Digital Archery

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Digital Archery was a mechanism developed by ICANN to determine the processing time or batch slots for each gTLD application using "target time variance." Digital archery was approved by ICANN during a special meeting of the ICANN Board on March 28. 2012,[1] but suspended on June 23, 2012, following complaints that there were unexpected variances in the results of the process due to various circumstances, including network latency.[2] Only approximately 20% of applicants had gone through with the process by that point.[3] Digital archery was officially cancelled on June 28th, with no alternative named.[4]

The process was to be completed in the following four steps:[5]

  • Step 1: Applicants will enter their batch preference and a target date and time into the batching system accessed via TAS. For example: Target Date: 11 June 2012 and Target Time: 08:00:00 EST
  • Step 2: Applicants must re-enter TAS as close as possible to the original time stamp to generate a message to the batching system. The online batching system will then record when this message was received. For example: Message Received Date: 11 June 2012 and Message Received Time: 08:00:03)
  • Step 3: The secondary time stamp will be calculated by the system using the time variance between step one (when the applicant entered his/her target time) and step two (when the message received date/time was generated/recorded). The example shows that the secondary time stamp between step one and step two is 3 seconds. An application will be included in an earlier batch to be processed if the time stamp is closer to 0, if the applicant selected to participate in the earliest batch to be processed.
  • Step 4: The batching selection process will combine the applicant's batching preferences, the secondary time stamp and the geographic region of a specific new gTLD application to determine which applicants end up in which batches.


During the ICANN Board Meeting on December 8, 2011, ICANN President and CEO Rod Beckstrom was tasked to develop a plan for a "secondary time stamp," which would be used to determine the processing order in case multiple batches of applications needed to be processed. It was decided that a random selection and the date of application submission would not be used as preference to determine batches. Instead, applicants would be required to get a time stamp right after the closing of application window if they were interested in being part of the first batches to be processed. The Board also resolved that once the final plan of the secondary time stamp batching process was completed, it would be presented to the community. The ICANN Board would then approve the final operational details and it would be added to the Applicant Guidebook.[6]

In March 2012, during ICANN 43 in Costa Rica, Kurt Pritz discussed the “target time variance" (secondary time stamp) system for determining the batch slots for each application. He explained that right after the deadline of the application window, new gTLD applicants would need to submit a “target time” in the TLD Application System (TAS) as to when they desired their applications to be processed. Once all the target times were collected, batches would be determined based on the fastest applicant from each of the five ICANN geographic regions. The selection would be done in a round-robin fashion. GNSO Council chair Stephane Van Gelder commented, "It’s clearly first-come first served."[7]

Complaints Against Digital Archery

Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services criticized digital archery, describing it as a feeble solution to a problem. He said, "Batching is a solution to a problem that I’m not sure exists any more. ICANN has a large number of single applicants going for a large number of domains, and that has to create some operational efficiencies." He said that he is in talks with some of the big registries and they are waiting for ARI Registry's move and they will join the bandwagon to stop the digital archery. The Intellectual Property Constituency is also against the digital archery.[8]

Theo Hnarakis, CEO of Melbourne IT, also asked ICANN to delay the implementation of the digital archery to give time for the community to review the published applications of new gTLDs and the implications of the batching method. In a letter sent to ICANN, Hnarakis enumerated some implications such as the possibility of putting the most contentious strings in the first batch, as the gap of the processing time between the first batch and the last batch might take 2 years or more and the possibility for brand owners to be forced to create second level registrations until their own TLD becomes operational. He encouraged ICANN to accept suggestions from the community to improve the batching process.[9] In an interview with Domain Incite, Hnarakis said, "There seems to be a broad sentiment that this isn’t the best method, but people don’t want to rock the boat because they don’t want to see any further delay. I don’t care if there’s any further delay, I just want to make sure… it’s done in a way that’s fair for all parties, brand holders particularly and that ICANN comes out of it with some credibility."[10]

Stephane Van Gelder, General Manager of NetNames, a subsidiary of Group NBT, also requested ICANN to delay digital archery until a new solution for the evaluation process could be determined. In a letter to ICANN, he described digital archery as a "contentious system that seem[ed] to favour those with in-depth knowledge of the second-hand domain industry and more specifically, its drop-catching techniques." He believed that the method had been approved without formal community input.[11]

Neustar's Deputy General Counsel & Chief Privacy Officer J. Beckwith Burr supported the position of those companies lobbying for the brief delay of the implementation the digital archery "batching" process to allow the evaluation of its implication and the alternative solutions proposed by the affected stakeholders to ICANN. According to Burr, the implementation of the batching mechanism prior to the publication of the actual list of gTLD applicants will only create winners and losers and will complicate the situation that would possibly prevent the development of a better approach. Neustar encouraged ICANN to stop the batching process briefly and pointed out that there is enough time for the internet governing body to review the facts and to develop a course of action based on an informed community input prior to the ICANN Meeting in Prague. [12]

Antony Van Couvering, CEO of Top Level Domain Holdings strongly criticized ICANN's digital archery, describing the system as "deeply flawed," and encouraged ICANN to scrap its implementation. Van Couvering said that the [Batching|batching]] system artificially creates losers and winners, that it is a game of chance rather than skill, and is unfair to poorer applicants, certain regions and non-generic applicants. He also presented some evidence of errors on the TLD Application System (TAS): after conducting tests using the digital archery test process, Van Couvering theorize that the system's software was recording a "wrong seconds value, but with the right milliseconds value" when an applicant clicked the button prior to the target time. He encouraged ICANN to investigate the issue.[13] [14]

Digital Archery Service Providers

The following companies offered digital archery assistance services:

  •'s Digital Archery Engine, the fee will be $25,000 if the company is able to secure a spot in the first batch, $10,000 for spot in the second batch, and no fee if the spot secured for a client falls into batch 3 or lower.[15][16]
  • Digital Archery Experts's Batch One Bullseye offering, the company is accepting clients on a first come, first served basis and will only charge if a spot in batch one is secured.[17] The company partnered with Sedari, a gTLD business management firm, to offer the Batch One Bullseye digital archery service to the company's clients.[18]
  • Key-Systems is offering its digital archery service to new gTLD applicants for €15,000 ($18,800) through its wholly-owned subsidiary KSRegistry. According to Alexander Siffrin, CEO of the company, his team was able "hit the specified time exactly in the testing system – matching even the millisecond." The company will only charge for applications that make it into the first batch of ICANN's initial evaluation process.[19][20]
  • Knipp Medien und Kommunikation GmbH's First Come, First Served service is available for a $7,500 "early bird" promotion fee for new gTLD applicants who sign up on or before June 20, 2012. The regular service fee after June 20 is $12,500. Applicants will only pay for the service fee if they get a slot in the first batch of ICANN's initial evaluation process.[21] [22]


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