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New gTLD Target date is April 23? Or is it?

I detect some delight in the domain name community today resulting from the latest posted video interview with ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé. In that interview Chehadé states “We are now targeting to be able to recommend for delegation the first new gTLD as early as the 23rd of April…”

On the surface this sounds like very good news.  No doubt by stating a date that Fadi said could slip a few days or weeks, but not months, is a sweet sound to many—at least there is a date.

While the entire interview clearly reinforces to me that Fadi is in control and that ICANN will move forward with implementing the program, I am not entirely convinced that the timeline for actual delegation and start of a sunrise period for an average not-in-contention-or-objection new gTLD applicant could move forward (by my calculations as much as 3 1/2 months) unless we hear more about the other processes that must fall in to line.  Fadi did say that various processes are being aligned or are now in alignment, so that is good to hear.

One process that I’m now assuming is on target is the GAC delivery of advice. That’s a bit surprising given the history, but then reading recent GAC statements and seeing how Fadi has reached out to various stakeholders in the short time he has been in control makes it seem plausible.  For example, he states that there has been more progress in his leadership roundtables and discussions with registries and registrars in the past weeks than there has been in the past two years.

So what does the date of April 23 mean for the Priority Draw #1 (IDN) applicant and the average not-in-contention-or -objection applicants that follow?  Well one thing that I didn’t hear are the words ‘requested for delegation.’  I heard ‘recommended.’  Does ‘recommend’ actually mean that ICANN will submit a root zone delegation request to IANA for the Priority Draw #1 applicant on April 23rd? And will they request delegation at a rate of up to 100 per week until they reach the limit of 1,000 for the year?

I’m not yet seeing April 23 a date that the Priority #1 Draw (IDN) Applicant could be live in the DNS, or even requested to be delegated, unless somehow someway the other processes have been changed or greatly accelerated. For example, ICANN has stated that no contracting activity would take place until after the Beijing meeting in mid-April.

Such processes include, for example, the all-important metering rate per week for PDT and Delegation Processing, # of days for contracting, # of days to process PDT, # of days for ICANN to submit root zone delegation request after the applicant passes PDT, # of days for IANA to process the root zone delegation request, # of days after Delegation before Sunrise Period begins.

Using my New gTLD Delegation Date Calculator and changing around a few assumptions, such as reducing the ‘Fudge Factor’ from 110 to 30 days, assuming a metering rate of 100 gTLDs per week instead of 20, slashing in half the time it takes ICANN to submit delegation requests and for IANA to process them, we could be looking at a first actual delegation date of June 3rd with a first assumed sunrise start date of July 3rd, give or take a few days. Holy moly that’s a full 3 1/2 months earlier than my previous calculation.  In theory Draw #1000 (or in sequence but not in contention or objection) could then be delegated by September 27 of this year.  But wow that would take a lot of aligning, pushing and shoving, and assumes no formal objections, no negative GAC advice, lawsuits, etc.

In any event Fadi and ICANN seem to be saying that the new gTLD program is going to happen, and that it is going to happen faster, by possibly as much as 3 1/2 months sooner than some might have previously thought.  If that’s the case, and you have not done so yet, it’s time to start thinking about your target market, your competition, your messaging, your channel, and executing your plan. Is it time to get the party started?


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I’m impressed by Fadi.

I could have ignored today’s ICANN New gTLD Applicant Update Webinar and just read summaries from the usual respected news and industry sources. However, with three hours slotted and likely questions regarding ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé’s somewhat eyebrow-raising comments at the regional ICANN Registry-Registrar meeting in Amsterdam last week—led me wanting to hear it all myself.

I’m glad I tuned in. The initial odd item was that there was not the usual participant chat-room function. ICANN mentioned this specifically at the start of the webinar. Some folks seemed annoyed but actually I found it refreshing. I think it helped the presenters and audience focus on the content and Q&A without the usual noise—good or bad. Now of course there is controversy and criticism that needs to be heard; but if everyone had been in a real physical room they would not be interrupting the presenter and would not be able to speak at more than a whisper. They’d have to resort to Skype or some other external chat function which we all know goes on at every ICANN meeting. So maybe that’s one reason the webinar ended after 1:50 instead of 3 hours—after anyone who wanted to ask a question was seemingly given the chance to do so—and live on the phone so everyone could hear the question straight from the participant’s mouth.

The welcome surprise was Fadi’s participation and remarks. He discussed ‘Sector Maturity.’  He talked about a possible ‘registrant bill of rights’ and the need to manage ourselves as an industry…or we will be managed.  He talked about opportunities and responsibilities that we need to embrace.  He said we must be mature, responsible, and ‘take care of ourselves.’  He urged us to “rise above our unique or individual issues or lenses” and try to see the bigger picture. It was a bit of a rehash of what he said in Amsterdam but I think it was important that today’s webinar participants heard it straight from his mouth, with all the inflection and tone—and not from an online news report.

Fadi’s remarks demonstrated to me that he is trying to lead a multi-stakeholder organization to fully grasp the high-level purpose and direction to take while also tackling head-on the minutiae and massive undertaking of the new gTLD program—let alone the incredible change management challenges it is heaving upon the ICANN staff.

I won’t get into all the real challenges that we all know still need addressing, but what I did hear at a macro level from Fadi and the others made me shift from negative to neutral at this stage on the prospects of the first new gTLDs being delegated into the root before this year is done. Unfortunately I can’t shift to positive until I actually see ICANN adhering to deadlines. There are several coming down the pipe in the next 90 days so let’s see what happens.

Fadi also remarked that “we will not jeopardize the stability of the DNS,” and are doing everything they can to keep the new gTLD program on track. He said, “to be super clear,” that ICANN is doing the work that is expected of them and that dates for the new gTLD program discussed in Toronto are on track. “We will not change it, unless there are DNS stability reasons for doing so.” OK, so that’s an out that could be applied in a variety of theoretical situations, but his further statements that he intends to increase the volume of communication on new gTLD operational issues and plans to attend future webinars leads me to believe we have a capable and likeable leader at ICANN.

Leaders continually guide, assert and clarify common goals in the big overall picture while getting their hands dirty.  Fadi seems to be doing such things and to that I offer a toast: “May we see deadlines met and new gTLDs delegated this year with no stability issues at all to the DNS.”