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Enough’s Enough: It’s Time to Set a Deadline for the Next New gTLD Application Window

The ICANN community is currently in full congratulatory mode because the team responsible for the delivery of the Phase 1 Final Report of the Expedited Policy Development Process on gTLD Registry Data (EPDP) has managed to do so in a record-breaking seven months. The GNSO Council approved the Final Report in a special meeting on 4 March 2019, and the report will now be sent to the ICANN Board for consideration and hopefully adoption.

There is no doubt that this group worked extraordinarily long and difficult hours over the seven months, and given the urgency of the task, they were supported with the resources and budget to give the team its best chance of success: travel support was provided for two face-to-face meetings; external facilitators were engaged to assist during the face-to-face meetings; and Board members and ICANN staff subject matter experts attended every session as liaisons to the team.

While many things contributed to the success of this team, not least the dedication and commitment of the leadership, support and all team members, in reaching this milestone, the key driver was a concrete deadline for delivery of the Final Report. Sure, it missed the mark by a few weeks, but it was the consequence of not making the drop-dead date that was undoubtedly the key motivation for the EPDP Team to meet the deadline not to mention the pressure coming from the GNSO Council and the ICANN Board to complete the work. As the manager of the EPDP, the GNSO Council were receiving weekly updates on progress, something that is not required for other PDPs.

We should also recognize that the subject matter was something that the ICANN community has been grappling with for more than 15 years, and prior to the EPDP, the Registration Data Services PDP WG was unable to make significant headway on the topic after two years of trying and the PDP was subsequently terminated.

It goes to show the power of a deadline.

Contrast this with the New gTLD Subsequent Procedures PDP WG that was established three years ago. The members of this PDP WG are no less dedicated to the task at hand. But there is no drop-dead date driving the conclusion of this work (despite the ICANN Board, on 7 February 2012, committing ICANN to opening a second application window for the New gTLD program “as expeditiously as possible”) and as such, the work languishes on with constantly-moving timelines.

Where is the process at currently?

After starting its work over three years ago, the Subsequent Procedures Working Group produced an Initial Report mid-way through last year and is working its way through the unenviable task of reviewing the numerous comments submitted by the community.

According to ICANN’s recent publication, the group “has nearly completed its initial review of the public comments received for its Initial Report and expects to begin substantive deliberations soon.”

As was presented to the community in Barcelona, this would indicate a possible application period in 2020, should everything move with efficiency and without issue worthy of causing delay. According to the GNSO page on this topic, other remaining phases of this will entail, at a minimum, the following steps;

  • Working Group Proposed Final Report
  • Working Group Final Report
  • GNSO Adoption of the Final Report
  • GNSO Council Report to the ICANN Board
  • Public Comment Prior to ICANN Board Consideration
  • Notification by the ICANN Board to the GAC to Request Input on Whether Policy Recommendations Raise Public Policy Issues
  • Board Paper
  • ICANN Board Resolution Text
  • Notice of Policy Actions
  • Implementation Details

And then presumably a few other elements would need to be considered such as;

  • Applicant Guidebook Development
  • Public Comments
  • Communication Plan Development
  • Systems development to facilitate the applications

So, lots of steps still remaining as you can see.

According to the recent blog by ICANN Chair, Cherine Chalaby, the Board will listen to ICANN CEO Göran Marby lead a session this Saturday, where he will share an overview of the preparatory work needed for the possible launch of a subsequent round of new gTLDs.

What can the Board do in Kobe? It’s time to set a date!

After this length of time, the biggest question about the Board’s position on the Subsequent Round is about intent.

Does the Board want to avoid an embarrassing 10 or more year delay between new gTLD application rounds, or are they content to let the community remain in the driver’s seat with no accountability for ‘expeditious’ process?

When I posted a similar question to the ICANN Board in Barcelona, I was told in no uncertain terms by Board Chair Cherine Chalaby that the “Board was ready and as soon as the community completed their work, [they] will be ready to review it.”

My fear is this… after another five months, and when reviewing such a long list of tasks required to make it a reality, things will continue to drag out without the Board setting a firm date by which the program will proceed.

We all know this in our day to day lives and the EPDP process simply confirms this.

“Parkinson’s law” states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In short, if you give someone a day to complete something, they’ll take a day to do it. If you give them a week to complete the same task, they’ll take a week.

This is simply unacceptable. It is naïve to the responsibility that the Board should embrace and ignorant to the demand that exists in the marketplace, which I’ll explore in an upcoming blog.

Let me be clear…

I’m not suggesting designing something like a new gTLD program is easy and it’s in no way intended to be disrespectful of the heavy load that the community has carried to date.

Sure, the first round of new gTLDs wasn’t perfect.

But it was a great success in my eyes, as validated each and every day when I see a new website launch on a ‘not com’ domain name around the world, thanks to our efforts as an industry.

This is a simple message of governance and creating boundaries that respect the need for policy development but also are cognizant of the role we play in the wider internet-using community.

We need a deadline—and we need to work to it together—to continue to foster innovation in our industry.

By Tony Kirsch, Head of Professional Services at GoDaddy Registry

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Tony – It’s understandable for Neustar to Norman Payne  –  Mar 8, 2019 12:44 AM

Tony – It’s understandable for Neustar to be advocating for a rapid conclusion to this process as your employer, as well as the employers of one of the co-chairs and several other active participants in the process stand to directly benefit from consulting fees related to any new applicants.

But to equate the Sub Pro work to the work of the EPDP is really disingenuous.

Proper and legal access to registration data so that law enforcement, governmental enforcement agencies, security researchers and intellectual property interests can conduct their business is a major priority to be taken up by the ICANN community.

To say the latest round of new gTLDs has been a rousing success and we need more tomorrow is a stretch at best.  Solving the issues around GDPR compliance and proper access to Whois is worthy of the efforts of the community over these last several months.  A lot more is at stake than a new crop of TLDs that brands won’t use or law abiding consumers won’t buy.

Correction Jean Guillon  –  Mar 14, 2019 8:43 AM

Hello Norman, let me correct what you just wrote: "over these last several YEARS". ;-)

We have an answer from the ICANN Jean Guillon  –  Mar 14, 2019 8:45 AM

The ICANN just published its latest communiqué and answered the question “Subsequent Rounds of New gTLDs”.

Page 10, here: https://gac.icann.org/contentMigrated/icann64-kobe-communique

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