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New gTLD timetable expected this week

Kevin Murphy, August 6, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN plans to publish a new timetable for its new gTLD program later this week, according to its latest update.

Its board of directors’ New gTLD Program Committee said in a report (pdf) published this morning:

The roadmap will show how the separate schedules for evaluation applications, possible dates for GAC [Governmental Advisory Committee] input, comment & objection periods, and other program elements fit together. The plan will demonstrate interdependencies, indicate risk areas, describe schedule uncertainty, and indicate how applicants might be affected by changes to the plan.

The roadmap will be released by the week of August 6, 2012.

New gTLD applicants have been waiting for this report since the Prague meeting in late June, when it became clear that the original timetable, based on application batching and “digital archery”, was dead.

Potential objectors will also be sharply impacted by the timetable; decisions could hit their wallets.

If the window for filing private sector objections closes before the GAC deadline to object, for example, the cheaper wait-for-the-GAC strategy for objecting becomes a non-starter.

Today’s report from ICANN also discloses a little more about how the 1,930 new gTLD applications are being processed: they’re being grouped by applicant and/or by back-end registry provider, in an attempt to create efficiencies.

According to ICANN, this will enable the evaluators to ramp up to a maximum capacity of 300 applications per month, but that it will take a few months to fully ramp up to that speed.

The Initial Evaluation phase of the process began about a month ago, in line with its July 12 target date, ICANN said.

Adding some time for ICANN to organize and publish results, this means that initial evaluation results will be published in 11-12 months after the July 12 start date, i.e., May or June 2013.

With the timetable set to be published this week, the ongoing public comment process about application metering will presumably not have an impact on what is published.

With that in mind, any timetable released this week is unlikely to answer every outstanding question about the timing of go-live dates for successful new gTLD applicants.

ICANN begins evaluating new gTLD applications

ICANN has already started formally evaluating some of the 1,930 new generic top-level domain applications it has received, according to sources.

Technical and financial evaluations are believed to have been going on for several days at the three outside firms ICANN has contracted with – Ernst & Young, KPMG and JAS Global Advisors.

ICANN staff said a few times during the Prague meeting last month that July 12 was the kick-off date for evaluations, but I’m led to believe they may have started a little later than that.

Nevertheless, they’re underway.

What’s not yet known is how – or if – the 1,930 applications will be batched into more manageable chunks.

The last official word from ICANN came on June 28, when Cherine Chalaby, chair of the board’s new gTLD program committee, said an update would be provided in about three weeks.

With that admittedly vague deadline now in the past, we can only assume that the publication of a new timetable is imminent.