The Internet community continues
to monitor the progress on ICANN's imminent opening of the application
round for new gTLDs even as the second draft of the Applicant
Guidebook (RFP) was released last week.
In its 34th Public Meeting, ICANN held a Question and Answer
forum exclusively on the new gTLDs. ICANN Senior Vice President
- Services, Kurt Pritz, presented the revisions done in the
RFP before he answered the questions from the audience.
Pritz said the purpose of the Q&A was to encourage more
public participation in the finalization of the RFP. Pritz said
all comments made prior to the release of the second draft of
the RFP have been well-received and analyzed, and the gTLD application
process has been modified based on the public comment.
According to Pritz, a TLD string should not be approved if
it could infringe the rights of others, or misuse an established
community label. Having said that, Pritz pointed out that for
applications that will not meet objections and will not get
into string contention, the application process will be very
simple, and will only require initial evaluation before it goes
to transition to delegation.
Pritz also mentioned some of the most essential changes in
the second draft of RFP, including the annual registry fee that
is now set $25,000 a year for less than 50,000 transactions.
A refund structure was also added in the second draft RFP, and
the comparative evaluation fee was eliminated. Comparative evaluation
fee was intended for community-based applicants that would get
into a string contention. Now, if such an applicant calls for
a comparative evaluation, they will not have to pay fees anymore,
as community-based applicants are usually limited in funding.
Since auction was clearly defined in the latest draft RFP as
the solution for string contention, Pritz explained that ICANN
came up with this decision to encourage the parties in a string
contention to settle. He said they expect only a few auctions
and a lot of settlements.
An important issue that was raised separately by a couple of
people in the audience was that ICANN has not yet fully explained
and justified the need for new gTLDs - not in the economic sense,
not in the functional sense. Although ICANN has repeatedly said
that the introduction of new gTLDs would foster competition
and increase user choice, many in the Q&A audience thinks
that a clearer report, perhaps an economic report, would better
explain the need for new gTLDs.
Finally, Pritz answered a question regarding a change in the
timeline. He said that ICANN expects to release the final RFP
in October, and applications could be received in December.
This, Pritz, added, is possible if ICANN could resolve trademark
issues and lay out a specific policy regarding that in relation
to the application round. At worst, Pritz said that ICANN might
start receiving applications in February.