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ICANN is about as fast as a pregnant elephant

Kevin Murphy, May 24, 2012, Domain Policy

Making a binding policy at ICANN takes about the same amount of time as gestating a human fetus, but only when the organization and community are working at their absolute fastest.

It’s much more often comparable to an elephant pregnancy.

That’s according to a timetable researched by ICANN senior policy director Marika Konings and circulated to the GNSO Council this week.

Konings found that the latest iteration of the GNSO’s Policy Development Process has to last for a bare minimum of 263 days, three days shorter than the average human pregnancy.

However, that deadline would only be met if ICANN staff were fully resourced, all community participants were firing on all cylinders, and there was full agreement about the policy from the outset.

That’s obviously a completely fanciful, largely theoretical scenario.

The more realistic estimated average time for a PDP to run to completion – from the GNSO Council kick-starting the process with a request for an Issue Report to the ICANN board voting to approve or reject the policy – is 620 days, Konings found.

That’s slightly slower than the gestation period of an Asian elephant.

In other words, if some hypothetical policy work were to start in the GNSO today, we could not reasonably expect to see an outcome one way or the other until February 3, 2014.

Konings’ findings were accompanied by an assessment of eight relatively recent PDPs, which took between 415 days and 1,073 days to reach a board vote. The median time was 639 days.

Some GNSO Councilors think ICANN needs a fast-track PDP for no-brainer policies. I tend to agree.

Digital Archery lessons from tonight’s tweet-up

Kevin Murphy, May 22, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN held a Twitter session tonight during which executives answered questions about the new gTLD program in that notoriously restrictive 140-character format.

Unsurprisingly, in light of the frustration borne out of ongoing delays, most of the questions were about timing.

New gTLD applicants wanted to know when ICANN plans to host its Big Reveal event, when the Digital Archery application batching system will open, and when the batches will be confirmed.

The only specific date applicants were given was May 29, which is when ICANN plans to publish its updated program timetable.

But @ICANN gave away enough information to make a broad estimate about the date digital archery will commence.

First, ICANN confirmed that the Big Reveal will be before its public meeting in Prague kicks off on June 23.

ICANN also said that the digital archery process will begin before the reveal day and finish after.

The archery window will be open for about three weeks, we learned.

We can draw some broad conclusions from this information.

The latest possible date for the Big Reveal, given what ICANN said tonight, is June 22 (the Friday before Prague), so the latest possible date for the digital archery window opening is June 21.

In that case, digital archery would run June 21 – July 12, or thereabouts.

Because the archery can’t start before the applications are all submitted, the earliest window would be May 31 – June 20.

My estimates err towards the lower end. I think we’re looking at archery starting within a week of the application window closing and ending immediately before or during Prague.

If ICANN decides that it wants the archery out of the way before the meeting begins, the window could have to open as early as May 31.

If it wants the window to close post-Prague, we’re looking at it opening around June 11.

TAS reopens after humiliating 40 days

Kevin Murphy, May 22, 2012, Domain Policy

Forty days after it was taken offline for a bug fix, ICANN has reopened its TLD Application System, giving new gTLD applicants a week to finish off their applications.

TAS will now close May 30 at 2359 UTC, which is 1559 in California next Wednesday afternoon.

But applicants are being warned that waiting until the final day “may not provide sufficient time to complete all submission steps before the submission period closes.”

The date of the Big Reveal of applications, which I’m now expecting to come at some point before the Prague meeting at the end of June, is likely to be confirmed in the next day or so.

As well as fixing the bug – a data leakage vulnerability that enabled applicants to see each others’ file names, affecting over 150 users – ICANN has made system performance improvements and cleaned up its HTML preview function, in response to user complaints.

Repairing the vulnerability has cost ICANN “hundreds of thousands of dollars” since TAS was taken offline April 12, chief operating officer Akram Atallah estimated last Thursday.

The fact that the system has reopened half a day ahead of the most recently scheduled deadline – it was due to open at 1900 UTC tonight – is unlikely to win ICANN many plaudits.

If the opinions of the opinionated are any guide, the TAS outage has left ICANN with a severe dent in its already patchy reputation, even among fervent supporters.

Atallah and senior vice president Kurt Pritz came in for a pummeling during an ICANN summit attended by registrars and registries, many of them gTLD applicants, late last week.

Several outspoken long-time community members made it clear that their confidence in ICANN’s ability to hit deadlines is at an all-time low.

Expectations of professionalism have increased, as AusRegistry CEO Adrian Kinderis told Atallah, now that ICANN has $350 million of applicant cash in its bank account.

The bug itself may have been as unavoidable and understandable as any bug in new software, but ICANN’s tardiness resolving the problem has left applicant trust in many cases shattered.

ICANN names $25m gTLD objector

Kevin Murphy, May 15, 2012, Domain Policy

French international law expert Alain Pellet has been appointed Independent Objector for the first round of ICANN’s new generic top-level domain program.

Pellet has worked as a law professor at University Paris Ouest, Nanterre-La Défense since 1990, according to his 26-page resume (pdf).

He’s also represented governments at the International Court of Justice and chaired the International Law Commission of the United Nations.

With an expected 2,000-plus new gTLD applications, Pellet will command a budget of around $25 million, funded by application fees, over the three years the first round is expected to take.

Even with so many applications, I’m struggling to imagine scenarios in which so much money would be required.

The IO’s job is to object to new gTLD applications “in the best interests of global internet users”.

Pellet’s team will be limited to the Community Objection and Limited Public Interest Objection mechanisms outlined in the program’s Applicant Guidebook.

The IO is there to object when opposition to a gTLD has been raised but no formal objection has been filed by, for example, an affected community.

That the IO exists is an excellent reason to file comments on applications you’re opposed to – if no complaints are received via the public comment process, Pellet will be unable to object.

Olympics wastes more money on ICANN nonsense

Kevin Murphy, May 14, 2012, Domain Policy

International Olympic Committee lawyers have lodged an official appeal of ICANN’s latest decision to not grant it extra-extra special new gTLD protection.

The [O]Lympic Cafe, close to both DI headquarters and the London 2012(TM) Olympic(TM) Park, which apparently found a novel solution when the IOC's lackeys came knocking.The IOC last week filed a Reconsideration Request asking the ICANN board to rethink an April 10 decision that essentially ignored the latest batch of “.olympic” special pleading.

As previously reported, ICANN’s GNSO Council recently spent a harrowing couple of meetings trying to grant the Olympic and Red Cross trademarks even more protection than they already get.

Among other things, the recommendations would have protected strings confusingly similar to “.olympic” at the top level in the new gTLD program.

But a month ago the ICANN board of directors’ newly created, non-conflicted new gTLD program committee declined to approve the GNSO Council’s recommendations.

The committee pointed out in its rationale that the application window is pretty much closed, making changes to the Applicant Guidebook potentially problematic:

a change of this nature to the Applicant Guidebook nearly three months into the application window – and after the date allowed for registration in the system – could change the basis of the application decisions made by entities interested in the New gTLD Program

It also observed that there was still at that time an open public comment period into the proposed changes, which tended to persuade them to maintain the status quo.

The decision was merely the latest stage of an ongoing farce that I went into much more detail about here.

But apparently not the final stage.

With its Reconsideration Request (pdf), the IOC points out that changes to the Applicant Guidebook have always been predicted, even at this late stage. The Guidebook even has a disclaimer to that effect.

The standard for a Reconsideration Request, which is handled by a board committee, is that the adverse decision was made without full possession of the facts. I can’t see anything in this request that meets this standard.

The IOC reckons the lack of special protections “diverts resources away from the fulfillment of this unique, international humanitarian mission”, stating in its request:

The ICANN Board Committee’s failure to adopt the recommended protection at this time would subject the International Olympic Committee and its National Olympic Committees to costly and burdensome legal proceedings that, as a matter of law, they should not have to rely upon.

Forgive me if I call bullshit.

The Applicant Guidebook already protects the string “.olympic” in over a dozen languages – making it ineligible for delegation – which is more protection than any other organization gets.

But let’s assume for a second that a cybersquatter applies for .olympics (plural) which isn’t specially protected. I’m willing to bet that this isn’t going to happen, but let’s pretend it will.

Let’s also assume that the Governmental Advisory Committee didn’t object to the .olympics application, on the IOC’s behalf, for free. The GAC definitely would object, but let’s pretend it didn’t.

A “costly and burdensome” Legal Rights Objection – which the IOC would easily win – would cost the organization just $2,000, plus the cost of paying a lawyer to write a 20-page complaint.

It has already spent more than this lobbying for special protections that it does not need.

The law firm that has been representing the IOC at ICANN, Silverberg, Goldman & Bikoff, sent at least two lawyers to ICANN’s week-long meeting in Costa Rica this March.

Which client(s) paid for this trip? How much did it cost? Did the IOC bear any of the burden?

How much is the IOC paying Bikoff to pursue this Reconsideration Request? How much has it spent lobbying ICANN and national governments these last few years?

What’s the hourly rate for sitting on the GNSO team that spent weeks coming up with the extra special protections that the board rejected?

How much “humanitarian” cash has the IOC already pissed away lining the pockets of lawyers in its relentless pursuit of, at best, a Pyrrhic victory?