The first round of new gTLD applications was to close on 12 April 2012. That has now been extended to 20 April due to technical problems at ICANN.
There are currently 21 gTLDs, the most common examples including .com, .net and .edu. Under the new program just about any type of gTLD imaginable can be applied for under two types of applications - community and standard. A community-based gTLD is operated for the benefit of a clearly delineated community. An applicant designating its application as community-based must be prepared to substantiate its status as representative of the community it names in the application. A standard applicant is simply an application that has not been designated by the applicant as community-based. Already, organisations have announced plans for brand gTLDs (e.g. .CANON), city gTLDs (e.g. .NYC), faith gTLDs (e.g. .JEWISH), niche gTLDs (e.g. .SPORT) and cause gTLDs (e.g. .PEACE).
ICANN expects new gTLD applications to number between 300 to 1000. As at 23 March 2012 the number of registered users in the online application system stood at 556. However, this number does not necessarily represent the total number of applications since each registrant can apply for up to 50 new gTLDs. ICANN advises that it will publish an official list of applications and applicants in early May. Until then, while ICANN will not comment publicly about any specific application, several unofficial lists have been established which track new gTLD applications. Not many companies have publicly announced their plans to apply for .brand gTLDs. Some exceptions are Google, Canon, Hitachi and Deloitte, all of who have indicated that they will be applying for gTLDs.Pepsi are among those who have said that they won't. The applicants are to be revealed on 30 April.
Following the close of applications, the evaluation process is expected to take 8-18 months, depending on the type of application and the level of objection or contention. ICAAN will then post the applications considered complete and ready for evaluation on its website. Third parties will then have an opportunity to file formal objections against any listed applications. Objections will be administered by independent dispute resolution service providers, rather than by ICAAN.
ICANN warns that while operating a top level registry offers exciting opportunities and rewards, it carries great responsibilities as well. Applying to operate your own gTLD is not the same as registering a second-level domain name, such as AJPARK.COM for example. When you apply for a new gTLD you are applying to run a registry business. You will be responsible for a critical and highly visible piece of internet infrastructure. ICANN explains that just as Verisign is responsible for the domain names registered in the .com top level domain, registrants will be responsible for all the domain names registered in their .something gTLD. And with responsibility comes significant cost; the evaluation fee is estimated at US$185,000 and annual registration fees are US$25,000. Then you need the technical background to run a stable and secure registry.
ICANN's decision to 'open up' the domain space is said to change the internet forever. From a business perspective new gTLDs are expected to create opportunities for investment, offer more choice and competition, provide a platform for innovation and new business models and impact brand management and online marketing practices. The impact of new gTLDs on communities is also highly anticipated, promising to increase online cultural, linguistic and geographical communities. New Zealand company Dot Kiwi Ltd have said they will apply to operate the .KIWI gTLD. The company website explains that "[Dot Kiwi] believe the dotKiwi gTLD will offer New Zealand businesses greater branding creativity and the opportunity to differentiate themselves from competitors. It will be a domain for New Zealand, providing a fresh, modern online identity for all Kiwis". It will be interesting to follow Dot Kiwi's progress - if its application is successful .KIWI will be functional sometime next year.
If you would like more information about new gTLDs, please contact us.