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The 100% Porn-Free Top 10 DI Stories You Should Have Been Reading In 2012.

Kevin Murphy, January 2, 2013, 20:29:20 (UTC), Gossip

Happy New Year everyone.

It’s time for the now-traditional round-up of the last year’s biggest DI stories, but this year it’s going to be a little different.

Having perused the traffic logs for the last 12 months, it’s pretty clear that the Top 10 stories for 2012 would be about 90% porn-related.

The list is all “YouPorn this” and “.xxx that”, with dishonorable mentions for stories about “Hot Czech girls” and photos of Go Daddy girls’ bottoms.

It’s sad, but perhaps inevitable, that sex-related stories seem to appeal to a wider readership than the more chaste variety. Residual search traffic also seems to linger for longer with these pieces.

Traffic logs are a rubbish way to gauge the importance of a story.

So I’ve ignored all that guff in this year’s rundown. With apologies to Manwin and ICM Registry, here’s the hand-picked 100% Porn-Free Top 10* DI Stories You Should Have Been Reading In 2012.

(* More than 10)

The New gTLD Program Splutters Into Life

Our Word Of The Year for 2012 is “glitch”.

With hindsight, ICANN chairman Steve Crocker is probably regretting saying in a New Year email to colleagues, “I am confident the program is well constructed and will run smoothly.”

And with hindsight, I’m regretting not being more skeptical in my January 3 article, ICANN chair says new gTLD program “will run smoothly”.

A week later, ICANN started to accept new gTLD applications (ICANN opens new gTLD program) and the TLD Application System at first did appear to run more or less smoothly, but it didn’t last long.

By early February the first “glitches” were emerging (New gTLD applications briefly vanish after glitch) and by April the TAS had completely imploded.

As the application window was just about to close April 30, ICANN shut down TAS, saying that a “technical glitch” had led to “unusual behavior” (ICANN extends new gTLD application window after technical glitch)

It turned out that a bug in ICANN’s custom-made TAS software had allowed some applicants to see other applicants’ applications (It’s worse than you thought: TAS security bug leaked new gTLD applicant data)

Over 100 applicants were affected (TAS bug hit over 100 new gTLD applicants) but the damage appears so far to have been limited to ICANN’s reputation and the cost to applicants of over a month’s delay (TAS reopens after humiliating 40 days) while the bug was being fixed.

Wow. How Many Applications?

By the time Reveal Day rolled around in June, tensions were high.

Moderating a panel discussion during the live London event (Big Reveal confirmed for London), I got my hands on a print-out of the list of gTLD applications half an hour before it was released publicly.

In hard copy, it was thick enough to choke a horse.

There were 1,930 applications in total (It’s Reveal Day and there are 1,930 new gTLD bids), largely made up of English keywords and Western dot-brands, with not as much representation from the developing world or non-Latin scripts as ICANN had hoped.

While we’d long expected big portfolio bids from the likes of Donuts (Donuts applies for 307 (yes, 307) gTLDs), Uniregistry (Schilling applies for “scores” of new gTLDs) and TLDH, Amazon and Google were the surprise big applicants, facing off on several prime keywords.

When it became clear that both companies were planning to keep huge swathes of real estate private, using the dot-brand model with dictionary words (Most new gTLDs could be closed shops), a controversy was set in motion that has not yet been resolved (Industry objection forming to Google and Amazon’s keyword gTLD land grab).

Digital Archery misses the target

By far the year’s weirdest rolling story was the creation, deployment, failure and death of Digital Archery, ICANN’s whacky way of splitting new gTLD applications into evaluation batches.

Applicants would have to take their chances with network latency, clicking a button on a web page and hoping ICANN’s servers received the ping as close to a target time as possible, as we revealed in March (Here’s how new gTLD batching will work).

The system was branded “Digital Archery” (ICANN approves “digital archery” gTLD batching). It later transpired that the ICANN board was warned that it looked absurd (Digital archery looked “silly” but had “minor risks”, ICANN board was told).

Several companies quickly seized on the opportunity to make a bit of cash from the process, leveraging years of drop-catching experience (Pool.com offers $25k gTLD digital archery service).

But opposition to the system quickly grew, with several companies openly wondering whether Digital Archery was any better than the illegal lottery it was supposed to replace.

(See Revolt brewing over digital archery and ARI: digital archery is a lottery and we can prove it, Is this why digital archery is borked?

Despite beginning Digital Archery, by June the process had been suspended (Digital archery suspended, surely doomed) and finally killed off (Digital archery is dead, but uncertainties remain).

Roll up! Roll up!

Archery was replaced by a lottery, in one of the most surprising about-faces of the year.

Apparently prize draws were not illegal under Californian law after all, clearing the way for a widely lauded chance-based solution to the prioritization problem (New gTLD winners will be decided by lottery after all).

And what do you know… it worked. At least, nobody has yet publicly complained about the New gTLD Prioritization Draw, which took place in LA a couple of weeks ago. (Amazon, Uniregistry, Verisign… here’s who won the new gTLDs lottery)

Conflicts Over Conflicts Of Interest

The repercussions of Peter Dengate Thrush’s 2011 move from ICANN’s chair to a top job at Top Level Domain Holdings continued in 2012, with paranoia over conflicts of interest rife.

This was the year in which ICANN made serious efforts to avoid even the perception of conflicts of interest on its board of directors (Seven ICANN directors have new gTLD conflicts) by starting up a New gTLD Program Committee stacked with non-conflicted individuals.

Despite this move, other questions were raised over the course of the year about the relationship between directors on the committee and new gTLD applicants (Another conflicted ICANN director? and Ombudsman asks DCA to simmer down after .africa conflict of interest complaint).

CEO Rod Beckstrom even used his penultimate ICANN meeting keynote to take a pop at his fellow directors (Beckstrom slams his own board over conflicts) over the poorly perceived ethics environment.

But it didn’t take long before many community members started to question the value of excluding industry expertise from the new gTLD committee, a view given weight by the fact that one of the committee’s first decisions was approving Digital Archery.

To the disappointment of many, even recently promoted new gTLD program overseer Kurt Pritz fell victim to the paranoia over clashes, tendering his resignation in November after fessing up to a personal conflict of interest (Pritz’s conflict of interest was with ARI).

To cap it all, concern about conflicts led to one GNSO Council member accidentally torpedoing his own client’s interests (albeit temporarily) when he abstained from a November vote. (GNSO gives thumbs down to Olympic trademark protections in shock vote).

The Death of the GNSO

Worries about the decreasing relevance of the Generic Names Supporting Organization were aired a few times in 2012, pretty much every time the brand protection side of the house locked horns with non-commercial interests.

At the Costa Rica meeting in March, all of the unnecessary but politically valuable work that the GNSO had put into giving the Red Cross and International Olympic Committee special brand protection seemed to come to naught due to Non-Commercial User Constituency shenanigans (Olympic showdown spells doom for ICANN, film at 11).

While the storm was very much of the teacup variety (The Olympics and the death of the GNSO, part deux), more recent apparent attempts by ICANN executives and the GAC to do end-runs around the GNSO have started to raise many of the same concerns.

Too sluggish to react to the industry? Too complicated to function? Interests too entrenched for compromise? The “death of the GNSO” is a meme that is stronger than ever as we head into 2013.

Change at the top

In June, the industry mourned the departure of Bob Recstrum, Twitter’s premier ICANN spoof account.

In related news, Rod Beckstrom grew a beard and fucked off on his yacht or something, two million dollars the richer, leaving ICANN with interregnum leadership awaiting his successor.

After spending six months filtering through 100 applicants (ICANN gets 100 applicants for CEO job) for the lucrative if stressful position, ICANN’s board settled on the industry outsider Fadi Chehade, whose special skill is consensus building.

Chehade impressed on his first day by cleverly hiring two of the unsuccessful CEO candidates as special advisers, as he explained in an interview with DI (Fadi Chehade starts at ICANN today, immediately shakes up senior management)

As well as wowing the ICANN community by saying all the right things in his inaugural keynote, he has also since managed to successfully win over critics of ICANN in national governments and the International Telecommunications Union (Unsnubbed? ICANN brass get tickets to ITU curtain-raiser), demonstrating his chops when it comes to big picture stuff.

But the recent outcry over two secretive meetings relating to the Trademark Clearinghouse — along with more delays to the new gTLD program — suggests that the honeymoon period for Chehade is probably already over.

Verisign gets whacked by Commerce

The US government dealt a serious blow to Verisign at the back end of the year, capping its .com registry fee at current rates — barring highly improbably eventualities — for the next six years (Verisign loses right to increase .com prices).

While ICANN took a reputational hit — having approved a .com contract (ICANN gives Verisign’s .com contract the nod_ with 7% annual price increases — it got to keep the extra fees Verisign will pay it (ICANN to get $8 million more from new .com deal).

And the rest…

ICANN staffer linked to hacked intelligence firm — ICANN’s Eastern European VP Veni Markowski was fingered as an informant for an American intelligence firm, which described him as a “billionaire oligarch” with ties to organized crime, by the Bulgarian media. The reality, in my view, was rather less exciting.

Refunds uncertain as .nxt says sorry for cancellation — Many members of the industry were left fuming when the .nxt conference on new gTLDs, scheduled for London last summer, was cancelled twice and the organizers had trouble refunding registration fees.

Company claims ownership of 482 new gTLDs — ICANN’s past returned to haunt it in the second half of the year, as two new gTLD applicants from the 2000 round emerged to sue the organization for not returning its calls for the last 12 years.

O.co loses 61% of its traffic to O.com — Overstock’s ambitious rebranding around a .co domain failed to pay off. This story is a particular favorite citation of .com domain investor Rick Schwartz.

.radio gTLD applicant joins the GAC — The European Broadcasting Union applied for .radio, competing against three other applicants, then joined the Governmental Advisory Committee to give it special lobbying access to the GAC and its special gTLD objection powers (GAC gets more power to block controversial gTLDs). Conflict of interest?

“Whistleblower” accuses Nominet of trying to dodge freedom of information law — In what has to be the biggest case of disgruntled former employee in years, Nominet’s former policy chief spilled the beans about the company’s alleged plot to sell out .uk to the UK government in order to keep it out of the hands of domainers.

Newbie domain registrant discovers Whois, has Twitter meltdown — I deleted the quoted tweets after receiving a handful of insane emails from the newbie in question, so you’ll have to use your imagination.

ICANN’s secret “penthouse-level” domain program — Because April Fools Day stories are always fun to write.

NTIA throws a bomb, cancels IANA contract RFP — The US government’s other big surprise of the year was making ICANN kneel and beg for the renewal of its critical IANA contract. This story, incidentally, was the most-trafficked of 2012.

Apart from all the porn, that is.

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