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Next new gTLD round should be less English, says ICANN boss

Kevin Murphy, June 16, 2021, Domain Policy

The next round of new gTLDs should be less focused on the English-speaking world, ICANN CEO Göran Marby said yesterday.

Talking to ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee in a bilateral session at ICANN 71 yesterday, Marby said he believed the 2012 round — the last time anyone was able to apply for a new gTLD — was too English-centric.

We have so few identifiers on the internet, [which] I think is a problem. Most of them are in relation to the English language or translations of English words…

I think and I truly believe that the next round should be giving the ability for people to have identifiers on the internet that’s actually in correlation with their own local contexts, their own scripts, their own keyboards, their own narratives, so they can create their pwn communities on the internet…

We have to rethink a lot of things we have done previously, because last time we did a round it was very much about the English language and I don’t think that’s fair for the rest of the world.

He pointed out the need for universal acceptance — the technical and educational challenge of making sure all software and online services support non-Latin internationalized domain names.

While it’s true that the 2012 round of applications turned out very much English-heavy, it was not by design.

Broadening the gTLD space out to non-Latin scripts and non-English languages was one of the benefits frequently cited (often, I thought, to guilt-trip the naysayers) before opponents of new gTLDs — including governments — in the run-up to the 2012 round.

ICANN was tasked in 2011/12 with reaching out to potential applications in under-served areas of the world, but it’s generally considered to have done a pretty shoddy job of it.

In the 2012 round, 116 of the 1,930 total applications were for IDNs, and 97 of those at some point made it into the DNS root. There have been a further 61 IDN ccTLDs that came in through the IDN ccTLD Fast Track process.

IDN applicants were given special privileges in the 2012 round, such as prioritization in the lottery that selected the processing order for applications. The first delegated new gTLD was in Arabic.

The IDN gTLDs have had a mixed performance volume-wise, with the top 10 strings, which are mostly Chinese, having between 14,500 and 164,000 domains under management.

Only one has passed the 50,000-domain threshold where it has to start paying ICANN transaction fees.

The numbers are not thoroughly terrible by new gTLD standards, but they don’t make the case for huge demand, either.

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Cade and Dammak win ICANN awards

Kevin Murphy, June 16, 2021, Domain Policy

Marilyn Cade and Rafik Dammak have been named joint winners of this year’s ICANN Community Excellence Award, formerly the Ethos Award.

The award acknowledges those community members deemed to have embodied ICANN’s values and devoted a lot of time to community work.

As I previously blogged, policy consultant Cade, who died last year to a wide outpouring of tributes, was pretty much a shoo-in.

“This award is not intended to be a memorial. Instead, it is a well-deserved recognition of Marilyn’s contributions and commitment to ICANN and our multistakeholder community,” the awards selection committee noted.

Dammak has for over a decade contributed “countless volunteer hours” on various ICANN policy working groups, mainly in the GNSO, the committee noted. His impartiality was called out by the selection committee for praise.

He last year stepped in to fill a leadership vacuum in the working group devoted to reviewing Whois privacy policy.

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In two weeks, Brits will lose their .eu domains forever

UK registrants of .eu domains have just two weeks left to bring their registrations into compliance or face losing their names forever.

EURid today sent out its final warning to its UK customers — update your records or have your domains placed into an unrecoverable “withdrawn” status, which means they’re removed from the zone file.

These domains have been in a “suspended” status since January, but still recoverable.

To come back into compliance, records will have to be updated to either a registrant based in the post-Brexit EU 27 member states, or an EU citizen based in the UK.

The deadline is June 30, with the withdrawal axe falling the following day.

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ICANN waves off EFF concerns about the Ethos-Donuts deal

ICANN has dismissed concerns from the Electronic Frontier Foundation about the recent acquisition of Donuts by Ethos Capital.

Responding to a letter from EFF senior attorney Mitch Stoltz, ICANN chair Maarten Botterman said the deal had been thoroughly reviewed according to the necessary technical and financial stability standards.

In reviewing this transaction, the ICANN org team completed a thorough review and analysis of information provided by Ethos Capital and Donuts. Based on the review, the ICANN org team concluded that Donuts, as controlled by its proposed new owners would still meet or exceed the ICANN-adopted specifications or policies on registry operator criteria in effect, including with respect to financial resources, operational and technical capabilities, and overall compliance with ICANN’s contracts and Consensus Policies. Before its final decision on the matter, ICANN org provided multiple briefings to the Board. Following its final briefing and discussion with the Board, ICANN org approved the change of control in late March 2021.

The EFF had claimed that the anti-abuse parts of Donuts various registry agreements amounted to giving Donuts the right to “censor” domains, and it took issue with the Domain Protected Marks List domain blocking service.

Botterman noted that these predate the Ethos acquisition and were not reviewed.

Prior to the deal, which closed in March, Donuts was owned by another PE firm, Abry Partners. ICANN CEO Göran Marby had previously expressed puzzlement that the acquisition to lead to such concerns.

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ICANNers itching to get back to face-to-face shindigs

Kevin Murphy, June 16, 2021, Domain Policy

A majority of ICANN community members want a return to in-person meetings as soon as possible, and overwhelmingly don’t care how many pandemic-related restrictions are put in place to get it done.

That’s according to the results of an online survey ICANN carried out, which ultimately had 665 responses, or 514 if you exclude responses from ICANN staff.

The survey found that over half of all respondents were keen to fling open the doors for ICANN 72 in Seattle this October, even if it meant reduced attendance and global diversity due to pandemic restrictions on travel.

There was even greater acceptance of — and indeed demand for — health measures such as social distancing, face masks, proof of vaccination, and on-site testing.

None of these proposed measures attracted less than 72% support, and no more than 11% of respondents objected to any individual measure.

While the majority of the respondents were from North America or Europe — which I think it’s fair to say are broadly considered to be well-vaccinated and in the closing days of their pandemic restrictions — ICANN has helpfully broken down some of the responses by geography.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, North Americans and Europeans were far more likely to approve of vaccination-related attendance rules, at 73% and 66% respectively. But a majority of those from Latin America, Asia and Africa were also tolerant of such restrictions.

North Americans were also much less likely to fear travel restrictions — ICANN 72 will be held on home turf, after all.

While the survey results show a clear inclination for reopening in-person meetings, with an online component for those unable to make it, the decision will be made by the ICANN board of directors next month.

The full survey results can be viewed here (pdf).

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How awful would ICANN 72 have to be for you to stay at home?

Kevin Murphy, June 13, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN is seriously considering holding its ICANN 72 public meeting with a face-to-face component in Seattle this October. But it wants to know what would make you stay at home.

The org is surveying community members to see how they would respond to stuff like temperature checks, rapid testing, compulsory mask wearing, , vaccine certificates, physical distancing and even physical tracking.

Do community members want this stuff to make them feel safe? Or would it make them steer clear of the meeting for the sheer annoyance and intrusion? Is the community made up of bleeding-heart liberal wokesters, or hardline dunderhead deniers?

And if it turned out that the meeting would be predominately populated with vaxxed-up North Americans and Western Europeans, with few attendees from less well-off parts of the world, would that make you stay away in solidarity?

These are among the questions asked in the 10-page survey, sent out in advance of this week’s ICANN 71 public meeting, which had been due to take place in The Hague but instead will be ICANN’s fifth consecutive online-only gathering.

There’s going to be a live discussion about the possibility of a return to hybrid in-person meetings on Thursday.

The ICANN board is due to make a call on the location of 72 at some point in July.

And it’s not just a decision about health and global representation.

While the survey does not cover this, ICANN meetings are not cheap, and to set the ball rolling now with poor visibility into the pandemic situation a few months in advance would incur costs that could not be recouped.

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More non-rules proposed for Whois privacy

Kevin Murphy, June 4, 2021, Domain Policy

An ICANN working group has come up with some extra policy proposals for how registries and registrars handle Whois records, but they’re going to be entirely optional.

The ongoing Expedited Policy Development Process team has come up with a document answering two questions: whether registrars should differentiate between people and companies, and whether there should be a system of uniform, anonymized email addresses published in Whois records.

The answer to both questions is a firm “Maybe”.

The EPDP working group seems to have been split along the usual party lines when it comes to both, and has recommended that contracted parties should get to choose whether they adopt either practice.

Under privacy laws, chiefly GDPR, protections only extend to data on natural persons — people — and not to legal persons such as companies, non-profits and other amorphous entities.

Legally, registries and registrars are not obliged to fully redact the Whois records of domains belonging to companies, but many do anyway because it’s easier than putting systems in place to differentiate the two types of registrant.

There’s also the issue that, even if the owner of the domain is a company, the contact information may belong to a named, identifiable person who is protected by GDPR. So ICANN’s contracted parties may reduce their potential liability by redacting everything, no matter what type of entity the domain belongs to.

The EPDP’s has decided to stick to the status quo it agreed to in an earlier round of policy talks: “Registrars and Registry Operators are permitted to differentiate between registrations of legal and natural persons, but are not obligated to do so”.

Contracted parties will get the option to ask their registrants if they’re a natural person (yes/no/not saying) and capture that data, but they’ll have to redact the answer from public Whois output.

They’d have to “clearly communicate” to their customers the fact that their data will be treated differently depending on the choice they make.

On the second question, related to whether a system standardized, published, anonymized email addresses is feasible or desirable, the EPDP is also avoiding any radical changes:

The EPDP Team recognizes that it may be technically feasible to have a registrant-based email contact or a registration-based email contact. Certain stakeholders see risks and other concerns that prevent the EPDP Team from making a recommendation to require Contracted Parties to make a registrant-based or registration-based email address publicly available at this point in time.

Again, the working group is giving registries and registrars the option to implement such systems or not.

The benefit (or drawback, depending on your perspective) of giving each registrant a single anonymous email address that is published in all their Whois records is that it makes it rather easy to reverse-engineer that registrant’s entire portfolio.

If you’re a political insider running a whistle-blower blog, a bar owner who also moderates a forum for closeted gays in a repressive regime, or a domain name news blogger running a furry porn site on the side, you might not want your whole collection of domains to be easily doxxed.

But if you’re a trademark lawyer chasing cybersquatters or a security researcher tracking spammers, being able to take action against a ne’er-do-well’s entire portfolio at once could be hugely useful.

So the EPDP working group proposes to leave it up to individual registries and registrars to decide whether to implement such a system, basically telling these companies to talk to their lawyers.

The EPDP Team recommends that Contracted Parties who choose to publish a registrant- or registration-based email address in the publicly accessible RDDS should ensure appropriate safeguards for the data subject in line with relevant guidance on anonymization techniques provided by their data protection authorities and the appended legal guidance in this recommendation

An appendix to the recommendations, compiled by the law firm Bird & Bird, says there’s “a high likelihood that the publication or automated disclosure of such email addresses would be considered to be the processing of personal data”.

The EPDP recommendations are now open for public comment until July 19, and could become binding if they make it through the rest of the ICANN policy development system.

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Domain regs dip for second quarter in a row and it’s all China’s fault

There were 363.5 million domain name registrations across all top-level domains at the end of March, down by 2.8 million names compared to the end of 2020, Verisign’s latest Domain Name Industry Brief shows.

But the losses can be attributed mostly to China, which saw plummeting .cn regs in the ccTLD world and big declines across gTLDs popular with Chinese speculators.

In .cn, regs were down a whopping four million at 20.7 million in the quarter. China has historically been subject to steep fluctuations due to local government regulations.

Overall, ccTLD registrations were down 2.4 million at 156.5 million, but that seems to be all down to China.

All the other ccTLDs in the DNIB top 10 were either flat or up slightly on Q4. The frequent wild-card .tk did not have an impact on this quarter’s numbers, staying flat.

Verisign does not break down new gTLD registrations, but zone file and transaction report data shows that the likes of .icu and .wang, which typically sell first-year regs very cheaply, were hit by material junk drops in Q1.

ShortDot’s .icu zone file shrank by 2.5 million names between January 1 and March 30. It’s still in decline in Q2, but the trajectory isn’t nearly as steep. It had 814,000 zone file names at the end of Q1.

Zodiac’s .wang was at 525,000 at the end of 2020 but had dropped to 86,000 by March 30.

.top also lost around half a million names in the first quarter.

The vast majority of regs in .icu, .top and .wang come through Chinese registrars, which often sell for under a dollar for the first year.

The DNIB reports that .com performed well as usual, up from 151.8 million reported in the Q4 report to 154.6 million, but Verisign bedfellow .net was once again flat at 13.4 million.

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ICANN 71 — now with added bearded men!

Kevin Murphy, June 3, 2021, Domain Policy

What’s better than a flabby, bearded, middle-aged man lecturing you about DNS policy in a Zoom window? Why, up to 25 flabby, bearded, middle-aged men lecturing you about DNS policy in the same Zoom window, of course!

That appears to be an added benefit (to beard fans, at least) of upgrades ICANN has made to its remote participation platform ahead of this month’s ICANN 71 public meeting, which will be taking place virtually.

The org has implemented a new Zoom feature called Immersive View, which permits the illusion that everyone on a given panel or committee is sitting in the same room, by pasting their images in real-time to the same fake background image.

From Zoom’s blog announcing the feature earlier this year:

Zoom

The feature supports up to 25 participants, which should be sufficient to accommodate every member of ICANN’s various committees and the board of directors.

While I’m making light of it, I do see some value to observers of being able to see all session speakers simultaneously. As an inveterate nose-picker, I’m not sure I’d be quite as happy about it as a participant.

Other useful features announced by senior engineering veep Ashwin Rangan yesterday include real-time captioning in English of non-English speakers and a return to one-on-one rooms for people wishing to have private meetings.

ICANN has also linked its meeting registration system with its regular web site login accounts, Rangan said.

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.autos priced waaay below its XYZ rivals

When XYZ.com tied up the automotive gTLD market by bringing .car, .cars, .auto and .autos into its portfolio last year, I speculated that a big price increase may be on the cards for .autos. I was wrong.

The registry has in fact dropped its wholesale prices by quite a lot, keeping .autos domains a fraction of the cost of their stable-brothers and competitive with .com.

XYZ said yesterday that the recommended retail price for .autos will be around $20 per year, compared to the $100 under previous owner Dominion.

The new pricing comes into effect June 14.

By contrast, .auto, .cars and .car continue to be priced at around $2,000 per year at the cheaper registrars. At others your renewal fee could be as high as $4,000.

The pricing makes .autos a much more affordable choice for the likes of smaller car dealerships and garages, as well as an option for domain investors not scared away by the risky world of new gTLDs.

Under Dominion, .autos never broke through the 500 domains under management mark. Its three siblings all have roughly 300 names in their zones, with a leaning towards corporate registrar sales.

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