For the last several months, the ICANN organization has collaborated with the gTLD Registries Stakeholder Group (RySG) to improve the efficiency and predictability of the process for reviewing registry operator requests under the Registry Services Evaluation Policy (RSEP). Both groups understood that the decade-old process had not been sufficiently updated to meet the needs of the industry following the launch of the New generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) Program.
The RSEP was originally developed in 2006 as a consensus policy through the multistakeholder model. gTLD Registry Agreements identify the RSEP process as the mechanism to add, modify, or remove a Registry Service, which is defined in the Registry Agreement and the Policy. In accordance with its remit, ICANN org evaluates a proposed service for potential significant security, stability, and/or competition issues.
While maintaining consistency with the Policy, these operational improvements will provide the community and registry operators more predictability about when community consultation is needed, and registry operators will benefit from a shorter overall duration for a typical RSEP request. ICANN org is pleased to update the community about its plans to launch these operational improvements in the upcoming months.
When the RSEP was developed, only a handful of top-level domains (TLDs) existed and were operated by a small number of registry operators. When the 2012 New gTLD Program launched, more than a thousand new gTLDs and hundreds of registry operators were established, invoking exponentially more RSEP requests. Prior to the New gTLD Program, ICANN org typically processed fewer than 15 RSEP requests yearly. After the introduction of new gTLDs, ICANN org processed over 150 RSEP requests from 2015 to 2016. This increase was largely a result of new gTLD registry operators submitting similar or identical proposed services through RSEP requests to align their offering of registry services with their portfolios of TLDs or the industry. With this increase, ICANN org's ability to efficiently process some of the RSEP requests became challenged.
At the 2016 Global Domains Division (GDD) Industry Summit in Amsterdam, registry operators voiced concerns about the lack of predictability and duration of the process, which typically took around three months for completion. We recognized that the strain on the RSEP process hurt our ability to efficiently and effectively support registry operators. In an effort to better understand the challenges and work together to identify operational improvements, ICANN org took the opportunity to engage with a subgroup of the RySG — the RSEP Improvements Discussion Group — to identify operational improvements in the RSEP process.
Together we agreed to the following principles that should be reflected in ICANN org's processing of RSEP requests:
- Maintain and promote a secure, stable, and competitive marketplace.
- Adhere to the existing consensus policy.
- Ensure predictable and expedient resolution for registry operators.
- Offer the ability for registry operators to be innovative in a competitive marketplace.
- Create transparency in the RSEP process.
- Be consistent across more than 1,200 Registry Agreements.
What is Changing?
In November 2018, the RSEP Discussion Group and ICANN org agreed to a set of operational improvements intended to enable efficiencies and predictability within the process. These operational changes do not impact the substance of the existing security, stability, and competition reviews performed on each proposed service, nor the ability for the community to view and comment on an RSEP request.
- Efficiency and expediency. Historically, ICANN org has processed certain steps of the RSEP process sequentially, which resulted in a longer duration from the time a registry operator submits its request to the time it can deploy an approved service. After these discussions, we identified steps that can occur in parallel to reduce cycle time. We also identified that with the introduction of new gTLDs, registry operators began to submit similar or identical proposed services through RSEP requests as they sought to align their offering of registry services with their portfolios of TLDs or the industry. With that in mind, we established streamlined request forms and standardized Registry Agreement amendments for these commonly requested services. These changes will enable ICANN org to administer the process with fewer resources and in less time without compromising a substantive review.
- More predictability. While the above changes more directly impact ICANN org and registry operators, our procedural updates aimed at greater predictability will be more visible to the wider ICANN community. ICANN org has historically published for Public Comment a wide range of Registry Agreement amendments for proposed services, whether or not the proposed service may have raised significant security, stability, or competition issues. We will now focus the use of Public Comment for proposed services that may raise significant security, stability, or competition issues and are, therefore, referred to a competition authority or the Registry Services Technical Evaluation Panel (RSTEP). These changes better align the process with the Policy and provide more predictability to registry operators and the community.
ICANN org anticipates launching the updates to the RSEP process by the start of July this year.
Look for additional details about the operational improvements to the RSEP process in the updated RSEP Implementation Notes and RSEP Process Workflow. As we prepare to deploy these improvements, we will provide launch announcements along with updates to the RSEP process webpages. In our commitment to operational excellence, ICANN org will monitor the impact of the RSEP process improvements and work to ensure the changes track to the intended outcome.