ICANN has a new version of its constantly evolving new gTLD program timetable that accounts for Governmental Advisory Committee advice and other recent developments.
Staff talked through the timeline with participants at an invitation-only industry meeting in New York on Tuesday, but we have a couple photos to share more widely, provided by an attendee who declined attribution.
This first one will be familiar to new gTLD applicants who regularly attend ICANN’s update webinars, but there are a few differences compared to the version seen in Beijing (pdf), which address new roadblocks.
First, you’ll notice that there’s a new line for GAC advice, following the release of the GAC’s Beijing communique.
The slide seems to suggest that ICANN expects to have dealt with the advice before June. On the face of it, and without the full context of the staff presentation, this seems optimistic.
Second, the controversial Registry Agreement is addressed on the slide. ICANN seems to see the RA being published for public comment very soon, and finalized by the end of June.
All the new gTLD applicants and existing registry operators I’ve talked to this week seem to think this is more or less doable. Registries have much more incentive for speedy resolution than registrars did.
Third, due to the RA delay, ICANN won’t start contracting with new gTLD applicants until the end of June or beginning of July, according to the slide.
Operational dates for the Trademark Clearinghouse, Emergency Back-End Registry Operator and Uniform Rapid Suspension service all appear to be unchanged.
In this second slide, not used in Beijing, we see a visual representation of ICANN’s Initial Evaluation results posting schedule.
ICANN is currently posting about 50 results every Friday, having started off at 30 a week, but the slide shows ICANN expects to ramp up to 100 per week on May 24.
The New York meeting, one of ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade’s ongoing series of management roundtables, was attended by senior-level executives from many of the largest industry players.
As well as the new gTLD timetable, topics including the Domain Name Association, conferences and media awareness were discussed.
It was originally going to be followed by a splashy media event to officially launch the first new gTLDs, but that was delayed, due to the lack of any contracts to sign.
Two new gTLD portfolio applicants have withdrawn a total of nine applications following advice from ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee.
Top Level Domain Holdings, owner of Minds + Machines, said it has binned its bids for .free, .sale, .spa and .zulu “as a consequence of these warnings, and after discussion with relevant governments”.
.spa and .zulu are both on the GAC’s shortlist for further consideration on geographical/cultural grounds (Spa is also a town in Belgium) and were due to be discussed at the ICANN meeting in Durban this July.
It’s less clear why TLDH has chosen to scrap .free and .sale, however.
Both were among over 300 bids to receive GAC advice on “consumer protection” grounds, but they were by no means the only TLDH applications to get hit with the same stick.
The company has 21 applications with “consumer protection” advice.
Its bids for .book and .cloud, for example, are listed in exactly the same place in the GAC’s Beijing communique as .free and .sale, and have similar contention profiles, but have not been withdrawn.
TLDH said in a press release that it expects to get a $520,000 from ICANN for withdrawing the bids and another $144,000 from the release of its Continued Operations Instrument risk fund.
Meanwhile, entrepreneur Bekim Veseli has yanked the remaining five of his original seven gTLD bids, all of which had been hit by advice on the basis that they’re “corporate identifiers” such as .inc and .corp.
I understand this withdrawals may not have related directly to the GAC advice, however, and may be also due to the fact that they’re all highly contested strings.
The formative Domain Name Association has started calling itself the Domain Name Association and is moving closer to a proper launch under the guidance of an interim board of directors.
Right now, ARI Registry Services CEO Adrian Kinderis is acting as chair of the interim board.
The rest of the board comprises: Jon Nevett (Donuts), Elizabeth Sweezey (FairWinds), Rob Hall (Momentous), Jeff Eckhaus (Demand Media), Statton Hammock (Demand Media), and Job Lawrence (Google).
According to a presentation Kinderis gave at a meeting of ICANN execs and industry leaders in New York yesterday, the DNA will be a non-profit, independent organization funded by membership fees.
Membership will be open to registries, registrars, resellers, back-end providers and individual consultants.
The mission is to: “Promote the interests of its members by advocating the use, adoption, and expansion of domain names as the primary tool for users to navigate the Internet.”
The finer details of scope, marketing, governance and funding are still being worked out, but if you’re in the industry you can probably expect an invitation to join before too long.
It’s actually not the only industry trade group forming at the moment.
Judging by presentations given in Beijing two weeks ago, the Brand Registry Group is thinking about coming together as a trade association as well as a constituency within ICANN’s policy-making structure.
One of the latest three registrars to receive ICANN contract breach notices is also a new gTLD applicant involved in four applications, a helpful reader has pointed out.
A. Telecom S.A., which owes ICANN $10,863.67 in unpaid accreditation fees and is facing a May 14 de-accreditation if it doesn’t pay up, doesn’t have any gTLD domains under management.
It is, however, part of the Brazilian wing of Telefonica, the Spanish telecommunications giant.
Telefonica Brasil SA has applied for .vivo while the corporate parent Telefonica SA is behind applications for .movistar, .telefonica and .terra. They’re all single-registrant dot-brand applications.
Telefonica had revenue of about $80 billion last year, and employs over 280,000 people, so I doubt a measly $10,000 would even cover its daily toilet paper bill.
I can only assume that its ICANN breach notice is a result of a paperwork problem.
How much power should governments have over the domain name industry? Should the industry be held responsible for the actions of its customers? Are domain names the way to stop crime?
These are some of the questions likely to be addressed during ICANN’s latest public comment period, which could prove to be one of the most important consultations it’s ever launched.
ICANN wants comments on governmental advice issued during the Beijing meeting two weeks ago, which sought to impose a broad regulatory environment on new gTLD registries.
According to this morning’s announcement:
[ICANN's Board New gTLD Committee] has directed staff to solicit comment on how it should address one element of the advice: safeguards applicable to broad categories of New gTLD strings. Accordingly, ICANN seeks public input on how the Board New gTLD Committee should address section IV.1.b and Annex I of the GAC Beijing Communiqué.
Annex 1 of the Beijing communique is the bit in which the GAC told ICANN to impose sweeping new rules on new gTLD registries. It’s only a few pages long, but that’s because it contains a shocking lack of detail.
For all new gTLDs, the GAC wants ICANN to:
- Apply a set of abuse “safeguards” to all new gTLDs, including mandatory annual Whois accuracy audits. Domain names found to use false Whois would be suspended by the registry.
- Force all registrants in new gTLDs to provide an abuse point of contact to the registry.
- Make registries responsible for adjudicating complaints about copyright infringement and counterfeiting, suspending domains if they decide (how, it’s not clear) that laws are being broken.
For the 385 gTLD applications deemed to represent “regulated or professional sectors”, the GAC wants ICANN to:
- Reject the application unless the applicant partners with an appropriate industry trade association. New gTLDs such as .game, .broadway and .town could only be approved if they had backing from “relevant regulatory, or industry self-regulatory, bodies” for gaming, theater and towns, for example.
- Make the registries responsible for policing registrants’ compliance with financial and healthcare data security laws.
- Force registries to include references to organic farming legislation in their terms of service.
For gTLD strings related to “financial, gambling, professional services, environmental, health and fitness, corporate identifiers, and charity” the GAC wants even more restrictions.
Essentially, it’s told ICANN that a subset of the strings in those categories (it didn’t say which ones) should only be operated as restricted gTLDs, a little like .museum or .post are today.
It probably wouldn’t be possible for a poker hobbyist to register a .poker domain in order to blog about his victories and defeats, for example, unless they had a license from an appropriate gambling regulator.
Attempting to impose last-minute rules on applicants appears to reverse one of the GAC’s longstanding GAC Principles Regarding New gTLDs, dating back to 2007, which states:
All applicants for a new gTLD registry should therefore be evaluated against transparent and predictable criteria, fully available to the applicants prior to the initiation of the process. Normally, therefore, no subsequent addition selection criteria should be used in the selection process.
The Beijing communique also asks ICANN to reconsider allowing singular and plural versions of the same string to coexist, and says “closed generic” or “exclusive access” single-registrant gTLDs must serve a public interest purpose or be rejected.
There’s a lot of stuff to think about in the communique.
But ICANN’s post-Beijing problem isn’t whether it should accept the GAC’s advice, it’s to first figure out what the hell the GAC is actually asking for.
Take this bit, for example:
Registry operators will require that registrants who collect and maintain sensitive health and financial data implement reasonable and appropriate security measures commensurate with the offering of those services, as defined by applicable law and recognized industry standards.
This one paragraph alone raises a whole bunch of extremely difficult questions.
How would registry operators identify which registrants are handling sensitive data? If .book has a million domains, how would the registry know which are used to sell books and which are just reviewing them?
How would the registries “require” adherence to data security laws? Is it just a case of paying lip service in the terms of service, or do they have to be more proactive?
What’s a “reasonable and appropriate security measure”? Should a .doctor site that provides access to healthcare information have the same security as one that merely allows appointments to be booked? What about a .diet site that knows how fat all of its users are? How would a registry differentiate between these use cases?
Which industry standards are applicable here? Which data security laws? From which country? What happens if the laws of different nations conflict with each other?
If a registry receives a complaint about non-compliance, how on earth does the registry figure out if the complaint is valid? Do they have to audit the registrant’s security practices?
What should happen if a registrant does not comply with these laws or industry standards? Does its domain get taken away? One would assume so, but the GAC, for some reason, doesn’t say.
The ICANN community could spend five years discussing these questions, trying to build a framework for registries to police security compliance, and not come to any consensus.
The easier answer is of course: it’s none of ICANN’s business.
Is it ICANN’s job to govern how web sites securely store and transmit healthcare data? I sure hope not.
And those are just the questions raised by one paragraph.
The Beijing communique as a whole is a perplexing, frustrating mess of ideas that seems to have been hastily cobbled together from a governmental wish-list of fixes for perceived problems with the internet.
It lacks detail, which suggests it lacks thought, and it’s going to take a long time for the community to discuss, even as many affected new gTLD applicants thought they were entering the home stretch.
Underlying everything, however, is the question of how much weight the GAC’s advice — which is almost always less informed than advice from any other stakeholder group — should carry.
ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade and chair Steve Crocker have made many references recently to the “multi-stakeholder model” actually being the “multi-equal-stakeholder model”.
This new comment period is the first opportunity the other stakeholders get to put this to the test.