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ICANN approves “digital archery” gTLD batching

Kevin Murphy, March 31, 2012, 10:37:44 (UTC), Domain Policy

It’s official. ICANN’s board of directors has approved the widely derided “time target variance” procedure for batching new generic top-level domain applications.
It’s now being officially called “digital archery”.
The ICANN board met on Wednesday to vote in favor of the system, which was first outlined by senior VP Kurt Pritz at the Costa Rica meeting earlier this month.

Resolved (2012.03.28.01), the Board confirms the approval of secondary timestamp/digital archery as the mechanism for sorting new gTLD applications into batches, and directs that the operational details of the mechanism be communicated to applicants and the public as necessary and appropriate.

The digital archery system outlined in the resolution is pretty much identical to what Pritz described at ICANN 43.
New gTLD applicants will be asked to select a target time, then log into a special page of the TLD Application System to hit a “Submit” button as close to that time as possible.
The applicants whose clicks are recorded closest to the target time get to be in the first batch. ICANN will rotate through applicants from its five regions to avoid geographic bias.
There’ll also be an opt-out for those applicants for whom time to market is less important.
“The closer to zero the secondary timestamp is the more likely the application will be processed in the earliest batch, assuming the applicant has opted in to the earliest batch,” the resolution reads.
The system still appears to favor applicants skilled in drop-catching and other domainer disciplines.
Judging by screenshots released by ICANN today, there will be no Turing test (such as a CAPTCHA), which suggests that a scripted virtual “click” may be the best way to get a good timestamp.
It’s also not yet clear how ICANN plans to address the problem of network latency, to prevent applicants “renting a room at the Marina Del Rey Marriott” and thereby reducing the number of network hops between themselves and ICANN’s servers.
The resolution’s rationale reads: “Latency concerns are addressed in a fair manner so that applicants are not put at an advantage or disadvantage based on their geographic location”.
The digital archery system was met with borderline disbelief by many ICANN 43 attendees.
ICANN’s board resolution suggests that the system may have also been controversial within the board. It notes:

some members of the community have expressed concerns about whether the digital archery proposal is sensible and fair, and an informal subgroup of the Board has studied the feasibility, benefits, and risks of the proposal as well as alternative batching mechanisms such as auction.

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Comments (9)

  1. James says:

    After all this time, money & work…it comes down to a carnival game!

  2. Jerry says:

    Thanks Kevin,
    Contending applicants are also an issue here:
    “Multiple Applications for Similar Domain Name Extensions
    To ensure stability and security of the domain name system, each domain name extension, or “string,” must be unique. In the event that more than one organization applies for the same or similar top-level domain, all applications for those contending strings will be placed into the earliest batch designated. For example, if one contending applicant is selected in the first batch and the other contending application is selected in the second batch, both applications will be placed in the earlier batch. This will help ensure that one application is not unnecessarily held up by another.”

  3. Tom G says:

    So, it looks like hotly contested strings will more likely be placed in the first batch.
    If there are 8 applicants for .web, for example, the likelihood is at least one of them will shoot close enough to the target to warrant a first batch review.
    So ALL .web applicants will go into the first batch.
    Same will be true of other multi-applicant strings, more tries equal better chance at first batch shot.
    Now, if there are many duplicate string applications, this could mean that while ICANN will process 500 applications, the first batch may only contain 350 to 400 unique strings.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      That’s my read. Chances are that among the .web applicants will be at least one domainer with a lot of experience getting to the front of the queue.

  4. Dabney says:

    I don’t fully understand. Will they publish the winning time up front? Or is this a blind shot at a time you think will be the best? If they publish the winning time it brings a whole lot of skill to the table. If it is random and you get one shot – not a big deal really.

  5. Tom G says:

    There is no one single time for all applicants to shoot at.
    Each applicant selects their target, then shoots. They are measured how close they came to their target.
    applicants are then ranked as to how close they each came to their independent target time.

  6. Avtal says:

    A few thoughts:
    1) The ICANN screenshots suggest that the “secondary timestamp” will be measured in seconds. I wonder why not tenths or hundredths of seconds. Seems to me that the big gTLD consultancies can afford to hire programmers capable of matching the target time within two tenths of a second or less.
    2) The announcement didn’t mention whether practice sessions are allowed. In any case, the big consultancies will be able to do “target practice” using the strings of clients who don’t really care which batch they are in.
    3) If any of the big consultancies fails to get all of their customers (the ones who care, anyway) into the first round, we can expect some awkward conversations between consultant and client.
    4) No timing is given, though the screenshots show May 10. In any case, the results of the batching will not be known for a while, because ICANN will have to figure out which gTLD strings belong in the same contention set (are .sport, .sports, .спорт, and .football all in the same contention set for instance?) before they can announce which strings are in which batch.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      All great observations.
      However, I’ll point out in relation to your second bullet that the board rationale does say “Applicants are allowed to practice portions of the process to understand how the target time variance will be calculated.”

  7. JS says:

    Didn’t any constituency had plans to propose geos/IDNs/community TLDs to be batched first ? The issue was raised during your panel but also at the Commercial Stakeholder Group Meeting.

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