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It appears that ICANN is allowing the creation of top level domains. Instead of 'registering' a domain, you would essentially be signing up to be a registrar (you'd be giving out registrations on your TLD).

  1. How do they decide whether to accept/reject applications? (i.e. is notability a requirement precluding .michael for instance)
  2. Can an existing business register a TLD, or is it only a more general organization (i.e. "the museum society" instead of the "NYC Natural History Museum")
  3. How much does it cost?
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Dibs on http://george.michael –  Yahel Mar 4 '11 at 19:15
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If you buy an island in the South Pacific, you can build your own country. That's a start if you want to have a two character TLD. –  GolezTrol Mar 4 '11 at 21:36
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I do hate that this is allowed, even with all the criteria, completely ruins the point of the system. (Not to mention sodding up a whole batch of domain name validation checks in a myriad of code around the world.) –  Orbling Mar 5 '11 at 1:08
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@Orbling: why would a properly written domain name validation breaks? if dns_resolve(domain_name) != NULL: ... –  Lie Ryan Mar 5 '11 at 2:56
    
@Lie Ryan: Because a lot of lexical matchers tend to assume the TLD is either a 2-digit country code, or a 3-4 character gTLD. There are already a couple of exceptions to that (.museum | .travel), not to mention all the IDN ccTLDs (or their .xn-- equivalents). But still that persists heavily. –  Orbling Mar 5 '11 at 8:45
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3 Answers 3

up vote 36 down vote accepted

There are various considerations for accepting an application, covered in the guidebook (PDF). Part of the process will involve the application going through several panels, including:

  • String Similarity Panel – assesses whether a proposed gTLD string is likely to result in user confusion due to similarity with any reserved name, any existing TLD, any requested IDN ccTLD, or any new gTLD string applied for in the current application round. This occurs during the String Similarity review in Initial Evaluation. The panel may also review IDN tables submitted by applicants as part of its work.

  • DNS Stability Panel – reviews each applied-for string to determine whether the proposed string might adversely affect the security or stability of the DNS. This occurs during the DNS Stability String Review in Initial Evaluation.

  • Geographical Names Panel – reviews each application to determine whether the applied-for gTLD represents a geographic name, as defined in the Applicant Guidebook. In the event that the string represents a geographic name and requires government support, the panel will review and verify that the documentation provided with the application is from the relevant governments or public authorities and is authentic.

  • Technical Evaluation Panel – reviews the technical components of each application against the criteria in the Applicant Guidebook, along with proposed registry operations, in order to determine whether the applicant is technically and operationally capable of operating a gTLD registry as proposed in the application. This occurs during the Technical/Operational Reviews in Initial Evaluation, and may also occur in Extended Evaluation if necessary and if elected by the applicant.

  • Financial Evaluation Panel – reviews each application against the relevant business, financial and organizational criteria contained in the Applicant Guidebook, to determine whether the applicant is financially capable of maintaining a gTLD registry as proposed in the application. This occurs during the Financial Review in Initial Evaluation, and may also occur in Extended Evaluation if necessary and if elected by the applicant.

  • Registry Services Panel – reviews the proposed registry services in the application to determine if any registry services pose a risk of a meaningful adverse impact on security or stability. This occurs, if applicable, during the Extended Evaluation period.

Anyone can register a TLD, though you'd better own the trademark, and others can file objections to your TLD application. Also, you'll have to be able to operate as a registry.

The costs start at $185,000. From the FAQ to which you linked:

  • 7.2 How much is the evaluation fee? The evaluation fee is estimated at US$185,000. Applicants will be required to pay a US$5,000 deposit fee per application request slot when registering. The US$5,000 will be credited against the evaluation fee. Other fees may apply depending on the specific application path. See the section 1.5 of the Applicant Guidebook for details about the methods of payment, additional fees and refund schedules.
  • 7.3 Are there any additional costs I should be aware of in applying for a new gTLD? Yes. Applicants may be required to pay additional fees in certain cases where specialized process steps are applicable, and should expect to account for their own business start up costs. See Section 1.5.2 of the Applicant Guidebook.
  • 7.5 Are there any ongoing fees once a gTLD is approved by ICANN? Yes. Once an application has successfully passed all the evaluation steps, the applicant is required to sign a New gTLD Agreement (also called Registry Agreement) with ICANN. Under the agreement, there are two fees: (a) a fixed fee of US$6,250 per calendar quarter; (b) and a transaction fee of US$0.25. The latter does not apply until and unless more than 50,000 domain names are registered in the gTLD.
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If granted a TLD, are you required to allow others to register domain names on the TLD? –  Michael Pryor Mar 4 '11 at 18:15
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Found the answer (which is YES): "Registry Operator will not, and will not allow any [related entity] to: a. directly or indirectly show any preference or provide any special consideration to any registrar; b. register domain names in its own right, except for names registered through an ICANN accredited registrar that are reasonably necessary for the management, operations and purpose of the TLD;" –  Michael Pryor Mar 4 '11 at 18:19
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You can set your own registry guidelines as the registrar for that TLD. So you cannot show preference, but you can put into place specific guidelines that effectively enforce a preference. –  schellack Mar 4 '11 at 18:19
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@Michael Pryor - No, see section 8.7 of the FAQ you linked to: "If I want to register a gTLD solely for my own use, for example, solely for use by my company, partners, consultants, shareholders, auditors, etc., can I limit the issuance of second level domains to those individuals? Can I refuse to accept applications for second level domains from members of the public in general?": Yes. The applicant is responsible for setting the business model and policy for how they will use their gTLD, so long as the registry is in compliance with the terms of the registry agreement. –  Zhaph - Ben Duguid Mar 4 '11 at 18:21
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Yikes, good luck, this is a highly complicated and politicised process, full of red tape. You can see the official starting point here: http://www.icann.org/en/tlds/tld-application-process.htm or just search for "ICANN TLD application".

Edit: apparently there is a "new" program, too: new gTLD program

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The post you linked has a link to the "Applicant Guidebook" that answers all of your questions. For example:

  1. There is a rigid evaluation structure described throughout the guide. It looks like they expect you to be a registrar, so you have to prove financial and technical ability to perform this task. It's hard to summarize all of the answers; you really should sit down and read that guide.
  2. Details are in the guide. It looks like if you're an existing business listed on a public stock exchange you can skip a lot of the paperwork. If you're not, you have to go through a process that includes background checks. It's described in detail in the guide.
  3. $185,000 is listed as the fee required by everyone; you'll probably have to spend more on the background checks and getting lawyers to look over all of the paperwork for you.
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