Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

ICANN approves “digital archery” gTLD batching

Kevin Murphy, March 31, 2012, Domain Policy

It’s official. ICANN’s board of directors has approved the widely derided “time target variance” procedure for batching new generic top-level domain applications.

It’s now being officially called “digital archery”.

The ICANN board met on Wednesday to vote in favor of the system, which was first outlined by senior VP Kurt Pritz at the Costa Rica meeting earlier this month.

Resolved (2012.03.28.01), the Board confirms the approval of secondary timestamp/digital archery as the mechanism for sorting new gTLD applications into batches, and directs that the operational details of the mechanism be communicated to applicants and the public as necessary and appropriate.

The digital archery system outlined in the resolution is pretty much identical to what Pritz described at ICANN 43.

New gTLD applicants will be asked to select a target time, then log into a special page of the TLD Application System to hit a “Submit” button as close to that time as possible.

The applicants whose clicks are recorded closest to the target time get to be in the first batch. ICANN will rotate through applicants from its five regions to avoid geographic bias.

There’ll also be an opt-out for those applicants for whom time to market is less important.

“The closer to zero the secondary timestamp is the more likely the application will be processed in the earliest batch, assuming the applicant has opted in to the earliest batch,” the resolution reads.

The system still appears to favor applicants skilled in drop-catching and other domainer disciplines.

Judging by screenshots released by ICANN today, there will be no Turing test (such as a CAPTCHA), which suggests that a scripted virtual “click” may be the best way to get a good timestamp.

It’s also not yet clear how ICANN plans to address the problem of network latency, to prevent applicants “renting a room at the Marina Del Rey Marriott” and thereby reducing the number of network hops between themselves and ICANN’s servers.

The resolution’s rationale reads: “Latency concerns are addressed in a fair manner so that applicants are not put at an advantage or disadvantage based on their geographic location”.

The digital archery system was met with borderline disbelief by many ICANN 43 attendees.

ICANN’s board resolution suggests that the system may have also been controversial within the board. It notes:

some members of the community have expressed concerns about whether the digital archery proposal is sensible and fair, and an informal subgroup of the Board has studied the feasibility, benefits, and risks of the proposal as well as alternative batching mechanisms such as auction.

Here’s how new gTLD batching will work

Kevin Murphy, March 11, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has revealed the unusual process new top-level domain applicants will have to use to compete for premium gTLD evaluation batch slots.

Senior vice president Kurt Pritz described a “Target Time Variance” system at a meeting with the GNSO Council at ICANN’s public meeting in Costa Rica this morning.

It’s a fairground skill game, essentially, but without the carnies.

Here’s how it will work.

At some point after the application window has closed, new gTLD applicants will be asked to pick a “target time” – a date and time in the near future.

They will then have to visit the ICANN TLD Application System and click a “Submit” button as close to that target time as possible.

The closer the applicant is to its chosen target time — presumably measured by ICANN’s server time — the higher priority in the batching process its application.

After all the times are collected, batches will be created by selecting the fastest applicant from each of the five ICANN geographic regions, then the second-fastest, and so on in a round-robin fashion.

Applicants will also be able to opt-out if time to market is not a major concern.

What ICANN seems to have created could be compared to a domain name drop or a landrush period, in which the company with the best technology stands the best chance of securing the asset.

Pritz said applicants will get a chance to test the system and calibrate their response times.

Network latency at the time the applicant hits submit may prove to be a critical factor – applicants are already today thinking aloud about renting servers as few hops from ICANN’s servers as possible.

“It’s clearly first-come first served,” GNSO Council chair Stephane Van Gelder said during the session this morning.

Council member Wendy Seltzer asked, given all the unpredictable network factors that could impact an applicant’s response time, how Time Target Variance is any different to random selection.

ICANN has of course rejected random selection – everybody’s preferred option – because companies opposed to new gTLDs would immediately sue ICANN to block the program for violations of Californian gambling laws.

“Random selection is just not available,” Pritz said. “Significant legal analysis was done over a long period of time.”

But there’s no beating the lawyers, apparently. Now attendees here in Costa Rica are wondering whether this skill game may potentially violate American disability/access laws, which doesn’t seem to be something ICANN has considered.

The Time Target Variance system has not yet been approved by the ICANN board of directors. That could happen at its meeting this Friday.