Frequently Asked Questions
What is a new gTLD and what is the new gTLD programme?
A TLD, or Top Level Domain, is a hostname entered into the root zone of the Domain Name System (DNS) from which common second level domains can be derived and used for resolving websites and email. A Generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) such as .com or .net should be distinguished from the country specific ccTLDs such as .uk, .de and .us. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is contracted by the US government to control and maintain the DNS. In 2008 they announced their intention to liberalise the top level of the DNS to theoretically allow anyone to apply for the Generic Top Level Domain of their choice. This plan was finally approved at the ICANN meeting in Singapore in June 2011.
Why is it being introduced?
“To foster diversity, encourage competition and enhance the utility of the DNS”. In short, these are some if ICANN’s core values, which guide its mission and policies.
How many new gTLDs will be introduced?
ICANN has not set a limit on the number of new gTLDs which can be applied for, but in the first round they estimate that they will receive 500-1000 applications for unique terms. They have stated that no more than 1000 new gTLDs will be delegated into the root zone in any one year, in order to preserve the stability of the DNS.
Who can apply?
Any company or organisation in good standing can apply for a new gTLD. As part of the evaluation process background checks will be carried out on the applicant in three areas to ensure they are in good enough standing to operate a gTLD: business diligence, criminal history, and a history of cyber-squatting.
Are there restrictions on what you can apply for?
There are certain limits on what can be applied for as a gTLD. ICANN has a list of terms which are reserved for reasons of DNS stability, and country and territory names are barred from the first application round. Other geographical terms for cities, sub-national place names, and UNESCO regions are also restricted. ASCII Character-strings must contain between three and 63 characters and numerals are not permitted. Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) in scripts other than Latin are allowed, but they must adhere to the ASCII string restrictions once converted to puny code.
Do you need a trademark to apply for a term? If not, can others challenge your application?
You do not require a trademark to apply for a new gTLD. However, if you do apply for a term which another party has trademark rights to they can file an objection with the relevant designated ICANN Dispute Resolution Providers and your application could then enter dispute proceedings (assuming it passes Initial Evaluation) and be rejected. A dispute can also be filed against on application on the grounds of string confusion with another existing or applied-for TLD, if there is opposition from the community it is meant to be representing, or on the grounds that it violates existing legal norms of morality and public order.
Do we know who is going to apply?
So far over 150 organisations have announced they intend to apply, with Canon and Hitachi being the first two corporations to publicly announce that they will be applying in the first round, and many geographical (.london, .paris, .nyc, etc.) and generic (.music, .gay, .ski, etc.) bids having backing. In addition to these 150 organisations, other companies have suggested through their comments at various industry meetings that they may apply. A more comprehensive list of potential applicants is regularly updated here
What are the rules of these new registries?
It is up to each applicant to outline the purpose and mission of their registry in their application. They can choose to leave it open to anyone to register domains or restrict it to a certain interest or community group. Brands may wish to operate a closed registry where only employees and designated partners can register sub-domains, or go for a blocking registry with only two domains to comply with ICANN regulations. It is important to note that if the gTLD is delegated, the applicant is bound by its agreement with ICANN to adhere to its stated registry mission, and can only fundamentally change its registry rules and requirements upon subsequent agreement with ICANN.
How much will it cost?
The official ICANN application fee is $185,000; this is per application (i.e. per term) and there are no discounts available for an applicant who applies for multiple terms. There will be significant additional costs involved in the initial consultation and setting up of your TLD, including the outsourcing to a technical Registry Services Provider and an Escrow Provider. A breakdown of the estimated costs over the first five years of your registry (including two years of set up and three years of full operation) are below. Please note there may be further costs if you employ consultants or carry out external legal reviews during the application process:
How long will the process take?
The application window opens on 12 January 2012 and closes 90 days later on 12 April 2012. It may then take a further six to 17 months to complete the evaluation and delegation process, depending on whether extended evaluation, dispute resolution and string contention procedures are required. According to ICANN’s timetable, the first new gTLDs should be entered into the root zone from November or December 2012.
What will the process involve?
The application consists of 50 questions which can be divided into four parts: applicant information (Q1-12), string information (Q13-23), technical and operational questions (Q24-44) and financial capability questions (Q45-50). All sections are evaluated, but the latter two sections are actually scored and a pass mark of at least 30 points from a possible 41 must be achieved to progress; the technical and operational section is scored out of 30 points and a minimum of 22 must be achieved, and at least eight points are required from the 11 on offer in the financial capability section.
What is a Community-based application?
Each gTLD application must be designated as either a Standard application or a Community-based application. You may mark your application as a Community-based one if it is designed to target and represent a particular defined community. Community-based applicants are required to submit additional evidence of support from their chosen community. Even if your TLD targets a community there is no obligation to specify it as a Community-based application. All other applications should be designated Standard applications.
What if there is more than one application for the same term?
Multiple applications for the same term, or terms deemed confusingly similar, are placed into contention sets at the start of the evaluation process. If they then pass evaluation and overcome any objections, the applicants are invited to come to a resolution between themselves. If this can’t be achieved, any Community-based applicants in the contention set are given priority and will have the option of choosing to enter Community Priority Evaluation. If one application in the contention set passes Community Priority Evaluation the TLD will be awarded to them; if more than one applicant passes Community Priority Evaluation the TLD will be auctioned between these applicants. For contention sets which contain no eligible Community applicants or where Community applicants fail the Community Priority Evaluation, an auction between all members of the contention set will ensue.
What is the danger in not applying?
The primary risk in not applying for your brand in the first round is that if a third party applies for and is granted a TLD matching or closely resembling your brand you will be permanently excluded from registering your brand at the top level of the DNS. Therefore, applying in the first round could be a strategic move in order to keep your future options open. If a rival company applies and you do not then it could also have a negative effect on your standing as an innovator.
Can you see who is applying for what?
Unless an applicant makes a public announcement that they will be applying for a new gTLD (and this will not obligate them to see through their intention) there is no way of knowing who is applying for what until 27 April 2012, two weeks after the application window closes. At this time ICANN will publish a list of all applications it has received. Of course, this will be too late to influence your decision making on whether to apply or not.
How and when can I oppose an application?
The list of applied-for terms will be published by ICANN on 27 April 2012, most probably on their website. At the same time the formal objection filing period will open for seven months, during which you can file an objection to an application with the designated Dispute Resolution Service Provider. Your objection will be reviewed by a panel of experts to determine whether you have sufficient standing to object and if so, Dispute Resolution proceedings will commence.
How will this affect trademark holders?
Trademark holders will feel the effects of the launch of new gTLDs in a number of ways. Some well known trademark holders see it as an opportunity for them to exploit, with Canon intending to apply with the intention of using a .canon as both a marketing tool and a defensive domain registration. Others may view the new gTLD programme in a more pragmatic way, applying on a defensive basis simply because they cannot afford to be seen not to apply.
Even if a trademark holder decides against applying for a new gTLD they will still need to protect their IP in two ways: by monitoring any third party gTLD applications which may infringe their rights and filing an objection if necessary (as mentioned above); and by making appropriate defensive second level registrations under some of the new gTLDs which will go live from early 2013.
What is ICANN going to do with the money generated from the applications and auctions?
As a not-for-profit organisation ICANN are obliged to re-invest any revenue (after costs have been covered) back into ICANN and its initiatives, but they have not yet clarified exactly where these funds will be directed.
What will registries be required to do following the launch of their TLD?
You will need to manage the lifecycle of any domain in your registry, including registering, renewing, modifying and re-assigning domains; you will need to oversee the work of your outsource providers, namely your Registry Services Provider and your Escrow Provider, ensuring that they deliver the services agreed; registrants will need to be monitored for compliance with registry policies and in turn you will need to maintain your own compliance with your obligations to ICANN; you must have an abuse point of contact and a process for managing intellectual property disputes.
Is it possible to wind down my TLD?
It is possible to wind down your gTLD upon termination of the ICANN agreement if all domain names under the TLD are registered to you as Registry Operator, and as long as it is not in the public interest to maintain the operation of the TLD.
Can I transfer the ownership of my TLD?
Yes. You must give ICANN written notice of the re-assignment at least 30 days in advance, and the notice must contain a statement from the current Registry Operator which affirms that the new Registry Operator meets the necessary ICANN obligations. ICANN can request additional information from the new Registry Operator to show they are in compliance with ICANN policies. If ICANN do not explicitly withhold consent within 30 days of receipt of the notice then the re-assignment is accepted
Will there be a second (or further) round of applications? If so, when?
ICANN intend to open a second round of applications as soon as possible; their stated aim is to open the second round a year after the opening of the first round. However, it is unlikely to be this soon as a number of first round applications may still be going through dispute or string contention procedures a year down the line, and ICANN will not open another round until they have carried out a full evaluation of the first round application process. A more realistic date for a second round is late 2013 or 2014.
What is Valideus’ role in all of this?
Valideus are a new gTLD consultancy whose founders have over 15 years of experience in the domain name industry and ICANN issues. We work with brand owners and community leaders in three areas: to help consider and evaluate the opportunity presented by new gTLDs; to guide you through the application process; and to launch and manage your new gTLD registry. We can also provide guidance on how to protect your IP during and after the launch of new gTLDs. For further information please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.