Let’s be clear: right now, any statements on when (or even if) a follow-up round of new gTLD applications might happen are pure conjecture.
The first round closed on April 12, 2012. Since then, the pressure has been increasing for ICANN to actually live up to the guidebook premise of launching “subsequent gTLD application rounds as quickly as possible” with ” the next application round to begin within one year of the close of the application submission period for the initial round.”
But that deadline is clearly not going to be met.
ICANN no longer expects to complete reviewing the first round – a prerequisite for initiating a follow-up – before some time around 2020. Work has begun on imagining what a second round might look like, but that also seems a long way away from completion.
Reviews and classes
So to try and get a second round out of the gate, imaginations have been working overtime. What if only certain categories of applicants, say cities and brands, were allowed in? The logic being that by restricting applicant types, evaluating them would be easier. And not all the reviews, for all the TLD types applied for in 2012, would need to be completed before any new calls for applications go out.
For cities and geographic terms (dubbed “Geo TLDs”), where the applicant needs to show support from the local government or authorities, the initial gating process could be somewhat easier.
As for brands, there were many non-believers in 2012. Then Amazon, Axa, Barclays, BMW, Canon, Google and many others were revealed as applicants. And now those that didn’t then, certainly want to now. They are lobbying hard to get their shot as quickly as possible.
So when could that be? Those who understand ICANN know the organisation is notoriously slow at getting anything done… unless you do one of a couple of things. Get governments to push, or add symbolism to the mix. ICANN insiders who would see a second round asap are trying door number 2, by suggesting that launching a subsequent application window exactly 7 years after the first, i.e. on January 12, 2019, would satisfy the program’s initial intent for a (relatively) quick follow-up to round 1 whilst being a nice nod to history at the same time.
In the weird alternative logic universe of ICANN, that actually makes sense! Doesn’t make it any more likely to actually happen though…