By Doug Isenberg In a dramatic -- but woefully late -- move, ICANN has just announced that it has extended the 60-day deadline for public comments on new gTLD applications. Originally set for August 12, 2012, the new deadline has been extended for an additional 45 days, to September 26, 2012.
As a result, anyone with an opinion on one or more of the 1,900+ applications now has a bit more time to submit comments during the period most likely to influence ICANN's evaluation panels.
Although the public comment forum will remain open "through all stages of the evaluation process," ICANN has made clear that those comments submitted before the deadline will carry the greatest weight. "To be considered by evaluators, comments must be received in the designated comment forum within the stated time period," ICANN's Applicant Guidebook proclaims, in boldface type. (Section 188.8.131.52).
Although the Applicant Guidebook has always given ICANN the right to extend the deadline "should the volume of applications or other circumstances require," ICANN failed to do so until 58 days into the 60-day window (and, notably, on the Friday before the original Sunday deadline). As a result, while the extension may result in more comments, it is of little assistance to those who have been feverishly reading applications and drafting and submitting comments with the original deadline in mind. (When ICANN announced the new deadline, more than 5,500 comments already had been submitted.)
Despite the tardiness of ICANN's decision, the extended deadline presents an important opportunity for interested parties to speak up on gTLD applications, if they have not already done so. Given that ICANN has done little, if anything, to promote the public comment period since the gTLD applications were revealed on June 13, 2012, perhaps this new deadline also will make more people aware of this potentially important process.
The new deadline also increases the possibility for formal objections from ICANN's "Independent Objector," who can file objections only if "at least one comment in opposition to the application is made in the public sphere." (Applicant Guidebook, Section 3.2.5.)
For more information about the public comment period, see my previous blog post, "What ICANN’s Public Comment Period for gTLD Applications is All About."