Almost a year from the day that ICANN announced the approval of the new gTLD program, it will be posting all the TLD character strings that have been applied for and who applied for them. Wednesday, June 13th, is the long-awaited "reveal day." They have already told us that there are a little more than 2,000 applications from about 1,000 entities.
Based on my conversations with people at more than 100 companies that evaluated applying for dot-brand TLDs, ICANN executives, and leading players in the domain industry, here are my predictions for what we'll learn when ICANN opens the kimono and in the days that follow:
- A few CMOs will lose their jobs. Hard to believe, but not all companies took my advice and went through the due diligence of evaluating the gTLD opportunity and arriving at a consensus decision about whether their organization should apply for a dot-brand or dot-category TLD. When the reveal happens, we'll see the names of all organizations that have applied, the string they applied for, the intended use of the registry, and how it will benefit users of the Internet. There will be a few "ooohs" and "ahhhs" about what some big corporations are planning, and I predict that a few CMOs will be on the hot seat because they ignored the opportunity, while one or more of their fiercest competitors has jumped on it.
- Dot-category will far outnumber dot-brand applications. Six months ago, I was expecting that the number of applications would be about equally split between dot-brands, dot-categories, and dot-geographies. Based on the number of well-funded entrepreneurial ventures and established domainers that have pre-announced their strings, I now expect that there will be a lot more dot-category applications coming from open registry operators looking to profit from selling second-level domains. Many of these won't succeed, but I'd put my money on the registries being run by the people who have run some of our existing TLD businesses.
- There will be intense competition for popular categories. There's an app for that, and I already know of four applicants for .app. There are at least two for .bank and .insurance, and this doesn't include the numerous banks and insurance companies that told me they were making a play for one of those strings. This is where the action will be. Expect the PR wars to pick up as the applicants posture to show the public and community support for their application and intended use of the registry. Some strings I expect to get the most applications include: .art, .music, .beauty, .shop, .bank, .web, and .food.
- Many dot-brand applications will appear defensive. I was taking inquiry calls from big companies right up to the application deadline, and many sounded the same. "We're not sure exactly what we're going to do with the TLD, but we don't want anyone else to get it, so we're going to apply for it anyway." That's $185,000, plus perhaps double that in cost to complete the application and put registry services in place. These applicants will underwhelm us with the information that is revealed, and assuming they get delegated, they are likely to fall in the later rounds and will sit on their registries doing the bare minimum to meet ICANN requirements. I expect that some of the defensive applicants will even withdraw right away if no other parties have applied for their string.
- Digital archery gets gamed. Since there are more than 500 applications, they will be processed in batches. Those applicants for open registries looking to recoup their investments sooner rather than later will devise or utilize clever schemes to game the digital archery system that is being used to put applications in batches. I have heard that there are some technologies that allow you to press the button at the exact time of your time stamp, and if enough people use this, ICANN will have to come up with another scheme to prioritize those "winners," which could be first-pressed, first-served. This will push the big corporations that haven't been as on top of the process as the domain industry insiders to the later batches.
No matter what, June 13th will be an exciting day, and I wish I could be at the reveal events in London personally. Put some predictions of your own in the comments below.