ICANN’s Priority Release Draw, and What’s Next For nTLDs in 2013

On December 17, 2012, ICANN published its priority release list – the result of a prioritization lottery draw determining the order of nTLD (new gTLD) releases in the upcoming year. According to ICANN,  1,766 lottery tickets were purchased for the draw, out of 1,917 possible tickets – meaning 92% of nTLD applications had a purchased ticket for the prioritization draw (check out the results, here).

But, how important is the drawing? The priority number helps the ICANN gTLD team complete work according to a specific order, but despite popular opinion, the position of an application does not necessarily indicate the order of launch – each entity will have to make it through an initial evaluation and pre-delegation phase, to make sure they are ready to go live. The progress of a gTLD is not just determined by the draw position, but also how ready the registry is to launch their nTLD in the coming year.

So what’s next for the nTLD process? Here’s a short timeline of upcoming events, and what to look out for as the year progresses and nTLDs start to launch.

Early January, 2013 – Releasing clarifying questions for applications, based on priority numbers

In November 2012, ICANN released formal “Early Warnings” from the GAC (Government Advisory Committee) to nTLD applicants. The objections cited reasons for the warning, and ways in which applicants could alter their applications for a better chance of being approved. ICANN will also publish more clarifying questions for each applicant, starting with the first applicants on the priority draw and working down the list, to allow each applicant a better opportunity to respond to any possible hang-ups.

January, 2013 – Publishing contention sets, based on priority number

At the end of Janurary, ICANN will publish contention sets – or which nTLD strings have the capability of clashing or contending with other gTLD strings. The list will allow applicants the chance to modify what they need to in order to progress through the initial approval.

March 13, 2013 – The last day to file an objection

Anyone who has a standing objection to one of the nTLD strings pushing through the application process still has time to formally object to ICANN. The objection period was initially set to expire, but the objection date has been pushed back to March 13, to allow all parties the chance to identify possible problems with nTLD launches.

March 23, 2013 – Publication of initial evaluation results for the first several applications

By March 23, most applicants who are at the beginning of the priority release list will know the results of their initial evaluations – and either have the green light to go ahead with the process, or know what they need to do to reshape their application. This initial results publication is one of the dates most looked to in the nTLD process.

The big question, and one ICANN isn’t answering (yet), is when nTLDs will start to launch. Because there are so many steps to go through before an application is approved, and more steps to complete before a nTLD can go live, we don’t know when we’ll start seeing the first nTLDs starting to launch, although many believe we’ll see at least some nTLDs by the summer. To keep a watch on the process, sign up for our watcher, or subscribe to our blog.