By Trevor Little
May 16 2012
In the wake of the gTLD application system meltdown, the Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC) is calling for a rethink on ICANN’s ‘digital archery’ batching system. The Internet Society of China has also weighed into the issue, calling for a public comment period on the proposed system.
To enable the batching of applications, ICANN announced a timestamp process, whereby applicants register a future time target and then log into the system as close to that time as possible. The absolute difference between the target and recorded times becomes the applicant’s score in the secondary timestamp, which then determines placement in a batch (those who are not in a hurry for delegation can opt out of the process). As WTR reported previously, ICANN will group applicants by geographic region first, then by secondary timestamp – and in instances whereby numerous applications are received for the same gTLD, all applications for the contended string are placed into the earliest designated batch. While it sounds somewhat complicated, the system was designed to avoid allegations that the system was essentially a lottery – emphasising skill over luck. Yet the trademark community has previously argued that alternatives should be considered, calls that have been renewed following the glitch that hit the application system.
MARQUES previously suggested that batching prioritise IDN and community applications, followed by ‘.geo’, ‘.brand’ applications and, finally, ‘.generic’ applications – arguing that “this simple measure would mean that applications for generic registries - where the infringement of rights is most likely to occur - will be processed after ICANN has had the time to develop improved rights protection measures”.
Speaking to WTR last week, Alan Drewson, executive director of INTA, echoed this sentiment and wondered “whether the recent glitch in the application system will permit ICANN to rethink its batching of the applications. It makes sense to us to batch them in such a way that they deal with IDNs first and then work their way to ‘.brands’ and ‘.generics’. So far they have shown no interest in that approach but when you see the volume of applications received, the batching proposals we have put forward make a lot of sense”.
The call for a rethink is now being led by IPC president Steve Metalitz, who has written to ICANN to voice concerns that the system is “complex, untried and readily subject to gaming. The paralysis of ICANN’s new gTLD application system (TAS), resulting from a so-called ‘glitch’ that ICANN failed to detect in testing the TAS, has now persisted for nearly a month, with no defined end in sight. This episode inescapably casts doubt on ICANN’s capacity to implement another technically complex system for batching evaluation of applications. Another such ‘glitch’ in the earliest stages of the most ambitious and far-reaching project ICANN has ever undertaken would permanently damage the organisation’s credibility, and likely call into question its continued viability as the steward of the domain name system”.
The letter also warns that the paid-for digital archery services being offered to applicants “serve as yet another revenue extraction opportunity for those entities that are managing and promoting new gTLD applications” and argues this will “reinforce the widespread impression that all ICANN procedures are dominated by ‘insiders’ with contractual relationships to ICANN, who will surely know best how to manipulate this initiative to their own benefit, or that of their paying customers. It is difficult to reconcile such an outcome with ICANN’s obligation to act in the public interest”.
Similar sentiments were subsequently voiced by the Internet Society of China, which aired concern at the appearance of paid-for digital archery services and suggested that ICANN publish a system risk analysis report and outline its emergency preparation measures following the issues with TAS. It also states that, while the secondary timestamp method was mentioned in the applicant guidebook, as the specific method was not outlined at that time “it is necessary to have a public consultation. Internet Society of China suggests ICANN publish a specific time schedule of batch processing and start public consultation as soon as possible to ensure [the] batch process could meet the specifications of change process”.
It seems unlikely that ICANN will want to introduce a new delay in the gTLD process, which a public consultation period will surely create, but the current problems with TAS have clearly given a boost to critics of the system – and additional time to voice their concerns.
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