Icann’s Digital Archery: Let the Games Begin

Too many TLD applications force batching game

Now that 1,930 applications for new top-level domain names have been submitted, what's next? The waiting game.

The International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers got so many applications—four times as many as expected—that it's going to break up the review and acceptance process into four batches. If your TLD isn't in the first batch, it could be two years before you get to use your top-level domain—even if you are a major global brand with undisputed applications like Chanel, Apple or McDonalds.

Compounding the pain and irritation of a long wait is Icann's method of batching the names. It's being called "digital archery," and brands don't like it.

Here's how digital archery works: An applicant logs into the Icann system and selects a time and date within a three-week window. The applicant logs back onto the system at that self-selected date and time and presses a button. Applicants are scored by how close they come to their chosen dates and times.

To complicate the system, Icann then ranks applicants' scores within five different regions: Africa, Asia/Pacific, Europe, Latin America/Caribbean and North America.

"If Icann's system doesn't run in a fair way, brands could be thrown back a number of years and maybe your competitor gets a head start," said Dan Jaffe, evp of the Association of National Advertisers.

If you're one of the 17 African applicants or 24 Latin American/Caribbean applicants, you're practically guaranteed to get into the first batch. It's the 675 European applicants and 911 North American applicants, or maybe some of the 303 Asia/Pacific applicants that will be pushed into later batches.

"This all seems to be rather arbitrary," said trademark attorney Mitchell Stabbe, a partner with Edwards Wildman Palmer. "It's one more example of Icann forcing companies to spend money on things they never wanted to spend money on in the first place."

There has been some pushback on digital archery. "Icann's government advisory committee may recommend they find a different approach," said Shawn Gunnarson, a partner with Kirton McConkie. He wasn't optimistic, though, that the corporation would make any changes. 

A couple of opportunistic Internet companies see profit in Icann's digital archery batching system. Pool.com and Digital Archery Services moved quickly to offer software applications that will push the button for applicants at the right millisecond. Pool.com, which brags on its website that it's "the sharpest shooter in the business," has a fee of $25,000 to secure a spot in the top batch. You pay only if you win.

Faced with an estimated $1 million in legal fees, consulting fees, operating fees, and Icann's $185,000 application and annual $25,000 operating fee, another $25,000 could be worth it. "You might as well spend a little money to get your investment," Stabbe said.