How to qualify for a $40,000 gTLD

Organizations from most of the countries of the world, including some very wealthy economies, could find themselves eligible for a discount of up to 85% on ICANN new gTLD application fees, according to draft rules published for public comment today.

By my count, small businesses from 177 of the world’s countries and territories could qualify for cheap applications in the next round, expected in 2026, assuming they meet the new Applicant Support Program’s other criteria.

The list of qualifying nations includes the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China), oil-rich nations such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, wealthy Asian territories such as Hong Kong and South Korea, and some European nations, such as Serbia and Montenegro.

The draft ASP rules propose to subsidize applications from non-profits, intergovernmental organizations, indigenous/tribal groups, and small businesses that provide a “social impact or public benefit” from anywhere in the world.

It also promises subsidies to small businesses located in and owned by people based in several UN-designated economic regions: Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries, Economies in Transition, and Developing Economies.

Lists of these countries can be found in this UN document. China, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong are among dozens on the “developing economies” list. Russia counts as an “economy in transition” along with a handful of other east European and west Asian nations.

There’s no requirement to have a public benefit or charitable mission to qualify as a “Micro or small sized business from a less-developed economy”, you just need to have fewer than 50 employees, less than $5 million in the bank, and less than $5 million of annual sales (or meet two of those three criteria).

According to my tally, there are 177 distinct territories on the applicable UN lists. The same UN document lists just 36 nations that qualify as “developed” economies.

Because the application fees for the next round are not yet fixed, the discount eligible applicants can get isn’t either. The placeholder text in the current draft says the discount will be in the range of 50% to 85%.

ICANN has previously said that the base fee could be as much as $270,000, so an 85% discount would be worth almost $230,000, reducing the fee to about $40,000. Each applicant would be limited to one gTLD.

Support applicants under any category also have to pass various background screening checks — they can’t be affiliated with another registry, for example — and have to show that paying the full base gTLD application fee would be a “financial hardship”.

This is defined as: “Cost of the subsidized base gTLD application fee ([X%] of the [$X] USD fee) is greater than 20 percent of the organization’s annual revenue”. So, if we assume a discounted fee of $40,000, only companies with revenue under $200,000 would qualify.

The 2012 round’s Applicant Support Program worked a little differently. Applicants could be from anywhere in the world, but they could earn points under the score-based rules by being from a developing nation.

There were only three applicants using the ASP in 2012, and only one — DotKids Foundation, based in Hong Kong and founded by the same businessman who founded DotAsia and currently sits on the ICANN board of directors — ended up qualifying for the cheaper application fee.

For the next round, ICANN has penciled in a Q4 2024 date to start accepting applications for the discount. The application window is expected to close a year later, at least six months before the new gTLD application window opens.

Anyone thinking about trying to game the system should note that ICANN promises that anyone “found to have abused the intent of the program” will be banned from the new gTLD program forever.

The proposed ASP rules are open for comment for 50 days here.

The post How to qualify for a $40,000 gTLD first appeared on Domain Incite.

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