To batch or not to batch? Icann’s announcement to batch new gTLD’s applications

The applications for new gTLD’s are closed since the 29th of March. For those who were lured by the appeal of new extensions files must be submitted before the 12th of April. A few days before the fatidic date of the 29th of March, ICANN released that it registered 839 candidates, knowing that one candidate can apply for a bunch of extensions. The current estimations give a number ranging from 1000 to 1500 candidates for new gTLD’s.

Could the ICANN assess all the applications?

From the inception of the new gTLD’s, ICANN announced that it could not proceed to the assessment of more than 500 files at a time. In the event where the ICANN would be overcrowded with applications it has been foreseen to set up a batching system. An awaiting group will be evaluated provided the earlier group has been treated up to 80%. Strictly speaking, those who will not be in the first group will see their application postponed of one to two years. One can ask on which criterions the ranking of the group will be made?


The “digital archery” gaming

In order to prevent any favoritism, and in the extent that ICANN decided to rule out the first come first served principle, a gaming was set up in order to split up the candidates in different groups of assessment. The blueprint which has been adopted by the ICANN was unveiled at the last meeting of the institution in Costa Rica and faced harsh criticisms. ICANN launched a batching system in order to divide the applications in bunches if the applications reach the number of 500. It is rather likely that three different groups will be created. Candidates to the new gTLD’s are invited to go on a website where they will forecast the date and time at which they will apply for new gTLD’s. The second step consists in an e-mail of confirmation which will be sent to the candidate in order to confirm its expected date and time. On the due date, the candidate will go again to the aforementioned website and will submit its application at the nearer time he can. The system will issue a variance which calculates the difference between the expected time and date and the effective time and date at which the application was really submitted. As there is no such a thing as a negative variance, the fact to submit your application in advance will not grant you any bonus point, the system will consider that you apply at the time you forecast plus one second. Needless to say that, the better estimation, the better you will be ranked. Given the economic interests which underlie the fact to be assessed in the first group, companies will be gaming actively through this newly system.

This online mechanism has been coined under the expression of “digital archery”. Nonetheless, beyond the metaphor lie the disadvantages which come by the back door. Even some members of the ICANN Board did not extol the virtue of this system which is random and is not so alien to the system of “first come, first served” which was supposed to be ruled out. Strikingly, the ICANN decided to launch this system in order to avoid any liability for illegal lottery.

The underlying goal of the ICANN while launching the new gTLD’s extensions was to blow a wind of liberalization on the whole system of domain name to widen the available offer guarantying a certain geographic diversity. In order to avoid the hurdle of an overrepresentation of a geographic part of the world which will be detrimental to the spirit of the new gTLD’s system, ICANN decided to introduce in addition to the digital archery a proportional model. This pattern will ensure equity between the different countries of the world and will mirror geographic diversity in addition to the time/date variance described earlier.

Moreover, the ICANN introduce another possibility within its new system. For applicants which are not willing to benefit from an early treatment and which want to opt-out of the digital archery system they can do so on the very same online system. This opt-out possibility can be highly strategic for the applicants which want to postpone their applications if their direct competitor does not run for the new gTLD’s.

As the randomness of the system and the gaming it implies seems highly controversial, an informal commission has been set-up which compounds ICANN officials. This commission will try to cope with the loopholes of the system and will propose an alternative system to the digital archery. Auction has been proposed as a solution to solve the intricacies of the digital archery system.

On the 30th of April, ICANN will unveil the name of the candidates for new extensions. However, this date could be postponed if applications are far too important according to ICANN President and CEO (1).