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Bladel romps home in ICANN election re-run

Kevin Murphy, November 24, 2015, Domain Policy

Go Daddy VP of policy James Bladel has been elected chair of ICANN’s Generic Names Supporting Organization Council.

The result came a month after the GNSO Council embarrassingly failed to elect a chair to replace outgoing Jonathan Robinson.

This time Bladel ran unopposed, securing the unanimous support of both his own Contracted Parties House and the Non-Contracted Parties House, which did not field a candidate.

In the October vote, the NCPH had nominated academic Heather Forrest.

Due to personal friction between commercial and non-commercial NCPH Council members, Bladel lost that election to “none of the above” by a single vote.

Forrest has been elected vice-chair, along with Neustar’s Donna Austin.

Volker Greimann and David Cake, who had been running the Council on an interim basis for the last month, have stepped aside.

ICANN reveals $1m of not-lobbying lobbying expenses

Kevin Murphy, November 20, 2015, Domain Policy

ICANN has revealed how much it has spent so far on a few controversial professional services firms that have been accused of “lobbying” the US government on behalf of the organization.

It said today that between July 2015 and September 2015 it spent $1,070,438 on six companies providing “Education/Engagement” services related to the transition of IANA from US government oversight.

Two of the payees are consulting firms run by former high-level US officials.

One is Albright Stonebridge Group LLC, founded by Clinton-era secretary of state Madeleine Albright.

The other is Rice Hadley Gates LLC, which counts W-era officials Condoleeza Rice, Stephen Rice and Robert Gates as its principles.

The $1 million figure also includes payouts to PR firm Edelman, which has been working with ICANN for as long as I can remember, a video production company, and two other consultants.

It’s substantially less than the $2.4 million spend estimated by Kieren McCarthy, whose public-forum questions at the last two ICANN meetings and subsequent The Register article seem to be responsible for the latest disclosures.

McCarthy, in heated public clashes with ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade, had argued that these payouts were essentially “lobbying” expenses that had not been disclosed because they fall into a “loophole” in US regulations that require lobbyists to disclose their clients.

ICANN said it spent $765,829 on external lobbying services — both related to the IANA transition and not — over the same period.

Its in-house lobbyist, James Hedlund, has separately disclosed a spend of $890,000 over the period.

McCarthy had argued that ICANN was trying to hide the true extent of its lobbying, because it’s trying to make a case with US authorities for ICANN the organization that is at odds with what the community-led IANA transition process is trying to achieve.

Today’s disclosures show that ICANN spent $4,809,949 — almost half of its transition-related professional services spend — on the two law firms that have been advising the two volunteer groups developing the IANA transition proposals.

It spent a more modest $1,150,213 on its own legal advisers, Jones Day.

Most US presidential hopefuls use Whois privacy despite begging for cash

Kevin Murphy, November 9, 2015, Domain Policy

More than half of the remaining US presidential candidates could have risked losing their official campaign web sites under proposed Whois privacy rules.

Today I carried out Whois queries on all 18 candidates to discover that 10, or over 55%, use a Whois privacy service.

Of the three remaining Democrat candidates, only Bernie Sanders uses privacy. Martin O’Malley and Hillary Clinton do not.

Here’s a table of the Republican candidates and their chosen privacy services. N/A means their campaigns are using what appears to be genuine contact information.

CandidateDomainPrivacy Service
Ben Carsonbencarson.comN/A
Bobby Jindalbobbyjindal.comN/A
Donald Trumpdonaldjtrump.comN/A
Jim Gilmoregilmoreforamerica.comN/A
Lindsey Grahamlindseygraham.comN/A
Rick Santorumricksantorum.comN/A

The results are interesting because rules under discussion at ICANN earlier this year — which are apparently still on the table in other international fora — would have banned the use of privacy services for commercial web sites that allow financial transactions.

All 18 candidates — even Trump — solicit donations on their campaign sites, and many sell T-shirts, bumper stickers and such.

Back in May, a minority of ICANN’s Privacy & Proxy Services Accreditation Issues Working Group (PPSAI) were in favor of banning privacy for such registrants.

The rationale was that criminals, such as those selling counterfeit drugs, should not be allowed to mask their Whois details.

Judging by a working group report at the ICANN meeting in Dublin last month, the proposed new rules have been killed off by the PPSAI after a deluge of comments — around 22,000 — that were solicited by registrars and civil rights groups.

However, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, at the exact same time as the PPSAI was revealing its change of heart, the US government was pushing for virtually identical policy at a meeting of the OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The EFF says the proposed OECD Recommendation “would require domain name registration information to be made publicly available for websites that are promoting or engaged in commercial transactions with consumers.”

It’s remarkable that the US government is apparently pushing for rules that are being violated by most of its own hopeful commanders-in-chief as part of the democratic process.

Clearly, fake pharmacies are not the only class of crook to find value in privacy.

ICANN opens blog to comments, immediately trolled

Kevin Murphy, November 9, 2015, Domain Policy

Welcome to my world, ICANN.

The organization on Friday opened its blog to commenters for the first time in years, allowing any registered user of the ICANN site to submit comments on its posts.

The switch appears to be retroactive on all previous posts on the platform.

The post announcing the move was immediately commented on by habitual, single-issue commenter Graham Schreiber, a name familiar to anyone who regularly reads the comments sections of industry blogs.

He’s the guy who unsuccessfully sued ICANN — for some reason — back in 2012 and has continued his tirade against the organization in social media ever since.

Trolling aside, it’s a good move by ICANN, something it should have done a long time ago.

While ICANN obviously accepts comments on pretty much everything it does, the usual format of emailed PDFs perhaps lacks some of the brevity, openness and immediacy of a two-way blog.

Aussie government slams .food closed generic bid

Kevin Murphy, October 30, 2015, Domain Policy

The Australian government is among those asking ICANN deny a request to make .food a “closed generic” gTLD.

Eight people have filed comments opposing Lifestyle Domain’s application for Specification 13 status for its .food registry contract, which would allow the company to keep all .food domains for itself, since we reported the news earlier this month.

The Aussies are arguably the highest-profile opponent, and the one most likely to be taken seriously by ICANN.

Governmental Advisory Committee rep Annaliese Williams wrote:

The Australian Government issued an Early Warning to Lifestyle Domain Holdings, Inc on the grounds that ‘food’ is a common generic term, and that restricting common generic strings, such as .food, for the exclusive use of a single entity could have a negative impact on competition…

The Australian Government does not consider that Lifestyle Domain Holdings’ application to operate .food for its exclusive use serves a public interest goal.

Lifestyle Domain is a subsidiary of Scripps Networks, the company that runs the Food Network TV stations and web site.

The company claims that it has trademark rights to the word “food” that should allow it to run .food as a dot-brand gTLD.

That would mean nobody but Scripps, which won the right to .food at auction, would be able to register .food domains.

ICANN has also received negative comments from employees of registrars (both retail and corporate) and registries.

One comment, taken at face value, appears to be pro-Scripps, but I’m fairly confident it’s actually just extreme sarcasm.

The decision about whether to allow Scripps to add Spec 13 to its contract will be made by ICANN legal staff.

ICANN told me this week that there’s no ETA on a decision yet.