Early this morning, at 7:30 AM Prague time, a group of new gTLD applicants and members of the gTLD Registries Stakeholder Group (RySG) gathered in a meeting room to adopt the charter for a new group, the New TLD Applicant Group, or NTAG. The group was established under the umbrella of the RySG; its charter was based off the RySG charter and the group will utilize RySG resources like a mailing list and an administrator who can set up conference calls.
Here’s the rub: as one participant pointed out, there are “about 800 other applicants who [weren’t] in the room” during this meeting. 800 may not be an exact number, but it’s certainly not overly hyperbolic. There were only about 30 or 40 people in the room. Specifically, there was a huge dearth of brand owners present – in fact, it seems there are very few brand owners in Prague at all, despite the fact that brand owners participated heavily in the application process, filing about one-third of all applications.
After settling on a charter and deciding what kind of mailing list should be set up, the newly minted NTAG moved into a discussion of – what else? – new gTLD application batching. The group entertained various ideas and proposals, with the goal of reaching some consensus that it could then present to the larger ICANN community, including the Board. A few of us from FairWinds were sitting in the room, and it was clear to us that certain ideas that got floated were definitely not in the best interest of brand owners who applied, especially those who applied for a single .BRAND gTLD.
The fact is, ICANN can be an intimidating place. It is without a doubt a setting that favors insiders, and newcomers can find it difficult to break in – the acronyms alone can leave you scratching your head. But at the end of the day, this is where the rules come from. As new gTLD registry operators, brand owners are going to have to play by ICANN’s rules, regardless of whether or not those rules are developed by a group of people in a conference room who know absolutely nothing about their interests. The idea of just not participating in the ICANN process should simply not be an option for brand owners who applied for and intend to operate their own new gTLDs.
This does not necessarily mean that every new gTLD applicant should designate or hire an individual to handle ICANN participation (believe us, it can be a full-time job). There are other options, and there will likely be more options that emerge over time. But sitting on the sidelines is, to be quite blunt, a bad idea. The game is going to be played either way, and its outcome will affect you. It’s time to gear up and start playing.