ICANN has turned off its unpopular “digital archery” system after new gTLD applicants and independent testing reported “unexpected results”.
As delegates continue to hit the tarmac here in Prague for ICANN 44, at which batching may well be hottest topic in town, digital archery is now surely doomed.
ICANN said in a statement this morning:
The primary reason is that applicants have reported that the timestamp system returns unexpected results depending on circumstances. Independent analysis also confirmed the variances, some as a result of network latency, others as a result of how the timestamp system responds under differing circumstances.
While that’s pretty vague, it could partly refer to the kind of geographic randomness reported by ARI Registry Services, following testing, earlier this week.
It could also refer to the kind of erratic results reported by Top Level Domain Holdings two weeks ago, which were initially dismissed as a minor display-layer error.
TLDH has also claimed that the number of opportunistic third-party digital archery services calibrating their systems against the live site had caused latency spikes.
Several applicants also said earlier this week that the TLD Application System had been inaccessible for long periods, apparently due to a Citrix overloading problem.
Only 20% of applications had so far registered their archery timestamp, according to ICANN, despite the fact that the system was due to close down on June 28.
Make no mistake, this is another technical humiliation for ICANN, one which casts the resignation of new gTLD program director Michael Salazar on Thursday in a new light.
For applicants, ICANN said evaluations were still proceeding according to plan, but that the batching problem is now open for face-to-face community discussion:
The evaluation process will continue to be executed as designed. Independent firms are already performing test evaluations to promote consistent application of evaluation criteria. The time it takes to delegate TLDs will depend on the number and timing of batches
The information gathered from community input to date and here in Prague will be weighed by the New gTLD Committee of the Board. The Committee will work to ensure that community sentiment is fully understood and to avoid disruption to the evaluation schedule.
Expect ICANN staff to take a community beating over these latest developments as ICANN 44 kicks off here in Prague.
There’s light support for batching, and even less for digital archery. It’s looking increasingly likely that neither will survive the meeting.
ICANN has named Fadi Chehade as its new CEO.
Lebanon-born Chehade is a California-based software industry executive currently CEO of Vocado, a maker of educational software.
“I’m here because I owe the internet everything I’ve achieved to date,” he said at a press conference (ongoing).
He’s not due to take over until October 1. Until then, COO Akram Atallah will hold the reins, ICANN confirmed.
Chehade has known Atallah since they were kids — they used to be in the same boy scout troop, he said — and they worked together at Core Objects, where Chehade was CEO.
ICANN chairman Steve Crocker pointed to Chehade’s role as founder of RosettaNet, a supply chain software standards consortium, as evidence of his experience of consensus-building work.
Michael Salazar, director of ICANN’s new gTLD program, has quit.
He’ll be replaced on an interim basis by Kurt Pritz, senior director of stakeholder relations, according to a statement from ICANN this evening.
No reason for his resignation, which comes shortly after the Big Reveal and on the eve of ICANN’s public meeting in Prague, was given.
Salazar, a KPMG alum, joined ICANN in July 2009. Unlike Pritz, he’s not been a particularly public face of the program.
It’s not entirely unusual for people to leave companies after hitting project milestones, but the timing in this case, given ICANN’s ongoing public perception problem, is unfortunate.
The organization is due to reveal its new CEO in about 12 hours time, and from what I gather the new appointee isn’t expected to take on the role for a couple months.
Having another senior staffer with responsibility over the new gTLD program quit at the same time will look bad.
ARI Registry Services has tested ICANN’s digital archery system and concluded that it’s little better than a “lottery”.
The company today released the results of a network latency test that it conducted earlier this month, which it says proves that applicants in North America have a “significant advantage” over others in securing a place in ICANN’s first new gTLD evaluation batch.
ARI basically tried to figure out how important the geographic location of the applicant is on digital archery.
It concluded that the further away you were, there was not only more network latency, as you would expect, but also that the latency became less predictable, making archery less about skill and more about luck.
According to the company (with my emphasis):
The conclusion is simple; the closer an applicant is to the ICANN Data Centre in Virginia, the greater likelihood of repeatable results, allowing a significantly higher chance of calibrating the network latency and thus setting a low Digital Archery time. It is therefore a significant advantage being located as close as possible to ICANN’s Digital Archery target or employing an organisation who is.
It is ARI’s contention that the frequency and size of network changes seen in networks outside North America mean the greatest influence on an applicant’s Digital Archery shot is luck. The further one is from North America, the greater the influence luck has on an applicant’s Digital Archery shot. Those applicants without the resources to access systems or representative organisations within North America are to all intents and purposes, playing a lottery, hoping that latency remains consistent between their calibration tests and their actual shot. The applicant’s ability to influence this game of chance reduces the further they are from North American networks.
While it might read for the most part like a technical white paper, make no mistake: this is a strongly political document.
By putting this information out there and linking it directly to the legally scary word “lottery”, ARI knows that it is putting ICANN in a very uncomfortable position.
The reason ICANN settled upon the digital archery system in the first place — rather than the preferred option of random selection — was because gambling is illegal in California and the organization’s lawyers were worried about nuisance lawsuits.
ARI has, essentially, just given fodder to the kinds of legal vultures that will be thinking about such lawsuits anyway.
The company is one of the strongest opponents of digital archery. In a recent interview with DI, CEO Adrian Kinderis called for batching to be scrapped in favor of a single evaluation period of 10 to 12 months.
You can read ARI’s 19-page report here.
If you think you’ll be able to launch your new generic top level domain in the first quarter of 2013, you can pretty much forget it.
The Governmental Advisory Committee told ICANN yesterday that it does not think it will be able to provide advice on new gTLD applications until April 2013 at the earliest.
It’s also told ICANN to seriously reconsider its controversial digital archery program and the whole gTLD application batching concept.
The current timetable calls for GAC Early Warnings – the “headsup” stage for applicants – to be submitted concurrently with the public comment period, which runs through August 12.
The more substantial GAC Advice on New gTLDs period is meant to track with the regular objection window, which is expected to close about seven months from now, in January 2013.
Now the GAC says it won’t be able to meet either of those deadlines.
In a letter to ICANN chairman Steve Crocker, GAC chair Heather Dryden gave applicants several excellent reasons to believe that the Applicant Guidebook’s timetable will not be met:
the GAC has identified several benefits from having a single Early Warning period in relation to all applications (these relate to efficiency, consistency, and timeliness). On this basis, the GAC advises the Board that it is planning to issue any Early Warnings shortly after the Toronto ICANN meeting, in October 2012.
Given the delays to the gTLD application process, the timing of upcoming ICANN meetings, and the amount of work involved, the GAC advises the Board that it will not be in a position to offer any advice on new gTLD applications in 2012. For this reason, the GAC is considering the implications of providing any GAC advice on gTLD applications. These considerations are not expected to be finalised before the Asia-Pacific meeting in April 2013.
The bold text was in the original, indicating that this is official GAC advice that should not be ignored.
Given the bigger picture, with the looming threat of the ITU’s big summit in December, ICANN is likely to be extra receptive to governmental advice.
Readers will notice that Dryden isn’t saying that the GAC will provide its objections before April 2013, merely that it won’t have finished thinking about the “implications” of such advice before April 2013.
What this means for the gTLD evaluation timeline is anyone’s guess. I expect more clarity will be requested during ICANN’s public meeting in Prague next week.
These two pieces of timing advice have the effect of focusing ICANN’s mind on the more immediate problem of application batching.
The GAC seems to be backing calls from registries and intellectual property interests to scrap the batching concept and the ramshackle “digital archery” system.
Dryden wrote (pdf):
the GAC is concerned that the potential risks associated with the digital archery and batching mechanisms may outweigh the benefits. In light of ICANN’s decision to initiate digital archery on 8 June 2012, the GAC advises the Board to consult with the community as a matter of urgency to consider ways to improve its assessment and delegation processes in order to minimise the downside risks and uncertainty for applicants.
In line with the concerns raised by the community, this should include a focus on competition and fairness with delegation timing.
Far be it from me to suggest that the GAC picked its revised advice deadlines strategically, but they do seem to fit quite nicely into a batchless Initial Evaluation period that lasts about a year, as some community members have recently proposed.
Those who were paying attention during the panel discussion portion of Reveal Day last week will have noticed me and a couple of audience members putting Cherine Chalaby, chair of ICANN’s board new gTLDs committtee, on the spot about batching.
Chalaby confirmed that the committee – which has the powers of the board when it comes to new gTLDs – wants to hear from the community about batching during the Prague meeting.
The trick, he indicated, is to be able to reconsider batching without simply relocating it to the pre-delegation phase of the program, which will probably be next year.
“We will listen to alternatives and we will think about it, there’s no doubt, you have to be open minded about it,” he said.
My sense is that if opponents of batching want to have a shot at getting it killed off, they’re going to have to present a strong case – with a fully considered alternative – during their face-to-face with the ICANN board of directors on Monday.
Moaning and whining isn’t going to cut it this time, ICANN is going to want to see dates, delegation models, the works.