a quick scan of the 360-page redlined document (pdf).
One change that will certainly be of interest of applicants:
If the volume of applications received significantly exceeds 500, applications will be processed in batches and the 5-month timeline will not be met. The first batch will be limited to 500 applications and subsequent batches will be limited to 400 to account for capacity limitations due to managing extended evaluation, string contention, and other processes associated with each previous batch.
A process external to the application submission process will be employed to establish evaluation priority. This process will be based on an online ticketing system or other objective criteria.
Does this mean “get your applications in early” is a winning strategy? I’ll try to find out.
One of the most sensitive outstanding issues, the right of governments to object to TLDs on “morality and public order” grounds, is now called a “Limited Public Interest Objection”:
Governments may provide a notification using the public comment forum to communicate concerns relating to national laws. However, a government’s notification of concern will not in itself be deemed to be a formal objection. A notification by a government does not constitute grounds for rejection of a gTLD application.
The AGB now specifies that such objections must be based on principles of international law, as codified in various international agreements. The string, and the proposed usage, will be subject to these objections.
The section on applicant background checks has also been overhauled. It now makes reference to child sex offenses, and focuses more on intellectual property infringements, but eschews references to terrorism.
However, if any group considered Evil by the United States applies for a TLD, they may be out of luck. The new AGB points out that ICANN has to abide by sanctions imposed by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control.
There are a couple of little oddities in the AGB too. For example, strings relating to the contested geographic term “Macedonia” are singled out as verboten.
Intergovernmental organizations that meet the criteria to register a .int are now also granted special objection privileges.
Contested geographical terms will no longer be subject to the auction process — applicants will have to fight it out between themselves.
The vertical integration issue, resolved by the ICANN board last week, also makes an appearance. Registrars are now able to apply for new TLDs, but ICANN reserves the right to refer such applications to governmental competition authorities.