ICANN to replace Digital Archery program with gTLD domain raffle

ICANN hopes to use a lottery to decide which new top-level domain applications will be evaluated first

By Loek Essers, IDG News Service |  Internet

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has proposed holding an old-fashioned raffle to determine which applications for new top-level domains should be handled first. To make the lottery legal, the organization hopes to use a loophole in Californian law.

ICANN was planning to use a "Digital Archery" contest to determine which applications for a new Generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) such as ".security", ".beer" or ".download" should be evaluated first. A system like this is needed because not all the 1,923 gTLD applications can be handled at once.

Applicants are keen to have their domains evaluated promptly so as to get them online as soon as possible. ICANN, however, has said that it can only handle around 1,000 applications a year.

Using Digital Archery, applicants would have to shoot their digital arrow as close as they could to the bulls eye of a time stamp. This method was cancelled in June after applicants complained about unexpected results and network latency issues which they said made the method unfair. And since than ICANN has been contemplating an alternative method.

One of the obvious alternatives is holding a lottery -- but as a California non-profit ICANN has to abide by California laws that forbid unlicensed lotteries. ICANN, though, thinks it has found a loophole in the law.

"The Draw is an exemption to lottery laws in California and other relevant jurisdictions that permit certain non-profit groups (including ICANN) to hold fundraising drawings," ICANN said in a document released this week detailing the plan. "ICANN has registered for the license for conducting the Draw and expects to receive a license no later than the end of November."

The draw will be a manual process. Each applicant will have to purchase one US$100 paper draw ticket for each domain name application. The purchases must be made in person, or by a stand-in appointed by the applicant or by ICANN. ICANN plans to hold the draw between Dec. 4 and 15, and will assign each application will a draw number that will determine priority during the entire gTLD evaluation process.

The draw numbers will be used to schedule initial evaluations, the results of which will be published starting late March, ICANN said. "The Draw Numbers will also be used later in the process to schedule appointments for pre-delegation testing, and executing agreements," it added. There will be approximately twenty pre-delegation testing appointments per week and twenty contracts executed per week.

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