New sTLD Application
Responses to Questions
30 January 2004
(Additional questions and responses posted on 2 February 2004, 28 February 2004, and 1 March 2004)
These questions were submitted by prospective applicants following the procedures described in the "Explanatory Notes" (Part A) to the New sTLD Application. Some of the questions have been edited for clarity and/or combined to avoid duplication. Questions and responses are being posted online in order to provide all prospective applicants with the same information.
Prospective applicants should direct any requests for clarification, or requests for information on the status of responses to questions, to firstname.lastname@example.org. As a reminder, the "Probity and Conflict of Interest" section of the Explanatory Notes to the RFP includes the following important instruction:
"During the application process, applicants must not approach or have anyone else approach on their behalf, any member of the ICANN Staff, the ICANN Board or any person associated with the proposal process including the independent evaluators with respect to the Request for Proposal."
NOTE: Additional questions and/or responses may be posted. Please check back.
Responses to questions
Before deciding whether to apply, ICANN strongly recommends that you secure the professional assistance of experts (technical, financial, legal, management etc.) to help you evaluate the chances that your application will be successful. If you decide to go forward with the application process, the help of these experts will be vital in formulating the proposal and preparing the application. Potential applicants and their experts may want to familiarize themselves with the successful applications from ICANN's new TLD application process held in 2000 and the .org reassignment process from 2002. More information is available via ICANN's Top-Level Domain section.
No. The current request for proposals includes only applications to introduce new "sponsored" TLDs. For background information concerning the terms "sponsored" and "unsponsored" as used by ICANN, please refer to ICANN's Top-Level Domain section.
Yes. ICANN does intend to identify the independent evaluators once the evaluation and selection process is complete.
Yes. In the clauses preceding the ICANN Board resolutions authorizing the finalization of this sTLD RFP (resolutions 03.169, et seq.) the Board specifically recognized the "general community agreement that the appropriate form of sponsoring organization for new sTLDs should not necessarily be restricted to not-for-profit entities, but could include other forms of entity that otherwise meet the criteria for a sponsoring organization."
Due to pre-existing policies and practices ICANN will not allocate strings of one or two characters as gTLDs at this time. For additional background information, please refer to RFC 3071.
7. Will ICANN support, at least in principle, the reservation of country-codes in proposed new applications, where in the future they could possibly be used by a sponsored TLD on the second-level, thus allowing new registrations on the third-level?
ICANN's current sponsored gTLD registry agreements require that all single and two-character labels be reserved at the second level.
8. As "community" groups tend to be non-profit, their bylaws and remits will not normally permit them to endorse any commercial TLD prior to ICANN licensing. Is this something that ICANN will consider when evaluating proposals?
Any information provided within an application may be considered as part of the application process. However, without additional clarification we are unable to answer your question.
9. Under the new RFP, could the applicant be an independent registry operator, as long as it has the support of a sponsoring organization? If so, who will ICANN be entering into contractual obligations with: (1) applicant; (2) sponsoring organization or (3) both?
Yes, the applicant can be an independent registry operator, as long as it has the support of, and accountability to, a sponsoring organization. ICANN will be entering into contracts with the successful applicants (if any), which may or may not be the sponsoring organizations.
10. The draft sTLD RFP posted 24 June 2003 proposed certain players and relationships. It would appear that some of that has changed and hence a review would be helpful.
An example would be that in the previous RFP there was a desire, if not a requirement that the applicant, and thus the organization signing with ICANN if successful, would be a not-for-profit organization. That appears to no longer be the case.
The various entities that might come together for an sTLD application and that are suggested by the terminology in the application are the following, Applicant, Registry, Registry Operator, Sponsored TLD Community, Sponsoring Organization, and of course ICANN.
My assumptions are that someone, a group, company, non-profit or for-profit could decide to apply for an sTLD. That entity that approaches ICANN and submits the application is the applicant. This applicant is likely the one who is the initiator, developer, administrator, marketer, and investor/risk taker of the proposed sTLD.
The Sponsored TLD community by definition is made up of anyone, individual or organizations, companies, related to the named sTLD being requested. This just a definition, the Sponsored Community itself isn't a direct player as I understand it.
The Sponsoring Organization is an organization which can or should represent a good portion of the Sponsored TLD community. And it is an active role. The applicant would have to show good support from the Sponsoring Community and have a working relationship with the Sponsoring Organization to provide sTLD services to the Sponsored TLD Community through policies developed by the Sponsoring Organization.
The Registry Operator could be some existing or new company that has the technical capabilities to actually run the registry operation for the applicant or it might even be the applicant. Correct?
Please refer to the full text of the Request for Proposals, and the response to question #9 above.
11. It would appear that ICANN would contract (if the applicant is successful) with the Applicant. And that contract would identify the Registry Operator, and the Sponsoring Organization, and no doubt refer to the Sponsored TLD Community. As well as spelling out the relationship between the Applicant and ICANN the contract would spell out the requirements and relationships between the Applicant and the Registry Operator and the Sponsoring Community. Is this basically right?
ICANN's contract with a successful applicant will set forth the requirements and the obligations of that applicant, which will include its relationships with the registry operator and the sponsoring organization.
12. In the New TLD Application in a few places there is reference to just the Registry. For example in Part C there is reference to Registry Requirements and within that part there is a heading called Registry Failure. It would appear that the term Registry is a general term that refers to both the Registry Operator and the Sponsoring Organization and possibly also the Applicant. There is no separate organization just called the Registry. It appears to be a collective term here. Correct?
No, this is not exactly correct. While the section heading is labeled generally as "registry failure," the text of the relevant section specifically asks the applicant to "Provide details on how you would assure continuity of operations in the event of business or operational failure of the Registry Operator or Sponsoring Organization and make provision for contingencies and a failsafe back-up plan."
13. In Part A under Confidentiality it says Parts C, D, & E will remain confidential to the independent evaluators and ICANN. But in Part B in the third to last paragraph it says that by checking the box: "The applicant understands and acknowledges that ICANN does not and will not agree to keep any portion of the application or materials submitted with the application confidential." Could you please clarify what the intent is regarding confidentiality portions of the application?
The acknowledgement in the third to last paragraph in Part B is a limitation of liability provision as it relates to ICANN and the evaluators' involvement in the sTLD application process. ICANN recognizes the importance of the confidential treatment of some of the information that will be submitted. We are currently preparing possible revisions to the limitation of liability provision.
Unfortunately the web forms you have designed do not allow any input except plain text. It is very inconvenient to provide detailed information where there is no way to provide figures or diagrams (for part E -technical specifications), or Excel tables/sheets (for part D-financial Model).
It will be very helpful if you will allow either the alternative of submitting the application in the "old way", or allowing the applicants to provide appendixes containing with figures and financial sheets in addition to the application submitted via email or any other way with a reference to the application. Will that be acceptable?
Your concern was the subject of much discussion at ICANN as the application format was devised. This is the first part of the sTLD application and evaluation process and is intended to screen out applicants who do not meet base criteria such as the proper definition of sponsored community, availability of adequate resources, demonstration of an adequate plan or access to sufficient infrastructure. The format as it exists now provides the opportunity to provide evidence to satisfy those and other base criteria.
The second step of the process will involve one-on-one interaction with the evaluators. At that time, you will have the opportunity to present financial sheets and other information in your own format and presented in a way for you to most forcefully make your case.
Therefore, please present the information you can that you believe will be the most meaningful at this stage of the process. Please also know that this two-stage process has been designed so that it can be completed in a fairly rapid manner and that the second stage will not require a redundant effort on your part.
15. The deadline for the application is set to March 15th 2004. The evaluation will take some time. You wrote on the website: "...to ensure that new sTLDs will be available in 2004...". Actually when will the successful applicants be able to start with its sTLD?
Please refer to the "Timeline" section of the RFP
16. The answer to Question #13 above seems to suggest that a clarification or a modification would be published allowing people and businesses working together to be able to put forward a viable business plan and creative ideas without concern about losing confidential data and intellectual content. Will there be any revisions or changes?
As indicated in the response to Question #13 (above), the only possible changes to the RFP will be clarifications to the limitation on ICANN's potential liability to applicants related to any disputes over the release of materials for which the applicant had requested confidential treatment. As stated in the original RFP, ICANN assumed no liability in such disputes. ICANN is carefully considering whether to accept limited liability for any such potential disclosures. Potential applicants concerned about this point should understand that ICANN is not contemplating accepting any liability in excess of the amount of the application fee.
Yes; a maximum of 10000 characters may be entered into each application form text box. Applicants considering potentially longer responses should summarize information wherever appropriate to provide the most informative response possible within the prescribed limit.
Please refer to the full text of the RFP. For background information concerning the terms "sponsored" and "unsponsored" as used by ICANN, please refer to the following text from the Top-Level Domain section of ICANN's website:
"Generally speaking, an unsponsored TLD operates under policies established by the global Internet community directly through the ICANN process, while a sponsored TLD is a specialized TLD that has a sponsor representing the narrower community that is most affected by the TLD. The sponsor thus carries out delegated policy-formulation responsibilities over many matters concerning the TLD. "A Sponsor is an organization to which is delegated some defined ongoing policy-formulation authority regarding the manner in which a particular sponsored TLD is operated. The sponsored TLD has a Charter, which defines the purpose for which the sponsored TLD has been created and will be operated. The Sponsor is responsible for developing policies on the delegated topics so that the TLD is operated for the benefit of a defined group of stakeholders, known as the Sponsored TLD Community, that are most directly interested in the operation of the TLD. The Sponsor also is responsible for selecting the registry operator and to varying degrees for establishing the roles played by registrars and their relationship with the registry operator. The Sponsor must exercise its delegated authority according to fairness standards and in a manner that is representative of the Sponsored TLD Community."
ICANN will consider any and all applications, but for any number of reasons it is possible that particular strings will not be allocated; see for example the response to question #6 (above). Applicants are encourage to pay particular attention to the following text from the RFP:
"The applicant (or, if there are multiple applicants, each applicant) understands and agrees that the $US45,000 is only an application fee to obtain consideration of this application; that the fee will not be refunded or returned in any circumstances; that there is no understanding, assurance, or agreement that this application will be selected; or that establishment of an sTLD as sought in this application will be the result. The applicant (or, if there are multiple applicants, each applicant) understands and acknowledges that ICANN has the right to reject all applications for new sponsored top-level domains that it receives and that there is no assurance that any additional sponsored top-level domains will be created. The decision as to whether to proceed with further review and consideration of applications submitted for the purpose of establishing one or more new sTLDs is entirely at ICANN's discretion."
20. What is the final decision from ICANN regarding either waiving or reducing the application fees for original year 2000 TLD applicants that were not refused? Exactly, what is the second-round application fee for original sponsored TLD applicants who paid the 2000 application fee?
The application fee for consideration in this round is the same for all applicants in this round: $45,000.
21. Regarding the mailed hard copy of an application, can it contain supplemental material that is not in the electronic submission? Or must it be exactly the same as the electronic version? Is supplemental application material only to be given after requests from ICANN for further information?
The RFP specifies as follows:
"You will be presented with an acknowledgement of your submission and a complete application document. Please print and sign this document and submit it to ICANN in hard copy form. The document must be signed by the applicant's authorized representative. Please keep a copy for your own records. In the event of a discrepancy between the electronic and hard copy forms, the electronic copy will prevail."
No additional materials should be sent unless and until they are requested specifically by ICANN.
22. For purposes of this RFP, is the definition of "Operational Income" as contained in Part D Financial Model, Number 7 an equivalent definition to that of "Revenue" as contained in Part C Business Plan - Registry Requirements, Number 1? If not, can you provide the definition of "Operational Income" for purposes of this RFP in both the context of Part D, Number 7 and also for the heading under "Revenues" as contained in the spreadsheet in this same Part D?
Yes; the numbers are the same, but in the business plan section the description of the revenue model would describe in words and numbers the business theory by which the proposed sTLD offering will generate revenue.
23. Is the conservative use of HTML tags (such as p, h3, h4, h5, table, ul, li) accepted? Their use appears appropriate to enhance readability whenever the response is more than one phrase. It also seems to work out technically.
ICANN is not planning to filter the text submitted by applicants to remove HTML tags, but applicants are encouraged to enter their responses in the simplest format possible in order to avoid format incompatibilities and other distractions from the content of the applications.
ICANN will work with any currency so long as that currency is clearly specified. ICANN will presume that all amounts are in US dollars absent other indication.
No; ICANN expects that future registry sponsors and operators will be able to determine these arrangements on their own, taking into account the globalized nature of the Internet.
Please refer to the "Probity and Conflict of Interest" and the "Questions and Answers" sections of Part A of the RFP. As indicated in detail in the RFP, it is important that potential applicants not approach any member of the ICANN staff or Board with respect to the Request for Proposals. Questions regarding the application process should be directed only to email@example.com.
The application form is relatively simple, and has been tested extensively – it is unlikely that applicants will experience significant difficulties. Applicants should obtain their passwords as soon as possible in order to familiarize themselves with the online application form. In the event of technical difficulties, applicants should contact ICANN via firstname.lastname@example.org with a detailed request for assistance.
28. In the sTLD ICANN Application Form, does Year 1 refer to the period beginning from the day the TLD is granted, or the day TLD products are sold? What does the "Application Period" in the ICANN Application Form refer to? Is it the date up to the TLD being granted, or the period up to TLD products being launched?
The application period covers the entire period up until the date on which the applied-for TLD is first delegated within the Authoritative Root-Server System to nameservers designated by Registry Operator. Year 1 and Year 2 refer to the two years following that date, respectively.
Each application can propose up to three potential TLD strings. The application fee is the same whether an application proposes one, two, or three desired strings. Please refer to the "Namestrings and Conventions" section of Part B of the RFP.
Please refer to the complete text of the RFP. For background information concerning the terms "sponsored" and "unsponsored" as used by ICANN, please refer to the Top-Level Domains section of the ICANN website
The current request for proposals is restricted to applications for new sponsored Top Level Domains.
It is not clear what you mean by "special" TLD here. Sponsored TLDs are a subset of "restricted" TLDs. Please refer to the Top-Level Domains section of the ICANN website for additional background information.
No, .info is an unsponsored, unrestricted TLD.
We can't answer your question without further clarification. It is not possible to classify a particular potential new TLD string under the sponsored or unsponsored categories without knowing the TLD's proposed organizational and policy-making structure.
35. We came up with an idea to create an organization that could apply for a new sTLD, but we are unable to fulfill all the necessary requirements for the sTLD application procedure before 15 March 2004. Although we are not ready for this sTLD application procedure we sincerely hope to get another chance. Therefore we like to know if another sTLD application procedure will be organized by the ICANN within the next 18 months.
ICANN's current intention is to implement another new gTLD selection process within that time frame. Please refer to ICANN Board Resolution 03.168, through which ICANN has announced its intention to develop and implement a comprehensive process to move from the proof of concept test of new TLD introductions commenced with the 2000 round to a liberalised and predictable strategy for selecting new gTLDs using straightforward, transparent, and objective procedures that preserve the stability of the Internet. Although subject to change, that resolution calls for implementation of the new selection process to begin by the end of calendar year 2004.
36. The process for evaluation of applications as elaborated in the presentation at the ICANN Rome meeting envisions an initial assessment of whether the applications meet "threshold requirements" ("to demonstrate involvement in the community, technical competence, financial viability, and a robust business model"); selection of certain TLDs "to go to the next round"; and then "technical and commercial negotiation". Will it be permissible for an applicant making it to the "next round" to raise technical and commercial issues in the negotiations that were not raised before the evaluators? It is possible that some of these issues would be very relevant to the evaluation. As an example, an applicant might choose, as one of its "commercial issues" to, give all the attractive domains in the sTLD to some particular proprietary or other interest. How will ICANN consider the effect of such a later issue on the appropriateness of the sponsoring organization to act for the Sponsored TLD Community? Will the Sponsored TLD Community be consulted?
During the technical and commercial negotiations, the applicant can raise all issues germane to the application process, regardless of whether they had been raised in the initial application. During the application process, and in particular during the technical and commercial negotiation, ICANN may consult with third parties including members of the sponsored community. Of course, whether such consultation is meaningful, possible or required will be determined on a case-by-case basis. The weight given to such consultation will also be determined on a case-by-case basis.
37. The explanatory notes to the application state that: "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." This indicates that there is a spectrum of TLD models ranging from those that are completely unsponsored, with ICANN retaining all authority for policy formulation, to the fullest possible delegation of autonomous authority for policy formulation to the Sponsoring Organization. The bimodal conceptual framework established during the first round of new TLDs may thus need some elaboration. How broad a segment of the sponsorship spectrum is ICANN planning to include in the present action? If there is no limit, why is such emphasis being placed on the terminological distinction?
The comment regarding delegation of the policy is intended to convey that each sTLD agreement will be negotiated individually given the differing business, technical and community environments of the proposed sTLD. Regarding the definition of community and sponsorship, please review the specific language in the request for proposals. Further clarification may be found by comparing that language to the definition of community in the first round of sTLD agreements.
38. The response to Question 5 notes that, in its resolution in Carthage, the Board recognized community sentiment "that the appropriate form of sponsoring organization for new sTLDs should not necessarily be restricted to not-for-profit entities, but could include other forms of entity that otherwise meet the criteria for a sponsoring organization." Based on this, the response indicates that a for-profit sponsoring organization is acceptable.
Since ICANN has in the past delegated to sponsoring organizations the authority to formulate policies (within defined scope) for the TLD, which cannot be displaced even by consensus policies formulated in the ICANN process, there has been the understandable requirement that the foremost allegiance of the sponsoring organization be to the Sponsored TLD Community. This is included in the criteria stated in the RFP's explanatory notes, which require that the sponsor, "Operates primarily in the interests of the Sponsored TLD Community." While it is easy to understand how various forms of entities other than traditional non-profit organizations, such as nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations, can meet this criterion, it is not clear how a typical for-profit organization can. In most jurisdictions, for-profit organizations owe their primary obligation to their investors (in the case of for-profit corporations, their shareholders) and must be operated accordingly. Indeed for-profit organizations can often be sued to require them to operate in a manner that gives the investors' interests primacy.
What showings should be made in an application proposing a for-profit sponsoring organization that the interests of the investors will be subordinated in the organization's operations to the interests of the Sponsored TLD Community, and that such a subordination is enforceable under the laws of the jurisdiction in which the sponsoring organization is formed?
Certainly, not-for-profit organizations can often be sued. Without taking into account the specific circumstances surrounding an application (which is impossible at this point), a few things can be said. Any conflict in allegiance will be affected by several factors such as the form of financing, the form of organization and the agreement executed between the operator and the sponsor. In addition, the balancing that must occur between these potentially competing interests must be a subject in the technical and commercial negotiations so that the process of considering those interests can be defined and the expectations of all stakeholders and participants can be calibrated.
39. The explanatory notes to the application state that a sponsored TLD "must address the needs and interests of a clearly defined community ... comprised of persons that have needs and interests in common but which are differentiated from those of the general global Internet community", where "it can readily be determined which persons or entities make up that community".
It is not clear that this is sufficient to distinguish sponsored from unsponsored TLDs, as those categories have previously been explained and implemented. The operator of any TLD, sponsored or unsponsored, addresses the needs of the registrants within the TLD, and that group of registrants can be differentiated from the group of all Internet users globally on that basis alone. The term "community" could be interpreted broadly to include the group of all individuals and entities that register domains in a particular TLD (for example, all ".biz" registrants), even though they have no common characteristic other than their registration of domains in that TLD. (It may be useful to note that the original conception of sponsorship was intended to provide a mechanism for establishment of policy for TLDs serving "focused communities" by a specialised organization, while allowing ICANN to attend to formulating policies of general interest to the entire Internet community. http://www.icann.org/yokohama/new-tld-topic.htm#IID)
In using the term "community", do the explanatory notes intend to refer to a pre-existing community defined by characteristics other than the mere fact of registration within the TLD? Stated oppositely, is an adequate basis for a new sponsored TLD given if an aggregate of people who wish to hold names in it put that wish forward via an agency established for the purpose?
If the defined community must have relevance beyond the mere fact of registration within the TLD, what standards will be applied to determine whether that independent relevance has been shown by an application?
Given the language and intent (as determined by the memorialized discussion surrounding the determination to hold an sTLD round) of the resolution of the board authorizing this round of sTLDs, ICANN has not changed its definition of "community" from the previous round.
Please refer to the preliminary copy of the transcript of the portion of the 4 March 2004 ICANN Public Forum relating to sTLDs.
>>STEVEN METALITZ: THANK YOU, STEVE METALITZ A MEMBER OF THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY CONSTITUENCY. MY QUESTION IS DIRECTED TOWARDS KURT'S PRESENTATION. I NOTICE IN YOUR FIRST, YOUR SLIDE ABOUT THE STEPS, PUBLIC COMMENT WAS NOT MENTIONED ALTHOUGH I DID SEE IN THE TIMETABLE THAT THERE WILL BE A PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD.
BUT GIVEN THE NEW PROCESS THAT'S BEING USED IN CONTRAST TO THE PROCESS IN 2000, TO WHOM ARE THESE PUBLIC COMMENTS TO BE DIRECTED? ARE THEY DIRECTED TO THE STAFF IN DETERMINING WHETHER THE THRESHOLD REQUIREMENTS HAVE BEEN MET? ARE THEY DIRECTED TOWARD THE INDEPENDENT EVALUATORS WHO WILL REVIEW THE APPLICATIONS THAT MEET THOSE THRESHOLD REQUIREMENTS? OR ARE THEY ULTIMATELY DIRECTED TO THE BOARD THAT WILL HAVE TO ENDORSE, I THINK WAS THE WORD YOU USED, THE AGREEMENTS THAT ARE ULTIMATELY NEGOTIATED AND SIGNED BY THE STAFF?
>>KURT PRITZ: THE PUBLIC COMMENTS WILL BE INCLUDED IN THE FOLDER AND BECOME PART OF THE APPLICATION AND BE APPENDED TO IT SO WHEN THE EVALUATORS READ THE APPLICATION, THEY WILL FIRST READ THE APPLICATION AND THEN THOSE COMMENTS WILL BE PART OF IT. SO IT WILL BE PART AND PARCEL OF THE APPLICATION.
40. Please clarify exactly what the "B1.9 - Application fee receipt#" is? Is it the receipt from the applicant's bank that confirms the money has been transferred, or is it a receipt and number that ICANN generates and sends to the applicant on receipt of fees?
The Application Fee receipt number is the number issued to the applicant by the applicant's bank to confirm the transmission of the wire transfer.
Please refer to the "Proposal Lodgement" section of the RFP: "All proposals must be lodged electronically by 23:59, UTC, Monday 16 March 2004. Hard copies must be mailed or couriered within two business days. All proposals are submitted electronically to ICANN's secure server through the on-line application process." In other words, the printed copy of the RFP can be mailed or couriered up to two business days after it is submitted electronically. No specific deadline for ICANN to receive the hard copy of the application has been specified, so long as it is transmitted by the applicant within two business days.
43. When dropping in information into the answer boxes, paragraph breaks are used i.e. more than one paragraph in a given answer box. When examining the "finalise" section, it is noticed that the paragraph breaks are lost i.e. all of the sentences run concurrent. Will the final output for evaluation include the paragraph breaks as intended when placed into an answer box?
ICANN's technical staff is currently reviewing this issue.
Please use your best judgment to complete and sign the application form as it is presented. If any clarification is required ICANN or the independent evaluators will contact you and ask you for additional information.
The deadline for submitting applications is Tuesday, 16 March 2004, at 23:59 UTC.