Navigating the new Top-Level Domain application process

16th February 2012

In a video interview, Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, shares key learnings and important tips learnt about ICANN's new Top-Level Domain program application process from clients who have completed it.

We can't say 'who' but we can say 'how'

ARI Registry Services CEO, Adrian Kinderis, shares five important tips learnt about ICANN's new TLD application process from those who have completed it.

The most common question I get asked around new Top-Level Domains at the moment is probably "who is applying?"

Soon enough the answer to that question will be revealed - but until then let's put the 'who' aside for a minute. In fact let's also put the what, why, where and when aside too. For now I'd just like to focus on the 'how'.

Navigating the new TLD application process is not easy – it's a significant undertaking - and for the last few months we've been assisting a number of clients through ICANN's application process.

So how are applicants finding the process? What are the challenges? Is it what they expected and do they have any advice in hindsight now they've finished their applications?

1. Have a solid strategy

The first key learning from our clients would have to be: Don't be blinded by the 55 questions. Really there's only one question that matters above all others – and that's the one that helps you answer the other 54. Question 18, your mission and purpose. Start with this, get it right and everything else will flow. The rest of the application should be built around and link back to this answer – think of it as your business strategy.

Not only do you need to describe the mission and purpose of your new TLD, but ICANN also requires an explanation of how it will benefit registrants and Internet users and what other steps you will take to minimise negative consequences or costs imposed upon consumers.

Many applicants have come to us with their proposed new TLD and $185k – but they soon realised this wasn't enough. You can't just 'buy' your new TLD, ICANN requires more of you than that. You're applying for an entire slice of internet, not just a domain name, so have a solid strategy behind it.

2. Engage your internal stakeholders

The applicants that are breezing through this process are also the ones that are well prepared and have planned their time to ensure their internal processes don't hold them back. CEOs, CMOs, CIOs, CFOs and legal advisors all have a role to play in shaping an application. So get their attention now, sit them down and spell it out for them. Tell them they don't want to be the one answering to the board when the hard questions get asked as to why your company failed to get an application in when your competitors did.

Whichever one of the C-suite acronyms you may be, engage the others from the start to gather the information and support you need.

3. Do the math

The financial section – questions 45 to 50 – is scored and is a pass or fail scenario with no second chance. That in itself makes it vital. It's ICANN's prerogative to ensure applicants have the financial stability and correct forecasts, however, applicants are finding that gathering information for this section takes the longest. For example applicants need to provide a letter of credit from their bank and they must show evidence of their financial capability to operate a new TLD. Careful attention and planning is required from every applicant to make certain they're obtaining valuable points.

4. Have visibility of the technical answers

Just less than 50 percent of the application is detail on how you're going to run your new TLD from a technical perspective. So those applicants who have outsourced a Registry Services Provider are quite rightly asking for visibility of the technical responses before they proceed and sign on the dotted line. Applicants have learnt quickly that the technical answers are really important, especially since a large part of ICANN's responsibility is to ensure a secure and stable internet. The proposed technical infrastructure for your new TLD will have to be at a high standard. You're not expected to know the answers yourself – but if you don't - then you'll need an expert who does.

Get the right partners to help navigate this. It is hard. Take the time and put the rubber gloves on with respect to your partners. The more you understand now the less chance of heartache later.

5. Be consistent

This is the point where I do a full circle and come back to that all important Question 18. Why? Because applicants could score maximum points in the financial section, but if their financial projections aren't consistent with their technical infrastructure then the application will fall down. For example you can't say that you plan to establish a new TLD that has a volume of domain names akin to .com and then on the next page say you plan to run your new TLD on a technical infrastructure that would only support a few thousand names. It's further down the application process that clients begin to realise just how important Q18 is. The mission and purpose provides a platform for consistency and builds a foundation for the whole application which is what makes it so paramount to minimising risk.

And finally, I can't say it enough: be prepared. You can't just simply buy a TLD – check your ego, buckle down and do the work because this process is not as simple as fronting up with $185,000.

Applicants are fast-learning that this application process is not the time to 'wing it'. No matter who these applicants might be, why they're applying, where they're from and when they plan to go-public - all applicants can learn from the important tips identified by those that have already traveled this path. The 55 questions in ICANN's application are the same 55 questions - no matter who you are.

By Adrian Kinderis, Internet industry thought leader and CEO of ARI Registry Services, one of the few companies in the world with the experience and technology to activate and implement new Top-Level Domains.