Thinking About Applying For Your Own gTLD? It Could Cost You A Lot More Than $185K

Having reviewed the Second Draft of the New gTLD Guidebook released the other day by ICANN, it looks like if you are planning on applying for one of these new extensions, you better have a lot of cash on hand.

We all know that the “Evaluation Fee” for a new gTLD has been set at $185,000.

However that just where the money flow starts.

Next there is a “Registry Services Review Fee”, if applicable, this fee is payable for additional costs incurred in referring an application to the RSTEP for an extended review. Applicants will be notified if such a fee is due. The fee for a three member RSTEP review team is anticipated to be USD $50,000. In some cases, five member team will be required and of course in such a case additional fees over and about the $50K will be required.

Next there is a “Dispute Resolution Filing Fee”  Now this fee is paid by anyone filing a formal objection to a new gTLD application. (this can be on any of 4 grounds although today we are only covering the first ground string confusion)

ICANN estimates that non-refundable filing fees could range from approximately $1,000 to $5,000.

If someone pays the $1K-$5K to file a formal objection, that will trigger the “Dispute Resolution Adjudication Fee”.

Ordinarily, both parties in the dispute resolution proceeding will be required to submit an advance payment of costs in an estimated amount to cover the entire cost of the proceeding.

This may be either an hourly fee based on the estimated number of hours the panelists will spend on the case (including review of submissions, facilitation of a hearing, if allowed, and preparation of a decision), or a fixed amount.

The prevailing party in a dispute resolution proceeding will have its advance payment refunded, while the non-prevailing party will not receive a refund and thus will bear the cost of the proceeding.

ICANN estimates that adjudication fees for a proceeding involving a fixed amount could range
from USD 2,000 to USD 8,000 (or more) per proceeding,

Ok that’s not bad, fair enough.

However, ICANN further estimates that “”an hourly rate based proceeding with a one-member panel could range from $32,000 to $56,000 (or more) and with a three-member panel it could range from USD 70,000 to USD 122,000 (or more)“”.

Wow $32K to $56K PER HOUR!!!!

Hell, there not many people with more experience In the domain field than myself and I’m willing to go out on a limb right now and say for the record that I’ll do the work for only $25,000 an hour.  I mean times are tough so I’m willing to work for 1/2 price.

Seriously, how is this fee justified?

How many hours will this process take?

One hour, four hours or ten hours?

With a three man panel your looking at $122,000 per hour “(or more)”

With no control how many hours this process can last.


There are additional fees

“”””This list does not include fees (that is, registry fees) that will be payable to ICANN following execution of a registry agreement. See””” (when I clicked on this link, it did not resolve so this fee is uncertain at this time).

An objection may be filed on any one of the four grounds.  Today we are only going to cover one, as so you head does not explode.

String Confusion Objection – The applied for gTLD string cannot be confusingly similar to an existing TLD or to another appliedfor gTLD string in the same round of applications.

This review involves a preliminary comparison of each applied for gTLD string against existing TLDs and against other applied for gTLD strings. The review is to determine whether the applied for  gTLD string is so similar to one of the others that it would create a probability of detrimental user confusion.

So two types of entities have standing to object:

a.  An existing TLD operator may file a string confusion objection to assert string confusion between an
applied-for gTLD and the TLD that it currently operates.

b.  Any gTLD applicant in this application round may file a string confusion objection to assert string
confusion between an applied-for gTLD and the gTLD for which it has applied.

ICANN will not approve applications for proposed gTLD strings that are identical or that would result in string confusion, called contending strings.

So if say there is an application for .sex, .xxx, and .porn only one of these will be allowed.

If there is an application for .realestate, .property, .house and .homes only one maybe allowed.

Of course there may be multiple applicants for the same extension.  5 companies may apply for .xxx, 10 for .sex and 3 for .porn.

So how is the winner determined?

“””The first option to do that is through voluntary agreements between the applicants concerned. Applicants in contention are encouraged to reach a settlement or agreement that results in resolution of the contention.””

So in my example 18 companies would have to reach a mutal agreement.

Highly unlikely

Assuming no agreement is reached then all 18 parties in my example go into auction.

Here is the auction process:

The auction will be conducted over the Internet, with bidders placing their bids remotely using a web-based software system designed for the auction.

Access to the site will be password-protected and bids will be encrypted via SSL. The auction will generally be conducted in such a way as to conclude quickly, ideally in a single day

Here’s the important part:

The bid amount for an application is not permitted to exceed the financial limit established for the application, such limit based on the financial deposit received from the respective applicant in accordance with the Auction Rules

So if you wind up in a auction you going to have to deposit with ICANN the maximum amount you are willing to bid in advance of the auction.

So if your willing to pay $5,000,000 for .xxx then you have to deposit that amount with ICANN before the auction starts.  If you only deposit $500K then that’s the max you will be allowed to bid.

Now for the auction format:

The auction will be carried out in a series of auction rounds. The sequence of events will be as follows:

For each round, the auctioneer will announce in advance: (i) the Start-of-Round Price; (ii) the End-of-Round Price; and (iii) the starting and ending times of the round. In the first round, the Start-of-Round Price for all applications in the auction will be $0; in subsequent rounds, the Start-of-Round Price will be its End-of-Round Price from the previous round.

The End-of-Round Price will be set in relation to the number of contending applications and the willingness to pay within the range of intermediate prices between the Start-of-Round and End-of-Round Prices. In this manner, an applicant may indicate its willingness to “stay in” the auction at all prices through and including the End-of-Round Price, or its wish to exit the auction at a price less than the End-of-Round Price (“exit bid”).

Exit is irrevocable. If an application exited the auction in a previous round, the application is not permitted to re-enter in the current round.

Applicants may submit their bid(s) at any time during the round.

After each round, the auctioneer will disclose the aggregate number of contending applications that remained in the auction at the End-of-Round Prices for the round, and will announce the prices and times for the next round.

As the auction process continues, with the auctioneer increasing the price range associated with each given TLD string in each round, until there is at most one contending application at the end-of-round prices. After a round in which this condition is satisfied, the auction will conclude, and the auctioneer will determine the clearing price(s). The last remaining application(s) will be deemed the successful application(s), and the associated applicant(s) will be obligated to pay the clearing price(s).

In the case of n mutually-contending applications, the successful application and the clearing price are determined by the following process.

At the end of each round, the auction software aggregates the bids of individual applicants to determine the level of demand for a TLD string.

If the number of remaining bidders exceeds one, applicants are notified of the aggregate demand at the End-of-Round Prices, and applicants are notified of the prices and timing details for the next round. If the aggregate demand is not greater than one, the auction software identifies the lowest price at which such an outcome occurs (i.e. the exit bid of the penultimate applicant). This price is deemed the clearing price, and the remaining application is deemed the successful application. In the unlikely event that all of the remaining applications exit at the clearing price, then the application exiting at the clearing price which has the highest priority number is deemed to be the successful application

Here is the example ICANN gives how the process will work:

“””In the simplest description of an ascending-clock auction structure, the auctioneer announces a single price associated with each round and bidders indicate whether they are “in” or “out” at that price. For example, the price for Round 1 might be $50,000 and the price for Round 2 might be $100,000. Since price ascends in discrete steps, this introduces a reasonable likelihood of ties. For example, Bidders A and B might both indicate that they are “in” at $50,000, but “out” at $100,000.

Each round of the auction has a “Start-of-Round Price” and an “End-of-Round Price”, and bidders indicate whether they are “in” or “out” at all prices within that range. For example, in Round 1, the Start-of-Round Price might be $0 and the End-of-Round Price might be $50,000; while in Round 2, the Start-of-Round Price might be $50,000 and the End-of-Round Price might be $100,000. Assuming that a bidder stayed “in” for Round 1, it has the following alternatives available in Round 2:

It may stay “in” through the End-of-Round Price for the current round (i.e. $100,000); or

It may submit an “exit bid” (a number strictly between $50,000 and $100,000).

As an example, Bidder A might submit an exit bid of $83,000, while Bidder B might submit an exit bid of $92,500. If these are the only two bidders, then $83,000 is the first price at which fewer than two bidders remain. Thus, the auction ends and Bidder B wins the item, at a final price of $83,000.

If instead, both Bidders indicate that they are “in” through $100,000, then the auction progresses to Round 3. The Start-of-Round Price for Round 3 equals the End-of-Round Price for Round 2, while the Auctioneer announces an End-of-Round Price of perhaps $150,000 for Round 3.

Ties remain possible, but now become extremely unlikely. In order to avoid any possibility of a tie, bidders will be randomly assigned “priority numbers” before the auction. In the unlikely event that all of the remaining bidders submit identical exit bids, the winner will be deemed to be the exiting bidder with the highest priority number. Of course, any bidder can avoid having the priority numbers determine whether it wins by judicious choice of its exit bid, for example by submitting an exit bid of an odd amount such as $83,017 instead of using a round number such as $83,000.

As in the basic description of the ascending-clock auction, the Auctioneer announces after each round the number of bidders who remained “in” at the End-of-Round Price, but not their identities. Exit is irrevocable; a bidder who submits an exit bid in Round 2 can no longer participate if the auction progresses to Round 3.

The successful bidder will be offered the base registry agreement and a certain period of time to come to terms. If terms cannot be agreed, the agreement will be offered to the second place bidder.”””

Ok that should be crystal clear clear to everyone.

Bottom line, if your going to apply for one or more of these new gTLD’s and there are domainers planning on going for these, you better be prepared with a lot more than $185K.

Unless you go for a non-contested extension and one not similar to another application, pretty unlikely, you are going to be in a bidding war against multiple parties and you going to have to cough up plenty of money in fees and costs you better have the funds to deposit with ICANN to bid on the auction.

You want some good news, here it is.

If you apply for an extension you can always withdraw your application, including presumably at the same you drop out of  the auction or the auction exceeds you deposit in which case you will be entitled to a refund of 20% of your application fee of $185K or $37K.

However, none of the other fees, including the $122K per hour fee appear to be refundable.

I know if you made it to this point you have a headache.

This is just part one.

More to come.


  1. says

    Note that their auction format is the exact OPPOSITE of the DOJ recommendation. Instead of auction TLDs to the highest bidders (to line ICANN’s pockets, or their boondoggle foundation), the DOJ recommended that if there are new gTLDs (a big if), that they should be allocated in such a manner as to maximize consumer benefits. This means a tender process with declining prices. e.g. to run .store, Afilias might offer to run it for $3/yr per domain, Neustar might offer to run it for $2/yr, and VeriSign might offer to run it for $2.50/yr. Neustar would win (in this fictitious example), and the benefits would flow directly to consumers in the form of lower prices. There would be no presumptive renewal, so after 5 years the contract would be up for tender again.

    ICANN builds up this monolithic process only to maximize its own revenue streams, and not to benefit consumers. The DOJ recognized this, and ICANN failed to respond in this newest draft, so ICANN’s feet should be held to the fire. The community should be deciding which new gTLDs should be added, as per the DOJ letter, and then like normal procurement in government and in the private sector, there’d be a tender process to find the lowest cost operator.

    ICANN has spent millions of dollars on overpriced consultants and staff coming up with not only suboptimal procedures, but procedures that are bad public policy. The DOJ got it right in their recommendations, which was under 10 pages and probably took a few hours to write up. This is trivial stuff, and basic economics. These failures by ICANN demonstrate why their bureaucracy needs to be replaced.

  2. says

    I love it. This process will do nothing but make paying seven figures for a great dotCom seem extremely cost effective. Just wait until someone is tagged with a major lawsuit AFTER they’ve gone through the expense of promoting and releasing their vanity TLD. Forget ICANN or UDRP settling that mess. It will go straight to court. For now, I suggest everyone stock up on a lot of popcorn.

  3. Johnny says

    I’ve never seen a more shining example of greed, stupidity, and lack of respect for the doing what is right for the Internet community.

  4. says

    I loveeeeeeeeee it.

    The harder the process, the better.
    More BS paperwork, more money in the process which equates to More BS paper shuffler jobs aka stimulus domain package.

    More layers of bureaucracy, the more jobs it will create.
    Win-Win for everyone…whopeeeee

  5. Gazzip says

    LOL, what a Joke – the old “Blind em with bullshit and red tape routine”

    $32K to $56K PER HOUR …not a bad wage for a non-profit corporation.

    …that must include a bottle of Macallan 50-year old Scotch so they can toast ripping off some poor sucker that did’nt read all the “terms”.

    Shamefull & Shocking.

  6. says

    If people are unhappy about this process, can I just point out that there is a 90-minute question-and-answer session, as well as a two-and-a-half hour public forum at the upcoming meeting in Mexico City.

    You can ask questions via an online Question Box if you cannot physically attend. You will be able to see a real-time transcript of the meeting online, as well as have an audio feed. There is also a second public comment period that is currently open to take views on the process.

    I can only encourage you all to take advantage of these tools for participating with ICANN.


    Kieren McCarthy
    General manager of public participation, ICANN

  7. MHB says


    This is a very complicated deal.

    There is a section in the Gudebook that discusses what they call a “Lucky Loser” someone who apparently can wind up the winner of an extension even those they lost the auction for it.

    Still can’t understand it after 4 readings.

    I’m doing my best to get through this in some logical order and try to make sense of it.

  8. says


    I agree. I”ve been going over the Guidebook numerous times, but I keep running out of coffee. Studying the flowcharts alone is a cure for insomnia.

    But people really need to put this whole thing in perspective. All this does is take a process that was already in effect, loosen the rules, elongate the system and open the floodgates. This is not the panacea that ICANN envisions and will undoubtedly create many more losers than winners. A lot of entreprenuer get-rich wannabes are going to jump into the mix and ICANN is going to find themselves on the receiving end of numerous lawsuits such as when a consortium of businessmen are furious that their plan to own dotUSA is shot down.

    And there’s the reality. If CNN really, really wants dotCNN it will be OK because they already have an in-house way to utlize the TLD. But if anyone thinks that owning your own TLD is the road to riches I suggest they have a long talk with the owners of dotTravel.

  9. says

    You put a lot of time into that article. Great information. I think ICANN has a bigger problem trying to flood the internet with more gTLD before allowing the internet’s migration from IPv4 to IPv6. They don’t want to let that genie out of the bottle.

    I feel this migration should be propagated BEFORE their predicted allotment of 500 new gTLD which should be delayed until 2011/2012 at the earliest.

  10. Dave says

    Seriously, I tried to read the whole thing. I got past halfway but had to give up. I think I got the gist of it though:
    Very expensive
    Very complicated
    Looking for a whole lot of trouble

  11. says

    Will any new ext make serious cash?

    My answer – NO.

    We have lots of great tlds & cctlds we really dont need more to confuse the end user market.

    Most people still dont get domains and ext.

    Most are aware that cctlds even exist.

    I havent read the book but it sounds expensive and complicated.

    I think its great that people in the industry are willing to take a risk start a new venture and hope they can make money but I dont see it working out.



  12. Dluzional says

    You know I sit back and read this stuff, and don’t really say to much, as 1…I’m still learning, and 2…from a previous post apparently it’s not good to peeve off some people.

    But after reading a lot of this, wouldn’t it be a little more prudent to “educate” the masses regarding extensions/domains etc rather than assuming they(whomever they are) aren’t going to “get it”

    I mean, the dottravel seems to be a failure, but in the end…couldn’t it have been a good thing for the end consumer had they “educated” them to the fact that if you’re travel related, (air/train/cruise) then all they’d have to look up is at a dottravel?

    Same thing with the news industry, having a dot news would allow those outlets that provide news just that, they’re known and designated news outlets. If they’re not subscribed in some way to being news, then they can’t use the extension.

    So instead of coming up with a new fangled way to implement gTLD’s and almost making it cost prohibitive to all but a certain few, why not take what we’ve already got, and educate and utilize it so that it actually works, instead of condemning it entirely.

    Or I may be way off target here, but it seems that no matter what, some people are just destined to make what is perceived and could be implemented as a simple thing an exercise in futility.

  13. says


    Good ideas but…in your example what constitutes news?

    Most tv stations think Paris is some girl in Hollywood!

    Would be impossible and unconstitutional to police who gets to say what’s news…the net is already cluttered with sh&@…these new extensions will be a superhighway multi-car crash

  14. Dluzional says

    Ok…I see your point….

    again though, education would be key…
    Cnn is a new station, most local tv stations are news stations,
    isn’t there already some sort of global entity that anyone that is news related or wants to be have to subscribe to?
    I don’t know

    If things were thought out for a change, I do think that it could be to the end consumer’s advantage instead of leaving it up to the a select few to determine what’s hot and what’s not.

    Just thoughts not yet put down on paper is all…
    gotta ask the questions to get any sembelance of understanding.

  15. MHB says


    .news will certain be an extension.

    Matter of fact you can own it if you pony up the bucks and go through this procedure

  16. says

    As I said this is a “brilliant” idea and we all should support and make it a GO.

    heck, we always need new suckers in this world to make the money go around.

    Sometimes a game of poking the hornet’s nest and then watch the show from the hilltop is so much fun.

    yea, as long as it is not my money or the taxpayers’, just add a pinch of salt to the wound to hear the orgy screaming.

    Good Idea Icant…..

  17. says

    I think you’re misreading this. It’s an hourly based process, but the estimates they are giving is the total cost based on some hourly estimate. These aren’t the hourly costs.

  18. MHB says


    I think the estimates were stated as hourly estimates depending on the number of panelists required.

    I did not read it as total costs.

    I have no idea of how much ICANN is paying out to the panelists

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