First bits of new gTLD Applicant Guidebook expected next week

The internet community will officially get eyes on the draft Applicant Guidebook for ICANN’s next new gTLD Applicant Guidebook as early as next week.

The ICANN staff/community Implementation Review Team crafting the language of the AGB is targeting February 1, next Thursday, for opening a formal Public Comment on drafts of seven sections of the document.

These sections mostly cover some of the low-hanging fruits — explanatory text or rules that have not changed a great deal from the 2012 round. They are:

  • Code of Conduct and Conflict of Interest Guidelines.
  • Conflicts of Interest Process for Vendors and Subcontractors. Along with the above, these sections specify what ICANN’s vendors (such as application evaluators) must not do in order to avoid the perception of conflicts of interest, such as not accepting gifts and not entering into deals to acquire applicants.
  • Applicant Freedom of Expression. This section is a single-paragraph disclaimer warning applicants to be “mindful of limitations to free expression”. In other words, if your applied-for string breaks ICANN rules, your free speech rights are forfeit.
  • Universal Acceptance. A brief warning or disclaimer that even successfully applied-for gTLDs may not work everywhere on the internet due to lack of software support.
  • Reserved and Blocked Names. Covers the variety of reasons why an applied-for string will be rejected or subject to additional review, including names that break technical standards, are geographic in nature, or refer to organizations in the ICANN ecosystem.
  • Geographic Names. Specifies when an applied-for string is considered a Geographic Name and is therefore banned outright or requires governmental approval for the application to proceed. There’s at least one potential applicant, thinking of applying for .eth, that I predict will not be happy with one of these rules.
  • Predictability Framework. This is new to the 2026 round. It’s a procedure designed to tackle unexpected changes to process or policy that are required after applicants have already paid up and submitted their paperwork. In some circumstances, it requires ICANN to consult with a community group called SPIRT to make sure applicants are not affected too adversely.

The full AGB is not expected to be completed until May 2025, with ICANN currently hoping to open the next application window in April 2026.

The public comment period on the first batch of docs is expected to run from February 1 to March 19. If you want to get the jump on what is very likely to be published, drafts can be found here.

The post First bits of new gTLD Applicant Guidebook expected next week first appeared on Domain Incite.

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