That is a good question.
A very good question.
While the goal of having a second New gTLD application round has always existed, it has never been clear as to when the second round will actually take place.
So what does the official Applicant Guidebook say?
Section 1.1.6 of the Applicant Guidebook states:
ICANN’s goal is to launch subsequent gTLD application rounds as quickly as possible. The exact timing will be based on experiences gained and changes required after this round is completed. The goal is for the next application round to begin within one year of the close of the application submission period for the initial round.
ICANN has committed to reviewing the effects of the New gTLD Program on the operations of the root zone system after the first application round, and will defer the delegations in a second application round until it is determined that the delegations resulting from the first round did not jeopardize root zone system security or stability.
At yesterday’s New gTLD outreach event in Tokyo, ICANN board member, Kuo-Wei Wu, stated that the board doesn’t wish to create a “gold rush” mentality, and companies and entrepreneurs should not rush to make a decision. While it’s true that every company looking into a “.brand” should take into consideration all aspects of their business and marketing strategies before making the plunge; can they really afford not become a early mover? Can entreprenuers with a great idea afford to wait until the next round to make their final decision? The fact is at this stage nobody really knows when the second round will take place. And, without that information, it makes the decision making process that much more difficult.
All we have from ICANN at this stage is a goal which sets a possible second round as early as April 2013.
But, is this really possible? Considering the community driven structure of ICANN, I would venture to say that perhaps 2013 is not very realistic. The above passage from the guidebook states that ICANN will base the timing on “experiences gained and changes required after this round.” Does “this round” refer to just the application window, or the entire evaluation and delegation process? I don’t think ICANN would start a subsequent round if stakeholders haven’t been able to evaluate the entire process as a whole. Even if ICANN does manage to implement a second round of applications in the next year and a half, the second paragraph of the above passage states that delegations will be deferred until ICANN can review the effects of prior delegations on the root zone — and delegations could last well into 2014. If ICANN has to resort to batch processing of applications in the event that more than 500 applications are received in the first round, then we can expect this process to take even longer.
Kuo-Wei Wu emphasized that the members of the ICANN Board are still having discussions about this topic and hope to provide a better answer to the community as soon as possible.