Looks like the US House of Representatives might’ve been right when it wanted the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to delay the rollout of new top-level domains. The system for accepting applications from companies was pulled offline without warning on April 12, and a planned April 30 announcement of companies that had applied for new TLDs has been postponed, following the discovery that a system error had resulted in confidential information about applicants being accidentally shared with other companies.
The process would have opened up the top-level domain naming process from generic .com, .net, and similar terms to potentially anything that met the conditions as named in the application process – like .apple, .coke, .nike, and so on. It already turned controversial when the application window opened on January 12; US lawmakers, aware of potential problems and complaints that might arise, suggested postponing the application period to fine-tune the process last December. This surprise early closure for applications and postponement of the announcing of interested parties has, unsurprisingly, hardly dampened concerns — particularly because no-one outside of ICANN is quite sure what actually happened, or why.
The Association of National Advertisers has called upon CEO and President of ICANN Rod Beckstrom to hire an independent, third-party investigator to look into what went wrong, while also asking the US Commerce Department to get involved. “Problems can happen to everybody, but [ICANN] is a group that is supposed to be taking care of some of the key functions of the Internet,” says ANA Executive Vice President Dan Jaffe, adding “The system was supposed to be secret. It’s particularly important we get this right from the outset.”
For its part, ICANN is declining to reveal how many applicants were affected by the system error, and downplaying the issue. “We know what caused the issue, and we’re correcting it,” said ICANN chief security officer Jeff Moss in an interview released by the organization last week.
With the application process remaining closed, and advertisers and their clients increasingly concerned about the lack of communication and explanation around the subject, it’s looking like it may be more of a wait for your dream .awesome domain than we all initially hoped… Maybe we should just get used to .com for awhile, just in case.