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New gTLD program: Concerns about further delays

A good month after the ICANN Meeting in Durban, a number of important questions concerning the introduction of new gTLDs still remain unanswered. ICANN appears to be playing for time, kindling existential fears - especially amongst small applicants.

Many questions are still open: One month after the ICANN Meeting in Durban, the new gTLD program still has a number of construction sites. The realization that some TLDs could cause problems in the Domain Name System (DNS) only recently surfaced – and the introduction of these TLDs could therefore be delayed by several months. The expectations for the event in South Africa were promising – after all, the conference kicked off with the first agreeements for internationalized domain names. Hopes that things would get moving afterwards were high. Many participants had already expected the new gTLD program to gain momentum following the Peking meeting. After the meeting in Durban and the discovery of potential collisions in the DNS, there are fears that the introduction of new top-level domains could be delayed even further. At the same time, the annoyance of applicants towards ICANN has been growing. An ICANN decision already caused a stir in the run-up to the meeting: At the beginning of July, the committee passed the new Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA). In the future, ICANN will require registrars to check the validity of customer data and arrange long-term storage therof. Over and above this, registrars are also responsible for making sure that their resellers comply with these regulations. This ICANN decision followed in accordance with a recommendation of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). Apart from grave concerns about data privacy, critics in Durban voiced the arguments that these latest requirements lead to a breach of existing agreements on the part of ICANN and GAC. The Applicant's Guidebook, which describes the requirements for the application of a new gTLD, specifies that no subsequent material changes may be made to applications. However, RAA critics see the validation of data, which is connected to high costs and efforts, as exactly such a material change – in addition coming into conflict with data protection laws in several countries. Visitors were also rather astounded by ICANN's financial report. ICANN has earned around 360 million dollars with the new gTLD program so far. More than half of this was still remaining at the event in South Africa. Applicants are concerned that this generous financial cushioning could lead to ICANN adopting an even slower pace for the new gTLD program. This concern is especially growing amongst smaller applicants, who are possibly relying on only one TLD. Costs increase with each additional day and some applicants might not have the means to stem these additional expenses in the long run.