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ICANN has 100 new gTLD applicants

Kevin Murphy, February 13, 2012, 18:26:59 (UTC), Domain Policy

One hundred companies have registered to apply for generic top-level domains, according to ICANN senior vice president Kurt Pritz.

ICANN has decided not to provide a running commentary about how many applications have been received, but it did say that 25 companies registered in the first week the program was open.

“That number is now up to 100,” Pritz said today at the The Top Level conference in London.

He was referring to companies paying their $5,000 to sign up for ICANN’s TLD Application System, which is likely to be much smaller than the actual number of gTLD applications. Each TAS account can store up to 50 applications, Pritz said.

There are only 45 days left on the clock to register for a TAS account. After March 29, you’re in for a wait of at least three years (my estimate) before the opportunity comes around again.

Pritz’s revelation was one of the more interesting things to emerge during today’s half-day gathering at the offices of the PR firm Burson-Marsteller, which attracted about 40 attendees.

The other big surprise was that Scandinavian Airlines System Group, the dot-brand applicant that was due to give a presentation on its plans for .sas, was a no-show.

I gather that somebody more senior at SAS found out about the conference and decided that revealing all was not such a great business strategy after all.

Most dot-brand applicants are playing their hands close to their chest, even if they’re not heading into a contested gTLD scenario (which SAS may well be if the software firm SAS Institute also applies for .sas).

I also found it notable that there’s still substantial confusion about the program among some potential dot-brand applicants, several of which did show up as general attendees.

I talked to one poor soul who had read the latest revision of the 349-page Applicant Guidebook back-to-back after it was published January 11, trying to figure out what had changed.

He was apparently unaware that ICANN had simultaneously published a summary of the changes, which were very minimal anyway, in a separate document.

These are the types of applicant – people unfamiliar not only with ICANN’s processes but also even with its web site – that are being asked to hack the Guidebook to make the rules compatible with a dot-brand business model, remember.

One potential applicant used a Q&A session during the conference to bemoan the fact that ICANN seems intent to continue to move the goal-posts, even as it solicits applications (and fees).

Pritz and Olof Nordling, manager of ICANN’s Brussels office, reiterated briefly during their presentation today that the current public comment period on “defensive” applications could lead to changes to the program’s trademark protection mechanisms.

But this comment period ends March 20, just nine days before the TAS registration deadline. That’s simply not enough time for ICANN to do anything concrete to deter defensive applications.

If any big changes are coming down the pipe, ICANN is going to need to extend the application window. Material changes made after the applications are already in are going to cause a world of hurt.

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Comments (7)

  1. Andrew says:

    Huh. I remember seeing the .sas announcement and thought it was SAS Institute that was applying.

    So how would that work, Kevin? If the airline and SAS Institute couldn’t agree, would it go to auction?

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      It would be treated the same as any other contested app. So, if objections etc didn’t eliminate either, and they couldn’t agree something offline, it would go to auction.

  2. Andrew says:

    I can see it now. A shared .brand. Go figure.

    airline.sas
    institute.sas

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      It’ll be interesting to see if any brands go for that idea.

      I expect the vast majority would take their chances at auction or go to court rather than risk brand dilution.

      An additional problem is that .brand applications will say “Only Company X can register domains”, and I don’t think there’s an opportunity to amend applications after submission.

  3. Andrew says:

    Good points. Yet another area that could potentially cause a lot of problems.

  4. jayjay says:

    “I expect the vast majority would take their chances at auction or go to court”

    Interesting indeed, I think in a lot of these possible scenarios that it would be impossible to judge who has bonafided rights to the extension, unless the organization with the greatest defense funding could convince a judge or decision panel otherwise. A case of “who has the most bucks wins!” ICANN’s pandora’s box has just been unwrapped.

  5. DRASK says:

    There are 100 suckers born every day. I’m seeing 4 and 5 word .com ads on TV and the print advertising coming in the mail.

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