In a letter tonight sent by Larry Strickling of the US Department of Commerce to the ICANN chairman Steve Crocker, the Commerce Department says its going to examine the new gTLD program after the application period closes and ICANN discloses the list of applicants on May 1st.
Speaking about the new gTLD program Mr. Strickling writes:
“We have learned that there is tremendous concern about the specifics of the program that may lead to a number of unintended and unforeseen consequences that might jeopardize its success”
“Once the list of strings is made public, NTIA, soliciting input from stakeholders and working with colleagues in the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), will evaluate whether additional protections are warranted at the second level.”
“Having the ability to evaluate the actual situations or conflicts presented by the applied for strings, rather than merely theoretical ones, will certainly assist and focus everyone’s efforts to respond to problems should they arise.”
“Accordingly as ICANN moves forward I urge you to consider implementing measures including to minimize the perceived need for defensive registrations”
“We think, and I am sure ICANN and its stakeholders would agree, that it would not be healthy for the expansion program if a large number of companies file defensive top-level applications when they have no interest in operating a registry.”
“I suggest that ICANN consider taking some measures well before the application window closes to mitigate against this possibility.”
“After the application window closes, and ICANN publishes details about the pool, fact will be available to determine the potential scope of this gTLD expansion.”
“At that time it would be useful for ICANN to assess whether there is a need to phase in the introduction of new gTLD’s”
The implication in the letter is clear.
The US Department of Commerce is going to allow the new gTLD program application period to open on time and close as planned, but is not waiving its rights to object to the program once its determined who has applied and who has not applied for a new gTLD.
This is only going to confuse the issue even further and put another big question mark on anyone who is thinking about shelling out the $185K application fee.
Of course if you don’t apply you risk that your competitor applies for a gTLD string that is the category defining string for your product or profession and the program is allowed to move forward with you missing it.
Told you 2012 was going to be an interesting year.
You can read Mr. Strickling letter here (pdf).