[UPDATE -- See also new ICANN timeline with likely costs.]
So you’ve decided to start a new top-level domain!
Have investors? Are they asking how long it’s going to be before they see a return?
Having spoken with ICANN staff and others who keep an eye on these things, here’s my best (current) guess for the timeline for new TLDs.
- 2008 late Q3 - draft RFP published
- 2009 early Q1 - final RFP published (”at least 3 months after draft RFP”)
- 2009 mid Q2 - applications accepted (”at least 4 months after final RFP”)
- 2009 mid Q3 - application period closed, admin period of 3 weeks to check apps for minor errors, give applicants a chance to correct
- 2009 late Q3 - applications posted, 2-month objection period begins
- 2009 mid Q4 - assuming no objections, contract negotiation begins
- 2010 mid Q1 - earliest new TLDs are added to root
- 2010 sometime - your TLD gets added to the root
Your mileage may (and probably will) vary. Here are some factors that could extend the timeline. I can’t think of any that would shorten it.
- To what extent will the ICANN board will involve itself in this process? There are various chokepoints into which they can insert themselves, for instance reviewing objections.
- To what extent are the ICANN staff trying to solve every little edge case in the application process, instead of sending them off for later adjudication? For instance, what does it mean to have governmental approval for .TAIWAN? The vaunted GAC Principles are even more useless than usual in this regard. Will ICANN staff insist on providing for these oddities up-front in the RFP, forcing everyone to jump through meaningless hoops, or will they leave edge cases for specialized consideration and come up with a fits-most-cases RFP?
- Don’t imagine that ICANN signing the contract and putting your TLD in the root will mean revenue the next day, or week, or month. Setting up a Sunrise Period takes work and money, and most prudent players will wait for contract signature before committing resources.
These are just some delaying factors. I invite readers to add others — I’m sure there are many more.
The other larger and (for the Internet) more interesting question is: How does this process evolve into a continuing roll-out? Or are we stuck with introducing new TLDs on a once-every-three-years schedule, with new rules and constraints each time.