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Given Comprehensive TLD Applicant Guidebook, How Ready Are Applicants? Notes from the Field - Part 1

One of the benefits of being a third party (i.e., no financial interest in new Top-Level Domains (TLDs) or applying for any) and independent (i.e., self financed and non-exclusive) is that we at Architelos have the natural incentive, not to mention a survival imperative, to try to gain a broad and deep perspective on the market. While no one can accurately predict the future, I’d like to suggest where I think this market is headed and why. These thoughts are based on our observations over the last six months in hopes that both prospective TLD applicants and service providers will benefit.

Today, I’ll discuss the application process.

While I applaud ICANN for tightening the requirements in the application to mitigate risks (abuse, failure, etc.), it’s clear many applicants still under-estimate the effort, planning and thought required to submit a viable application.

We presented a webinar a few weeks ago covering the changes and new requirements in the financial section of the Draft Application Guidebook (DAG). We had almost 30 attendees, many of them applicants or potential applicants. We covered the most notable additions to the Draft Applicant Guidebook (DAG) and explained ICANN’s rationale, as well as some suggestions about how to address the issues. We had a very positive response to what we covered, but we were surprised by some of the comments. Namely, many applicants indicated the webinar was helpful because they were not aware of the depth and complexity of some of the responses sought by ICANN. We heard repeatedly, “We are overwhelmed by the requirements.” My answer: Better to be overwhelmed, yet aware now, than be unpleasantly surprised later.

Another common misconception involved Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs). The applicants applying for an ASCII generic TLD wanted to secure multiple IDN versions of the same TLD but did not fully appreciate the cost or complexity. IDNs can either be a translation or a transliteration of your desired TLD and each, of course, has its attendant technical, IP/trademark and policy issues.

Each IDN TLD is also a separate application—and additional application cost.

And consider the complexity: multiple languages can use the same script; the same language can use multiple scripts; the same country or region can use multiple languages but same script; and a region can use the same language but use slightly different characters of the same script. So each application will require spelling out technical and policy specifications. Plus, the IDNs have a totally different user experience because IDN aware applications aren’t uniformly available.

So what’s the lesson?

For ICANN, it means their communication program should be comprehensive, including not only application guidance, but also educational components such as “Registry 101,” “IDN Primer,” “Anti-Abuse Policy: Best Practices,” etc.

For the applicant, it means if they are applying for multiple TLDs, each application will be unique in most respects. There are no easy short cuts. No copy and paste.

Think this is complicated? I fear there will soon be more than a few successful applicants with a deer in the headlights look, asking themselves: “Now what?”

I’ll cover running a registry, business modeling and outsourcing in my next post.

By Alexa Raad

Architelos provides consulting and managed services for clients applying for new top-level domains, ranging from new TLD application support to launch and turnkey front-end management of a new TLD. She can be reached directly at [email protected].

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"One of the benefits of being a Constantine Roussos  –  Jun 18, 2011 2:59 PM

“One of the benefits of being a third party (i.e., no financial interest in new Top-Level Domains (TLDs)”

Not sure who you are kidding here Alexa. You are telling me you have not advised any new TLD applicant and received a monetary compensation for your work? Of course you have a financial interest in new top-level domains. It is your company’s business model. There are a lot of shortcuts and a lot of copy and paste happening. Emulating other people’s work and piggybacking is certainly occurring. Imitation is the highest form of flattery but let us not kid ourselves here with what is actually happening behind the scenes (and in front of the scenes for that matter). There will be gaming and there will be “shortcut” auctions as well. The key is being prepared for both instances and having a contingency plan on how to win those because they will happen.

I am looking forward to Monday and getting things rolling with the new TLD program. In the end it is all about adding value and creating a sustainable competitive advantage. What truly differentiates you is the key question that new applicants should think about. Slam dunks will be a few. If you can clearly answer those questions you are in good hands. If you are trying to hit a home run with no real effort at all then you will certainly hit a brick wall. You need a concrete plan not a concrete wall.

Constantine Roussos

Response Alexa Raad  –  Jun 19, 2011 7:26 PM

Dear Constantine
Thank you for your comments.

I can see how you may have a broader interpretation than what I meant. Which is that we do not plan on applying for or becoming investors in any new TLD.  And we state on our website that “Architelos is a strategy and marketing consultation company….(to help guide clients)...through the application process, launch and ongoing management of your gTLD.”  So yes we advise TLD applicants, including an an applicant for the .music TLD.  So to be specific,

1.    We help applicants assess the business opportunity of a new TLD. Does it make sense for them to apply for one? If it doesn’t we will advise them not to apply.
2.    If it does present a compelling business opportunity, we help them apply. We’ve run registries. We’ve launched new TLDs. And we know what ICANN is looking for in an application. We will help them navigate the process. We’ll be announcing more shortly about another role we anticipate for Architelos.

As you mentioned, we do think we are well positioned to help new players navigate the application process, while “adding value and creating a sustainable competitive advantage” along the way.

Now regarding “there are a lot of short cuts and a lot of copying and pasting happening”  Now although I do not doubt and in fact agree with you that it is happening, what I am saying is that that is not the most prudent way for an applicant: To quote my blog “it means if they are applying for multiple TLDs, each application will be unique in most respects. There are no easy short cuts. No copy and paste.” So think if you are applying for an ASCII TLD, and an Arabic IDN and a chinese IDN,  would you really want to copy most of your application for the IDN strings from your ASCII application?  The market is different hence your financial application is different, as is the policy and technical requirements.  The ultimate burden of this error will rest with the applicant.

I too look forward to a favorable outcome in Singapore.  I am headed there now and hope to see you. 

All my best

Agreed. Was talking to John from Architelos Constantine Roussos  –  Jun 20, 2011 11:37 PM

Agreed. Was talking to John from Architelos about this as well yesterday. Seems many applicants really do not understand that it will not be as easy as they think and you can not "wing" it. Congratulations on your most recent announcements on your company by the way. Great team you put together! I am quite excited about the new TLD program launching. Congratulations to everyone in the ICANN community who has contributed. Constantine Roussos .MUSIC (dotMusic)

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