Should “.brand” and “.city” top-level domain applicants get priority treatment when ICANN picks which new gTLDs get to go live first?
That’s the worry in the domain name industry this week, in the wake of rumors about ICANN’s latest thinking on “batching” applications into a processing queue.
ICANN has said it will not process more than 500 applications at a time, but this may well be a low-ball estimate of how many it will actually receive in the first round.
Depending on how many companies decide to pull the trigger on .brand or .keyword applications, we could be looking at three times that number.
Random selection is probably a non-starter due to the risk of falling foul of US gambling laws, and ICANN has already ruled out an auction.
It’s likely that there will be a way to “opt out” of the first batch for applicants not particularly concerned about time-to-market, senior staff said at ICANN’s meeting in Dakar last month.
But the rumor doing the rounds this week is that the organization is thinking about prioritizing uncontested applications – gTLDs with a single applicant – into earlier batches.
This would mean that .brand and .city gTLDs would probably find themselves in the first batches, while contested generics such as .web and .music would be processed later.
It’s just a rumor at this point, but it’s one I’ve heard from a few sources. It also got an airing during Neustar’s #gtldchat Twitter conflab this evening.
Any gTLD purporting to represent a geographic location will need an endorsement from the relevant local government, which will lead to most geo-gTLD being uncontested.
Most, but perhaps not all, .brands are also likely to be uncontested, due to the relative uniqueness of the brand names with the resources to apply.
On the other hand, potentially lucrative strings such as .web, .blog, and .music will almost certainly have multiple applicants and will require lengthier processing cycles.
With a de facto prioritization of .brands and .cities, ICANN could put a bunch of gTLDs into the root, proving the new gTLD concept and giving it time to bulk up on experienced staff, before the whole thing sinks into a quagmire of objections, trademark gaming and spurious litigation.
I can see how that might be attractive option.
I’m not sure if it would solve the problem, however. If we’re looking at 1,500 applications, that’s three batches, so it would not be as simple as dividing them into contested and uncontested piles.
Of course, nobody knows how many applications will be submitted, and what the mix will be. It’s a very difficult problem to tackle in the dark.
What do you think? Should the contested status of a gTLD be used as a criterion for batching purposes?