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Cruz says Chehade is in China’s pocket

Kevin Murphy, February 24, 2016, Domain Policy

Terrifying US presidential candidate Ted Cruz has told outgoing ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade to recuse himself from crucial decisions, claiming Chehade is conflicted.

Republican Cruz yesterday said that Chehade can’t be trusted to make decisions related to the IANA transition because he’s already signed up to a Chinese internet governance committee.

Chehade said in December that he’s become co-chair of an advisory committee of the World Internet Conference.

Also known as the Wuzhen Summit, it’s a China-led talking shop that has been criticized for pushing China’s agenda of limiting free speech and promoting governmental control over the internet.

Cruz quizzed Chehade about his involvement in a letter earlier this month, basically fishing for evidence that Chehade was in some way conflicted.

In response (pdf), Chehade said he wasn’t being paid for the committee role, but that his travel expenses would probably be picked up.

Aha! Cruz seized on that admission, writing yesterday:

Travel compensation from the Chinese government can be a form of personal conflict of interest, which could impair Chehade’s ability to act impartially and in the best interest of the [US] government when performing under the [IANA] contract. As such, Chehade should recuse himself from all ICANN decisions that could impact the Chinese government, which include all negotiations and discussions pertaining to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) transition.

Chehade, who says he only joined the committee in order to promote the notion of multi-stakeholder internet governance, makes $900,000 a year at ICANN in salary and bonuses.

With pay so criminally low, it’s easy to see how he could be tempted to subvert his principles for any foreign government who offered him a free business-class flight and a few nights in a swanky Beijing hotel.

He has kids to feed and clothe, after all.

Cruz, on the other hand, has raised a mere $54 million in campaign contributions over the last five years, and not a single dollar of that will influence his political positions in any way whatsoever.

dotgay has a third crack at .gay appeal

Kevin Murphy, February 19, 2016, Domain Policy

dotgay LLC has filed another appeal with ICANN, hoping to get its community-based .gay application back in the race.

It submitted a third Request for Reconsideration (pdf) this week, arguing on a technicality that its bid should have another Community Priority Evaluation.

The company has already lost two CPEs based on the Economist Intelligence Unit CPE panel’s belief that its definition of “gay” is too broad because it includes straight people.

It’s also lost two RfRs, which are adjudicated by ICANN’s Board Governance Committee.

The newest RfR addresses not the core “not gay enough” issue, but a procedural error at the EIU it believes it has identified.

According to the filing, dotgay is in possession of emails from an EIU employee who was responsible for verifying some of the dozens of support letters it had received from dotgay’s backers (generally equal rights campaign groups).

The company argues, citing the BGC’s own words, that this employee was not one of the official CPE “evaluators”, which means the EIU broke its own rules of procedure:

considering the fact that the CPE Process Document – which is considered by the BGC to be “consistent with” and “strictly adheres to the Guidebook’s criteria and requirements”, it is clear that the verification of the letters should have been performed by an independent evaluator… and not by someone “responsible for communicating with the authors of support and opposition letters regarding verification in the ordinary course of his work for the EIU”.

It wants the CPE to be conducted again, saying “it is obvious that the outcome of a process is often, if not always, determined by the fact whether the correct process has been followed”.

It’s difficult to see how the outcome of a third CPE, should one be undertaken, could be any different to the first two. Who verifies the support letters doesn’t seem to speak to the reason dotgay hasn’t scored enough points on its other two attempts.

But the alternative for the company is an expensive auction with the other .gay applicants.

Another CPE would at least buy it time to pile more political pressure on ICANN and the EIU.

DCA fails .africa evaluation

Kevin Murphy, February 18, 2016, Domain Policy

DotConnectAfrice application for the .africa gTLD has, as expected, failed its ICANN evaluation for want of government support.

The official decision (pdf) was handed down overnight.

According to the Extended Evaluation panel, DCA’s “required documentation of support or non-objection was either not provided or did not meet the criteria”.

In other words, DCA did not have a shred of support for its controversial application.

For gTLDs representing multinational regions, support or non-objection is required from 60% of the governments in that region.

In addition, there cannot be more than one objection from a government in that region.

Not only did DCA not have any support, it also had over a dozen governmental objections.

The company had relied on support letters from the African Union Commission and the UN Economic Commission for Africa, both of which have been retracted.

The AU and most African governments support rival, successful applicant ZACR.

ZACR signed its .africa registry contract with ICANN in March 2014, but its bid has been kept in limbo while DCA has exploited ICANN appeals processes to delay delegation.

Most recently, DCA sued ICANN, despite signing away its right to sue when it applied.

DCA was originally rejected due to Governmental Advisory Committee advice, before it had completed evaluation.

But the company won an Independent Review Process ruling stating that ICANN erred by accepting the advice with no explanation, compelling ICANN to put the DCA application back into evaluation.

After a six-month review, the Geographic Names Panel has now concluded that, duh, nobody supports DCA’s bid.

ICANN has now changed the status of DCA’s application from “Not Approved” to “Will Not Proceed”.

Oddly, and possibly incorrectly, this status cites the GAC advice as the reason for the failure, rather than the fact that DCA failed its evaluation.

Per ICANN practice, no application is truly dead until the applicant withdraws.

DotMusic fails the “not gay enough” community test

Kevin Murphy, February 11, 2016, Domain Policy

DotMusic’s Community Priority Evaluation for the .music gTLD has failed, after the CPE panel decided the company was just trying to exploit ICANN rules to get its hands on a valuable string.

In a decision (pdf) published last night, the company score 10 of the available 16 points, four points shy of a passing score. The panel wrote:

The Panel determined that this application refers to a proposed community construed to obtain a sought-after generic word as a gTLD. As previously stated, the community as defined in the application does not have awareness and recognition among its members. Failing this kind of “cohesion,” the community defined by the application does not meet the [Applicant Guidebook’s] standards for a community.

The CPE fell apart at the first hurdle, with the panel awarding 0 out of 4 points on the “community establishment”.

It essentially ruled that the “music community” does not exist, despite frequent statements to the contrary from DotMusic and its legion of supporters.

DotMusic appears to have been condemned for the same reason as dotgay, the failed .gay community applicant.

While DotMusic and dotgay lost points on different criteria, their undoing in both cases was attempting to define a community that their respective panels judged overly broad.

DotMusic’s application included a list of 40 or more North American Industry Classification System categories of industry that it said were within its music community.

However, where it said “music lawyers” or “music accountants”, it referred to the NAICS codes for just “lawyers” and “accountants”, the panel noted.

This seems to have been responsible to a large extent for it losing its points on the “community establishment” criteria.

The CPE panel could said that while its proposed community members exhibited a “commonality of interest” there was no evidence of “cohesion” among them.

Further, no one preexisting organization could be said to cover the interests of the over-broad community as defined. The panel wrote:

There should, therefore, be at least one entity that encompasses and organizes individuals and organizations in all of the more than 40 member categories included by the application. Based on information provided in the application materials and the Panel’s research, there is no entity that organizes the community defined in the application in all the breadth of categories explicitly defined.

A knock-on effect of this was that DotMusic also dropped a point on the “community endorsement” criteria, despite having hundreds of letters of support from members of the music industry.

It dropped a further point because the string “music” only “identifies” but does not “match” its proposed community.

DotMusic will perhaps not take comfort from the fact that its losing score of 10 comprehensively beat rival community applicant Far Further by seven points.

With both community applications ruled invalid, .music should now head to auction, where there are eight applicants in total.

But .music is a bit of a passion project for DotMusic CEO Constantine Roussos — one of the few applicants who publicly announced his intention to apply long before it was possible to do so — so I think an appeal through the ICANN process is inevitable.

While DotMusic has support from powerful music industry figures, I don’t think that support extends to the kind of financial backing that will let it win a seven-to-eight-figure auction.

Don’t expect to see .music in your registrar storefront any time soon.

ICANN names Göran Marby new CEO

Kevin Murphy, February 9, 2016, Domain Policy

ICANN has its sixth CEO in its 18-year history.

Swedish telecoms regulator Göran Marby will take on the job in May, two months after incumbent Fadi Chehade leaves.

Marby

Marby is currently director-general of the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority, which regulates telecommunications and the internet in Sweden. It’s a government job.

He’s been in that role since 2010, and was reappointed to the role in November (when, presumably, he was already interviewing with ICANN).

He’s not an ICANN insider, telling a press conference yesterday that he has worked with ICANN participants but does not himself have a history of participating.

Marby, like Chehade, has a background as a technology entrepreneur. He founded, managed, then sold the security company AppGate, which made network security appliances.

Attention was immediately drawn yesterday to a July 2015 article from Swedish national broadcaster Sverige Radio, in which several sources demanded Marby’s resignation.

These telco industry sources said Marby had an “unprofessional” and “aggressive” management style that did not inspire confidence in the industry he regulates.

One journalist interviewed for the piece said Marby had threatened and physically intimidated him during an interview.

At the time, Marby would not talk to Sverige Radio. However, during yesterday’s press conference he seemed to characterize the claims as sour grapes.

He said that the allegations had come from executives at regulated companies at a time when PTS had just made a decision requiring them to invest more heavily in their networks, which they weren’t happy about.

He said that the PTS staff, board, union, and then the Swedish government had backed him, noting his November reappointment to the role.

Technically, he’s the first European ICANN CEO (M Stuart Lynn was a Brit by birth, but had gone septic by the time he was employed by ICANN) but Crocker said that this fact was not particularly relevant to his hiring.

He’s going to move to Los Angeles, from his current home in Stockholm.

Chehade is due to leave March 15. Marby starts in May.

ICANN Global Domains Division president Akram Atallah will be interim CEO for the interregnum, as he was between Rod Beckstrom leaving and Chehade starting.