The day has finally arrived. The new gTLD application period is officially open, and as a special treat to mark the occasion, ICANN has dropped a new version of the New gTLD Applicant Guidebook. This marks the eighth iteration of the Guidebook and, as with earlier updated versions, ICANN has also published a document that summarizes the changes, alongside documentation to justify its reasons for making those changes. The PDF version is available here. In this post, we’ll discuss the changes that will have the most impact on businesses planning to apply for gTLDs.
The first – and arguably the most immediately important – has to do with the TLD Application System (TAS), through which applicants will submit their gTLD applications to ICANN. The TAS asks for a primary and a secondary contact, and previously, both contacts would receive all communications regarding the application. Now, only the primary contact will receive the communications, and the secondary contact will only receive communications if the primary is unable to continue with the application process. Companies that have hired a partner to help them prepare and submit their application may want to consider listing the partner company as the primary contact (if they had not already), in order to avoid having to forward all ICANN emails to that partner.
Another noteworthy update is to the Continued Operations Instrument, or COI (for a full rundown of the COI, refer to the second installment of our “Talking .CHEDDAR” posts). ICANN clarified details about what kind of rating the financial institute that supplies the COI must have, and from which rating agencies. Whereas earlier versions listed Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and A.M. Best as representative examples, this version provides a more comprehensive list, as follows: A.M. Best, Dominion Bond Rating Service, Egan-Jones, Fitch Ratings, Kroll Bond Rating Agency, Moody’s, Morningstar, Standard & Poor’s, and Japan Credit Rating Agency.
That section also includes new information for applicants that require ICANN’s signature on their financial instruments. For the most part, corporate applicants will not need to do this, but if any are considering this path, we encourage them to read through that section.
The final change that businesses should be aware of has to do with the process to release geographic names, which we discussed in our “Geo Concerns” post. ICANN clarified that the approval of a new gTLD application does not actually mean that the applicant’s proposed process for releasing these terms has been approved; rather, that is a separate process that applicants will have to undergo.
In addition to these updates, this new version also includes the new process for batching applications (in the event that ICANN receives over 500), which we covered in our post, “Working on Batches.” It also discusses the Application Assistance Program, which provides financial assistance in the form of a reduced application fee ($47,000 instead of $185,000) to applicants that demonstrate financial need, provide a public interest benefit, and possess the necessary management and financial capabilities. That program is further detailed on ICANN’s New gTLD microsite.
The remainder of the changes to this new version of the Guidebook amounted to clarifications of earlier versions, like making sure applicants know that timeframes listed refer to calendar days, not business days. There is also updated information about the Governmental Advisory Committee’s (GAC) process for submitting Advice to the ICANN Board.
Interestingly, ICANN also added a clause to this version of the Guidebook stating, “It is the policy of ICANN that there be subsequent application rounds, and that a systemized manner of applying for gTLDs be developed in the long term.” This clears up some earlier confusion around the fact that ICANN had never definitively asserted in an official capacity that there would be a second application round. Now, while we still don’t know when it will take place, we can at least be sure a second round will in fact occur.
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