The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, founded in 1998, has as its mission to ensure a stable and unified global Internet. One of its key responsibilities is introducing and promoting competition in the registration of domain names, while ensuring the security and stability of the domain name system (DNS).
In 2005, ICANN's Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) began a policy development process to consider the introduction of new gTLDs, based on the results of trial rounds conducted in 2000 and 2003. The GNSO is the main policy-making body for generic top-level domains, and encourages global participation in the technical management of the Internet.
The two-year policy development process included detailed and lengthy consultations with the many constituencies of ICANN's global Internet community, including governments, civil society, business and intellectual property stakeholders, and technologists.
In 2008, the ICANN Board adopted 19 specific GNSO policy recommendations for implementing new gTLDs, with certain allocation criteria and contractual conditions.
After approval of the policy, ICANN undertook an open, inclusive, and transparent implementation process to address stakeholder concerns, such as the protection of intellectual property and community interests, consumer protection, and DNS stability. This work included public consultations, review, and input on multiple draft versions of the Applicant Guidebook.
In June 2011, ICANN's Board of Directors approved the Guidebook and authorized the launch of the New gTLD Program. The program's goals include enhancing competition and consumer choice, and enabling the benefits of innovation via the introduction of new gTLDs, including both new ASCII and internationalized domain name (IDN) top-level domains.
The application window opened on 12 January 2012, and ICANN received 1,930 applications for new gTLDs. On 17 December 2012, ICANN held a prioritization draw to determine the order in which applications would be processed during Initial Evaluation and subsequent phases of the program. These applications were processed by ICANN staff and evaluated by expert, independent third-party evaluators according to priority numbers.
On 22 March 2013, ICANN released the first set of Initial Evaluation results to applicants and the public. ICANN anticipates that Initial Evaluation results for all applications will be published by the end of August 2013.
Applications that pass Initial Evaluation (and that do not face any objections or string contention) will be eligible to proceed to contracting. It is anticipated that contracting will begin in mid 2013, and the first new gTLDs will be delegated soon afterwards.