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New gTLD Program — ICANN Proposes Draft Expression of Interest / Pre-Registrations Model

18 December 2009

ICANN is publishing today for public comment a draft model for soliciting Expressions of Interest for new generic top-level domains (new gTLDs) [PDF, 192K]. According to this EOI / pre-registration model, entities interested in participating in the first round of the New gTLD Program are required to submit basic information about the participating entity and the requested top-level domain, also referred to as "string".

 The model is a direct result of community recommendations for such an undertaking. The Board directed that a draft model be constructed based on public comment for additional discussion. A decision on whether to proceed and, if so under what model, will be taken after this round of public comment.

The public comment period opens on 18 December, 2009 and closes on 27 January, 2010. Details can be found at http://www.icann.org/en/public-comment/public-comment-201001.htm#draft-eoi.

The proposed model published today is not an operationally complete plan, i.e., it is not intended to include all the details that would be needed for implementation of a functioning process. Rather, it is intended to convey the detail necessary for robust public discussion. After the end of this public comment period, the ICANN Board will convene to consider the community feedback and decide on the path forward. A decision is expected in the first quarter of 2010. If approved, the final process and the opening date for EOI will be published.

Highlights of the draft EOI / pre-registration model:

  • Participation in the EOI is mandatory for eligibility to submit a gTLD application in the first round. Subsequent application rounds will be open to any eligible applicants.
  • A deposit of US$55,000 is required for the EOI, and will be used as a credit against the US$185,000 evaluation fee.
  • The deposit is refundable if the New gTLD Program does not launch within a specific time period. Details will be outlined in the final EOI model.
  • Participants are notified that there may be subsequent amendments to the Draft Applicant Guidebook. It is the intention to conclude many current open issues prior to initiation of the EOI process.
  • A fully executed communications campaign, intended to ensure global awareness about the EOI, will precede the opening of the process.
  • Participants will be required to provide specific information concerning the participating entity and the requested string.
  • The participant and string information will be made public.
  • The EOI launch is conditional on the conclusion of many of the outstanding issues, for example, issues concerning vertical separation and the IDN three-character string requirements. Solutions for these and other issues are expected to be included in the Draft Applicant Guidebook, version 4.

Below is a short Q&A regarding the proposed EOI draft model. For details, please refer to the http://www.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtlds/eoi-model-18dec09-en.pdf [PDF, 192K].

What is the value in conducting an EOI / pre-registration process?

An EOI process could provide ICANN and the Internet community important information that will contribute to a better understanding of, for example: the economic demand for new gTLDs; the number and kind of strings requested; certainty as to root-zone delegation rates; and inform the program's operational readiness plan. It is also believed that the draft EOI model may assist with the resolution of outstanding issues.

The impetus for publishing an EOI model began at the ICANN Seoul Meeting where a significant number of community members expressed interest in evaluating a process that calls for "expressions of interest" from organizations that have a serious interest in applying for a new gTLD. The Board subsequently directed staff to develop a model, and in order to facilitate consideration of these issues, staff posted a set of conceptual questions relating to the EOI for community feedback. The analysis of these comments helped in the development of the current proposed model.

Are there any pre-conditions for the launch of the EOI?

Yes, if the Board approves this path forward, there are a few pre-conditions to the EOI launch, for example: t he resolution on issues regarding vertical separation of registries and registrars; resolution on the three-character string requirements; the publication of Draft Applicant Guidebook, version 4; the execution of a communication campaign that will work to ensure that all parties wishing to participate are knowledgeable of the opportunity.

How does the EOI impact the continuing development of the program?

ICANN and the community continue to work on the program's development and the resolution of open issues, including the next iteration of the Draft Applicant Guidebook, and the program's operational readiness.

Who can participate in the EOI process?

As outlined in the Draft Applicant Guidebook, version 3, any public or private organization from any part of the world can apply. As described above, certain key provisions that significantly affect an entity's ability to participate would have to be settled prior to the EOI launch.

When will the EOI application period open?

The ICANN Board will be considering the draft EOI model and the community feedback during its meeting in February, 2010. If the Board decides that this is the path forward, staff will publish the final model along with instructions for a specific launch date.

How will EOI applications be submitted?

Entities will be able to apply on-line. ICANN will use the TLD Application System (TAS) that is already in development for the program. The TAS system will be accessed through ICANN's website.

What information will be required from participating entities?

The proposed draft model requires participants to answer questions 1 through 14, which are currently outlined in the Draft Applicant Guidebook, version 3: Evaluation Questions and Criteria (http://www.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtlds/draft-evaluation-criteria-clean-04oct09-en.pdf [PDF, 741K]). These include: contact information of the participating entity; proof of legal establishment and good standing; disclosures concerning the participant's background, and; the requested string and associated IDN information, if applicable.

Can an entity that does not participate in the EOI still be eligible to apply when the New gTLD Program officially launches?

Yes, but not in the first round. According to the proposed draft model, participation in the EOI is mandatory for eligibility in the first new gTLD application round. There will be future opportunities to apply, however, the dates are not yet available.

Why is a deposit required and how was the US$55,000 determined?

One of the objectives of the EOI process is to generate data that will drive validation of implementation work and operational readiness. The deposit is one means of giving weight to the process and the submissions. Absent a deposit of a sufficient amount, participants could provide false or misleading information, which would undermine the reliability of the data to be used for the purposes intended.

The proposed US$55,000 EOI deposit is the non-refundable portion of the evaluation fee (currently US$185,000 as per Draft Applicant Guidebook, version 3). This amount strikes a balance between two negative outcomes, that a low amount could result in speculation and a high amount could be a barrier to entry. The US$55,000 deposit is would be considered as a credit against the eventual fee that accompanies submission of an application.

Is the deposit refundable?

Under the current proposed draft model, the US$55,000 deposit is non-refundable, except in specified, limited circumstances, for example, if the first application round does not start within a defined time period (currently, 18 months from the closing date of the EOI submission period).

What happens to the EOI information collected by ICANN?

ICANN plans to publish on its website the information collected from the participants along with the requested strings submitted during the EOI.


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