ICANN chief security officer Jeff Moss says that there is no evidence that the technical glitch was caused by a cyberattack, in this video on ICANN's website

Will ICANN’s New gTLD Application System Downtime Affect Web Hosts?

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In a statement on Monday, ICANN chief operating officer Akram Atallah said that while it continues to investigate the technical glitch that forced it to take the new gTLD application system offline two weeks ago, it is making progress. Atallah said that over the weekend, ICANN was able to identify all the applicants that were affected by the technical issue that allowed some users to view a limited number of other applicants’ file names and user names.

ICANN will inform the affected applicants prior to reopening since it is still gathering information, and continues to test the fix. While the TAS was first slotted to be reopen last week, that deadline was pushed to April 30, and now ICANN expects that date to be carried over into May, although it hasn’t given a specific date yet.

In a FAQ posted on its website, ICANN reassures applicants that the system was not the target of a hack, and has not found any evidence that the issue caused corruption or loss of data, but despite this, the delay has caused a lot of frustration for applicants.

Since it opened up in January, and organizations or individuals had to pay upwards of $185,000 to participate, the application process has already been lengthy, and costly, two factors that have compounded the frustration.

“I think a lot of what’s happening here and a lot of the noise that you’re hearing is a bit of frustration given that this whole process has taken a while, and a lot of people have a lot invested in these applications,” Adam Eisner, director, OpenSRS product management says in a phone interview with the WHIR. “A lot of what happens next is dependent on when these get approved. I think in the grand scheme of things it’s a small delay, but a frustrating delay.”

Eisner says that in the short-term, there’s no impact on OpenSRS or web hosts because regardless of the problem with the application system, new TLDs wouldn’t have been live this year anyway. He says that most web hosting companies that are planning to roll-out some of the new extensions don’t expect to do so until 2013.

Top level domain registry services and DNS solutions provider Afilias says it does not anticipate any significant problems from the application downtime.

“The only issue for Afilias has been a delay in inputting some of our applications. We do not know the state of the data we have already input — and we won’t until we are granted access to the ICANN TAS again — but we don’t expect any significant problems, except for the delay,” Roland A. LaPlante, chief marketing officer of Afilias said in an email to the WHIR. “It is possible that some of our data has been exposed to non-authorized parties, but we understand that ICANN is investigating and will inform us if this has taken place.”

“We have had a few applicants come back to us to see if they can still get an application in. And in some cases, it’s possible. These are the handful of customers who already had a spot reserved, but gave up on completing the application due to its complexity and the shortness of time.”

One of the major concerns of the technical glitch was the exposure of applicant names and file names, but Eisner doesn’t think it will have a real effect on the outcome of the application process.

“One of the big mysteries about this whole application process is that most people are holding their cards close to their chest so a lot of people don’t know who is going to apply for what,” Eisner says. “If you happen to have logged in and you happened to see a file name so you know that a certain string was applied for or a certain person was applying for that string it gives you a little bit of knowledge.”

“If you know that somebody was applying for the same string as you you could start talking to that person I suppose or you might be able to plan accordingly or make other adjustments but it’s not going to influence ICANN’s decision on your application or anything,” he says.

Despite the delay, and the bad press that has come with it, Eisner is sympathetic to ICANN since it is under a lot of pressure and scrutiny from a lot of different groups.

“when you’re building a complex system like this there can be a tendency to over-engineer things when really what they’re trying to do is satisfy the requirements of so many different players involved and that can be really tough,” Eisner says. “Long term I don’t think it’s going to have an averse impact but I can also appreciate that a lot of people are a bit frustrated that a process that has taken a while is now going to be extended that much more.”

Talk back: How have you been affected by the delay? What do you think of ICANN’s response to the technical glitch? Let us know your thoughts in a comment.

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