New gTLDs may be just around the corner. Yesterday (March 26), during their latest briefing which NetNames attended remotely, ICANN gave July as the earliest possible date for a new gTLD to become operational.
In terms of timeline, ICANN's program is now being more tightly managed than ever before. During the briefing for applicants and industry experts, ICANN listed the milestones towards new gTLD launch.
Crucial steps such as the launch of the new gTLD program's landmark Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPMs), the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) and the Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) are on course. The TMCH's systems went live yesterday as planned and July 1st is seen as the go-live date for the sunrise and claims components of this unique database of prior rights which all new gTLD operators will be contractually bound to use.
The URS is expected to be operational on July 1st.
The delegation systems, i.e. the actual insertion of a TLD into the Internet root to render it operational, are also on track for readiness on July 1. A pilot program is currently underway on the pre-delegation tests that will enable ICANN to ensure an applicant's TLD is ready to be inserted into the root. Once the pilot is complete, pre-delegation testing should be operational on May 1st.
So all is set for a July launch date for the first of the new gTLDs. This is earlier than had previously been anticipated and will be welcome news for new gTLD applicants and users.
However, all dates remain tentative at this stage. During yesterday's briefing, ICANN was very keen to underline its core mission of preserving the technical stability of the Internet's naming and addressing system (DNS). Security and Stability Reviews are ongoing as the program ramps up towards launch, with constant monitoring of the potential technical impact of new gTLDs going live. This will only happen once ICANN is satisfied that doing so carries no technical risk to the Internet.