Given Comprehensive TLD Applicant Guidebook, How Ready Are Applicants? Notes from the Field - Part 1 Published in CircleID, June 17, 2011, by Architelos CEO Alexa Raad

One of the benefits of being a third party (i.e., no financial interest in new TLDs or applying for any) and independent (i.e., self financed and non-exclusive) is that we at Architelos have the natural incentive, not to mention a survival imperative, to try to gain a broad and deep perspective on the market. While no one can accurately predict the future, I’d like to suggest where I think this market is headed and why. These thoughts are based on our observations over the last six months in hopes that both prospective TLD applicants and service providers will benefit.

Today, I’ll discuss the application process.

While I applaud ICANN for tightening the requirements in the application to mitigate risks (abuse, failure, etc.), it’s clear many applicants still under-estimate the effort, planning and thought required to submit a viable application.

We presented a webinar a few weeks ago covering the changes and new requirements in the financial section of the Draft Application Guidebook (DAG).  We had almost 30 attendees, many of them applicants or potential applicants. We covered the most notable additions to the DAG and explained ICANN’s rationale, as well as some suggestions about how to address the issues. We had a very positive response to what we covered, but we were surprised by some of the comments. Namely, many applicants indicated the webinar was helpful because they were not aware of the depth and complexity of some of the responses sought by ICANN. We heard repeatedly, “We are overwhelmed by the requirements.”  My answer: Better to be overwhelmed, yet aware now, than be unpleasantly surprised later.

Another common misconception involved IDNs. The applicants applying for an ASCII gTLD wanted to secure multiple IDN versions of the same TLD but did not fully appreciate the cost or complexity. IDNs can either be a translation or a transliteration of your desired TLD and each, of course, has its attendant technical, IP/trademark and policy issues.

Each IDN TLD is also a separate application—and additional application cost.

And consider the complexity: multiple languages can use the same script; the same language can use multiple scripts; the same country or region can use multiple languages but same script; and a region can use the same language but use slightly different characters of the same script. So each application will require spelling out technical and policy specifications. Plus, the IDNs have a totally different user experience because IDN aware applications aren’t uniformly available.

So what’s the lesson?

For ICANN, it means their communication program should be comprehensive, including not only application guidance, but also educational components such as “Registry 101,” ”IDN Primer,” “Anti-Abuse Policy: Best Practices,” etc.

For the applicant, it means if they are applying for multiple TLDs, each application will be unique in most respects. There are no easy short cuts. No copy and paste.

Think this is complicated? I fear there will soon be more than a few successful applicants with a deer in the headlights look, asking themselves: “Now what?”

I’ll cover running a registry, business modeling and outsourcing in my next post.

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