ICANN has released the eighth version of the Applicant Guidebook for the new generic top-level domains program as promised, and as expected it’s rather dull.
By far the most important change appears to be the firm inclusion of a new deadline: March 29, 2012.
If you’re a new gTLD applicant, and you have not registered with ICANN’s TLD Application System by 2359 UTC, March 29, 2012, you’re done – your application fails at the starting blocks.
Apart from that, there does not appear to be much to get excited about.
The long gap since the program was approved by the ICANN board on June 20 had some people scratching their heads, wondering whether major changes were in store.
But what’s been published tonight appears to differ very little from the draft published in May, and most of the edits are those specifically envisaged by the June resolution.
It has, for example, been updated to reflect some of the Governmental Advisory Committee’s requests that ICANN’s board of directors acceded to in Singapore.
There’s no longer a requirement for the GAC to reach consensus in a transparent way when it deliberates about new gTLD objections.
There’s also almost 40 new strings – variants of the Olympic, Olympiad, Red Cross and Red Crescent trademarks – that are now explicitly banned from the first round of gTLD applications. These are being called “Strings Ineligible for Delegation”, rather than “Reserved” strings.
(As an aside, while it’s easy to understand the GAC’s rationale for this, does it strike anyone else as a completely pointless move? The gTLD .olympic may be now banned, but the far better and more obvious squat, .olympics, is not.)
No redline version of the Guidebook – in which all the edits are highlighted – has yet been published, but ICANN has released a non-exhaustive document summarizing the changes here.
Not included in that summary is ICANN president Rod Beckstrom’s new introduction, which addresses the latest batch of criticisms leveled at the program (such as the perceived lack of publicity since June and the unfinished applicant support policy).
It also drops the “Dear Prospective Applicant” salutation found in previous versions of the Guidebook, which probably doesn’t mean anything.
The disclaimer that the Guidebook has not been approved has also disappeared. While the document could be considered a production copy, it by no means presents a full picture of the program
Some of the items of unfinished business I outlined in this article last month remain unfinished.
The aforementioned applicant support program, for example, is not likely to be approved until the ICANN board’s meeting in Dakar, October 28.
The new Guidebook explicitly punts this, now saying it will be handled “through a process independent of this Guidebook”.
The Singapore promise that ICANN would continue discussing the US and EU government concerns about cross ownership between registrars and registries does not appear to have led to any edits either, but that does not necessarily mean it’s settled law.
Also, the process the GAC will use internally to decide whether to raise objections to gTLD applications is still not known.
In summary, it appears that we have an Applicant Guidebook that is “approved”, but is unlikely to be the “final” version.