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ICANN under fire as Verisign warns of rushed domain-name expansion

gTLD activation unlikely before August, ICANN confirms

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ICANN's big generic top-level domain (gTLD) rollout, planned for April 23, needs to be delayed because the system isn't ready, Verisign and others are warning – and ICANN itself has told The Register that the first gTLD domains won't come online until at least August.

"April is a launch date in the sense that it's a public launch, a media launch, an awareness-raising exercise – but we don't actually sign contracts on the 23rd," ICANN's VP of security Jeff Moss told us. "Timelines will be adjusted depending on when registry and clearing houses are ready. It's going to be August, I think, maybe."

Last week, Verisign issued a public letter and white paper going over some of the failings of the gTLD system as it stands. It cited problems with the Trademark Clearing House and Emergency Back End Registry Operator (EBERO) disaster-recovery system that were still not sorted out, and said that in some cases it would take three months or more to fix certification issues.

"Adequate buffers should exist in ICANN published timelines that account for implementation, internal testing, security auditing and vulnerability testing, pilots and early field trials, and deliberate transition to operations; it's apparent little consideration has been given to this in the current timelines published by ICANN," the report states.

"In order to ensure a successful implementation of each new gTLD, it is essential that proper planning be conducted in advance."

Moss told El Reg that there was nothing new in the Verisign report that wasn't already under published discussion. A maximum of a thousand new gTLD domains (out of nearly 2,000 registered) are going to be rolled out per year, but only after all of these security problems have been fixed.

"We're really close partners with Verisign," Moss explained. "We work with them constantly. We'll work with them on any issues – neither one of us wants to be known as the company who wrecked the internet."

Suitable caution is being observed, he said. "In our world we call it SSR; security, stability resilience. If there's a big SSR problem, then that stops the whole freight train until we can address those concerns."

Verisign isn't the only one raising security issues. In an open letter last month, PayPal too expressed concerns of serious security failings in the gTLD system. But Moss explained that this was normal and that where companies find issues like this, ICANN encourages them to publish it so as to encourage the development team.

But outside of the security arena there are other calls for the gTLD rollout to be slowed down. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA), representing major global brand advertisers, has also called for the process to be stopped until companies get better protection from cybersquatters.

Dan Jaffe, the ANA's VP of government relations, told The Register that if you add up gTLD registration fees, domain buying to protect brands, and the costs of legal action against those who try to piggy-back on them, business could face a billion-dollar bill for little or no reward.

"When .xxx came out, the most recent one, virtually every college and university signed up for .xxx," he said. "Why? Not because the universities want to do that, but [because they] didn't want their name associated with that domain – as did many, many companies. Now we have .wtf, .sex, .gripe, and other sites that consumers could be tricked into."

It looks like the ANA and others will have a bit more time on their hands now that the system has security issues to sort out. Ultimately, no one's going to be perfectly happy with the gTLD system, but by August a few more wrinkles should have been sorted out.

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