ICANN has approved a timeline for the introduction of new top-level domains again. Barring surprises, it looks like this could be the final one.
These are the key dates in the timetable passed by the ICANN board of directors at its meeting here in San Francisco on Friday:
March 25 – Governmental Advisory Committee feedback on the San Francisco consultation due to be provided to ICANN for consideration.
April 15 – ICANN will publish the relevant edited extracts of the final Applicant Guidebook for 30 days of public comment.
May 20 – ICANN’s final consultation with the GAC. This will be held via teleconference and it’s not clear yet if observers will be allowed on the call.
May 30 – ICANN publishes the final Applicant Guidebook.
June 20 – The ICANN board of directors will meet on the first day of the Singapore public meeting to (presumably) approve the Guidebook.
June 22 – Large quantities of free alcohol consumed at the Singapore meeting’s Gala event.
This timetable seems to give plenty of time for the Guidebook’s remaining kinks to be worked out, and there seems to be considerable resolve in ICANN’s leadership to get this thing put to bed by Singapore, which will be Peter Dengate Thrush’s last as ICANN chair.
There are still a couple of questions remaining, however. It’s not yet clear when the first-round application window will open and therefore when the first new TLDs will be available.
ICANN has always said that the 60 to 90-day window would open after ICANN has concluded four months of marketing and global outreach – it wants to be certain that nobody can complain that they lost their brand because didn’t know the new gTLD program existed.
It’s been stated that the plan was to kick the outreach program off shortly after the Guidebook is approved, but there was some speculation in the halls at the San Francisco meeting last week suggesting that it could actually coincide with its publication.
If that happens, that would knock just a few weeks off the wait before applications open, so it’s nothing to get particularly excited about.
It seems we’re looking at the application window opening in early November at the latest, which suggests to me ICANN may opt for a 90-day window, in order to avoid having the deadline for applying falling during or just after the holiday period.
With the least-controversial applications expected to take at least eight months to process, we’re looking at October 2012 before the first new TLDs are delegated to the root.
With sunrise periods, landrush periods, marketing and so on, I doubt any new TLDs will be generally available before the first quarter of 2013. Single-user “.brands” could go into use sooner.
And of course, if somebody takes ICANN to court and successfully enjoins it, this may all wind up looking woefully optimistic.