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2014 was a year for ICANN to take stock, deliberate, and realize significant progress in its management of new gTLDs. Delegation did not take place at the rate that ICANN had predicted, but instead, the organization worked through key milestones and developments of its own process and the New gTLD Program.

Before we transition into 2015, here is a look at the past 12 months and some of the key themes and developments of 2014.

ICANN’s Recognition of .BRAND gTLDs

Since the opening of the New gTLD Application period in early 2012, those familiar with the program distinguished between more traditional gTLDs, where second-level registrations are open to third parties (like .COM), and gTLDs matching trademark terms operated by strategic companies (.BRANDs).

In the latter, the gTLD would be controlled by the applying brand and registrations in the gTLD would be limited to the corporate applicant and affiliated parties, rather than allowing registrations by third parties. However, ICANN never allowed for or made a formal distinction between these types of applications or gTLDs.

In March of this year, the ICANN Board approved Specification 13, which added provisions to the Registry Agreement for qualifying .BRAND gTLDs. Specification 13 provides intellectual property protections and grants exemptions from certain obligations included in the Registry Agreement for qualifying Registry Operators.

ICANN set a high bar to qualify for Specification 13 and also set registration restrictions within the .BRAND; however, it was the first time ICANN made an official distinction between gTLDs open to third party usage and gTLDs used by strategic enterprises to support brands and trademarks.

While only a minority of Specification 13 .BRANDs have been delegated to date and Specification 13 is limited in nature, Specification 13 created a formal distinction and status for .BRANDs within the New gTLD Program.

The Globalization of ICANN

ICANN began its effort to globalize in 2013 with the opening of Engagement Centers around the world and the establishment of three operational hubs. However, these efforts were taken to another level when the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced its intention to transition the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions away from the United States to the global multi-stakeholder community. This thrust ICANN into the global spotlight and into the forefront of Internet Governance discussions.

The current expiration date for the NTIA’s IANA functions is September 30, 2015 and many believe the U.S. government will renew this contract for at least an additional year. Despite this, the March announcement has resulted in a flurry of work both inside and outside of ICANN to develop a proposal that would transition this current responsibility of the U.S. Department of Commerce away from the NTIA.

Since March, ICANN and other affected bodies have worked to develop and implement their own processes and mechanisms to develop a transition plan to be reviewed and approved by the U.S. government. While we will need to wait until 2015 to see the finalization of these proposals and potentially, the implementation of this transition plan in the fourth quarter of 2015, a lot of the groundwork has been completed during the past year.

With Globalization, A Focus on ICANN’s Accountability

With the transition announcement in March, efforts have begun to enhance the accountability of ICANN and to ensure its accountability moving forward. This new focus arose out of concern regarding ICANN’s accountability after the U.S. government ends its contractual relationship with ICANN as early as September of 2015. While framework has been set within ICANN for these efforts, it will not be until 2015 or even later for some of the elements being examined that we see the outcome and implementation of this community-wide effort.

The Launch of gTLDs

While close to 75 gTLDs were delegated in 2013 and Registry Agreements were executed for over 200, only eight gTLDs opened their Sunrise periods and only one gTLD began its Landrush period in 2013. No gTLDs had entered General Availability at the beginning of 2014.

As of December 15, 2014:

  • There are over 3.5 million registrations in New gTLDs
  • Over 300 gTLDs are accepting registrations by third parties
  • Over 460 gTLDs have been delegated
  • Over 650 Registry Agreements have been executed

In 2014, we saw numerous gTLDs such as .CLUB and .NYC leverage the Qualified Launch Program and launch marketing campaigns to bring attention and drive registrations and usage within their respective gTLDs. We saw brands like .AXA and .MONASH register their first domains.

While we will likely not see all Registry Agreements executed until 2016 and gTLD delegations completed until 2017, 2014 was the year gTLDs were brought to market.

Looking Ahead

While 2014 may not have been as dramatic of a year for the New gTLD Program and ICANN as previous years, 2014 saw the gTLD Program hit some key milestones with the launch of hundreds of gTLDs and over 3 million registrations in new gTLDs. ICANN also received international attention and scrutiny related to Internet Governance that has not and is not expected to dissipate anytime soon.

While many of the key developments in 2015 will depend on the activities related to the NTIA transition and the progress of new gTLDs, below are some key thematic developments we expect in 2015.

  • NTIA Transition of the IANA Functions: While most expect that the NTIA will renew the contract set to expire in September, the Department of Commerce will need to take definitive action one way or the other by September 2015.
  • New gTLD Application Round Reviews: While a second gTLD round is not anticipated to begin until late 2016 at the earliest, a number of the requisite reviews are targeted for 2015, including the Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPM) Review, the independent review of the Trademark Clearinghouse, the Root Stability study, and others.
  • Progression of .BRAND gTLDs: Given that almost all .BRANDs have a contracting deadline of July 29, 2015, we can expect all .BRANDs that are not on hold to execute the Registry Agreement by mid-2015.
  • Resolution of Contention Sets: While there are still outstanding Community Priority Evaluations (CPE) in progress and some contention sets are still on hold due to accountability proceedings, all active contention sets are scheduled to be resolved by March 2015.

shutterstock_143902213Young consumers, especially Millennials, use technology to represent and identify with location, whether by using apps that provide location-specific search results and allow customers to become the “mayor” of a business, or by tagging their present location when posting to Facebook or Instagram.

Businesses can use domain names as another tool to capitalize on the draw of geography: .GEO generic top-level domains (gTLDs) such as .NYC or .LONDON may help businesses, government agencies, and citizens to improve their local online marketing campaigns.

The Growing Appeal of .GEO Domain Names for Local Online Marketing

With 451 new gTLDs now live, .GEO domains are already gaining strong market share. Extensions like .BERLIN, .TOKYO and .LONDON have found themselves among the Top 25 new gTLDs based on total number of domains registered (as of this writing).

GoDaddy has even launched an interactive map where consumers can search domain names based upon geographical location (http://geo.godaddy.com), which may continue to present .GEO domains as appealing options for entrepreneurs and local enthusiasts.

Using a .GEO Doman Name to Improve Local Online Marketing – Some Examples

Being a Bostonian is much more than geography: It’s an identity. It’s being a die-hard sports fan and being “wicked smaht.”

It makes sense, then, for businesses looking to attract Bostonians to harness the enthusiasm for that identity in their local online marketing efforts. And for that, businesses have the option of using .BOSTON.

The Boston Globe applied for the .BOSTON gTLD with the hope to become the central registry for businesses that wish to broadcast their Bostonian identity. Now, businesses can be proud to embody their city’s spirit and show that pride by using a .BOSTON domain name.

Another example, half a world away, is ZA Central Registry. ZA Central Registry, which previously managed .CO.ZA, is expanding to include gTLDs such as .AFRICA, .CAPETOWN, .JOBURG, and .DURBAN.

The goal for .AFRICA on a much larger geographic scale: .AFRICA aims to showcase cities in Africa as ideal tourist destinations and utilize this opportunity for growth and development within Africa.

In both cases, though, a .GEO gTLD is being used to foster and communicate a strong geographic identity that can strengthen a business’ ties with consumers.

What is the Risk of Not Having a .GEO Domain Name?

In a word, cybersquatting.

While gTLDs such as .BOSTON and .AFRICA hope to be a boon for their geographic locations, scammers are already buying up .GEO domain names containing brands in order to take advantage of Internet users. At best, scammers will just put up ads to make money off of the traffic that may come to the site, and at worst, they can set up phishing schemes that can put consumers in harm’s way or harmful content that can damage a brand’s reputation.

Should Your Business Consider a .GEO Domain Name?

.GEO domains do not make sense for all businesses – there are few local online marketing tools, if any, which are one-size fits all. However, it’s important for businesses to consider the marketing and brand-protection benefits a .GEO offers, whether they are small, local businesses or larger corporations.

Domain names are 21st-century real estate with the same attachment that one feels toward a physical “home” or “hometown” to that of a “homepage.” Think about whether a .GEO domain will speak to your authenticity and make your consumers feel welcome and secure.

ICANN recently announced that it may open a second round of the New gTLD Program as early as late 2016.

While 2016 still sounds pretty far away, companies that are considering applying for a .BRAND or .GENERIC should begin assessing its value soon in order to allow enough time to make an informed decision.

Here are five things to consider when analyzing the value of a new gTLD for your company:



1. Who in your Industry has a new gTLD? 

Do some research and learn who in your Industry applied for a new gTLD in the 1st round of applications.

If a lot of companies from your industry applied for their own .BRAND or .GENERIC in the 1st round, you should evaluate the risks of staying out of the next application round.

Even if no brands in your industry applied for a new gTLD, or very few of them did, applying for one in the 2nd round would be an opportunity to innovate within your industry.

Also ask yourself:

  • What other new gTLDs are already out there?
  • How are they being used?
  • Do they draw in Internet users or show up in search?

Looking at .BRANDs and .GENERICs in this way will provide insight into the possibilities for new gTLDs and the potential future use and importance of gTLDs within your industry.


2. Will a .BRAND or .GENERIC support your current and future branding and marketing goals?

Examine your Digital Analytics.

  • Are your online metrics showing any current gaps in success that could be improved by getting and using your own gTLDs?

Examine your Target Audiences.

  • Can a new gTLD help you better cater to some or all of your audiences?


3. Can a .BRAND help with your online security goals?

A .BRAND can provide an added level of security online and increase consumer trust. This can be crucial to:

  • Highly-Regulated Industries
    Companies such as financial services, may migrate to their .BRAND gTLD since it provides a more secure space for consumer interaction.
  • E-Commerce
    Similarly, for companies selling products and services online, a .BRAND gTLD provides a more secure space for online payment.


4. Can a new gTLD help your Current Domain Portfolio?

A new gTLD can help solve domain ownership gaps and assist with online brand protection. Specifically in one of these areas:

  • Domain Ownership Gaps
    New gTLDs provide the opportunity to own any term to the left of the dot, whereas those same terms are probably already snapped up in .COM.
  • Brand Protection/Infringement
    If your company experiences a lot of trademark infringement in the domain space, you could use a .BRAND to communicate to consumers that the content within your gTLD is legitimate and trustworthy.


5.  Are you prepared for the new gTLD application process and fulfilling the requirements of owning and using a .BRAND or .GENERIC?

When applying for a gTLD, there are tactical, procedural, and cost requirements associated with the application process. In addition, there are responsibilities related to running a gTLD registry.

  • Application Process
    In order to apply for a gTLD, the applicant must be able to show it has the technical and financial capabilities to operate a new gTLD. This usually includes partnering with third-parties that can provide required services.
  • Requirements for Running a gTLD Registry
    Owning a gTLD requires on-going compliance with ICANN’s terms and policies. Examples include monthly reporting on registry functions, registration requirements (especially for .BRANDs), and dispute resolution procedures.

Analyzing these five areas will allow you to make an educated decision on whether owning a new gTLD is right for your company.

While Americans are finalizing their shopping strategies for retail’s biggest day of the year, brands have been developing their own Black Friday marketing strategies with new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) such as .BLACKFRIDAY and .CHRISTMAS

How Many Brands Are Using New gTLDs for their Black Friday Marketing and Holiday Marketing Campaigns?

Uniregistry’s new gTLD has seen mild registration numbers so far (11,069), but for top retailers, protecting their trademarks in this string, along with Uniregistry’s .CHRISTMAS (13,380 registrations to date) could provide some holiday peace of mind.

To check how the top 100 online retailers, as ranked by Internet Retailer, have adopted these new strings, FairWinds checked their brand names in both .BLACKFRIDAY and .CHRISTMAS and found some interesting results.

Of the publication’s top 100 retailers:

  • Only 17 have registered their brand names in .BLACKFRIDAY, and only 14 have registered their brand names in .CHRISTMAS.
  • 9 of the 17 brands who have registered in .BLACKFRIDAY and .CHRISTMAS are among Internet Retailer’s top 20 online retailers
  • 8 and 4 brands that rank between 21-100 on the Internet Retailer list have registered in .BLACKFRIDAY and .CHRISTMAS, respectively

Luckily for brands, very few third parties have registered these names either, and the pages that are registered (JCPenney.BLACKFRIDAY or Gilt.CHRISTMAS) either resolve to parked pages or don’t resolve at all. Brands might be losing out on a small number of potential visitors by not registering in these gTLDs, but at least there is no damaging or infringing content to worry about. However, it is important to note, it is still possible for third parties to send emails (such as phishing scams) from these domain names, which is why consumers should always scrutinize emails coming from unfamiliar addresses.

Why Brands Should Consider Using New gTLDs for their Black Friday Marketing and Holiday Marketing Campaigns

A simple solution for brands is to register important trademarks in .BLACKFRIDAY and .CHRISTMAS and have the page point to the brand’s existing shopping homepage. This takes minimal effort on brands’ part, may boost Black Friday marketing and holiday marketing traffic to a brands’ online content, and keeps the domain names out of the hands of potential scammers. A number of top retailers, including Costco, Target, and Macy’s have taken this approach.

Amazon’s Black Friday Marketing Technique

If brands want an example of how to utilize these registrations, they should look right to the top of the list: Amazon, the reigning king of online retail, is the only brand to have its .BLACKFRIDAY and .CHRISTMAS registrations redirect to seasonal content.

By directing visitors to these specific gTLDs to content that is fresh and relevant, Amazon is succeeding in two ways: protecting itself against third-party registrants and adding potential shoppers.

While it is unlikely that hordes of visitors are typing Amazon.BLACKFRIDAY into their browsers, even by adding some traffic, Amazon is driving potential sales. The company is also establishing itself as a first mover in a way that has no negative consequences for its brand.

There is still plenty of time for brands to follow Amazon’s lead by registering one of the mostly available .BLACKFRIDAY or .CHRISTMAS names and putting up simple, relevant content. It’s an easy fix to curtail cybersquatting and increase traffic. Can you think of a better holiday gift for online retailers?

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A number of Western brands, most recently American bulk retailer Costco, have forayed into China’s e-commerce market via Alibaba’s B2C platform Tmall. As the parent company of both Tmall and C2C platform Taobao, Alibaba has become the dominant player in China’s e-commerce landscape, having captured some 80% of that market and, as of 2013, commanding an annual revenue of $240 billion (greater than those of eBay and Amazon combined).

To perhaps state the obvious, Tmall is now a very appealing way for a foreign company to engage in e-commerce in China, at least initially. It is cheap—cutting out the costs associated with a brick-and-mortar store—and relatively safe, since Western brands can use Tmall’s trusted, “localized”[i] website to foster brand recognition among Chinese consumers, while simultaneously learning the ins and outs of this notoriously challenging market.

Handling the Challenges of Online Sales

Generally still new to online shopping (with the Internet having only reached 50% penetration rate in the country), Chinese consumers are, nonetheless, very aware of the prevalence of counterfeit goods online. As explained in the Economist, they “worried (quite rationally) that online firms were fraudsters, or that their credit cards would be abused, or that purchases would get swapped for counterfeits during shipment.”

Part of the appeal for Western brands, such as Costco, in using Alibaba’s Tmall platform and associated applications, is that these have been designed to directly assuage such fears. Notable examples of this strategy include:

  • Alipay — The company’s escrow payment service, according to one its chief architects, “is really about trust.” Alipay’s escrow model enables money to be passed from consumer to Alibaba and only released to the seller upon satisfaction of customer;
  • Etao — This Alibaba-owned vertical price comparison website yields search results across Alibaba’s TaoBao and Tmall sites and, in a move that enhances transparency, also includes listings on competitor e-commerce sites, such as JD.com;
  • Returns policy — In a country where products are normally sold as final sale only, Alibaba guarantees customer satisfaction by requiring merchants using Tmall to comply with its trust-inspiring 7-day return policy, a guarantee that existed prior to it being required by China’s recently amended consumer protection law;
  • Customer service — Tmall customers have come to expect highly responsive customer service around the clock, especially via live chat;
  • Social media integration – China’s online shoppers are, according to Nielsen and BCG, “the most social in the world,” with consumers both seeking out personal recommendations, as well as writing and reading online product reviews en masse. In recognition of this, Tmall is now smartly integrated with Sina Weibo and Alipay, enabling customers to make purchases directly from the social media app.

The Government’s Impact on E-Commerce in China

Alibaba, while not a state-owned company, has risen in tandem with the Chinese government’s efforts to rebalance the country’s economy from a manufacturing economy to a consumption-based one.[ii] Aside from the local cultural and business savvy of Alibaba, Western companies’ partnerships with Tmall ought also be understood in the context of Beijing’s push of e-commerce in China through state economic planning, national Internet access goals, and linguistic localization stipulations for domain names.

In recent years, the Chinese government has announced its intention to double the value of national e-commerce sales to nearly $3 trillion by the close of 2015 and to achieve full nationwide broadband coverage by 2020. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has espoused substantive support for ICANN’s new gTLD program, having registered some 10,000 Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) and is now requiring that all Chinese government websites use fully Chinese web addresses.

Looking Ahead to the Future of e-Commerce in China

While Chinese government support for expanding the country’s domestic e-consumer base—from macroeconomic to technological planning to digital literacy efforts—is evident, it remains to be seen how Chinese consumer habits will evolve and companies, foreign and domestic, will respond to these initiatives.

Costco and others have recently embraced Tmall as the foundation of their China market entry strategy, but, in time, these brands will presumably move to a stand-alone storefront, whether virtual only or, less likely, a traditional brick-and-mortar outpost, if only to gain greater oversight of their online business and consumer relationship management. It will be interesting to see when and how they take advantage of the opportunity the new IDNs represent as dedicated, branded, “localized” spaces to sell independently to Chinese consumers.


[i] Localization, as used by marketers to highlight the idiosyncrasies of Chinese e-commerce, is an interesting topic that merits another blog post—forthcoming.

[ii] According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, “Alibaba has almost single-handedly turned China into the world’s second-largest e-commerce market.”

Back in 2011, if you asked most major brands what a gTLD, the RySG, GAC, or even ICANN was, most would not have been able to make much sense of the acronyms.

Now, those who are in the process of launching their own .BRAND and/or .GENERIC gTLD have gotten up to speed on that alphabet soup. However, staying up to speed on ICANN policies and fulfilling the obligations of the Registry Agreement will be ongoing commitments for all new Registry Operators.

Before New gTLDs & .BRANDs

Until a short time ago, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was an organization that was not on most brands’ radar.

Brands may have heard about ICANN when learning that they had to worry about trademark protection in a new top-level domain (TLD) like .XXX. With the approval of the New gTLD Program and the opening of the application period in January 2012, though, that all changed.

Now, with their own .BRAND application(s), many brands quickly became immersed (at times to their dismay) in the world of ICANN and domain names.

The Application Process

Brands especially found themselves having to climb a steep learning curve to quickly handle the demands of ICANN during the application process, including:

  • Addressing the “one size fits all” requirements in the Applicant Guidebook
  • Providing personal information on Officer and Board members and submitting these individuals to background checks by ICANN
  • Meeting financial requirements not geared towards strategic corporations such as providing financial statements and acquiring unconditional Letters of Credit
  • Completing these tasks within three months’ time

Some brands may have sighed in relief after their applications were in, thinking that all the work was behind them.

However, brands are now recognizing that they cannot just forget about ICANN once their .BRAND (or .GENERIC) launches.

Ensuring Compliance with the Registry Agreement

Following the application period, brands understood that some input and work would be needed in order to develop and launch a .BRAND or .GENERIC TLD. However, the nuanced obligations of a Registry Operator and the direct and ongoing impact the Registry Agreement and ICANN policies would have on these same brands was never as well understood.

While it would be impossible to catalog every way that ICANN policies, developments, and activities of supporting organizations and advisory committees directly or indirectly influence and affect Registry Operators and their contractual obligations, below are a few key areas of the Registry Agreement that are currently affecting brands (and really, all Registry Operators).

  1. Altering the Registry Agreement: Article 7.7

While each applicant executes its own Registry Agreement for each gTLD, Article 7.7 of the Registry Agreement permits the ICANN CEO or the Chair of the Registries Stakeholder Group (RySG) to initiate a process to amend the Registry Agreement once per year. While this process is time consuming, involves negotiations, a public comment period, and an approval by both parties (the RySG and the ICANN Board), once approved, the amendment to the Registry Agreement will become effective for all Registry Operators 60 days after ICANN provides notice.
All Registry Operators are given the opportunity to participate and comment on the proposed amendments, as well as vote on the Proposed Revisions. However, .BRANDs should be aware of these provisions and follow relevant developments closely, since all registries will be affected by these modifications to the Registry Agreement – whether or not they choose to participate in the ICANN process.

  1. How Will the Public Interest Commitments be Interpreted: Specification 11

In July 2013, ICANN published an updated version of the Registry Agreement, which included Specification 11, the Public Interest Commitments in response to the Governmental Advisory Committee’s (GAC) Safeguard Advice.

Much has already been said about the addition of the specification, which was approved over a year after the close of the gTLD application period. Specification 11 adds obligations for registries such as the requirement to only use 2013 accredited registrars, prohibits closed generic gTLDs, and requires Registry Operators to conduct periodic technical analyses to assess whether any security threats, such as malware of phishing, are present in the gTLD, in addition to other obligations.

However, most, if not all, Registry Operators still feel a great sense of uncertainty around how this Specification will be enforced since different parties can interpret the obligations included in the specification differently.

For example, section 3b of Specification 11 requires periodic technical analysis to assess security threats in the gTLD. Based on conversations to date, it is clear that ICANN and Registry Operators interpret this provision differently – there is even disagreement among different Registry Operators. To this day, the question of how ICANN Compliance intends to interpret and enforce this requirement remains.

This will affect all Registry Operators, including brands, especially if an across-the-board standard is required of all registries. Given that Specification 11 does not relate to critical registry functions that back-end registry services providers are responsible for, it also may require brands to leverage their back-end provider for an additional service, or use another third-party provider.

  1. Providing Public Zone File Access: Specification 4

As required by Specification 4 of the Registry Agreement, all Registry Operators must provide third-party access to the registry’s zone file data.

While a Registry Operator can do this on its own or through a Centralized Zone Data Access Provider (CZDA Provider), the Registry Operator must enter into an agreement with any Internet user that is found to be qualified. This will allow the individual the ability to download the zone file data once every twenty-four hours. Access can be denied if the user does not provide the required credentials and/or if the Registry Operator reasonably believes that the user will use the data for unlawful purposes or any use prohibited under Section 2.1.5.

While a .BRAND’s back-end provider will be responsible for providing the registry’s zone file data, it will be the responsibility of the Registry Operator to review and approve users for access.

Despite being straightforward and simple, this is an ongoing task that the brand will be responsible for and will continue throughout the life of the TLD.

Conclusion

Though these requirements are a bit all over the map, these three examples demonstrate how all Registry Operators, including those with a .BRAND, face multiple ongoing responsibilities. Registry Operators will all be affected by ICANN developments and policy decisions, as well as the activities within ICANN stakeholder groups.

Most brands recognized that operating a gTLD, even a .BRAND, would be more involved than launching and operating a single domain name. However, as brands have discovered through the application, evaluation, and delegation processes to date, there is more running a compliant gTLD than outsourcing the critical registry and data escrow functions.

While the recent focus of the New gTLD Program has been centered around contention sets, auctions, and contracting, it isn’t too early for Registry Operators (especially brand owners) to start thinking about Registry Onboarding.

What is Registry Onboarding?

According to the process laid out by ICANN, Registry Onboarding takes place after the execution of the Registry Agreement, and before Delegation of the gTLD into the root (when the gTLD becomes a “live” gTLD). As a prerequisite for Delegation, the Registry Onboarding process consists of syncing the Registry Operator with ICANN to ensure smooth ongoing operations. It includes important steps such as completing Pre-Delegation Testing, establishing emergency points of contact with ICANN, and registering with the Trademark Clearinghouse.

What’s the timeframe?

Officially, the Registry Operator must complete the Registry Onboarding process within 12 months of signing the Registry Agreement. However, the Registry Operator could tackle multiple tasks simultaneously, and it may be able to complete the entire onboarding process in 8 weeks or less with proper preparation.

What do brand owners need to know?

It’s important to make sure arrangements with your back-end provider are clear and that you have a process in place, especially if you want to move quickly through the onboarding process. Here are a few key considerations new Registry Operators should keep in mind as they move through the process.

First, the Registry Operator should connect with the back-end registry service provider to review responsibilities and coordinate communication with ICANN. While ICANN provides instructions in the Welcome Kit for New gTLD Registry Operators, the delineation between the Registry Operator’s responsibility and the back-end’s responsibility is not always clear.

The Registry Operator should also establish clear internal points of contact and responsibilities. Unlike previous phases of the New gTLD Process, the onboarding process will require the Registry Operator to manage two communication portals with ICANN – the Customer Service Center (CSC) Portal and the Global Domains Division (GDD) Portal. Moreover, 22 points of contact must be provided to ICANN during onboarding. One individual may take on multiple responsibilities, but the Registry Operator should ensure that it is fully aware of the expectations.

Finally, the Registry Operator’s contract with the back-end may include additional fees for onboarding services. Therefore, it is important to review the relationship with the back-end registry service provider to ensure that there are no surprises.

What’s next?

Registry Onboarding serves as a basis of the operational relationship between the Registry Operator and ICANN. Once this step is completed, the Registry Operator will be able to proceed to the TLD Launch phase, and eventually to general registration and use.