By Tony Kirsch
As I noted in my recent comments, the recent resolutions from the Special Meeting of the ICANN Board held in Norway in late September left a few important new gTLD issues up in the air and created a little uncertainty in the marketplace.
In particular, the decision not to provide direct comment on the Board’s thoughts regarding the highly controversial topic of Vertical Integration, and the apparent need for the Board to appease the concerns of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), has been interpreted by many as a sign that the upcoming ICANN Meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, is unlikely to result in an acceptance of the Applicant Guidebook this year.
And perhaps this is justified—given the continual delays in finalising this program, it is natural for many to assume that these less than inspiring Board resolutions may result in yet another major delay.
However, whilst sign-off on the program is still not guaranteed to occur in December, a recent interesting post on the GNSO mailing list from ICANN’s Senior Vice President of Services, Kurt Pritz, suggests that the Special Meeting of the Board on 28th October may have outputs that will be of interest for those involved in the new gTLD program.
In his post, Pritz writes that there is an agenda item for new gTLDs to be discussed at the special meeting and that, within a week of that event, work on the next version of the Guidebook will be complete. He also comments that:
‘Those two events will indicate both a Board and staff intent on whether to propose the Guidebook version as final’
Pritz, who has admirably been ICANN Staff’s public face of the new gTLD program under enormous public pressure and scrutiny, doesn’t make comments flippantly. So what does this mean?
In my view, a decision by the Board to accept the next Staff version of the Applicant Guidebook as the ‘final’ version holds enormous importance for those that eagerly await the new gTLD program.
As noted earlier in the thread by Pritz, a relevant example could be the process by which ICANN Staff provide their budgets as ‘Proposed Final Budgets’ to the community and Board for discussion. These budgets are then either;
a) approved by the Board as submitted;
b) adjusted slightly and approved based upon public or Board comment or, if necessary;
c) sent back to ICANN staff for additional work and subsequent resubmission.
The distinction between a ‘draft budget’ and a ‘proposed final budget’ in this example is significant and noteworthy.
By submitting a ‘proposed final budget’, ICANN staff make their thoughts clear about the direction and likely acceptance of their proposal and suggest that the expectation is that it will be signed off pending any major alterations. Submission of a draft version clearly refers to a situation where at least one more version will be required.
Similarly, a decision to release the next version of the Applicant Guidebook to the public as the ‘Proposed Final Applicant Guidebook’ (and notably it is not called the Draft Applicant Guidebook Version 5 in the minutes from the Norway Board meeting)—will rightly be seen by many as a huge step towards finally getting this program up and running.