ICANN (Quietly) Delays Launch of New gTLDs by Six Months

By Doug Isenberg When ICANN revealed the list of 1,930 gTLD applications on June 13, 2012, it indicated that the first new domain names would be launched "late in the first quarter" of 2013. Given the large number of applications and many unresolved issues, this date seemed aggressive. Now, for the first time, ICANN has formally acknowledged that this target will be missed.

The "announcement" of this delay was buried within a larger announcement about the evaluation process ICANN is conducting for the applications, and the struggles ICANN has faced in "batching" its evaluations.

Specifically, ICANN said:

The current plan indicates that initial evaluation of all applications, processed in a "single batch", can be completed in 11-12 months, possibly less – resulting in publication of results in June-July 2013.... For applicants, releasing results in a single batch would mean that the first delegations would occur in late third quarter of 2013, six months later than originally expected.

This delay should surprise no one, given ICANN's track record. For example, recall that the first draft of the Applicant Guidebook for new gTLDs was published more than three years before applications were actually accepted.

In addition to the obvious implications that this delay will have on applicants, it also will impact trademark owners and others concerned about how to respond to the new gTLD program. For example:

  • Anyone who wants to file a formal objection to a gTLD application now has more time to consider whether to do so. Although the formal objection period is seven months, the Applicant Guidebook says that there will be "a two-week window of time between the posting of the Initial Evaluation results and the close of the objection filing period." (Nevertheless, the comment period deadline of August 12, 2012, appears to remain unchanged; and interested objectors should not delay their decision-making process.)
  • The extension of the evaluation process may result in an extension of time to finalize the Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS), a new rights-protection mechanism that has created challenges to implement.
  • Potentially, the delay could result in more applicants withdrawing from the process, given that ICANN is offering a refund of 70% of the $185,000 application fee to anyone who withdraws "[a]fter posting of applications until posting of Initial Evaluation results." At least, the delay affords applicants more time to consider whether they want to continue in the process, something that may be especially relevant to those applicants that face competition for their applied-for strings.