New gTLD Update: All Systems Are…Suspended?

As part our continuing coverage of ICANN’s New gTLD Program, we had planned a post regarding the close of the gTLD application window and the imminent unveiling of the new top-level domain applicants and their respective applications on April 30 — colloquially known as “Reveal Day.” However, due to an unfortunate glitch in ICANN’s TLD Application System that reared its ugly head on April 12 — the date the application window was scheduled to close — that process has been temporarily interrupted. According to ICANN’s TAS Interruption FAQ, a “technical issue” in the TAS “allowed a limited number of users to view a limited number of other users’ file names and user names in certain scenarios.” While ICANN is reasonably certain that the information revealed by the glitch is limited only to user names and file names, any confidential applicant data accidentally revealed by ICANN to third parties is of serious concern, and ICANN has taken the TAS offline pending troubleshooting and extended security testing. As of today, it is thought that the glitch has been fixed, but TAS is still offline as “ICANN continues to work diligently to test the fix” and “identify affected applicants.” While it is surely doing all it can to get the TAS back up and running glitch-free, the interruption isn’t doing ICANN any favors in the eyes of both TLD applicants and a world watching the New TLD Program with bated breath.

Further, the interruption has thrown a wrench into the TLD application timeline, which is already uncertain thanks to ICANN’s recently announced batching system, which will be implemented should ICANN receive significantly more than 500 TLD applications. The batching system, which will determine the order in which applications are processed by ICANN, is somewhat convoluted. First, applicants will determine their batch using a system ICANN has dubbed “digital archery,” where applicants will choose a “target time” and then try to log in to ICANN’s system at that exact time. The digital “arrows” closest to their targets will be batched in an earlier round — that is, unless ICANN determines that the order should be shuffled in the interest of “geographic diversity.”  Understandably, applicants are frustrated at the lack of clarity here, most of whom have business plans at stake — not to mention a hefty investment on the line.

Needless to say, the highly anticipated Reveal Day has been postponed. Once the TAS is reopened, it is likely that ICANN will extend the application window by a week or two. Assuming this happens soon, it will push Reveal Day well into the middle of May. Using my own brand of digital archery, this blogger is guessing June 1, 2012.

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