ICANN chief reveals delay in expected announcement on applications for new 'top level' domains

Out-Law News | 02 May 2012 | 1:54 pm | 3 min. read

The publication of a list detailing the applications for new generic 'top level' domains (gTLDs) has been delayed and it may be the end of June before it is available, the chief executive of the body which oversees the identification of websites has said.

Even then Rod Beckstrom of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) said he could not guarantee that the list would be published before he steps down from his post at an ICANN meeting in the Czech Republic on 29 June.

Last summer directors at ICANN voted to increase the number of gTLDs from the current number of 22. Top level domains are the suffixes to addresses and include familiar address endings such as .com, .org and .net. The first round of applications for the new gTLDs opened in January and closed on 12 April.

It was expected that ICANN would publish the list of applications it has received on 30 April, but the process has been delayed after the body reported that "a limited number of users" of its TLD Application System (TAS) had been able to "view some other users' file names and user names in certain scenarios".

TAS has subsequently been suspended and ICANN has reported that it is building enhancements into the system's performance to cope with an anticipated increase in demand for its use when it eventually reopens.

In an interview with the Domain Incite website, Beckstrom said that the problems with TAS did not enable users to view the "contents" of others' applications or files. Beckstrom said that he could not put a precise timescale on the publication of the gTLDs applications list, but said work was ongoing to try and have it available some time this month.

"I’d like to see us obviously get the technical issues resolved, notify applicants, reopen the window and publish the strings before I pass the baton [at the ICANN meeting] in Prague [on 29 June]," he said, according to the Domain Incite report. "That’s not a commitment at this point in time, it’s an indication as CEO that it’s absolutely my intention to push for a timely resolution of this issue… If we can get things done sooner, then the sooner the better."

Beckstrom also said that TAS had 1,268 registered users when the registration period for the first round of new gTLDs closed on 29 March. Each TAS user can apply for up to 50 new gTLDs. Beckstrom said it was "unlikely" that there are fewer than 1,268 new gTLDs applied for, according to Domain Incite.

An ICANN spokesperson told Out-Law.com last year that it would cost $185,000 to apply for new domains and that companies must demonstrate that they have a legitimate claim to the domain they are applying for. However, concern has been raised that an increase in the number of gTLDs would lead to a rise in trade mark infringing web addresses and the potential misleading of the public.

Earlier this year the European Banking Authority wrote to ICANN asking it to withdraw the availability of .bank and .fin gTLDs which it invited applications for.

Andrea Enria, chair of the EBA, said the regulator was concerned that consumers could be exposed to financial scams as a result of the two suffixes being made available. Enria said that consumers could think that websites registered with .bank or .fin domains have been endorsed by financial regulators when they may not be.

At the time of the EBA's letter trade mark law expert Gillian Anderson of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the new gTLDs regime could prove costly for financial institutions looking to protect their brands.

"Most banks spend a huge amount of time, money and effort contesting trade mark disputes over domain names registered at traditional domains such as .com, .net and .org," Anderson said. "This problem will continue, and significantly grow with the creation of the new .bank gTLD, unless domain name registrars are required to impose closer controls over who can register web addresses under the new generic top level domain regime."

ICANN's application process for new gTLDs required applicants to complete a form containing 50 questions. Following this stage the applicants' bids for the domains were to be scrutinised in an evaluation process. ICANN has said previously that potentially "thousands" of new gTLDs could be introduced by the start of next year.

ICANN has said it wants to "unleash the global human imagination" by extending the number of top level domains.

In a blog posted in December ICANN senior vice present Kurt Pritz said that the new registry system for gTLDs would "have even greater safeguards than the TLD registries that exist today and will include enhanced protections for trademark holders". He said "the new environment will sharply reduce the need for defensive registrations".