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Nominet hires venture capitalist as new CEO

Kevin Murphy, October 29, 2014, Domain Registries

Nominet has named Lesley Cowley’s replacement as CEO as Russell Haworth, a Thomson Reuters alum who’s spent much of 2014 working as a venture capitalist.

Russell was previously managing director of Thomson Reuters’ Middle East & Africa division.

Since January, he’s been a co-founder and partner at Saya Ventures, an investment company focused on early-stage technology companies.

“Russell will lead the organisation as it develops its core registry business, explores the potential of new technologies, and delivers on its commitment to ensuring the internet is a force for good,” Nominet said.

He’s set to join the .uk registry in January 2015.

He replaces Cowley, who resigned in May and earlier this month revealed several new jobs.

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Quitted ICANN director gets old job back

Kevin Murphy, October 29, 2014, Domain Policy

Olga Madruga-Forti, who quit ICANN’s board of directors earlier this month, has gone back to work for the US Federal Communications Commission.

I gather that while ICANN was aware of her new job, it was unable to announce the move at the time of her resignation.

The FCC said Madruga-Forti will be chief of Strategic Analysis and Negotiations Division at its International Bureau.

She worked for the FCC for nine years until 1997 as special counsel with responsibility for satellite policy. She’s spent the intervening years working for satellite companies in the US and Argentina.

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Former pop star is .uk’s 10,000th cybersquatting case

Kevin Murphy, October 27, 2014, Domain Registries

Nominet has processed its 10,000th cybersquatting dispute, according to the company.

Conveniently for the .uk registry’s public relations department, the complainant in the case was Aston Merrygold, a well-known former member of the pop group JLS.

He won astonmerrygold.co.uk, which was registered to London-based Martyn O’Brien, using Nominet’s 12-year-old Dispute Resolution Service.

Merrygold does not have a trademark covering his name, but the DRS panelist found that he had rights anyway, due to his relative fame and numerous TV appearances.

O’Brien registered the name in 2008, along with the names of Merrygold’s band-mates, after JLS appeared in the final of TV talent show The X Factor.

JLS had a brief but successful pop career before breaking up last year. Merrygold currently intends to go solo, which presumably inspired the DRS complaint.

Nominet also announced today that Tony Willoughby, who has been chair of the DRS panel since 2002, has stepped aside and will be replaced by DRS appeals panelist Nick Gardner.

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gTLD auctions net ICANN another $13m

Kevin Murphy, October 27, 2014, Domain Registries

ICANN has raised another $12.9 million from new gTLD auctions.

A small batch of three contention sets — .realty, .salon and .spot — were resolved last Wednesday in the third so-called “last resort” auction.

.realty went to Fegistry for $5,588,888, .salon to Donuts for $5,100,575 and .spot to Amazon for $2.2 million.

ICANN now has accumulated new gTLD auction sales totaling $27.8 million.

It raised $14.3 million selling off .buy, .tech and .vip in September. The auction for .信息 fetched $600,000 in June.

ICANN’s share — after auctioneer Power Auctions is paid off — is being put into a special fund, rather that ICANN’s current account. The community will one day have to decide what to spend it on.

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Is the free ride over for Verisign’s .net?

Kevin Murphy, October 27, 2014, Domain Services

Verisign’s .net is on the rocks due to new gTLDs, executives have confirmed.

Speaking to investors and analysts on the company’s third-quarter earnings call last week, CFO George Kilguss said that .net “is experiencing some headwinds from the launch of the new gTLD program”.

Further comments from Kilguss and CEO Jim Bidzos seem to confirm what DI reported a month ago: .net is in trouble.

Latest stats collated by DI show that the .net zone file shrunk by over 121,000 domains in the seven months between March 26 and October 26 this year.

Executives said on the call that .net stood at 15.1 million names at the end of September. That compares to 15.2 million at the end of the previous quarter.

“It’s been relatively flat,” Kilguss said. “I actually think .net has held up pretty well over the year with all these new names coming on… So I don’t view .net’s performance as anything negative.”

Bidzos told analysts that “confusion” around the new gTLDs was to blame.

“I think generally, .net may be more susceptible to that confusion that swirls around new gTLDs,” he said.

He characterized .net as being like new gTLDs, falling into “that category of ‘different'”.

In my view, this is an implicit acknowledgement that .net has been getting a free ride for the last 20 years.

Asked whether the .net weakness could spill over to .com, Bidzos said that .com is a “trusted brand” because it’s almost 30 years old and has a 17-year record of uninterrupted up-time.

While there’s no doubt that .com is a trusted brand, it’s not because of its up-time or longevity, in my view — .net has the same stability record and is actually fractionally older than .com.

The reason .net is suffering now is that that for the last two decades it’s been essentially a defensive play.

People buy the .net when they buy the .com because they’ve been marketed as a bundle — the only two truly generic TLDs out there. Unlike .org, .net lost its semantic differentiation a long time ago.

As .com buyers start to see more and more options for duplicative or defensive registrations in their shopping carts, they’re going to be less likely to grab the .net to match their .com, in my opinion.

And it’s likely to get worse.

“It’s going to continue,” Bidzos said. “We’re seeing hundreds of more new gTLDs coming, and they’re coming at the rate of many every single week. So that confusion is likely to get worse.”

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