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New gTLD reveal day is probably June 13

ICANN is set to reveal its list of new generic top-level domain applications on or around June 13, according to several sources.

My understanding is that the date has not yet been set in stone – it could be a day or so either side – but that June 13 is the current target.

The unveiling of all 2,000+ applications is expected to be accompanied by a press conference and panel discussion in London, both of which will be webcast for those unable to attend in person.

Confirming the venue for this event is, I believe, one of the factors contributing to the current uncertainty about the date.

A June 13 date means that the “digital archery” batching process will – barring unforeseen circumstances – kick off at some point during the first two weeks of June and end after the reveal.

ICANN said earlier this week that the archery process will start before reveal day and will last for three weeks.

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.

Brands are Pool.com’s surprise digital archery clients

Kevin Murphy, May 17, 2012, Domain Services

Companies applying to ICANN for “dot-brand” top-level domains are among those signing up for Pool.com’s new digital archery service, according to Rob Hall, CEO of parent Momentous.

The company launched its Digital Archery Engine last month, not too long after ICANN confirmed its controversial method of batching new gTLD applications for processing.

Now, Pool is receiving interest from not only mass-market generic string applicants, but also dot-brands.

“It’s a wider swath of TLDs that I thought originally,” said Hall. “At first I thought for sure the generics and the domains that might be in competition.”

“It’s amazing to me that a lot of people out there are saying the brands don’t care, the brands are doing this just defensively, the brands couldn’t care less about going first… but a lot of them do,” he said.

“A lot of them are saying ‘I want to be in that first batch’, which I wouldn’t have necessarily expected,” he added.

He said he had no idea what the motivations are for these brands.

“Our job is to get them in the first batch, not to ask them why they want to be there,” he said.

Hall said it wasn’t clear how many clients Pool would eventually sign up to the service, but said he expects it to be definitely much more than 50.

ICANN’s digital archery system – which will batch applicants according to which can most accurately send a message over the internet to a target time – was poorly received by most people.

Unsurprisingly, Hall is not one of those people.

Pool is one of several companies that have been competing to register expiring domain names for the better part of a decade, so its systems have been fine-tuned for sending messages over the internet quickly.

While the big registries such as .com use the EPP protocol, some of the registries Pool interacts with use HTTP, which seems to be ICANN’s preferred option for digital archery.

Hall said Pool aims for latency of less than 6 milliseconds. Its servers are positioned topologically close to registries – typically one or two hops – and the software measures monitors network conditions.

“The key is being able to detect what is the latency and to predict it, then factor that into the engine to say ‘When do I fire?’,” he said.

He does not anticipate the CAPTCHAs or other Turing tests presenting a problem – Pool would simply bring a human into the equation.

The Digital Archery Engine is not cheap. If Pool gets you into the first batch, you’re $25,000 out of pocket. If you’re in the top half of batches (batch three of five counts as top half) it’s $10,000.

The company was singled out recently by ICANN’s Intellectual Property Constituency as an “insider” exploiting the digital archery system as a “revenue extraction opportunity”.

A letter highly critical of the system from IPC chair Steve Metallitz said:

This arcane and seemingly arbitrary batching method will also reinforce the widespread impression that all ICANN procedures are dominated by “insiders” with contractual relationships to ICANN, who will surely know best how to manipulate this initiative to their own benefit, or that of their paying customers. It is difficult to reconcile such an outcome with ICANN’s obligation to act in the public interest.

Hall said was happy for the free advertising. “I’d like to thank them,” he said.

But he said Pool isn’t “manipulating” anything.

“They’ve called this ‘digital archery’,” he said. “It’s a game to see who’s best at it. That’s what they’ve designed. We’re not gaming anything. And we’re not offering this to insiders, we’re offering this to everyone.”

New gTLDs now a month behind schedule

Kevin Murphy, April 28, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has announced yet another delay in its new generic top-level domains program.

Last night’s much-anticipated update on its efforts to deal with the fallout of the TLD Application System security bug merely deferred resolution of the problem for a week. Again.

The whole program is now essentially a month behind schedule.

Chief operating office Akram Atallah said in a statement:

ICANN will notify all applicants within the next seven business days whether our analysis shows they were affected by the technical glitch in the TLD application system.

Shortly after the notification process has been completed, we will announce the schedule for reopening the application system and completing the application period. We are mindful of the need to allow sufficient time during the reopening period for applicants to confirm the completeness of their submissions.

The seven business days for applicant notifications takes us to May 8.

It’s not clear whether TAS would reopen immediately after this, but I suspect we’re probably looking at a buffer of at least a day or two between the end of notifications and TAS coming back online.

ICANN has previously said that TAS will be open for five business days, to enable applicants to finish off their applications. This brings us to, at the very earliest, May 15.

The Big Reveal of the list of applications, I estimate, will come one to two weeks after that.

We’re essentially looking at a late May or early June finish to a process that should have ended in late April.

As a result, the entire timetable for evaluating, approving and delegating new gTLDs will likely also be pushed out by a month.

For applicants, the anticipated November 12 date for the completion of the first-batch Initial Evaluation phase is now likely to come some time in mid-December instead.

Unhelpfully, the deadlines for filing objections and requesting Extended Evaluation for first-batch applicants is now likely to fall around about January 1, 2013.

That’s assuming we do not see any more delays, of course, which I think would be optimistic.

Pool.com offers $25k gTLD digital archery service

Kevin Murphy, April 12, 2012, Domain Registrars

Domain name drop-catcher Pool.com hopes to make a quick buck out of ICANN’s new generic top-level domain application batching process.

The company has announced a Digital Archery Engine service, which it says could help new gTLD applicants get their applications near the top of the evaluation queue.

It’s based on Pool’s experience catching expiring names to auction, and ICANN’s controversial “digital archery” method of allocating applications into batches for processing.

Getting into the first batch of 500 applications is expected to knock at least five months off the wait time for new gTLD approval, delegation and launch. For many applicants, this time-to-market advantage is important.

But it’s not cheap. If Pool gets your application into the first batch it will set you back $25,000. If you’re in the top 50% of applications, the price tag is $10,000. Anything slower is free.