ICANN’s decision to delay the approval of its new top-level domains Applicant Guidebook last week in Cartagena left one big question hanging:
When will the program open for applications?
ICANN had pencilled in May 30 for the launch, but the new delay appeared to make that impossible. In the absence of an announcement from ICANN, nobody really knows what the current timetable is.
A few possible answers have now emerged with the publication this week of ICANN staff briefing documents (pdf) used by the board to make their original decision to target May 2011.
An October 28 document entitled “New gTLD Launch Scenarios”, penned by ICANN’s Kurt Pritz and Carole Cornell, explores the board’s options for approving a launch timeline.
It notes that applications cannot be solicited until ICANN has finished its mandatory four-month outreach/marketing campaign, which in turn can’t kick off until the AGB has been approved.
I’ll let the rest speak for itself:
If the Board were to approve the Guidebook after the January/February meeting, the announcement and communications campaign launch would be made shortly thereafter. The first applications could be received as early as (but not earlier than) 1 July 2011.
If the Board elects that a full comment analysis and sixth version of the Guidebook be written, with approval at the Silicon Valley meeting, the approval would be followed by an April announcement and communications campaign launch. First applications could be received as early as (but no earlier than) August 2011.
And here’s a lovely graphic illustrating the options (click to enlarge):
Given that we now know that the ICANN board intends to meet with the Governmental Advisory Committee to address its outstanding issues in February, the final scenario – with a San Francisco approval and August launch – now seems more likely.
Most of the rest of the briefing document is heavily redacted.