Another milestone in the run-up to the next application window for new domain extensions has been reached: the first part of the “Applicant Guidebook” (the collection of all policies and procedures) has been published in draft form.
Anyone can comment on it until the 19th of March during the so-called Public Comment Period. All comments will be assessed and, where appropriate, incorporated into the final text.
During the course of this year and early next year, the other topics will also be released for public comment, with the complete Applicant Guidebook to follow in the second quarter of 2025. This is nicely on track for the opening of the application window in April 2026.
The topics now published are as follows:
- Geographic Names
- Reserved and Blocked Names
- Applicant Freedom of Expression
- Predictability Framework
- Universal Acceptance
- Code of Conduct and Conflict of Interest Guidelines
- Conflicts of Interest Process for Suppliers and Subcontractors
The most interesting topic is the Geographic Names topic: all domain extensions that stand for a city, province or region. This category is expected to be in high demand in the next round.
The changes from the previous round are minimal: they are mainly clarifications and clearer timelines regarding local government confirmation. As in 2012, almost every city or region will be able to apply for its own domain extension without any problems.
This policy clarifies the following subtopics:
- The exclusion of country names and their translations/variants and associated three-letter codes. ISO-3166-1 is the main guideline for this.
- The provision for which applications require explicit support or explicit non-objection from the relevant local authority. This applies to all capital cities, provinces (according to ISO-3166-2) and UNESCO regions, and to all city names if you want to use the extension in relation to that city.
- What requirements such a support or non-objection must meet.
- And finally how the Geographic Names Panel will evaluate all applications.
What this does not say is that the ICANN‘s Governmental Advisory Committee can also review any application. An application that does not require an official letter of support or letter of non-objection may still be objected to for this reason. So it is always preferable to involve the local government in a geographical application.
The other topics
The remaining topics can be summarised more succinctly:
- The guidance on Reserved and Blocked Names indicates which terms are excluded as new domain extensions (e.g. country names, 3-letter country codes and some technical terms). In addition, a list of terms that may only be applied for by certain international organisations has been established.
- Applicant Freedom of Expression: ICANN only excludes a few categories from application. For everything else, freedom of expression applies. However, the applicant is expected to be mindful of its limitations. The review will consider whether the application violates any rights (think trademark rights) and any third-party objections will be weighed, but with freedom of expression in mind.
- The Predictability Framework aims to avoid what went wrong last time: it sets out what steps will be taken if something unexpected happens, so that applications will still go through in a predictable way. In this way, applications are much less likely to hang on ambiguities than they were in 2012.
- The goal of Universal Acceptance is that all domain names and e-mail addresses will be accepted, regardless of language, alphabet or length of the domain extension. Think of Chinese or Hindi domain names or extensions or long domain extensions. This passage in the Applicant Guidebook acknowledges that this is not always well regulated yet, and that the applicant should take this into account when applying for such an extension.
- The Code of Conduct and the Conflicts of Interest Process for Suppliers state that parties contracted by ICANN to roll out or implement the programme should not have conflicting interests.
Following the close of the Public Comment Period, the comments received will be reviewed and revised as appropriate. The next opportunity for feedback will be in the second quarter of next year, when the full Applicant Guidebook will be published.
In the meantime, individual topics will continue to be presented to the public on several occasions.