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gTLD registration site relaunches amid brickbats

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Web overlord ICANN has reopened its bug-plagued new top-level domain name registration system almost six weeks after taking it down to patch an embarrassing security hole.

Companies signed up to the TLD Application System (TAS) now have until a minute before midnight on Wednesday, 30 May to apply for new generic dot-words such as .sport or .city. It'll be their last chance to do so for at least a few years.

In a statement this morning chief operating officer Akram Atallah said his organisation has also made performance improvements and fixed a problem with an HTML preview function that took flak from users.

The prolonged outage has tested the patience of even ICANN's most committed supporters. During a meeting last Thursday, Atallah and senior vice president Kurt Pritz, the organisation's two new gTLD whipping boys, came in for passionate criticism from several TAS users.

Having not received the answers he wanted from either man, Adrian Kinderis, CEO of gTLD service provider ARI Registry Services, expressed a lack of confidence in ICANN's ability to "get shit done".

"That's pretty scary for us," Kinderis said. "It has been scary for a number of years. The difference between before and now is that you've taken our money now. There's a level of expectations getting ramped up here."

ICANN is sitting on a cash pile of $350m (£221m) – five times its annual budget – as a result of the new gTLD program. Each application carries a partially refundable processing fee of $185,000 (£116,000).

TAS was taken down on 12 April, just 12 hours before the original filing deadline, after ICANN discovered a bug that enabled some applicants to see names of files belonging to other users.

Due to the intense secrecy surrounding most bids ICANN took the system offline and has spent the last 40 days painstakingly reconstructing three months of network packet captures to figure out who was affected.

Of the 1,268 TAS paid-up users, more than 50 were able to inadvertently view confidential data belonging to over 100 other applicants, ICANN has discovered.

The organisation is expecting to receive between 2,051 and 2,305 applications in total.

Companies plan to apply for mass-market names such as .web and .blog, geographic domains such as .london and .vegas, and industry-focused strings such as .law and .jewellers. Yesterday alone, bids were announced for gTLDs including .budapest, .ski, .bio, and .capetown.

Nominet, which runs the .uk space, is involved with applications for seven strings, five of which are so-called "dot-brands" – gTLDs matching famous trademarks. The other two are .wales and .cymru, which have the backing of the Welsh and UK governments.

ICANN's next big deadline in the programme is the day it reveals publicly the full list of who has applied for what. This big reveal is expected to come at some point in June.

Once every applicant knows whether they have competition for their chosen gTLD string, they'll be able to enter into negotiations with rival bidders in the hope of avoiding a potentially expensive ICANN auction, which is the last-resort method of resolving these "contention sets". ®

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