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Three more digital archery services launch

Kevin Murphy, June 19, 2012, Domain Services

Surely the market must be saturated by now?

With a little over a week left before ICANN shuts down its digital archery new gTLD batching mechanism, three more companies are vying for applicants’ business.

We’ve received three press releases from newcomers this week, which I believe brings the total to eight.

Of course, it’s looking somewhat possible that digital archery will prove to be irrelevant, should ICANN decide to abandon batching altogether next.

In no particular order, these are the new ones:

Timestamp Technology

American. Affiliated with Nations Media Partners, Timestamp says it will offer applicants a 150% refund if it fails to get them into the first batch. It costs $20,000 for a single application.

MySingleShot

Bulgarian. Affiliated with Uninet. Says 90% of its shots come within 10ms of target. It’s a software play, with licenses selling for $1,000. If you want somebody to take the shot for you, it’s an extra $100 per TLD.

Digital Archery Hotshots

British. Run by Vladimir Shadrunov, a former Telnic executive now gTLD consultant. Fees not disclosed on the web site, but claims to have a “guaranteed lowest price”.

Delays likely as governments demand gTLD timetable rethink

Kevin Murphy, June 19, 2012, Domain Policy

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.

Fourth digital archery service launches

Knipp has become the fourth company to reveal a service to help new gTLD applicants automate their participation in ICANN’s digital archery application batching system.

With First Come First Batch, you only pay if you get into the first batch.

It appears to be the cheapest such service to launch so far, with “early bird” pricing starting at $7,500. If you sign up after June 20, it will set you back $12,500, still the cheapest on the market.

The service is limited to 500 gTLDs, with a limited number per ICANN region and a Europe bias.

Knipp is the outfit behind the Germany-based back-end provider Tango Registry Services which has partnered with Minds + Machines on the .nrw (North Rhine-Westphalia) application.

Key-Systems has 31 gTLD clients, offers digital archery services

Key-Systems has become the third company to announce it is providing new gTLD applicants with a chance to possibly increase their chances of success with digital archery.

The service costs €15,000 ($18,800) if the company gets your application into ICANN’s first evaluation batch.

Almost as an aside, the company also revealed in a press release today that its KSRegistry back-end service is the named registry services provider for 31 gTLD applications.

Digital archery services are also being offered by Pool.com and Digital Archery Experts.

Today, Digital Archery Experts announced that it will split the cost of its service between clients if it winds up shooting arrows on behalf of multiple applicants in the same contention set.

Neustar adds voice to anti-batching chorus

Kevin Murphy, June 9, 2012, Domain Policy

Neustar and MarkMonitor have come out in opposition to digital archery and new gTLD batching.

In letters to ICANN this week, both companies have asked for delays in the digital archery process to give the community time to come up with better solutions.

Neustar’s new deputy general counsel Becky Burr wrote:

A modest delay would permit both ICANN and the community of affected stakeholders to consider the validity of those assumptions in light of actual applications.

Informed reflection by the community could result in greater efficiencies and fewer disputes down the road.

On the other hand, launching the Digital Archery process prior to publication of the list of applications is going to create winners and losers that will unnecessarily complicate, and perhaps prevent, thoughtful adjustments to the approach.

MarkMonitor’s Elisa Cooper simply wants to know “Why should some TLDs receive the benefit of being delegated before others?” She asked ICANN to reconsider whether batching is necessary.

While it is understandable that not all 1900+ applications cannot be simultaneously processed, why not just wait until all applications have completed the Initial Evaluation before announcing results. Why should some TLDs receive the benefit of being delegated before others?

If batching is even required, allow the Community to see the entire list of applications so that they can provide meaningful feedback. It may become apparent that certain types of strings should be processed together.

MarkMonitor also expressed concern that ICANN’s TLD Application System terms of use may prohibit applicants from using third-party archery services, such as those offered by Pool.com and Digital Archery Experts.

Sharing TAS passwords seems to be against the rules, but would be necessary to let a third party into your TAS account.

(I reported earlier in the week that it would also let the third-party view the confidential portions of your application, but that appears not to be the case after all.)

By officially coming out against batching and archery, Neustar and MarkMonitor join Melbourne IT, Group NBT, ARI Registry Service and the Intellectual Property Constituency.

Digital archery nevertheless is already underway, ICANN having launched the system on schedule yesterday.

All the applicants I’ve spoken to about this seem to be planning to wait until after the Big Reveal next Wednesday before taking their shots.