In the few days since ICANN made the decision to suspend the Digital Archery system for batching applications, discussions about next step have, not altogether unsurprisingly, focused not on how to improve Digital Archery, but alternatives to replace it entirely. Perhaps most significant is the groundswell that seems to be forming around the idea of tossing out batching completely, and instead evaluating all applications at once.
Groups like the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO), one of the largest policy-making groups within the ICANN structure, have expressed their preference for a single batch, even opting to wait a bit longer for gTLD applications to be approved in order for all to be revealed at once – one member even proposed a second, even bigger “Reveal Day.” But like any solution, a single batch presents its own share of logistical challenges.
Specifically, even if all applications were evaluated at once, it would still be impossible to introduce all approved new gTLDs into the root at once. This means there would still be an issue of sequencing – which applicants would get their gTLDs delegated into the root in January versus December? As ICANN Board Chairman Steve Crocker pointed out yesterday, the limit of delegating 1,000 gTLDs per year is not arbitrary; it’s not as if ICANN can dump 1,000 gTLDs into the root on January 1 and then must wait around for a full year until it can add the next group. Only a certain number of gTLDs can be delegated in a given day, hence the issues of sequencing, or who gets placed at the front of the line as opposed to the back.
Then again, other experts have pointed out that the new gTLD application evaluation process contains it own system of inherent delays. Applications in contention sets, for example, will take longer to delegate, as will any applications that have to undergo extended evaluation. But at this point, there just hasn’t been enough time to do the math to see whether or not such a laissez-faire, let-it-play-out-as-it-will approach would be at all feasible. Nor has there been time to ask the community whether such an approach would be acceptable (we’d guess probably not).
Speaking of time, it seems to be a key factor at play here. Yesterday, Kurt Pritz, the new interim head of the New gTLD Program, stated that, as of now, ICANN still plans to begin evaluating applications on July 12 as scheduled (either Batch 1 applications or all applications). Additionally, ICANN has promised the community some update on this batching issue by Thursday. This tight timeline is at odds with desires expressed by the GAC and others who would prefer a slower, more thought-out process.