Criteria for Assessing TLD Proposals
ICANN expects to receive many applications to sponsor or operate new top-level domains (TLDs). In this year's application program, it is likely that only a few of these will be selected by the ICANN Board for negotiations toward registry sponsor and operator agreements. To the extent possible, as this process continues ICANN will provide additional guidance on the likely number of TLDs to be included.
The ICANN staff is responsible for gathering information about submitted applications, evaluating the applications and associated information, and making recommendations to the Board based on the applications, associated information, and evaluations. In its evaluations, the ICANN staff currently intends to consider at least the factors described below. Applicants are invited to be creative and to explain the value of their proposals in the context of these and any other relevant factors.
ICANN's first priority is to preserve the stability of the Internet, including the domain-name system (DNS). Proposals should demonstrate specific and well-thought-out plans, backed by ample, firmly committed resources, to operate in a manner that preserves the Internet's continuing stability. The introduction of the proposed TLD should not disrupt current operations, nor should it create alternate root systems, which threaten the existence of a globally unique public name space. Security and reliability of the DNS are important aspects of stability, and proposals should set forth comprehensive strategies to assure both.
ICANN will undertake a wide-ranging assessment of a proposal's treatment of stability issues. Among the significant aspects of stability ICANN will review are:
Recent experience in the introduction of new TLDs is limited in some respects. The current program of establishing new TLDs is intended to allow the Internet community to evaluate possible additions and enhancements to the DNS and possible methods of implementing them. Stated differently, the current program is intended to serve as a "proof of concept" for ways in which the DNS might evolve in the longer term.
Proposals should be chosen so as to promote effective evaluation of :
This factor will be best served by applications that clearly articulate what concept or proposition the proposal would test, how the results of that test should be evaluated, and how the results of the evaluation would assist in the long-range management of the DNS.
As noted in the White Paper, market mechanisms that support competition and consumer choice should, where possible, drive the management of the DNS. One of ICANN's core principles is the encouragement of competition at both the registry and registrar levels. Though the market will be the ultimate arbiter of competitive merit, the limited number of new TLDs to be introduced at this time makes it appropriate to make a preliminary evaluation of competitive merit for the "proof of concept."
A proposal's contributions to enhancement of competition can take various forms, depending on the specifics of the proposal. Depending on the characteristics of the TLD proposed, the nature and degree of competition involved may vary. Proposals will be evaluated to determine whether they are responsive to the general goal of enhancing competition for registration services.
Some examples of competitive issues that may be considered in evaluating proposals are:
One motivation often cited for introducing new TLDs is that doing so might increase the utility of the DNS. Under this view, the appropriateness of adding new TLDs should be evaluated based on whether addition of the new TLDs:
At least the following considerations will be considered in this regard:
The DNS should meet a diversity of needs. Close examination will be given to whether submitted proposals exhibit a well-conceived plan, backed by sufficient resources, to meet presently unmet needs of the Internet community.
One goal of introducing new TLDs should be to enhance the diversity of the DNS and the manner in which registration services are provided. In examining submitted proposals, consideration will be given to the diversity the proposal would add to the DNS. Among the diversity of proposals sought, ICANN hopes to receive proposals for fully open top level domains, restricted and chartered domains with limited scope, noncommercial domains, and personal domains. Diversity in business models and of geographic locations are also advantageous. (Note that this criterion must be judged based on the whole group of selected proposals, rather than any single proposal.)
As noted in the ICANN-staff-prepared document entitled "ICANN Yokohama Meeting Topic: Introduction of New Top-Level Domains," the DNS is a hierarchical system that facilitates delegation of policy-formulation authority for particular TLDs. In the context of unsponsored TLDs, this can appropriately be accomplished for many operational matters by giving the registry operator flexibility in the registry contract. For restricted TLDs, some have suggested a "sponsorship" model, in which policy-formulation responsibility for the TLD would be delegated to a sponsoring organization that allows participation of the affected segments of the relevant communities. Proposals will be analyzed to determine whether they offer the opportunity for meaningful, real-world evaluation of various structures for appropriate delegation of policy-formulation responsibilities, as well as evaluation of various allocations of policy-formulation responsibilities between ICANN and sponsoring organizations.
In introducing new TLDs, care should be taken to ensure that the rights of third parties are appropriately protected. Examples of matters to be examined in this regard include:
The ICANN staff intends to place significant emphasis on the completeness of the proposals and the extent to which they demonstrate that the applicant has a thorough understanding of what is involved, has carefully thought through all relevant issues, has realistically assessed the business, financial, technical, operational, and marketing requirements for implementing the proposal, has procured firm commitments for all necessary resources, and has formulated sound business and technical plans for executing the proposal. Applicants are strongly encouraged to retain well-qualified professional assistance (e.g., technical, engineering, financial, legal, marketing, and management professionals, as appropriate) in formulating their proposals. Proposals that are presented in a clear, substantive, detailed, and specific manner will be preferred.
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