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New TLD Applications: What’s the Status of the Next Round?

For many industry participants, the timing around opening the next round of new Top-Level Domain applications has been frustrating, to say the least.

However, with the recent ICANN Marrakech meeting now complete, we thought it timely to provide an update for those who may be interested to apply in the next round or for those merely following the journey.

Put simply, here is what needs to occur at a very high level.

  1. The community needs to finish its review from the 2012 round and develop a report that includes guidelines for the next round—commonly referred to as Subsequent Procedures Process—expected in Q4, 2019
  2. This report needs to be approved by the ICANN Board—expected in Q2, 2020
  3. An application process (including rules, questions and contracts) is made public and an application window set
  4. The application window is held and applicants submit their applications

Now, this is a deliberately simple, public-facing view of the situation.

Behind the scenes, ICANN staff must consider and prepare for many other factors—just for a start, think about the systems, processes, skills, people and third-party reviewers that were part of the 2012 round that must also be in place for any subsequent round. This is heavy work, and the process cannot kick off without it.

When I asked a question of this nature to the ICANN Board in October last year, the Chair stated that the Board ‘were ready’ and suggested that the Board had instructed staff to see what could be done simultaneously to prepare the background systems and processes to improve the timelines.

I must admit to being a little cautiously optimistic at this response—specifically, because we understood that many of the pieces of the puzzle were not reliant on the Subsequent Procedures Report—and we were buoyed by the idea that this work could occur and shorten the overall timeline.

Was it too good to be true? Well, despite my skepticism, apparently not.

With the industry-led Subsequent Procedures PDP Working Group rapidly approaching its Q4 2019 delivery date for the report, and positive noise emanating from the Morocco meeting, there is much to be excited about here.

But with equal positivity—and yes, I admit it, some kudos to ICANN—and the publication of a short but important paper outlining the work that ICANN was doing to prepare for the next application window, it seems like there may be some renewed vigor around the opening of this long-anticipated application window.

The document, entitled “ICANN Org’s Readiness to Support Future Rounds of New gTLDs”, describes ICANN’s working assumptions for “policy implementation and operational readiness for a subsequent round of new gTLDs” and does a solid job of outlining the org’s baseline considerations for the upcoming projects.

That said, it’s important to avoid getting ahead of ourselves here.

To begin with, the report must be published on time, without further delay. And of course, there is still much work to do to prepare for actually opening the application window.

But for now, it’s clear that there is:

  1. some progress, consistency, and reliability from ICANN in terms of confirming solid assumptions, discussing budgets and isolating requirements that will make this a reality in a few years’ time;
  2. great progress from the Subsequent Procedures PDP Working Group including the controversial and highly important Work Track 5 revolving around geographic names; and
  3. a desire from the ICANN Board to make this happen as soon as possible.

For future applicants, sit tight. The time to start preparing your applications and preliminary research materials may be coming in the not-too-distant future.

By Tony Kirsch, Head of Professional Services at GoDaddy Registry

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