New sTLD Application:

Evaluation Methodology and Selection Criteria

(Draft for public comment)

Posted: 24 June 2003

This document is a draft for public comment posted on 24 June 2003. Please be sure to check the ICANN website for any later versions of this document before you submit your application.

Please submit any comments on this draft to <stld-rfp-comments@icann.org>.

Evaluation Methodology and Selection Criteria

All applicants should read this document carefully, since it defines the Evaluation Methodology and the Selection Criteria that will be used to review and evaluate applications. Evaluations that are rated highly by the independent consultants performing the review will be recommended for approval by the ICANN Board. A thorough understanding of this document, therefore, is an essential prerequisite to completing an application for a new sTLD, and should guide applicants in how to complete those applications.

Evaluation Methodology

It is ICANN’s intention to engage the services of one or more external consultants to provide an objective and independent evaluation of the applications with reference to the requirements stated in the RFP and following the selection criteria and evaluation methodology described in this document. ICANN staff may prepare reports for posting or for the ICANN Board summarizing the findings of the consultant or consultants, particularly if more than one consultant is employed or if there are additional legal issues that the Board must consider. Although ICANN staff will not be performing the substance of the evaluation, staff may assist in compiling, synthesizing or tabulating information for review by the Board. The ICANN Board’s role will be either to accept or reject the findings of the consultant(s). The Board itself will not perform the evaluation. If the Board comes to a determination that the evaluative process undertaken is insufficient, the Board may decide to engage in further review by either the same or a different consultant or consultants. Applicants should understand and appreciate the risk that all applications will be found deficient and rejected.

Each major category and sub-category under the heading “Selection Criteria” below has been assigned a total weight. The weights assigned to each sub-category add to the total weight for the overall category. For an application to be recommended by the consultant for acceptance under the established criteria for this RFP review process, it must receive at least a “passing score” in each major category and sub-category of the Selection Criteria; a passing score is 75% of the possible total score in a major category, and 50% in a sub-category. For example, a passing score in the first major category “Ensure stable registry operation” would be 27 out of the possible 35 points. For applications approved by the Board, applicants will be invited to enter into discussions with ICANN regarding entering into the Model Agreement. For an applicant to have reached this stage and been approved by the Board, it must have submitted a “complete and well-structured application” (see Section 6 below) including a complete and signed New sTLD Application Transmittal Form together with all attachments. Among other provisions, that Transmittal Form committed the applicant to agree to enter into the Model Agreement (Appendix A of the RFP) in the event of approval of their application by the Board. The Model Agreement will not be open to negotiation.

Selection Criteria

The following criteria will be used in the evaluation of all proposals received.

1. Evidence of ability to ensure stable registry operation (35)

The overarching concern in the introduction of any new TLD is to ensure that it does not detrimentally affect the stability of the DNS. It is important to ensure that the new registry would itself perform reliably, continuously, and in compliance with current and future technical standards, and that provisions are made to ensure continuity of operation in the face of any business or other catastrophic failure of the registry operator, where the registry operator is no longer able to fulfill its obligations to provide registry operations services.

This category will be deemed satisfied for any applicant that chooses Option A for the selection of a registry operator, provided the existing ICANN-accredited registry operator is in compliance with all material terms of its existing agreement (see Request for Proposals and New sTLD Application Transmittal Form).

For those selecting Option B, proposals will receive a higher score based on how convincingly they demonstrate that the registry operations would be well-run and that the Registry Operator can ensure stable and continuous operation, as indicated by:

(a) An applicant providing a detailed business plan to ensure satisfactory continuing registry operation (10)

The information requested in the Registry Operator’s Proposal must provide sufficient evidence that the applicant plans to contract with a registry operator that has access to adequate resources and has developed adequate plans to ensure that the registry operator can operate the registry reliably and continuously, with adequate provision to protect against business failure of the registry operator.

The sufficiency of detail provided will depend on the scale and complexity of the proposed sTLD.

(b) The applicant ensures that the chosen registry operator conforms or will confirm to high standards in technical operation of the new sTLD registry (10)

The registry is expected to be operated at a performance level commensurate with standards of other gTLDs. Among other considerations in this regard, proposals will receive a higher score the more the proposed Registry Operator:

Demonstrates Relevant Technical Experience

  • The proposed registry operator demonstrates relevant technical experience in the operation of domain name registries or other related significant components of the Domain Name System (DNS).

Presents a Sound Technical Plan

(c) Provides a full range of registry services (5)

Registrants and ICANN-accredited registrars depend on reliable and comprehensive registry services. The proposed registry operation should provide:

  • A full range of essential services, with positive consideration being given to additional, diversified services appropriate to the sTLD’s charter; and
  • High-quality services offered at the lowest reasonable cost.

Proposals will receive a higher score the higher the quality, the lower the cost and the more comprehensive the range of registry services offered.

(d) Assures continuity of registry operation in the event of business failure of the proposed registry (10)

Applications must provide for adequate assurance of continuity of registry operations in the event of business failure of the proposed registry. Although provision for escrow of registry data is required, this of itself does not satisfy the requirement (see Requirements for Registry Operator’s Proposal). Either:

• In addition to regular escrow with ICANN of registry data, the applicant satisfies expectations of continuity by providing a detailed and satisfactory business plan (see (a), above);


• The applicant in the Registry Operator’s Proposal must present a realistic and satisfactory alternative for ensuring continuity of registry operation in the event of business failure of the proposed registry. This requirement can, for example, be met if the applicant attaches a letter of commitment (outlining terms and conditions) from an existing registry operator with whom ICANN already has an agreement (see Appendix C of the RFP), and which existing registry operator is operating at a high level of performance, stating a willingness to assume responsibility for the operation of the sTLD registry in the event of business failure of the actual proposed registry operator.

2. Conform to requirements of sponsored TLD (60)

This RFP is for sponsored TLDs only. There are several key elements to the definition of a sponsored TLD as specified in the RFP. Conforming to this definition is critical. To the extent that the sponsoring organization is seeking delegated policy-authority from ICANN, it is also critical that such delegated authority conform to overall ICANN policy and that there be an open and transparent policy-making process established that is guided by and owes its overriding responsibility to the Sponsored TLD Community (defined in subsection 2.a below) or the general Internet community.

Organizations sponsoring proposals, and the proposals themselves, will receive a higher score the closer they conform to the stated requirements for sTLDs and their sponsoring organizations; and to the extent the delegated policy-making authority is guided by and owes its primary responsibility to the Sponsored TLD Community and the general Internet community.

(a) Definition of Sponsored TLD Community (10)

The proposed sTLD should address the needs and interests of a clearly defined community (the Sponsored TLD Community), which can benefit from establishment of a TLD operating under a policy formulation environment in which the community would participate.

Proposals will receive a higher score the clearer it is that the Sponsored TLD Community is:

• Precisely defined, so it can readily be determined which persons or entities make up that community; and

• Comprised of persons that have needs and interests in common differentiated from those of the general global Internet community, so that there is a significant advantage to delegating specified aspects of ICANN’s policy-formulation role for gTLDs.

(b) Appropriateness of the Sponsoring Organization and the policy formulation environment (15)

An appropriately constituted sTLD must have a Sponsoring Organization that is clearly defined and well-constructed, and that has clearly defined delegated policy-making responsibilities consistent with ICANN policies.

The scope of delegation of the policy-formulation role need not be (and is not) uniform for all sTLDs, but is tailored to meet the particular needs of the defined Sponsored TLD Community and the characteristics of the policy-formulation environment.

Proposals will receive a higher score the more the Sponsoring Organization:

• Is clearly defined and well constructed;

• Operates primarily in the interests of the Sponsored TLD Community;

• Has a clearly defined delegated policy-formulation role consistent with ICANN’s policies and appropriate to the needs of the Sponsored TLD Community; and

• Provides for continuity in the event of business failure of the Sponsoring Organization where the Sponsoring Organization is no longer able to fulfill its obligations.

(c) Responsiveness to Sponsored TLD Community (15)

The Sponsoring Organization’s policy-formulation environment, policies, and procedures must be appropriate to and responsive to the needs and interests of the defined Sponsored TLD Community. It is paramount that the Sponsoring Organization owe its overriding responsibilities to the Sponsored TLD Community and the public interest in its policy-formulation activities.

Proposals must clearly define the policy-formulation process that must allow and promote participation, in an open and transparent manner, appropriate to the particular Sponsored TLD Community.

Proposals, therefore, will receive a higher score the more the Sponsoring Organization is proposed to have:

• Defined open and transparent processes for responding to input from the Sponsored TLD Community; and

• Defined mechanisms to ensure that approved policies are primarily in the interests of the Sponsored TLD Community and the public interest.

(d) Level of support from community (15)

A key requirement of an sTLD proposal is that it demonstrates broad-based support from the community it is intended to support. Conversely, ICANN may reject a proposal, however sound it may otherwise be, if there is significant evidence of strong opposition to the proposal from key segments of the proposed Sponsored TLD Community.

Proposals will receive a higher score the more there is:

• Evidence of broad-based support from the Sponsored TLD Community for the sTLD, for the Sponsoring Organization, and for the proposed policy-formulation process; and

• Absence of significant evidence of strong opposition to the proposal form key segments of the Sponsored TLD Community.

3. Add new value to the DNS (25)

How does the introduction of the proposed new sTLD make the Internet and the DNS more useful and more accessible to broader communities of interest and to more end users? Is it clear that a new top-level domain name is required and that the objectives cannot be achieved at the second level of an existing TLD?

Proposals will receive a higher score the more value that would be added to the DNS by launching the proposed sTLD, and the more it is clear that a top level domain name is required to achieve the stated objectives.

(a) Value of name (15)

A top-level gTLD name must have broad significance and have clear, lasting value and utility. The name must also be appropriate to the defined community. Proposals will receive a higher score the more the proposed name:

• Categorizes a broad and lasting field of human, institutional, or social endeavor or activity;

• Represents an endeavor or activity that has importance across multiple geographic regions;

• Has lasting value; and

• Is appropriate to the scope of the proposed Sponsored TLD Community.

(b) Enhanced diversity of the DNS (10)

The proposed new sTLD should create a new and clearly differentiated space, and satisfy needs that cannot be readily met through the existing TLDs. One purpose of creating new TLDs is to enhance competition in registry services, but this is only likely to happen with the launching of larger new TLDs. Proposals will receive a higher score the more the proposed sTLD:

• Is clearly differentiated from existing TLDs;

• Meets needs that cannot reasonably be met in existing TLD at second level;

• Attracts new “supplier” and “user” communities to the Internet; and

• Enhances competition in domain-name registration services. Including competition with existing TLD registries.

4. Reach and enrich broad global communities (20)

How will the proposed new sTLD have broad functional, geographic, and demographic impact, meeting the needs of significant global communities, both providers and users?

The purpose of introducing new sTLDs at this time is not to launch a large number of sTLDs that will only serve small and very narrowly – in both the demographic and geographic sense – communities, but to launch a few sTLDs with broad geographic and demographic impact. The number of projected registrations is only one measure – and not necessarily the best measure – of impact; one can conceive of smaller sTLDs that nevertheless have a significant impact because they meet the needs of broad communities of users desiring to find resources on the Internet that would be served by the sTLD.

Given that choices need to be made, all other things being equal, greater weight will be given to sTLDs that will serve larger user communities and attract a greater number of registrants. Greater weight will also be given to those proposed sTLDs whose charters have relatively broader functional scope.

Proposals, therefore, will receive a higher score the broader the scope and the broader the community(ies) addressed by the sTLD.

(a) Demographic reach (10)

Proposals will receive a higher score the more they realistically anticipate broader utilization and provide convincing evidence in their projections of the

• Numbers of people and institutions served; and

• Number of potential and planned new registrants.

(b) Global reach and accessibility (10)

gTLDs in general, and sTLDs in particular, are intended to serve broad global communities. The mnemonic value of the name should have broad global comprehension and appeal to the extent possible. Proposals will receive a higher score the greater:

• The global distribution of communities served, and

• The global value of the proposed name.

5. Protect the rights of others (20)

New sTLDs have a responsibility to create policies and practices that minimize abusive registration activities and other activities that affect the legal rights of others. This is often easier for sTLDs than for uTLDs since registrants are limited to defined communities of individuals or institutions, which participate in the formulation of policies for the sTLD. sTLDs are required to implement safeguards against allowing unqualified registrations, and to ensure compliance with other ICANN policies designed to protect rights of others.

Proposals will receive a higher score the more they protect rights of those with claims on those domain names, whether or not those claims lead to possession of those names.

(a) Assurance of charter-compliant registrations and avoidance of abusive registration practices (8)

Operators of sTLDs are expected to implement safeguards to ensure that non-compliant applicants cannot register domain names. Proposals will receive a higher score the more that precise and adequate measures are proposed to:

• Discourage registration of domain names that infringe intellectual property rights;

• Ensure that only charter-compliant persons or entities (that is, members of the Sponsored TLD Community (see subsection 2(a) above) are able to register domain names in the proposed new sTLD;

• Minimize abusive registrations;

• Comply with applicable trademark and anti-cybersquatting legislation; and

• Provide protections (other than exceptions that may be applicable during the start-up period) for famous trademarks.

(b) Assurance of adequate dispute-resolution mechanisms (6)

All gTLDs are expected to adhere to the ICANN Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy. Particular dispute resolution mechanisms may be implemented to support particular situations, such as priority of acceptance of applicants in competition for the same name during start-up periods.

Proposals will receive a higher score the more fully they propose measures to:

• Implement the ICANN Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy; and

• Where applicable, supplement the UDRP with policies or procedures that apply to the particular situations of the sTLD.

(c) Provision of ICANN-policy compliant Whois service (6)

All gTLDs must provide accessible Whois database services to provide legitimate information on registrants for purposes that are in compliance with ICANN policies. Proposals will receive a higher score the more fully and convincingly they plan for a complete, up-to-date, reliable, and conveniently accessible Whois database of all registrations in the sTLD, compliant with ICANN policies. Such implementations must also comply with emerging ICANN privacy policies in this area, if and when they become approved.

6. Provide complete and well-structured applications (20)

Proposals must be complete in responding to the stated requirements and in providing all required information. Proposals must also be well structured to allow for ease of evaluation, following the proscribed formats.

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