In August, 2000, ICANN issued a formal call for proposals by those seeking to sponsor or operate one or more new top-level domains for the Internet's Domain Name System. Forty-seven applicants submitted proposals in response to this call. Two of the applications were returned to the applicants for failure to pay the application fee, and a third was withdrawn by the applicant because the applicant and the ICANN staff were unable to reach agreement on the applicant's request for confidential treatment of its application. An evaluation team consisting of ICANN staff and technical, business/financial, and legal advisors, has completed its review of the remaining forty-four applications, and its analysis and recommendations are contained in this report. Section I sets forth relevant background information and the development of ICANN's policy for introducing new generic top-level domains. Section II describes the process through which the evaluation team evaluated proposals to introduce new top-level domains, and Section III contains the evaluation team's analysis and recommendations. Appendix B includes a detailed discussion of each application.
This report contains the results of the evaluation team's review of the applications up to its publication date, 9 November 2000. It is subject to revision and supplementation as additional information is received by ICANN.
ICANN is a nonprofit, private sector corporation formed by a broad coalition of the Internet's business, technical, academic, and user communities to be the global consensus entity to coordinate the technical management of the Internet's domain system, the allocation of Internet Protocol (IP) address space, the assignment of protocol parameters, and the management of the root server system. ICANN is dedicated to preserving the operational stability of the Internet; to promoting competition; and to coordinating policy through private-sector, bottom-up, consensus-based measures.
B. TOP-LEVEL DOMAINS AND THE DOMAIN NAME SYSTEM
Since before ICANN's inception, the Internet communities involved in ICANN have been extensively discussing and carefully considering the possibility of introducing new generic top-level domains into the Internet's Domain Name System. See generally ICANN Yokohama Meeting Topic: Introduction of New Top-Level Domains, at http://www.icann.org/yokohama/new-tld-topic.htm (Yokohama Staff Paper). The DNS allows users to locate computers on the Internet by familiar and easy-to-remember names (e.g., www.icann.org) rather than by the Internet Protocol numbers that serve as routing addresses on the Internet (e.g., 220.127.116.11). The DNS has a hierarchical structure, with each name composed of a series of "labels" separated by dots. The rightmost label in a name refers to the name's top level domain (such as .org). A TLD's label is also known as a "string." Currently, the DNS employs TLDs of three types:
C. DEVELOPMENT OF ICANN'S NEW TLD POLICY
As explained more thoroughly in the Yokohama Staff Paper, ICANN initially referred consideration of gTLD expansion to the ICANN Domain Name Supporting Organization. The DNSO Names Council (which manages the process for development of policy recommendations within the DNSO) created a working group (Working Group C) to study the issues raised by the introduction of new TLDs.
After consideration of the working group's report,1 as well as public comments solicited in response to that report, the Names Council issued a Statement on new gTLDs. This Statement recommended, in pertinent part, as follows:
DNSO Names Council Statement on new gTLDs (19 April 2000), at http://www.dnso.org/dnso/notes/20000419.NCgtlds-statement.html.
The ICANN Board of Directors carefully considered the Names Council's recommendations, as well as public comments solicited in response to those recommendations and related issues. At its meeting on July 16, 2000, in Yokohama, the Board adopted a series of resolutions on new top-level domains. Resolutions of the ICANN Board on New TLDs, at http://www.icann.org/tlds/new-tld-resolutions-16jul00.htm (Yokohama Resolutions). Initially, the Board "adopt[ed] the Names Council's recommendation that a policy be established for the introduction of new TLDs in a measured and responsible manner." Id. [00.46]. The Board also adopted a schedule for requesting, accepting, and evaluating applications from those wishing to operate new TLDs, id. [00.47]; directed ICANN's President to seek appropriate information from applicants, id. [00.49], and authorized ICANN's President to establish a non-refundable application fee of USD $50,000, id. [00.48], and to seek technical advice from appropriate individuals or organizations to assist the evaluation of proposals, id. [00.51]. The Board further authorized the President "to establish guidelines for assessing which proposals to select for negotiations toward entry of agreements with registry sponsors and operators," id. [00.50], and "commend[ed] the following topics to the President for inclusion in the guidelines:"
Consistent with the Yokohama Resolutions, ICANN issued an overview of the application process on August 3, 2000. New TLD Application Process Overview, at http://www.icann.org/tlds/application-process-03aug00.htm. On August 15, 2000, ICANN issued application forms and instructions, see TLD Application Process: Information for Applicants, at http://www.icann.org/tlds/tld-application-process.htm, as well as a list of criteria to be used in evaluating TLD proposals, Criteria for Assessing TLD Proposals, at http://www.icann.org/tlds/tld-criteria-15aug00.htm (August 15 Criteria). The latter document indicated that "[i]n its evaluations, the ICANN staff currently intends to consider at least the factors described below:"
ICANN designated the period from September 5, 2000 through October 2, 2000, as the period during which it would accept applications from those wishing to introduce new TLDs. During this period it received 47 applications, two of which were returned to the applicants for failure to pay the application fee, and one of which was withdrawn by the applicant because the applicant and the ICANN staff were unable to reach agreement on the applicant's request for confidential treatment of its application. ICANN posted the nonconfidential portions of the applications on its web site, and requested public comments. As of November 5, 2000, the day on which the comment period ended, ICANN had received more than 4,000 comments.
1. Working Group C issued an initial report of March 21, 2000. See Report (Part One) of Working Group C (New gTLDs) Presented to Names Council, at http://www.icann.org/dnso/wgc-report-21mar00.htm. It issued a supplemental report on April 17, 2000. See Supplemental Report to Names Council Concerning Working Group C, at http://www.icann.org/dnso/wgc-supp-report-17apr00.htm.
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