More Batching Updates, Process Still Complicated

FairWinds Partners —  June 7, 2012

Yesterday, ICANN issued another announcement about the batching process for new gTLD applications. For the most part, it’s nothing we don’t already know (and haven’t already blogged about), but peppered throughout the announcement are some interesting new things to consider.

For one, we know that applicants will log back into the TLD Application System (TAS) to select and hit their target time. We now know that applicants will also be able to use a testing feature to gauge the response time of their system and, in some cases, their trigger finger. This can be helpful for those applicants who are still trying to decide whether to use a technology solution to hit their target time, or to just hit the button manually.

Another thing we already knew, that we mentioned way back in our first post about batching, is that it will not only be the secondary timestamp that determines the batch of each application. ICANN will employ a “round robin” approach to make sure that each geographical region is equally represented in the earliest batches. In other words, the first five applications to go into Batch 1 will be those with the best Digital Archery score from North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, and Asia, the Pacific and Australia.

As we said, we already knew about this round robin approach to geographic to ensure geographic inclusivity. But as more and more applicants have come forward with their plans and we’ve gotten a better sense of the field of applicants, the implications of the round robin have become clear. Essentially, the round robin could make batching five times more competitive for U.S. companies than anyone originally expected.

And finally, we already knew that applications in contention sets would be placed into the batch of the earliest application in that contention set. But in this announcement, ICANN clarified that this automatic grouping will only apply to strings that are exact matches – so two applications for .DOG will be placed together, but not applications for .DOG and .BOG, for example.

After this initial grouping, the String Similarity Panel will establish complete contention sets. Once that takes place, similar strings could be reassigned to earlier batches – but they will not oust other applications (bumping those at the end of the list of 500 in Batch 1 to Batch 2, for example). That means we could end up with more than 500 applications in Batch 1.

Batching is set to kick off tomorrow. Learning the results, particularly what applications are in Batch 1, will be important because the success of the gTLDs delegated in the first batch could set the tone for the delegation of new gTLDs in all other batches. But as this is all unfolding, the critics of the Digital Archery are not exactly giving up: just today, ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) made clear its intention to send a letter to the ICANN Board offering its “advice” on the Digital Archery process and recommending that ICANN not move forward with Digital Archery prior to that.

So while ICANN did clarify a number of batching issues with this announcement, it seems safe to say that nothing is really settled just yet.