ICANN Logo Interim Report of the New TLD Evaluation Process Planning Task Force

Posted: 3 December 2001

Interim Report of the New TLD Evaluation Process Planning Task Force

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1 Overview

This is an interim report of the New TLD Evaluation Process Planning Task Force (NTEPPTF). It is being posted for community feedback and comment. The Task Force is at a stage where such feedback is essential to further progress.

>>>Please submit comments either through the web-based "New TLD Evaluation Process" forum or by e-mail to tldeval@icann.org.<<<

The interim report frames the approach being followed by the Task Force; elaborates on certain key issues; and proposes the questions that the Task Force recommends at this stage should be addressed in evaluating the new TLDs. At this stage, however, the Task Force is not prepared to propose criteria for answering these questions, preferring to receive community input on the questions themselves before proceeding to this next step. The Task Force also proposes an adjusted schedule for the remainder of its work.

2 Background

This is an interim report of the New TLD Evaluation Process Planning Task Force (NTEPPTF). The NTEPPTF was chartered at the 4 June 2001 meeting of the ICANN Board of Directors in Stockholm, Sweden under the following resolution:

Whereas, in resolution 01.60, the Board directed "the President to prepare and present to the Board at its Stockholm meeting in June 2001 a proposal to form a committee to recommend processes for monitoring the implementation of the new TLDs and evaluating the new TLD program, including any ongoing adjustments of agreements with operators or sponsors of new TLDs;"

Whereas, the President has recommended to the Board the formation of a New TLD Evaluation Process Planning Task Force chaired by the President and consisting of members selected with the advice of the Names and Protocol Councils and the Chairs of the IETF, IAB, and ICANN DNS Root Server System Advisory Committee;

Resolved [01.74], the Board directs the President to form and chair a New TLD Evaluation Process Planning Task Force, for the purpose of recommending to the Board and the broader Internet community, by means of a report to be discussed at ICANN's Montevideo meeting in September 2001:

(a) a plan for monitoring the introduction of new TLDs and for evaluating their performance and their impact on the performance of the DNS. This assessment should focus in technical, business, and legal perspectives and rely on data gathered as part of the contractual arrangements with the new TLDs as well as other data inputs that can be readily secured; and

(b) a schedule on which a plan should be executed.

The President of ICANN has carried out the directive of the Board to form the Task Force. Following consultations with the Councils and constituencies designated in the resolution the following individuals were appointed (primary affiliations shown in parentheses):

  • Jaap Akkerhuis (ccTLD Constituency)
  • Sebastien Bachollet (Business Constituency)
  • Marilyn Cade (Business Constituency)
  • David Conrad (Root Server Systems Advisory Committee
  • Michael Heltzer (Intellectual Property Constituency)
  • Geoff Huston (Protocol Support Organization)
  • Roberto Laorden (Protocol Support Organization)
  • Stuart Lynn (Chair)
  • Nilda Vany Martinez Grajales (Non-Commercial Domain Name Holders Constituency)
  • Y J Park (Non-Commercial Domain Name Holders Constituency)
  • Adrian Pinder (Government Advisory Committee Liaison)

A status report was made by the NTEPPTF during the Public Forum at ICANN"S meeting in Montevideo, Uruguay that outlined the approach the Task Force was following. That report also indicated that the Task Force was not able to meet the schedule envisioned by the chartering resolution because of a late start, and presented a more realistic schedule. That new schedule, however, is further compromised by delays imposed by ICANN's decision to limit its business agenda at its Marina del Rey meeting in November 2001 in favor of a special agenda directed at security and stability of the Internet's naming and address allocation systems.

This is a more complete, but nevertheless interim, report of the Task Force and is being posted for community feedback and comment. The Task Force is at a stage where such feedback is essential to further progress.

A key point is that the Task Force is not chartered with conducting an evaluation, but rather developing a plan for the Board's considerations as to how such an evaluation should be conducted. We will comment separately on the implications of this serial approach.

3 Approach

The Task Force decided to divide its work into three stages:

1. Define the "Areas" for which the NTEPPTF recommends that an evaluation be undertaken (see "Areas for Evaluation").
2. Define a short list of "Key Questions") that the NTEPPTF recommends be posed for the evaluation of each Area (see "Questions to be Addressed").
3. Define "Criteria" that the NTEPPTF recommends be used for answering each Question.

Evaluation can be an almost limitless undertaking. It could continue almost indefinitely if every concern or question were pursued in the minutest detail. However, there are practical decisions that must be made by ICANN in the near future if it is to be responsive to community demands for clear indications as to how ICANN plans to move forward with the introduction of new TLDs.

The Task Force has therefore adopted as a guiding principle that its recommendations should be limited to answering only those questions that are likely to have a significant bearing on decisions that are likely to affect those plans now and in the immediate future. Furthermore, those questions should be limited to those that are answerable with reasonable certitude using data that is readily accessible, and preferably as quantitatively as possible. The latter, of course, cannot always be the case, but should at least be a goal.

Even given the foregoing guiding principle limiting the recommended scope of the evaluation, the approach being followed is still serial in nature. Some of the new TLDs are just being launched at the time of writing of this preliminary report, while for others contractual agreements have not yet been signed and it will likely be several months before they are launched. Although in connection with new TLDs already launched, important issues have already come to the fore - particularly in connection with the implementation of "sunrise" and "landrush" domain name allocation methods - it will be some time before any kind of steady state can be reached allowing for a full evaluation of performance.

Yet segments of the community are concerned about the delays in moving forward (it must be recognized that this sentiment is not universally shared). Those most directly concerned, of course, are those organizations whose proposals were not accepted during the first round of submissions in the year 2000 and those who are anxious to submit new proposals. The ICANN Board may find that it needs to move forward faster than can be accommodated by a serial and somewhat lengthy process. There may be a need to move forward in parallel.

With that in mind, the NTEPPTF proposes that the evaluation be broken into three phases:

1. Pre-contract phase.
2. Start-up phase.
3. Steady-state phase.

The questions being asked will undoubtedly vary by phase. The degree of precision in the answers may also vary.

The Task Force also recognizes that the questions being asked and the degree of precision in the answers may also differ between Unsponsored and Sponsored TLDs.

These differences may allow for some greater degree of parallel processing. The Board may, for example, wish to consider the extent to which it can move forward on certain fronts - such as planning for the next round of TLD applications - while conducting Phase 1 or 2 evaluations. Thus, the Board may (or may not) wish to move forward faster in initiating processes to launch new sponsored TLDs if it assesses the risks are significantly less than those associated with launching new unsponsored TLDs.

Moving ahead faster, however, entails certain risks. One particular risk is that some key item may emerge later in the evaluation that, had it been known sooner, would have affected the decision to launch one or more new TLDs earlier in the process. This suggests that a careful timetable needs to be developed (the NTEPPTF will propose such a timetable in its final report) that carefully synchronises the launching of any new TLDs with the pace of the evaluation, ensuring that such launches do not occur unless there is reasonable certainty that downstream problems will not arise.

Certainly much of the planning for new TLDs can be done in parallel with the evaluation, as can much of the proposal solicitation and selection - provided that proposers understand the risks of submitting proposals with no guarantee that any will be selected.
The key checkpoint is the actual entry of any newly selected TLD into the root zone file. Much, however, can be accomplished in parallel on the way to that point of no return.

The potential for moving ahead faster emphasizes the importance for starting to gather data as soon as possible. Appendix J (for unsponsored gTLDs) and Attachment 21 (for sponsored gTLDs) of the various agreements establish requirements on the new registries for acquiring certain data. It is important that ICANN monitor the new TLDs to ensure that the data is indeed being collected as provided for.

4 Other Issues of Concern

Some of the risks associated with moving ahead too fast include:

  • As already stated, insufficient time may have passed to evaluate the current round of new TLDs so that not all potential problems have come to light. Clearly, the launching of several of the new unsponsored TLDs has already raised significant problems, particularly with their start-up phases. There has as yet been no significant experience with the sponsored TLDs.
  • The effect on DNS performance of adding new TLDs is still unknown. Conventional wisdom seems to be that although there are potential future risks in adding significant numbers of new TLDs, there may well be little or no risk in adding tens or even hundreds of relatively small (in terms of numbers of domain names) provided they are not too "flat" in the shape of their hierarchy - insofar as the distributed architecture of the DNS presumes a hierarchical namespace for effective performance. (Relatively large numbers of domain names at the second level - as, for example, occurs with .com - may jeopardize performance regardless of how few or how many top level domains have been authorized.) The PSO and the IETF should be asked for their views on whether this conventional wisdom is substantially correct.
  • If there are indeed practical limits on how many new TLDs could be launched without destabilizing the DNS, utilizing available capacity now for certain purposes could preclude future options that may be of higher priority. Thus, for example, the addition of a large number of new TLDs could preclude launching multilingual TLDs before the interested community had time to develop satisfactory proposals in this area.
  • DNS stability involves more than technical stability. There are also business or commercial issues that could affect stable performance and operation. Ultimately, both technical and commercial stability gauge the effect on consumers, both registrants and end users. They both include such notions as predictable and understandable behaviors. There may not have been time to assess the commercial issues associated with DNS stability. Experience to date with the launching of unsponsored TLDs has certainly indicated that there are significant commercial issues to be considered.

Since it may be some time before a thorough evaluation can be completed, the Task Force believes that a monitoring program should be implemented as soon as possible to assess what, if any, impact the new gTLDs are having during their start-up and growth phases. The form of that monitoring program will be part of the Task Force's final recommendations.

5 Areas for Evaluation

The chartering resolution of the Board stated that the Task Force's work should focus on evaluation in the areas of Business, Technical and Legal. The Task Force, however, did not see this as an exclusive list. As such, the Task Force decided that a fourth area needed to be added to ensure a complete evaluation, namely, Process, including the processes followed by ICANN in selecting and negotiating the new TLDs.

The topics included in the proposed four areas can be summarized as follows:


  • Compliance of new registry operators with signed agreements and with original proposals.
  • Business processes followed by new registry operators in offering services.
  • Scope of markets (registrants) attracted by new TLDs.
  • Practices of new TLDs for regarding trademark concerns, cybersquatting, and dispute resolution.
  • Effects on consumers and end users of new domain names.
  • Provision of accurate and up-to-date Whois contact information.


  • Effects on DNS stability and performance.
  • Operational performance of the registry operators.


  • Scope and effectiveness of legal agreements.


  • Selection of new TLDs.
  • Communication of information during selection, negotiation, start-up phases.
  • Monitoring of performance of new TLDs.

6 Questions to be Addressed

The Task Force has developed a set of questions that it suggests form the basis for evaluation. It has not yet completed its work of assessing which questions are or are not relevant to which phase (see "3 Approach") or which are more or less relevant to sponsored or unsponsored TLDs. Nevertheless, the Task Force seeks community feedback at this interim stage.

In developing these proposed questions to be addressed in the evaluation, the Task Force has borne in mind three principles:

1. The question should have significant bearing on an ICANN decision as to whether, when, and how to launch additional new TLDs or to shape the character of such new TLDs.

2. The question should be answerable in a determinable timeframe (the longer the timeframe the less influence the result might have on any decision process).

3. The question should be answerable either through analysis of data being gathered as part of the agreements (see, e.g., Appendix U to the .biz Registry Agreement), or through some other reasonably objective, albeit qualitative, process (requiring new data sources might present practical difficulties).

With these principles in hand, the Task Force has distilled the questions down to the following:


1. Has there been any measurable or otherwise determinable effect on DNS performance, security, and stability with the introduction of the new gTLDs, including any impact on the root server system?

2. Have there been any serious operational failures during the start-up and steady-state phases of operation that have caused, for example, serious interruptions of service, delays, or loading problems?

3. To what extent have the registries implemented adequate protections against operational failure and performance problems?

4. Have service level agreements been implemented and, if so, to what extent are they monitored for performance?

5. Have new TLD registries incorporated technologies, including new technologies, that can adversely affect the performance of the DNS?


1. To what extent did the proposer comply with the terms of the original proposal? Are departures from the original proposal justifiable in terms of changed business conditions between the time the proposal was submitted and the registry went into operation?

2. How effective were the different start-up mechanisms employed, from both a functional and an operational perspective? To what extent did they achieve their objectives or, conversely, cause consumer confusion, delays, legal issues, operational problems, or other impediments to smooth implementation?

3. How effective have these startup mechanisms been in protecting trademark owners against cybersquatting and other abusive registrations?

4. How viable were the business plans from an economic perspective? Did they achieve their goals during the first year of operation?

5. How often and how successfully have advance filtering and other the mechanisms for enforcement of registration restrictions been used, both in sponsored gTLDs and in restricted unsponsored gTLDs?

6. To what extent and in what timeframe have the registry operators provided free, realtime access to a fully searchable and accurate Whois database?

7. What effect have the new gTLDs had on the scope and competitiveness of the domain name market, both in terms of opening new markets and in their effect on existing TLDs?

8. Are adequate management policies and safeguards in place to ensure protection against accidental or malicious acts that could substantially interfere with continuity of service?


1. How well did the implemented agreements reflect the submitted proposals and ICANN policies?

2. How well do the agreements provide a framework for the addition of future TLDs?

3. Did legal problems arise and, if so, how could they have been avoided?

4. How well have the provisions of the agreements been complied with by either party?

5. Have the new gTLDs encountered any legal or regulatory problems that were not considered at the outset?

6. Have there been any unusual number of disputes during the startup period and how well have they been addressed?

7. How well did the selection and implementation process take into account the Internet's international and uncoordinated legal framework?


1. How well did the application, and approval processes function with regard to their original objectives? How could they have been streamlined?

2. To what extent were the Board's original objectives met through the processes that were used for selection, approval, negotiation, and implementation?

3. How well were public policy issues taken into consideration during the selection process?

4. Did the selection process reflect sufficiently the international nature and diversity of the domain name system?

5. Did the fee structure strike a reasonable balance between affordability and the need to recover ICANN's costs of preparation, selection, negotiation, implementation, litigation, and evaluation?

It is possible that one or more of the foregoing questions may be rejected by this Task Force as it proceeds towards its Final Report, and in particular as it proceeds to define criteria for each question (see following section). Although the principles for questions enumerated at the beginning of this Section have been generally considered during the Task Force's selection of the questions listed, we cannot state with certainty that a given question complies with the principles until the work on criteria is complete. Certain questions have, however, been rejected because prima facie it is evident to the Task Force that they could not comply with those principles.

7 Criteria for Evaluating Questions

(These will be developed once the questions are "finalized".)

8 Monitoring Program

(The need for a monitoring program has been suggested earlier in the report. The form of this program will be part of the Task Force's final report.)

9 Evaluation Methodology

(This section will contain the Task Force's recommendations to the Board on how the recommended evaluation should be conducted, and by whom.)

10 Evaluation Timetable

(This section will contain the Task Force's recommendations to the Board on an evaluation timetable, including checkpoints.)

11 Next Steps and Schedule

Feedback from the community on this Interim Report is requested by January 15, 2002. Dependent on the nature of this feedback, the Task Force hopes to be able to complete its Final Report by the middle of February for community comment, and expects to submit this Final Report to the Board at the Board meeting in March in Accra.

12 Recommendations

(To be developed in conjunction with Final Report of the Task Force.)

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