gTLD: Caveat Emptor

As we draw closer to the opening of the new gTLD application period on January 12, 2012, more and more new gTLD service providers are coming out of the woodwork. In order to stand out from the pack, some of these providers have dropped their prices, offering services like application preparation for as little as $20,000. Given that applying for a new gTLD is not exactly a cheap endeavor, due to the $185,000 price tag for submitting the application, it may be tempting to pick a partner who offers the lowest price. But like everything, when it comes to new gTLDs, you get what you pay for.

The fact is, acquiring a new gTLD is a comprehensive process that includes much more than filling out an application. ICANN is an organization unlike any other that most applicants have dealt with, and operating a new gTLD registry is an endeavor that most applicants – especially brand owners – have never undertaken. The process for acquiring a new gTLD is structured in such a way that essentially everything rides on the application, because everything included in the application gets hard-coded into the contract with ICANN.

Smart applicants realize that because of this structure, they must do a significant amount of strategy and long-range planning in preparation for filling out the application. They will need to be sure to give careful thought to how they encode those plans into their answers to the application questions. If the application isn’t sufficiently thorough, then a few years down the road, they could end up locked into a contract with ICANN that no longer meets their business goals. And anyone who has been following the .JOBS saga knows how hard it is to negotiate contract changes with ICANN.

Here at FairWinds, we brought in a bona fide ICANN expert to help us prepare applications on behalf of our clients. Michael Palage is the founder of Pharos Global, who has been actively involved with ICANN since it was created back in 1998. Not only has he been present at nearly every ICANN meeting since its establishment, he even served as the ICANN Board Director for a time. Pharos Global has contracted with nearly half of all the new gTLDs that ICANN has approved over the last decade, and Michael was instrumental in advocating for the interests of brand owners in the new gTLD policy.

We have found that almost no other players in the gTLD consulting field have teamed up with people with this depth and breadth of ICANN experience. Michael is one of the few people outside registry suppliers that have actually negotiated a registry contract with ICANN, and that experience enables him to point out details, considerations and even risks that no one else in the new gTLD consulting marketplace seems to be aware of. This helps our team ensure that our clients don’t hit any unexpected speed bumps along the path to launching a new gTLD registry. To say he knows is stuff is, well, an understatement.

When you’re looking into who to bring in as a partner when it comes to new gTLDs – whether it’s a consultant, a partner to prepare your application, or a registry service provider – it helps to do a little bit of digging into the company’s background and personnel.

After all, when you have to foray into unfamiliar territory, it helps to have someone who’s familiar with the terrain.