CATEGORY: New Domains

Why ICANN keeps falling behind: A timeline of major delays in the new TLD process

The New Dots: Keeping you up to speed on new TLDs

Early this month, ICANN announced that almost 20 percent of applicants can expect further delays in their launch process, due to reports issued illustrating a perceived increase in security risks for name collisions between certain new TLDs and internal network names. The announcement has sparked public outcry from some applicants and registrars, whose investments and business models rely on the timely delegation and launch of the new TLDs.

It’s a familiar tune—one of the biggest challenges ICANN has faced throughout the new TLD process is staying on time. But despite delays, new TLDs are coming. And they’ll be here sooner than later. We think. (Just kidding. They will be.)

If you were looking forward to registering a domain name this fall, you may be waiting a bit longer, depending on which TLD you’re following. Understanding the current timeline for new TLDs means understanding the timeline of delays. So we went ahead and created such a timeline, so you can save yourself hours on Google: denied .amazon domain extension


Amazon was recently notified that its application for the new top level domain name .amazon was rejected.

Eric Pfanner from The New York Times outlined why the tech giant’s application was rejected. Pfanner explained that ICANN, the Governmental Advisory Committee for domains, would not allow Amazon to own .amazon because a group of South American nations, including Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Peru, sent a letter to ICANN opposing Amazon claiming the name. The Times obtained a copy of the letter:

Nic Steinbach Knows New TLDs. Episode 1

In all the universe there is one guy who offers honest, educated answers about the New TLDs. His name is Nic, he graduated from Yale, and he’s been steeped in everything New TLD since the program went public. Also, he looks young enough to be carded for comic books, so he could very well still be alive when ICANN actually rolls out these new domains. See what happened there? Honesty. Snarkasm. And it’s the kind of thing you’ll appreciate, like at :45 when we have a light moment about ICANN’s commitment issues, and at 2:13 when Nic talks about how domainers actually feel about the flood of new extensions. In between those two benchmarks, Nic shares why businesses should get in on the trademark clearinghouse and how the New TLD Watcher is the place to get started on your quest for the perfect domain name.

Get to know how honest, fun, and informative learning about the future of the Internet can be. Get to know New TLD Nic.

Watchlists, pre-registrations, and sunrise/landrush: How to prepare for new TLDs

The New Dots: Keeping you up to speed on new TLDs

If you’re starting to look into new TLD options, then you’re just in time to be really confused by the multitude of lists and services available to you right now. Watchlists, pre-registrations, sunrise, landrush—how will you know when the new TLDs you want to register will be available, and how do you navigate through the different options available to you right now? Lucky for you, we’ve put together this informative and handy-dandy guide to watchlists, pre-registration, and sunrise/landrush.

Watchlists and pre-registration: What’s the difference?

You’ll sometimes see these terms used interchangeably, but while watchlists and pre-registration may be used together (such as our New TLD Watcher, which allows you to watch extensions and specific domains), they aren’t always the same thing. Both offer the opportunity to express your interest in a new TLD before it’s officially available, and both are used by registrars to gauge how to prepare the market, but watchlists and pre-registration have different levels of commitment and serve different purposes:

The ICANN Showdown: Private Auctions, ICANN Auctions, and Sword Fights (Hopefully)

Although we’ve repeatedly suggested sword fights, pistol duels, pick a card, and freeze tag as possible resolution methods for deciding which new TLD applicant should win a contention set, ICANN’s decided to stay with auctions. And okay, ICANN, maybe that’s more “mature,” but where’s the fun? We’re still trying to advocate for the micro machine commercial guy to moderate the auctions, which we’d like to be held in a life-size replica of Thunderdome, but until we hear back from ICANN, we’ll review how contention sets are actually going to resolve so you’ll know what to realistically expect as the application process continues.

What is a contention set?

A contention set is any group of applicants applying for the same new TLD. There are over 200 strings that have more than one applicant (the most applicants one TLD has is 12). For these sets, community applications get first priority. If the community application does not pass Initial Evaluation, or in the event there is no community application, there are two main methods for resolving the set: private auctions and ICANN auctions.

Private Auctions:

Private auctions occur only when each applicant in a contention set agrees to an auction method and third party moderator. There are currently three proposed methods: A “sealed bid” auction, in which every applicant issues one bid and the winner pays the second highest bid, which is then distributed among the other applicants; an “ascending clock model” auction, in which each applicant is given an order of betting and must either bet higher than the last applicant or bow out; a “live auction,” much like our Thunderdome proposal (you know, sans battling to the death), in which all applicants will meet to outbid one another.

ICANN Auction:

It should be noted that ICANN does not want to hold ICANN auctions. In the guidebook, ICANN highly encourages applicants to settle contention sets privately. If sets go to an ICANN auction, meaning not all applicants agreed to a private auction, the proceeds of the auction will go toward funding the ICANN program or “good works.”

Private Auction Pros:

  • If auctions are held early, applicants that do not win auctions will be able to recuperate some of their costs by withdrawing. If the applicant withdraws before their Initial Evaluation is over, they’ll receive 70% of their $185,000 investment. If they withdraw after IE, they’ll receive 30%. If they wait until ICANN auctions, they’ll receive nothing.
  • Private auctions allow for the flexibility to partner with other applicants, meaning that two smaller entities might be able to run a TLD together or outbid a bigger applicant.
  • Applicants that lose one or more private auctions will be able to use their losing funds to win an auction somewhere down the road. This is particularly advantageous for applicants with more than one application.

Private Auction Cons:

Google, Uniregistry, and Amazon stated that they will not be headed to private auctions, while Donuts has agreed to enter into private auction for 63 strings (set to occur on June 3). Many wonder why Donuts, who applied for 307 TLDs, agreed while other TLD behemoths Google (101 applications) and Amazon (76 applications) bowed out. It’s hard to say what advantages an applicant gains from waiting until a last resort auction, but here are some drawbacks to private auctions that may be holding some companies back:

  • Private auctions can result in large-scale bidding wars between heavy hitters. Because the big three companies have applied for a lot of TLDs, many worry that they’ll strike agreements with one another that will leave all other smaller entities out of the private auction process. It should be noted, however, that an ICANN auction will probably cost bidders more money than a private auction and just as easily box small bidders out.
  • It’s hard to determine the worth of a new TLD until all applications make it through IE.
  • Waiting until after IE will ice-out a lot of competitors who are worried about facing big corporations and passing IE. Applicants with objections and little financial backing are likely to bow-out before an ICANN auction occurs.
  • Most importantly, waiting until after IE ensures that all bidders are in fact in the running. If an applicant wins an auction, but does not pass IE, that TLD is left in the lurch.

Private or ICANN auctions – determining which applicant will win contention sets is sure to be an exciting and dramatic process, and since we love dramz, keep checking back here to read about new updates in the application and auctioning process. To watch your favorite new TLDs, sign up for our free watcher here.

New TLD withdrawal update: Who’s ditching the application process, and why?

In the last month, seven applications have been withdrawn from the new TLD process, rounding out the to-date withdrawal number at 62. (For a full list, click here.) It may not seem like it in the face of 1,900+ applications, but 62 withdrawals is kind of a big deal and accounts for an $8 million loss for ICANN, and a loss of more than $3 million for these companies collectively (not including the legal costs involved in presenting and updating their applications, or the cost of time and manpower keeping up with a process that has dragged on much longer than expected).

The main question asked when an applicant withdraws is, “Why?” Fortunately, while many companies have been very tight-lipped on the issue, some companies are issuing releases, thereby helping to define four main reasons for withdrawal:

1. Money and Time. Because right now withdrawals receive 70 percent of their $185,000 application fee in refund, and because that percentage will drop to 35 percent after IEs, we’ll likely see more withdrawals before the Initial Evaluations are through. Aside from the costs of applications, many companies are bailing before contested strings go to auction in order to avoid getting into a contest with bigger companies, like Donuts, Google, or Amazon.

But we’re seeing some big hitters bail, too, like GM pulling .chevrolet, .cadillac, and .gmc (GM has stated that they plan to pull .buick and .chevy, as well), Hilton pulling .hilton, and Heinz pulling .heinz. For these corporations, objections and competition aren’t really a concern — they’ve seemed to have decided that the investment in time and money isn’t going to pay off in the end.

2. Objections. Some applicants are facing scrutiny from government entities, the GAC, the Independent Objector, the public, communities, or all of the above, and so failure may be too eminent. Examples include Top Level Domain Holdings withdrawing .sale, .free, .zulu, and .spa, GMbH Registry withdrawing .gmbh, and the American Cancer Society withdrawing .heart and .stroke. All of these withdrawals have followed early warnings and objections.

3. Community Protection. Probably the most notable example of this type of withdrawal was when Swiss Airlines withdrew their application for .swiss in the face of objections from the Swiss community. In that instance, the Swiss community also had an application in place, that took priority over the Swiss Airline application. The Hartford Fire Insurance Co. also withdrew their application for .hartford, and many are waiting to see if other applications like .amazon, .africa, and .patagonia will follow suit.

4. The Recent GAC RecommendationsThe recent GAC recommendations have pushed back the ICANN timeline for new TLDs — at least until after the South Africa ICANN meeting, in July. At this point, applicants have been waiting to see which applications will move through the IE, in order to gauge the competition in contested string lots. The main example here are the most recent withdrawals of .mail, by Afilias, and .llc and .inc by C.V. TLD care — all of which occurred after the recent publication of the GAC guidelines. Each of these TLDs is contested, as well — .mail, by the USPS, and .llc and .inc by governmental agencies concerned that the integrity of the LLC and INC registered marks will be compromised.

We’ll keep watching the TLD process and keep you updated on changes and withdrawals, but to follow your favorite TLDs and receive up-to-date information as they make their way through the application process, please sign up for our free watcher service.

GAC Recommendations May Slow New gTLD Process

Remember when you were a kid and you had to do all your chores before going outside? So you’d finish putting away the dishes, or whatever, and ask your parents to go outside, and they’d keep adding chores. “Clean the cat litter,” they’d say. Hours later, the sun would be setting, and you’d be crying at your window, like Cinderella. Okay, so maybe that was Cinderella. The point is, that’s precisely what seems to be happening with the new gTLD process — we want the new gTLDs to come out to play, but now the GAC (Governmental Advisory Committee) has a few more things they need new TLDs to do before they can leave the house.

So what’s going on with new TLDs, why does the GAC want ICANN to consider new safeguards, and what does that mean for the whole process? Here’s a breakdown:

Background: Beijing

On April 11th, the GAC released its Beijing Communique, outlining recommendations for new TLDs. The communique basically let ICANN know that the GAC isn’t currently satisfied with the direction of many new TLDs, including closed generic terms and market sector terms. You can download the full communique here, but the advice section contains the following notable recommendations:

  1. Due to lack of community support, .ISLAM and .HALAL ought not to proceed.
  2. .SHENZHEN, .PERSIANGULF, .GUANGZHOU, .AMAZON, .PATAGONIA, .DATE, .SPA, .YUN, .THAI, .ZULU, .WINE, and .VIN should not be allowed to proceed past the Initial Evaluation stage due to their perceived negative effect on the communities they might be associated with.
  3. ICANN should reconsider their stance on singular and plural strings, as the inclusion of both may be confusing to users.
  4. Six new safeguards, outlining security and privacy practices, should be put in place by contract, putting more weight on applicants and registries to make sure their new TLDs are run with utmost concern for safety and credibility.
  5. Strings that are related to market sectors ought to operate within applicable laws, should act in the public’s interest, and should adhere to multiple safeguards that ensure the strings are used to help markets function healthily — the GAC includes a “non-exhaustive” list of over 180 different proposed strings that ought to be included.
  6. .WTF, .GRIPE, .SUCKS, .FAIL ought to be regulated to reduce cyber bullying and misuse.

What’s Happening Now: Community Forum

In response to this advice, on May 10th, ICANN opened a community forum to collect feedback and responses concerning the communique and how it ought to be implemented, including this timeline, that branches all the way out into late June. The comment period ended on May 14 and there are over 90 responses in the thread inbox of community input, which you can access here. ICANN’s review of the comments will take until June 20 to complete.

The responses range in tone and direction, from concerned trademark holders and communities standing with the GAC and against allowing certain threads to be approved without added safeguards (such as Michelin Tires objecting the use of .TIRES by Bridgestone), to applicants that are sick of waiting through another advisory process and want to see the new TLD process move forward, instead of inching back (such as Google’s concern that the GAC has overstepped its bounds in advising how the new gTLD program should perform as a whole).

It seems that once again, the ICANN community, and it’s stakeholders are in a locked horns position, between those who have an invested interest in new gTLDs making it through, and those who have an invested interest in certain nTLDs failing.

What’s Next?

While ICANN doesn’t have to accept all of the GAC’s recommendations, its clear that for the time being, its New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC) will takes it time in reviewing all the safeguards and recommendations, as well as try to discern whether or not the GAC is maintaining its stance as one advisory component in a multi-stakeholder, bottom-up democratic approach, or if it’s being heavy-handed. Until then, many applications will be on hold, including closed generics, market sector related TLDs, and so on.

Because the GAC’s list is non-exhaustive, and the GAC states that more safeguards may have to be put in place for certain strings than others, the recommendations have the ability to affect a very large amount of applicants. Aside from the broad range of the recommendations, the GAC states that their next meeting will be at the next ICANN convention in South Africa on July 14, which many applicants worry will mean decisions on their applications might not be made until late July.

What Do You Think?

Weigh in. It’s no secret that we, as a registrar, really kind of want new TLDs to start launching already. We’ve been waiting for a long time, and we’re excited to see how the new Internet is going to react. But, what do you think? Do you think the GAC has gone too far, or is the measure of their concern mirrored in the community? What would you do, if you were in charge of ICANN?

Let us know — and keep an eye on the new TLDs, as they make their way through the application process, by signing up for our watcher.

Don’t Let Plural and Singular New TLDs Get You Down

Car. Cars.

The last time you were visually confused by these two words was probably first grade, but a lot of experts are concerned that in the context of TLDs, you’ll be confused. They’ve got a point. Before you balk, take a look at this:

  •,,,,,,,, marley

The above are all possible domain names, if .auto, .car, .cars, and .autos all launch. Confusing, right? Particularly if you’re trying to remember which one your friend told you is the absolutely, undeniably, hands-down most bitchin’ site to buy a car on. You’ll be wishing you wrote that one down.

Ever since the ICANN String Similarity Independent Panel issued their final say on singular and plural domains, deciding that both were ultimately permissible, there’s been a lot of worry in the domain industry. At the Beijing conference early April, the GAC brought up the concern with ICANN and requested that ICANN reconsider their position. Since ICANN uses an Independent Panel to excuse themselves from possibly biased decisions, they stated that at this time they’d defer to that panel.

So what should you do? How can you protect yourself from confusion madness?


Put on a Bob Marley song, or whatever works for you (we don’t judge), and take a deep breath. Five reasons not to worry:

  1. This isn’t the first time confusion could have occurred with TLDs. Take .biz and .bz, or .co and .com, or the multi-uses of ccTLDs, like .me, which is both the ccTLD for Montenegro and a personal website TLD option. These are potentially confusing, and yet they exist peacefully.
  2. Sure and are super-confusing. Which is why, as a brand owner, you would never register these sites, unless you were just trying to land traffic. It’s why car manufacturers don’t name their cars “car” and their dealerships “cars.” and will probably both be registered by Chevy, the trademark owner – and they’ll probably lead to the same place.
  3. One registry may fail. But these applicants knew going in that each proposed gTLD was a risk, and many went with plurals right of the bat. Why? Variety. And variety is the spice of capitalism. The market seems to always figure out how much it can take. While .car might be registered mostly by a few large-scale dealerships, .cars might end up being a desired registry for blogs, forums, and other small-scale webpages, and at that point both TLDs are discernible.
  4. You are not going to have to register your company in each possible TLD. We know many of you are small business owners and purse strings are tight. Owning several domains has always been a part of your business plan, and you may decide to select a market-specific TLD, but you don’t have to. Registering your trademark in the Clearinghouse will help keep you protected, but it’s not even possible now to register every possible TLD. And that’s okay. When’s the last time you landed on the wrong page via a typo and thought, “Hey! I’ll just shop on this shitty site instead of the cool one I really wanted?” Never. Neither will your customers. Get the ones you really want, keep your eye on the TMCH, and move on.
  5. There’s going to be so much room on the Web. And you get to be a part of that. Do you want to add a page detailing your promotions? Use a .PROMO. Want to start a new blog about beer? Use .BEER. It’s possible to stretch your legs and find your own piece of the Net.

Here’s the main thing: ICANN already has a bunch of rules. 338 pages worth, to be exact. And there are checks and balances, as well as a multi-stakeholder approach, meant to rule out any mistakes. Not everything can be delegated, though, and not every mistake can be avoided. It’s just like government – too little rules, chaos; too many rules, not enough freedom. And every market needs freedom because every market needs competition and choices.

Rule out plurals, and ICANN rules out plurals in other languages, in which visual similarity may not even be an issue. Rule out words with one letter difference, and .shop and .show might not make it. Eventually, it’s up to you, the consumer, to decide what lasts and what goes the way of the wagon. We trust you.

What is Pre-Delegation? New gTLDs and the Final Phase of the Application Process

If you’ve been following new gTLDs through the application process, then you’ve been hearing a lot about “pre-delegation.” Maybe you’ve wondered what this final phase of application entails.

Well, lucky for you, we read the ICANN guidebook for fun — we take it on vacation, have it downloaded to our tablets to read in bed, and quote it every chance we get. If you don’t find the same joy in the 300+ page guidebook, congratulations. You’re waaaay cooler than us. Since we’ve done the legwork for you, here’s an easy guide to pre-delegation and what to expect before new TLDs move to the delegation stage (the launch phase).

Pre-Delegation Explained:

After applications make it through the initial evaluation process (more about that here), they’ll need to go through pre-delegation, a series of tests an applicant must pass before being granted delegation into the root zone (the top-level domain name server zone). The testing ensures that each applicant has the technical and operational capabilities and mode of operation in place to provide registry services in a safe and secure manner, according to ICANN’s guidelines.

Although pre-delegation is currently slotted to occur IE pass results and contract signings, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade may allow pre-delegation testing to occur while ICANN continues to move through IEs, in order to speed the process of delegation. The suggestion to do so was made at the Beijing ICANN summit earlier this month, by Donuts co-founder Jon Nevett, who felt the actual process should better reflect the timeline ICANN seems to be already following.

The Three Phases of Pre-Delegation:

DNS Infrastructure Testing and Prerequisites: DNS, or the Domain Name System, which is often described as the “phone book for the Internet,” provides a naming system that translates user-friendly domain names into numerical IP addresses. The DNS infrastructure testing done for the pre-delegation phase of application is meant to ensure that applicants have the capability to run DNS functions properly.

Registry System Testing and Prerequisites: During the registry system testing, applicants submit data proving they can handle the duties of a registry – including registering a large volume of new TLDs, providing WhoIs data on each registered domain, and handling the technical and operational function capacity of a registry.

Requirement to Provide for Continuity of Basic Registry Operations: For this final test, ICANN requires a financial annualized plan put in place to provide basic registry functions “in case of registry failure.” The financial plan is meant to act as a back-up plan in case the applicant does not succeed in providing a fully operating registry and needs to scale-back to bare-bones operational capabilities until a solution can be reached. It’s a step meant to protect those who own domains within the registry.

The ICANN guidebook goes into more detail about the specific tests of pre-delegation (we lovingly left those details out, but you can download the guidebook off the ICANN website). Most tests are run by the applicants, who then provide data to ICANN, but ICANN runs its own tests, when needed. At the end of pre-delegation, applicants may enter into an agreement with ICANN, after which they may launch their new TLDs.

So how long will it take new gTLD that are passing through Initial Evaluation to launch? 

The pace of pre-delegation depends on the readiness of the applicant – if the applicant has all their systems in place, and has made the functionality of their systems clear in application, the pre-delegation phase is merely a formality. For those who need to tweak their proposed systems, or who need to provide more security, the pre-delegation phase may extend longer.

If pre-delegation is allowed to start immediately, before signed contracts, then launches will occur at a faster rate than if applicants are required to wait for IE results before pre-delegation testing, and then will have to wait for testing before delegation.

Keep an eye on your favorite nTLDs, as they move through the application process, by using our nTLD watcher. And keep checking back here. We’ll have up-to-date information on the nTLD application process throughout each phase.

Closed Generic new gTLDs – What Should ICANN do Next?

You can hardly swing a dead cat around NewTLDland without hitting some controversy — particularly concerning closed generic new gTLDs.  March’s conversation concerning the possible consequences of allowing them, and what ICANN should do concerning their implementation, resulted in the GAC (Governmental Advisory Committee) issuing a broad recommendation a couple weeks ago, stating that “strings representing a generic term,” that are also restricted, should “serve a public interest goal.” It’s still up to ICANN to decide what that means, and whether or not to follow the guideline in the first place, and until they make the decision plenty of sources are weighing in.

In the spirit of camaraderie, we’d thought it would be fun to take some time, examine the issue, and try and predict the future without any actual ability to predict the future.

What is a “Closed Generic” new TLD?

“Closed generic” refers to any proposed new TLD that embodies a generic term, like .app, .cloud, and .car, but with closed registration, meaning that the registry selects who can register based on their own criteria, often limiting registration to the company. One example is the possibility of Amazon becoming the registry for .book and closing the registration to only allow those who publish e-books for Amazon’s Kindle service to apply for a .book domain.

In a lot of instances, proposed generic term new TLDs have more than one applicant. Community applicants get first dibs on whatever extension they apply for, but if there is no community application, generic term extensions are up for grabs, and are often applied for by both open and closed registry applicants, which is why the conversation has become so heated.

The Arguments on Either Side

Some believe that generic new TLD registrations should remain open to every Internet user, regardless of the ramifications. To those who support completely open registrations, the free market takes the place of any restrictions, or policies, in controlling a new TLD and determining the direction and definition of any given term. According to these opponents, restricting a generic term registration damages the market related to the generic term, closes smaller businesses out, reduces competition, and acts against public interest.

Others argue that a free market is a free market, no matter where that market starts. Any entity with the money could apply for a TLD, and when an applicant gets the registry rights, that applicant can do whatever they want with the registry, says those who support closed registrations. Because the registry rights also represent a free market. Those who support closed generic term registries also argue that open registries increase phishing, cyber squatting, and scams, and create a market that cannot gain credibility because anyone can register,  and therefore fails as a go-to source.

So, what will ICANN do?

ICANN has a few options with how to deal with this dilemma, but no easy solutions. There’s nothing in the guidebook, according to ICANN, to restrict closed generic registries (others interpret the guidebook code of conduct to include taboos on running exclusive or closed generic term registrations), so ICANN is not obligated to change their proceedings at all.

ICANN could amend their policies,  stress the approval of open generic registries over closed, like they have with community registries, request that applicants redefine their registry terms, or do nothing at all. However, in light of the recent GAC advice, and objections, the chances of ICANN doing nothing seems slim.

Let us know what you think. What should ICANN do? If you’re watching new gTLDs, then the discussion is worth keeping your eye on, as it will likely dictate what extensions you’ll keep watching and which ones are going to be closed off to you, and other users like you. Keep an eye on your favorite nTLDs with our watcher, and keep checking back here – we’ll update information as the discussion continues.