New gTLD applicants were dealt another big blow yesterday as ICANN’s CEO Fadi Chehade delivered a candid assessment of the new gTLD program and how if it were up to him he would delay the whole release of new gTLDs by at least a year.
Hundreds of companies, including big names such as Google and Amazon, were left fuming as they have already invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in application fees for new gTLDs. The new gTLDs were originally scheduled to be launched early this year, however this could now seem they delayed until the third quarter.
The upfront fee of $185,000 per gTLD application is in addition to the resources and huge investment required to operate the new domain extensions. Google spent over $18 million on new gTLD applications such as .docs, .live, .app, .book and others.
But CEO Fadi Chehade spoke candidly yesterday, stating:
“Honestly, if it was up to me, I would delay the whole release of new gTLDs by at least a year.
I’m being very candid with you. I know none of you want to hear this, and I’m not going to do this — let me repeat, I’m not going to do this — but you should know that a lot of the foundations that I would be comfortable with, as someone who has built businesses before, are just not yet there.
I’m being super-candid with you because many of you wrote me in the last three weeks to say: ‘Be up-front with us, we’re business-people, tell us the truth.’ Well, the truth is that the people, processes and tools to enable a sector such as this are being built as the car is already running very fast.
We’re putting enormous pressure on our team to not to slip by a day. I’m now managing them with Akram [Atallah, COO] down to days. Before I came it was by quarters, by months, and I say no — every day we slip we’re delaying this industry from serving the market it’s supposed to serve.
It’s just a different mindset. And it’s a difference set of, frankly, talents that we’re bringing to the table. We have people who took six years to write the [new gTLD Applicant] Guidebook and we’re asking engineers and software people and third-party vendors and hundreds of people to get that whole program running in six months.
When the number two at IBM called me, Erich Clementi, after we signed the deal with them to do the [Trademark Clearinghouse] he said “Are you nuts?”. Literally, quote. He said: “Fadi you’ve built these systems for us before. You know it takes three times the amount of time it takes to write the specs to build reliable systems.”
But that’s the position we’re in, guys. I’m being candid with you. I know all of I know all of you want me to have this thing up and running yesterday. I want it running the day before yesterday. But this is what we’re facing. We’re facing a difficult situation, we’re working hard as we can, our people are at the edge. We have people who are working seven days a week now — it’s never happened before — on the new gTLD program.
We’re hiring as fast as we can. We’re now taking away from Christine [Willett, new gTLD program manager] some of the work she had to do so she can communicate better with you.
We’re doing a whole bunch of things so we can deliver this for you.
I don’t mean to scare you, because I know many of your businesses rely on this, but the right people are now in place, we’re building it as fast as we can but I want you to understand that this is tough, and I wish it were different. I wish you would all raise your hands and say: “You know what? Let’s take a break and meet in a year”.
I know you can’t do that, I know I can’t do that, and I know that the market can’t wait for that.
We’re going to do our best, and if in the process if we miss telling you something, if we move too fast on something before we share it with everybody as we normally should… give us a little bit of a break.
I don’t want to delay this program, but under all circumstances my mind would tell me: stop.”
Applications for the new gTLDs started at the beginning of 2012 and were finally made public in June 2012. A total of 1930 applications were announced including bids for .App, .Book .Money and others.
The schedule for the process meant that the new gTLDs would go through a final review in October 2013 before being launched later in the year.
However, a series of fatal blows and set backs has led to long delays through the process. This included delays in string similarity analysis, which in turn led to a dominos like delay of objections filing and clearing patent houses.
The latest speech given by ICANN’s CEO is hardly going to amuse new gTLD applicants, but it does shed to light some of the huge challenges facing ICANN in the next 6 months.