ICANN delays TLD expansion approval

More work is needed before the program can go live

Internet regulatory body ICANN postponed approval of a mechanism to let groups apply for and manage new Internet domain extensions called generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs), such as the existing .com and .net.

More time is needed to work through some remaining issues, the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers board said in a resolution approved at a meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, on Friday.

Specifically, ICANN wants to give its Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) a chance to weigh in on key issues such as trademark protection, malicious conduct, root-zone scaling, economic impact, geographic names and morality-based objections. The ICANN board expects to meet with the GAC in February of next year.

However, finalization of this mechanism, known formally at the Applicant Guidebook, is now closer than ever, said Peter Dengate Thrush, ICANN board chairman. "I think we have reached a turning point in relation to that program and hopefully the resolution captures that," he said during the board meeting, which was webcast.

"There are some intense and difficult problems ahead of us, but the number of them have shrunk dramatically from when we started this," he added.

There are currently 21 gTLDs but if and when the Applicant Guidebook is finalized and approved, interested groups will be able to propose new extensions and apply for permission to manage them. There are also more than 270 country-based TLDs.

The program under consideration is expected to significantly increase the number of gTLDs, giving users more choice, boosting innovation and generating business opportunities, according to ICANN.

The development of a program to increase the number of gTLDs has been in the works for years. A set of policy recommendations was approved in October 2007. The latest draft of the Applicant Guidebook was published last month.

At the Cartagena meeting, ICANN also postponed final approval of a deal with ICM Registry to launch the .XXX TLD for pornographic websites but said that, "subject to GAC consultation and advice," it intends to enter into a registry agreement with ICM.

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