ICANN’s Yellow Brick Road…and Red, Blue, and Green Brick Roads

FairWinds Partners —  July 16, 2012

It’s summertime. Your new gTLD applications are in, the jury (or in this case, the ICANN Board) is still out on batching, and Initial Evaluation is just barely underway. We couldn’t blame you if you wanted to kick back, relax, or even sneak off to the beach for a day or two.

Here at FairWinds, we’ll be spending this slight downtime in – where else? – the New gTLD Applicant Guidebook. Most recently, we delved into the pages of the Guidebook to break down the four paths that applications can take once they get through Initial Evaluation. Now, certain applications will inevitably have to go down multiple paths, given their circumstances. But for the sake of this post, we’ll discuss the four separately.

Path 1: Transition to Delegation

This is every applicant’s dream – their application is problem-free and not in contention with any other applied-for string. In this case, the application does not attract any objections or hit any other roadblocks and can proceed directly to delegation. At this point, the applicant can work on finalizing the Registry Agreement, the contract it holds with ICANN to operate its new gTLD registry, and carry out any pre-delegation testing that is necessary. This is, as they say, the path of least resistance. All applications have to undergo this process eventually, as it’s basically the last step before launching a new gTLD, but only certain applications will be able to move through this phase immediately after Initial Evaluation. The transition to delegation can take anywhere from two to nine months, but if the applicant chooses to delay, it can take up to 18 months.

Path 2: Extended Evaluation

In the event that ICANN’s evaluators deem an application incomplete, lacking in some way, or just generally worthy of a closer look, that application will move into Extended Evaluation. The applicant will then have the chance to clear up those aspects of its application that the evaluators determined needed clarification or improvement in some way. If the technical portion of the application, namely, the answers to the registry operations questions, raises concerns among the evaluators, the applicant will have to pay a $50,000 fee to sort out any technical issues that the evaluators identify. This process is expected to take approximately five months, after which, if the applicant is successful, the application moves to Transition to Delegation.

Path 3: Contention Sets

If you take a look at the list of gTLD applications, you’ll find that 1,930 applications were submitted for 1,409 strings, meaning over 700 applications will proceed down this path toward a Contention Set. We all know the drill here – if there is a community-based application in the group, it will win out over any standard applications. If not, or if there are multiple community-based applications in the Set, the applicants will have the opportunity to reach an agreement on their own, or if not, eventually move to an auction to decide whose application prevails. Depending on a variety of factors, this can take anywhere from eight weeks to six months, after which the prevailing application moves to Transition to Delegation. If any application in the Contention Set has to undergo Extended Evaluation, all other applications in the Set have to sit tight until after that process concludes.

Path 4: Dispute Resolution

If an application draws any one of ICANN’s four types of objections – String Confusion, Community, Limited Public Interest, or Legal Rights – it must undergo the appropriate Dispute Resolution procedure. In this case, both parties (the objector and the applicant) must put up an administrative fee up front, generally between $5,000 and $10,000. Most Dispute Resolution procedures use a “loser pays” model, meaning the prevailing party will get its initial fee back at the end of the procedure. If the applicant can successfully navigate the Dispute Resolution process, the application moves to Transition to Delegation or a Contention Set, if applicable. If it is unsuccessful, its application will not become a new gTLD.

So there you have it, the four paths that applications can and will travel down once Initial Evaluation is complete. At this point, we have no indication that ICANN missed its deadline of beginning Initial Evaluation on July 12, and if the Board decides that applications will be evaluated in a single batch, these paths will open up around December of this year. Happy trails!

TAGS: Contention Sets, Delegation, Initial Evaluation, New gTLD Applicant Guidebook

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