By Tony Kirsch
ICANN’s meeting in San Francisco revealed a continued commitment from the ICANN Board to push forward with the new generic Top-Level Domain program.
For many of us that have been involved in this program for a number of years, this was a positive result and provided confidence to many within the industry that the Board was capable of standing up to an increasingly powerful voice from the Governmental Advisory Committee which has been threatening to add further delay to this program.
As noted in ICANN’s press release last week, the Board has announced that it will commit to making a decision on the Applicant Guidebook on June 20 at the Singapore meeting and given the enormous community and ICANN staff effort to continually refine this program, I personally see that there is very little chance that the guidebook will not be approved at this meeting.
In what could arguably be the most compelling and audacious piece of public communication yet about the program, ICANN acknowledged that its commitment to a timeline would be viewed with skepticism.
“We’ve had other timelines before, but not one that the community and the Board feels is so achievable as this one,” said ICANN’s Chairman of the Board of Directors, Peter Dengate Thrush. “Most of the hard issues are on the table or behind us.”
I, for one, support the Chairman on this position.
The reality is that this program will not have perfect outcomes for every stakeholder and like any other controversial innovation, political decision or personal achievements; sometimes there comes a point where one must simply take an educated plunge and deal with the consequences as they become apparent. We can’t spend the rest of our lives failing to act because we were planning for every possible outcome, life just doesn’t work like that.
What I can tell you from my last two to three years of travelling around the world educating governments, businesses and entrepreneurs on this program is that the innovation that will stem from new TLDs is immeasurable. I am constantly in awe of the ideas that I’m hearing and very rarely leave a meeting where I haven’t heard of a completely new way in which a potential applicant intends to use their new TLD.
For those that haven’t been across the recent announcements, ICANN has outlined the following dates as key milestones on the road to approving the applicant guidebook:
25 March 2011 – Governmental Advisory Committee feedback on the San Francisco consultation due to be provided to ICANN for consideration.
15 April 2011 – ICANN will publish the relevant edited extracts of the final applicant guidebook for 30 days of public comment.
20 May 2011 – ICANN’s final consultation with the GAC.
30 May 2011 – ICANN will publish the final applicant guidebook.
20 June 2011 – The ICANN Board of Directors will meet on the first day of ICANN’s Singapore meeting to approve the Guidebook which could potentially (note – potentially in ICANN terms has a little elasticity) have the following impacts;
October 2011 – Application window for new TLDs to open.
December 2011 – Application window for new TLDs to close.
Also important in this timeline is the new TLD communications plan, which will help to create global awareness about the new TLD program; however as of writing this, a date for its commencement has yet to be decided.
Overall, the release of this timeline by the ICANN Board clearly demonstrates their resolve to see the program implemented as soon as possible. But perhaps more importantly, the timeline is an excellent result for potential applicants as it finally provides some clarity from which some solid planning and progress can occur.
My message to prospective new TLD applicants: There is a lot to get ready in a relatively short time frame…now is the time to start really working on your new TLD plans!
Tony Kirsch, Top-Level Domain name specialist with AusRegistry International