CircleID: Many participants in the latest ICANN meeting in Copenhagen asked that same question: "when is the next round of the ICANN new gTLD program?". If the question came from new gTLD service providers, I also noticed that it was different from "the first round": now the question focuses more on .BRANDs rather than Generic TLDs dedicated to selling domain names. The question also comes more from representatives of certain Trademarks who want to acquire a .BRAND domain name extension.
When is the next round?
There have been dozens of publications with that same title and no answer inside. I recently read a publication saying that it could be between 2020 and 2025. I also asked the question publicly at the latest ICANN meeting in Copenhagen and was told that the answer would remain the same as when previously asked in other ICANN forum sessions; no one knows, and the reason is simple: a few things like "singular and plural domain name extensions" must be fixed for the next round.
A "date" is not the only question anymore
Now more Trademarks have started to use their domain name extension. The Dot Brand Observatory has published a certain number of case studies which answer the second most important question for Trademarks willing to apply for their personalized TLD: what to do with a .BRAND new gTLD?
Trademarks such as SEAT, FAGE, LECLERC, BNPPARIBAS, SENER, JCB, CITIC GROUP, BRADESCO, DNP and BARCLAYS do the show in published case studies and more will be added.
"Leclerc" for example, is a French supermarket and hypermarket chain. The 26 pages study says that it is developing its .brand TLD in a progressive and consistent approach: second level domains correspond to product categories, keywords or specialized stores. An example of a live website is www.sport.leclerc.
"Bradesco", a financial company from Brazil, has 114 domain name registered. Note that this is a lot for a .BRAND applicant since none of these domain names are sold: they belong to the registry (Bradesco here) who pays to renew them, unlike a generic registry who has registrants to buy them from registrars. Bradesco uses its personalized domains but also uses a "redirect" strategy. 45 domain names are redirected: 9 of them to the main welcome page and the 36 others are pointing to relevant correspond pages (consorcios.bradesco redirects to www.bradesco.com.br/html/classic/produtosservicos/consorcios/index.shtm).
"Usage is key"
If the initial speech on .BRAND new gTLDs has long been negative due to the incredibly high cost to submit ICANN an application, ".brand" new gTLD registration volumes now clearly show that applicants want to activate the full potential of their domain name extension.
If registration volumes are a nebulous indicator in regard to generic gTLDs dedicated to selling domain names, they are a good indicator that .BRAND new gTLDs are deploying since a .BRAND applicant has no reason to activate domain names just to say: "hey: my registry has thousands of live domains registered". A .BRAND applicant does not need to attract customers to buy its domain names since it does not sell them.
When digging in the Dot Brand Observatory websites, there is a page dedicated to "Volume of domains”: MMA, Audi, NRA and Abbott are applicants to be using more than 100 ".brand" domain names: this is not what we call a defensive strategy which consists in acquiring a .BRAND domain name extension for the sole purpose of securing the Trademark's assets.