We’ve been hearing some interesting rumors lately. Certain businesses that we have talked to recently are convinced that ICANN will extend the new gTLD application period beyond the allotted three-month window, running from January 12 to April 12 of this year. Their argument is, if enough applicants complain that three months is not enough time to properly prepare the complex new gTLD application, ICANN will have no choice but to push back the deadline.
Given everything we know about ICANN, we believe it is unlikely that the organization will consider extending the application period just because businesses want it to. Think about it – scores of businesses wanted to delay or cancel the New gTLD Program altogether, but ICANN refused to budge, saying that the community had had ample time to contribute to the process, and that the Program was ready.
Out of curiosity, we floated the idea by a senior member of the ICANN staff, asking if there was any possible scenario under which ICANN would extend the application period. He was hesitant to rule it out entirely (“Anything’s possible,” he conceded), but he did say that, like all policy proposals, the idea to extend would have to come up “through the ICANN community.” Of course, that community is not solely comprised of businesses and major brand owners, but also of many parties with a strong vested interest in seeing the New gTLD Program move forward in a timely manner so they can begin using new gTLDs.
So there’s one side of the argument. The other side points to the fact that ICANN was still making last-minute edits to various components of the new gTLD policy until the week the application period opened: it published a new version of the Applicant Guidebook late on January 11. And then, this past Friday, the TLD Application System (TAS) suffered a pretty serious glitch that prevented applicants from properly inputting data to complete their applicant profiles (completing the applicant profile is basically step one in the application submission process). ICANN assured FairWinds in an email that the issue would be resolved during its weekly maintenance period, but since those take place on Sunday mornings from midnight to 2:00 am UTC (or 7:00 to 9:00 pm Saturday EST), the TAS was out of commission for us for nearly a full two days. If these and other hiccups continue, they could serve to unite the voices within the community in calling for an extension.
ICANN has a lot riding on the success of the New gTLD Program. For that reason, we are inclined to believe that it will do everything it can to keep the application period on schedule, including by closing it on April 12, 2012, as planned. Then again, if the ICANN community raises enough of an uproar, and ICANN realizes that the success or failure of the Program will be dependent on extending the application period, then it will basically have no choice but to push back the deadline.
Don’t get us wrong – we know some of our clients wouldn’t hate the idea of having a few extra months of breathing room. But at this point, nearly a quarter of the way through the application period, it looks like there is a low likelihood of ICANN extending the application period. More importantly, businesses have nothing to lose by erring on the side of caution and making sure their applications are prepared by the April 12 deadline, even if ICANN does choose to extend.