Software Glitch Forces ICANN To Extend gTLD Application Process
April 12, 2012

Software Glitch Forces ICANN To Extend gTLD Application Process

Organizations and companies looking to buy generic top-level domains (gTLDs) to better promote their brand names will have an extra week to submit their applications to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) due to a software glitch, the US-based overseer said on Thursday.

“ICANN constantly monitors the performance of the application system,” it said in a statement. “Recently, we received a report of unusual behavior with the operation of the system. We then identified a technical issue with the system software.”

It said it is taking “the most conservative approach possible to protect all applicants and allow adequate time to resolve the issue.”

A spokesman for ICANN told industry website Domain Incite that the software glitch was not caused because of an attack on the system. Despite the glitch, the application process and overall system is running smoothly, the spokesman added.

According to a report by The Telegraph, ICANN first announced the new gTLD process back in June 2011, which would give companies, corporations, organizations, and even universities, the chance to buy Internet address suffixes such as .pepsi and .ford.

The agency said those interested in signing up were able to request up to 50 web address suffixes for their brands. So far firms including Canon and Google have confirmed they are bidding to create their own gTLDs. Other applicants have remained quiet, however, as bidders aim to avoid rivals.

“We plan to apply for Google´s trademarked gTLDs, and we´re currently exploring opportunities to apply for new ones as well,” Google Inc. told BBC News.

Nominet, an organization that manages .uk domains, said it was applying for suffixes .wales and .cymru.

ICM Registry, the firm that oversees .xxx addresses, said it had plans to register .sex, .porn, and .adult suffixes, and offer them free of charge to their existing customers.

A single gTLD application fee is roughly $185,000 and applicants who win rights to their planned suffixes will have to pay an annual fee of $25,000 per suffix to maintain them.

Some suffixes may be bid on by multiple parties. One such suffix would be .web, which could result in an auction as many firms would like to have it.

The application process could also cause problems among firms that share similar brand names. The US and German firms that both operate under the name Merck have already battled over rights to a Facebook page.

Similar clashes could erupt over gTLDs.

“We´re monitoring the ICANN gTLD application process with interest,” US Merck spokesman Ron Rogers told BBC News.

ICANN said any problems between firms vying for specific suffixes should try to negotiate a deal by themselves. If they fail to resolve their issues, then an auction would likely be the “last resort” for firms to get ownership rights to a particular suffix.

“We don´t want to be judge and jury - we want the applicants to work it out on their own,” said a spokesman for ICANN

Because of the steep application fee and annual maintenance fees, ICANN believes only larger corporations and well-funded organizations will be applying for the gTLDs.

The process, which has been in the making for years, has not been without controversy either.

In November, 87 businesses sent a petition to the US Department of Commerce (DOC) complaining that the new gTLD program was too costly and could harm many brand owners, many claiming the process would make the web too complicated and would potentially lead to “cybersquatting,” whereby web addresses related to brands would be acquired by false parties, and used to trick consumers into believing the address leads to a legitimate site; or perhaps with the hope that brand owners will pay to regain control of their brands.

Signatories of that petition included tech giants Adobe, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Samsung.

The DOC snubbed ICANN by cancelling a bidding process that was expected to extend the organization´s right to run the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority - the contract which allows it to manage the domain name system. Although ICANN retains control for now, its license runs out in September.

Despite the controversy, ICANN maintains that its move to introduce new suffixes was not a badly planned move.

“This program is the result of six years of careful study and deliberation which involved more than 2,400 public comments and dozens of public comment periods,” said the ICANN spokesman. “It was neither hasty nor ill conceived.”

The new system has potential benefits, the spokesman added. The security of online banking could be improved, for example. If a bank only provides its services via its own suffix then users are less likely to be deceived by fake websites.

“We certainly expect to see applications from companies in industries plagued by counterfeiting and cybersquatting, as new [suffixes] offer important enhancements to security,” said Roland LaPlante of Afilias, a firm aiming to run suffixes on behalf of organizations.

ICANN expects it will take at least 18 months before the first of the new web address suffixes start to appear across the Internet.