21 March 2023

Green light and first steps towards a timeline

Last week ICANN‘s “Community Forum” took place, with high expectations in advance of what would be decided about the upcoming application round for new domain extensions. That ICANN would give a green light was actually quite clear, the question was just how concrete this would be.

As far as I was concerned, it was more concrete than I expected.

Not only:

  • has ICANN decided that there will be a next round,
  • did they formally adopt most of the 300+ recommendations from a previous report,
  • are they making funds available for a “successful and timely opening of the next round of new gTLDs
  • and will they publish “as soon as practicable” a request for volunteers for an Implementation Review Team, a dedicated team to write the policies,

but also two dates were carved in stone:

  • 15 June 2023: delivery of, among other things, a plan and timeline for resolving all outstanding issues and a plan and timeline for the Implementation Review Team.
  • 1 August 2023: delivery of an implementation plan to the ICANN Board. This implementation plan includes timelines and an overview of resources required to announce the opening of the new application round.

So although there is no exact date for the application window yet, these are important steps. There are rumours from various quarters that new decisions could be taken at the ICANN meeting in October (in Hamburg). The above delivery points fit well with those rumours.

What will it cost?

The main uncertainty right now (after the timing) is the financial picture. Whereas everyone assumed the cost would be lower than in the previous round in 2012, initial estimates come to $240,000 to $270,000, compared to $185,000 in the previous round.

The problem is that ICANN has a reasonable understanding of the costs (although almost half a billion dollars is extremely high for this project, as far as I am concerned), but has no idea how many applications there will be. For that reason, it is counting on 2,000 applications – equal to the previous round. The price per application is simply the project cost divided by the number of applications.

So if there are 4,000 applications, the price halves; with 1,000 applications, it would double. The chicken-and-egg problem is that the price has to be known before the application round opens, and the exact number is known only after the round closes. Adjusting the price afterwards is guaranteed to cause complaints: an applicant doesn’t want to suddenly see their price increased, while someone who couldn’t make a business case at $240,000 might have been able to do so with a lower price.

There are solutions to this, and I am sure this is going to be a big part of the Implementation Review Team’s work.

To be continued!

Translated with DeepL