As of today, April 20, 2012, ICANN's TLD Application System (TAS) remains offline, and no restart date has been given.
So 8 days after the scheduled close of the first new gTLD application window on April 12, the programme remains in limbo. Initial criticism at ICANN's decision to take the system offline has now made way to stunned silence, as everyone wonders just how long this can go on.
I personally take a small measure of consolation from the fact that ICANN has apparently followed my advice and decided to be as communicative as possible. Updates have been posted nearly everyday, and today a video interview with ICANN Chief Security Officer Jeff Moss offers an honest response to what evidently remains a difficult technical problem.
Highlights of the Moss interview include:
System glitch allowed some applicants (a minority) to view other applicants' file names, but NOT data contained in those files;
No evidence of TAS being hacked;
ICANN's new gTLD team working 24/7 to fix the problem;
Bug has been identified, ICANN now taking the time to sift through its logs to identify all the affected applicants AND all those who might have had access to another applicant's file names;
An candid rationale for the system still being down, and for its restart date not having been set yet.
What happens if "significantly more" than 500 TLDs are applied for in the first round of new gTLDs? ICANN Staff have been pondering this conundrum for many months. The answer: batch the applications. The reason: ICANN's processing capabilities do not allow it to realistically deal with more than 500 applications at any one time.
ICANN has always said that there would be no first come, first served for new gTLDs. So some kind of random selection process would have made sense if the number of TLDs applied for was greater than 500. How much greater? ICANN's Kurt Pritz told the GNSO Council at the recent Costa Rica meeting that anything much over 510 applications would force ICANN to adopt a batching solution.
But random selection has been deemed a no-go due to the dangers of ICANN being seen as a lottery operator. So what to do? Especially as an auction type selection process was deemed unacceptable (for the obvious reason that richer applicants would then be put at a significant advantage).
The solution ICANN has adopted (the Board signed off on it on March 28) is dubbed "digital archery". The idea is to set a target time for applicants and ask them to click on a button as close to that target time as possible. The closer you get, the better your chances of being in the first batch.
The process is explained in detail here. It was first shown by ICANN Staff in Costa Rica, where it was not well received. Nonetheless, it looks like applicants need to sharpen their digital bows and begin practicing hitting a virtual target. With 839 registered users in ICANN's application system 4 days before its March 29 cut-off date, it is now a mathematical certainty that batching will be needed.