Latest ICANN guidance and remaining challenges means new TLDs are a long way away.
The introduction of new top level domain names, such as .green and .food, looks to be at least a couple years away from reality.
ICANN’s latest draft guidebook for entities wishing to apply for a new top level domain name states that the application process is likely to start in the “first half of 2010”. Previously, the goal was the first quarter of 2010, but even that was the result of multiple delays.
Assuming that ICANN meets this new deadline and opens up applications in May or June of 2010, there will still be a long delay before any applications are approved. ICANN expects the typical application lifecycle to last eight months, and more complex applications could take as many as 19 months.
Top level domains that could be considered complex vary widely. Any existing top level domain or applicant can file an objection to a new TLD, which could delay the process. Based on existing guidelines, the applicant for .green could object to .eco on the basis of it it having “visual, aural, or similarity of meaning”. You can expect some applicants to play hardball, such as .Sport Policy Advisory Council to object to applications for .basketball or .run.
Once the application lifecycle is complete, applicants will have to complete preparations for launch, including getting registrars on board, and getting software companies to add compatibility for the new TLD to their software. If this is done in conjunction with the application process, this could conceivably mean a new top level domain hits the web in mid 2011
But that seems like a stretch. There’s still a lot of work to be done on new top level domains. And if the process so far is any indication, new top level domain names are a long way from coming to a browser near you.