ICANN has announced that it has extended the public comment period for new generic top-level domain (gTLD) applications for an additional 45 days. The public comment period was scheduled to close on August 12th. The new end date is now September 26, 2012. ICANN stated that this extension will not impact other looming deadlines in the gTLD application review process. ICANN’s announcement regarding the extension comes after the Association for National Advertisers and others requested that ICANN extend the public comment period.
As discussed previously on this blog, a public comment does not amount to a formal objection. Anyone can submit a comment and there is no fee for doing so. Such comments are designed to bring relevant information and issues to the attention of those charged with processing new gTLD applications. To submit a comment, users must create an account on the new gTLD Public Comment Forum. Those seeking to post a comment must associate the comment with a specific application and the relevant review panel. Application comments received by September 26th will be available to the evaluation panels performing the Initial Evaluation reviews.
According to the Applicant Guidebook, evaluators will perform due diligence on the application comments (i.e., determine their relevance to the evaluation, verify the accuracy of claims, analyze meaningfulness of references cited) and take the information provided in these comments into consideration. In cases where consideration of the comments has impacted the scoring of the application, the evaluators will seek clarification from the applicant. Statements concerning consideration of application comments that have impacted the evaluation decision will be reflected in the evaluators’ summary reports, which will be published at the end of the extended evaluation period. Where a comment relates to the subject matter of a formal objection, such comments will not be considered by panels during Initial Evaluation of gTLD applications. These comments will be available to and may be subsequently considered by an expert panel during a dispute resolution proceeding.
ICANN has appointed an Independent Objector (IO) to file formal objections (not comments) “solely in the best interests of the public who use the global Internet.” The IO may file objections against “highly questionable” gTLD applications that may qualify as a Community or Public Interest Objection. But in order for the IO to file a formal objection, there must be some public comment in opposition to an application.
Essentially, the comment period is the time for members of the public to bring relevant information and issues to the attention of those charged with handling new gTLD applications. So you now have an extra 45 days to submit a comment on one or more of the 1930 pending gTLD applications.