ICANN Answers Questions about Batching. Sort of.

FairWinds Partners —  March 11, 2012

We were not expecting very much new gTLD news to come out of ICANN’s public meeting in Costa Rica, which opened this weekend. But it appears that ICANN has settled on a solution – or maybe it’s better just to say “process” – for dealing with new gTLD application batching.

In our post “Working on Batches,” we described how the New gTLD Applicant Guidebook includes a provision that if ICANN receives more than 500 new gTLD applications, then applications will be processed in “batches.” The first batch will consist of 500 applications, and subsequent batches will consist of 400 applications apiece. This batching process is designed to allow the third-party evaluator that ICANN hired to process applications to handle any extended evaluations, string contentions, or any other issues that may arise without overwhelming its capacity.

In that post, we also noted that ICANN was working on a plan to determine the order in which applications would be processed if batching were necessary, which seems like the likely scenario, given what we’ve observed thus far. The big rub at that time was that ICANN could not simply use a random selection process to determine the order, since that would violate California’s laws that prohibit unlicensed lotteries, and would open ICANN up to lawsuits.

So now ICANN has settled on a process, titled “Target Time Variance.” Here’s what it will involve:

At some point after the application period closes, each applicant will pick a date and time in the near future to serve as its “target time.” Then, as that target time approaches, they will have to log into ICANN’s TLD Application System and click a “submit”-type button as close to that time as possible. The closer each applicant is to its “target time,” the higher priority its application will be in the batching process.

Basically, ICANN will perform a round robin of sorts, selecting the closest applicant from each of its five geographic areas, and then the second-closest, and then the third-closest, etc.

Of course, this process has now raised concerns that network factors could affect how close an applicant can get to its “target time,” and has prompted speculation that those applicants with access to the best technology will have an inherent advantage.

This “Target Time Variance” has yet to be approved by the ICANN Board, which could happen on Friday during the Board meeting. Fortunately, any applicants who are not concerned about when they will launch their new gTLD registries can opt out of this process. We discussed some arguments for delaying launch in out “Time on Your Side” post.

We will be reporting back here on gTLD Strategy about whether the Board approves the “Target Time Variance” process, and in the meantime, we’ll be scratching our heads about this so-called “solution.”