ICANN's application system for new gTLDs (TAS) closed to new registrants yesterday (March 29) as planned. The total number of registrants on the system isn't known yet, but ICANN has indicated that there were 839 registered TAS users on March 25.
In the run-up to the April 12 cut-off date for the first new gTLD application window there's been a real surge of TAS registrations. Each registered user can submit up to 49 TLD applications, so the latest numbers put the total potential number of new gTLDs that could come out of this first round at 41,111!
Final TAS user numbers should be higher than the 839 figure and could in fact be close to a thousand. It's clear that most users will never get anywhere near applying for the total number of TLDs their TAS slot would entitle them to, but some will definitely apply for more than one.
So total number of TLDs applied for? My guess at this stage would have to be somewhere in the region of 1,500.
In a surprise move just ahead of the Costa Rica ICANN meeting, the US government has cancelled its RFP (Request For Proposals) on the IANA function. A statement from the US government reads: "The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) reached an agreement with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to continue performing the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions until September 30, 2012. The IANA functions are the key technical functions supporting the Internet Domain Name System."
Reasons for the cancellation are unclear, but a statement from the Department of Commerce seems to imply there was dissatisfaction with the ICANN response to the RFP. "We are cancelling this RFP because we received no proposals that met the requirements requested by the global community. The Department intends to reissue the RFP at a future date to be determined so that the requirements of the global internet community can be served."
ICANN was expected to be retained as the IANA function administrator until the surprise cancelation.
Dot Africa has ambitious plans to develop a TLD by Africans and for Africans. "Around 1.3 millions US dollars has been invested in making the TLD a truly representative label for the continent of Africa," Koffi Djossou, Africa Liaison for the project, told me as we were both flying to Costa Rica for this week's ICANN meeting.
The initiative sounds impressive, because it has been thought up as a way to stimulate Africa's domain industry. So the seed money and the registry systems are African. "There is so much potential in Africa," Djossou says. "This is a way to highlight that potential and group the continent behind its own online identity. It's also a good opportunity to boost the domain name industry in Africa, and to develop use of the name system by Africans. We see this as a great opportunity for Africa."