THE ICANN APPLICATION PROCESS

In June 2008, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced that they would be accepting applications for new Top Level Domains (TLDs) in 2009. On 23 October, the procedures for the application were issued in draft.

This page gives a summary of the application process. To see the full procedures, please visit ICANN.org.

Following the submission of applications, there will be a number of stages before the domains are finally available for use.

Stages of the application

Stage 1 - Administrative Completeness Check

This stage ensures that all questions have been responded to and that all supporting documentation has been provided in the correct format. Failure to do so invalidates the application and it will be rejected.

Stage 2 - Initial Evaluation

There are two main reviews at this stage: String Review and Applicant Review.

String Review
The string review checks the name being requested. In particular, there are checks for the following:
  • String Confusion: Checks are made to ensure that names are reasonably unique and that there would be no confusion between names. If there is confusion with an existing name, then the application will be rejected. To see the comparison algorithm in action, visit http://80.124.160.66/icann-algorithm/Default.aspx. If the confusion is between two applications, then only one will be successful and will be decided in stage 6 (see below)
  • Reserved Names: The name must not be one of the existing TLDs, or other reserved names, including EXAMPLE or TEST
  • DNS Stability: The name chosen should not have a risk of causing technical difficulties for the Internet as a whole. However, names that use the standard alphabet are expected to be approved here.
  • Geographical Names: Where the name represents a geographical area, which includes the applications for London, Wales and Scotland, the application needs to have the backing of the public authorities and governments. This will include both the Scottish Parliament and the UK Government.
Applicant Review
The applicant review checks the stability of the body that is applying for the name. In particular, there are checks for the following:
  • Operational & Technical: The applicat must detail how the name space will be managed. This includes details of how the new name will be managed initially (known as the sunrise period) as well as in the long term. The application needs to provide details of the technical process to cover all aspects including "Denial of Service" attacks. These internet attacks can bring down the Internet for a period of time which would not be tolerated.
  • Financial: The applicant needs to provide evidence of financial backing, stability and operational plans for the gTLD. In particular, the applicant must have reserves for several years to cover the costs of operating while a new operator is found should the registry have difficulties.
  • Registry Services: The services to be offered and supported by the applicant are reviewed here. E.g. new registrations, update of data, transfers, renewals, etc. It also covers the security of the service and how stability is to be maintained, especially during the early stages.

Stage 3 - Objection Filing

During the same time period as the Initial Evaluation, Formal Objections may be submitted on the following grounds:

  • String confusion: similar to the string reviews above, but instigated by a third party
  • Legal Rights: the string infringes on legal rights of the objector, e.g. someone other than eBay applying for eBay!
  • Morality & Public Order: based on accepted international principles of law
  • Community: substantial opposition from a significant portion of the community

When lodging a formal objection, there will be a non-refundable fee in the range of $1,000 to $5,000.

Each application must then file their responses within 30 days.

Stage 4 - Extended Evaluation

If the applicant fails any of the Applicant Review elements of the Initial Evaluation, they may elect for an Extended Evaluation, at an additional cost.

The extended evaluation is performed by an independent team to determine if the original results should stand.

Stage 5 - Dispute Resolution

This will run alongside the extended evaluation and an independent dispute resolution period to determine the outcomes will then follow.

Stage 6 - String Contention

It similar names have been applied for (as outlined in stage 2 above), then all applicants must wait until all previous stages have been completed for each application.

At any stage, the applicants may choose to resolve this between themselves and one or more applicant may withdraw their application. However, those withdrawing cannot apply for a new string. Nor can contending parties combine to form a new applicant.

If there still remains more than one acceptable application, then each application will be compared for suitability.

The comparison procedures are slightly different if the applications are for a community rather than an open application. The key difference is how well the application will support the community. If there is a clear winner (scoring 14 or more points using the scoring shown in the table), then they will be awarded the top leve domain name. If 14 points is not reached, then the names will be sold via an auction process, with the highest bidder getting the name.

Stage 7 - Delegation

Finally, there will be a period of technical testing and negotiation over the licence contract.

The name will be licensed, and the process of sales can commence. To start this will be restricted to trademark holders first, and then registered companies (register prior to June 2008 to avoid anyone trying to jump the queue to get a particular domain name), before being released to the general public.