Module 3 to the New gTLD Applicant Guidebook published by ICANN (version 2012-01-11)
New gTLDs have been in the forefront of ICANN’s agenda since its creation. The new gTLD program will open up the top level of the Internet’s namespace to foster diversity, encourage competition, and enhance the utility of the DNS.
Currently the namespace consists of 22 gTLDs and over 250 ccTLDs operating on various models. Each of the gTLDs has a designated “registry operator” and, in most cases, a Registry Agreement between the operator (or sponsor) and ICANN.
The registry operator is responsible for the technical operation of the TLD, including all of the names registered in that TLD. The gTLDs are served by over 900 registrars, who interact with registrants to perform domain name registration and other related services. The new gTLD program will create a means for prospective registry operators to apply for new gTLDs, and create new options for consumers in the market. When the program launches its first application round, ICANN expects a diverse set of applications for new gTLDs, including IDNs, creating significant potential for new uses and benefit to Internet users across the globe.
The program has its origins in carefully deliberated policy development work by the ICANN community. In October 2007, the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO)—one of the groups that coordinate global Internet policy at ICANN—formally completed its policy development work on new gTLDs and approved a set of 19 policy recommendations. Representatives from a wide variety of stakeholder groups—governments, individuals, civil society, business and intellectual property constituencies, and the technology community—were engaged in discussions for more than 18 months on such questions as the demand, benefits and risks of new gTLDs, the selection criteria that should be applied, how gTLDs should be allocated, and the contractual conditions that should be required for new gTLD registries going forward. The culmination of this policy development process was a decision by the ICANN Board of Directors to adopt the community-developed policy in June 2008. A thorough brief to the policy process and outcomes can be found at http://gnso.icann.org/issues/new-gtlds.
ICANN’s work next focused on implementation: creating an application and evaluation process for new gTLDs that is aligned with the policy recommendations and provides a clear roadmap for applicants to reach delegation, including Board approval. This implementation work is reflected in the drafts of the applicant guidebook that were released for public comment, and in the explanatory papers giving insight into rationale behind some of the conclusions reached on specific topics. Meaningful community input has led to revisions of the draft applicant guidebook. In parallel, ICANN has established the resources needed to successfully launch and operate the program. This process concluded with the decision by the ICANN Board of Directors in June 2011 to launch the New gTLD Program.