Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Reconsideration is not an appeals process: ICANN delivers another blow to Amazon’s gTLD hopes

Kevin Murphy, October 15, 2013, Domain Policy

Amazon has lost its appeal of a ruling that says its applied-for new gTLD .通販 is “confusingly similar” to .shop, with ICANN ruling that its Reconsideration mechanism is not an appeals process.

The e-commerce giant lost a String Confusion Objection filed by .shop applicant Commercial Connect in August, with panelist Robert Nau ruling that the two strings were too confusing to co-exist.

That’s despite one of the strings being written in Latin script and the other Japanese. The ruling was based on the similarity of meaning: 通販 means “online shopping”.

Amazon immediately filed a Reconsideration Request with ICANN.

Days earlier, Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s Generic Domains Division, had described this process as one of the “avenues for asking for reconsidering the decision”.

Atallah was less clear on whether Reconsideration was applicable to decisions made by third-party panels — the new gTLD program’s Applicant Guidebook contains conflicting guidance.

ICANN’s Board Governance Committee, which handles Reconsideration Requests, has now answered that question: you can ask for Reconsideration of a new gTLD objection ruling, but you’ll only win if you can prove that there was a process violation by the panel.

In its decision, the BGC stated:

Although Commercial Connect’s Objection was determined by a third-party DRSP, ICANN has determined that the Reconsideration process can properly be invoked for challenges of the third-party DRSP’s decisions where it can be stated that either the DRSP failed to follow the established policies or processes in reaching the decision, or that ICANN staff failed to follow its policies or processes in accepting that decision.

That’s moderately good news as a precedent for applicants wronged by objections, in theory. In practice, it’s likely to be of little use, and it was of no use to Amazon. The BGC said:

In the context of the New gTLD Program, the Reconsideration process does not call for the BGC to perform a substantive review of DRSP Panel decisions; Reconsideration is for the consideration of process- or policy-related complaints.

As there is no indication that either the ICDR or the Panel violated any policy or process in accepting and sustaining Commercial Connect’s Objection, this Request should not proceed. If Amazon thinks that it has somehow been treated unfairly in the process, and the Board (through the NGPC) adopts this Recommendation, Amazon is free to ask the Ombudsman to review this matter.

While the BGC declined to revisit the substance of the SCO, it did decide that it’s just fine for a panelist to focus purely on the meaning of the allegedly confusing strings, even if they’re wholly visually dissimilar.

The Panel’s focus on the meanings of the strings is consistent with the standard for evaluating string confusion objections. A likelihood of confusion can be established with any type of similarity, including similarity of meaning.

In other words, Nau’s over-cautious decision stands: .通販 and .shop will have to enter the same contention set.

That’s not great news for Amazon, which will probably have to pay Commercial Connect to go away at auction, but it’s also bad news for increasingly unhinged Commercial Connect, whose already slim chances of winning .shop are now even thinner.

Commercial Connect had also filed a Reconsideration Request around the same time as Amazon’s, using the .通販 precedent to challenge a much more sensible SCO decision, which ruled that .shop is not confusingly similar to .购物, Top Level Domain Holdings’ application for “.shopping” in Chinese.

The BGC ruled that the company had failed to adequately state a case for Reconsideration, meaning that this objection ruling also stands.

The big takeaway appears to be that the BGC reckons it’s okay for objection panels to deliver decisions that directly conflict with one another.

This raises, again, questions that have yet to be answered, such as: how do you form contention sets when one string has been ruled confusingly similar and also not confusingly similar to another?

dotShabaka Diary — Day 17, Collisions plan is a dog’s breakfast

Kevin Murphy, October 10, 2013, Domain Policy

The seventeenth installment of dotShabaka Registry’s journal, charting its progress towards becoming one of the first new gTLDs to go live, written by general manager Yasmin Omer.

Thursday 10 October 2013

As regular readers of this journal will know, we have been frustrated by the lack of certainty surrounding the new gTLD program.

Other industries would have picketed the building of the regulator with suitably angry placards being waved and a catchy song. Unfortunately in the domain name industry, angry blogs serve as a replacement to chaining ourselves to Fadi’s swivel chair.

So as a compromise, I ask readers to hum their favourite protest tune while reading our latest tale of woe.

Flippant commentary aside, the document ICANN released on name collisions yesterday (New gTLD Collision Occurrence Management) is a perfect example of what many applicants find challenging about ICANN staff’s use of the public comment process.

Despite the many detailed studies undertaken by a number of applicants and reported through the public comment process, it would appear that many of the recommendations or proposed solutions have been ignored by ICANN staff and the NGPC in favour of something that resembles a ‘dog’s breakfast’.

You’ll recall that ICANN made some suggestions to mitigate the risk of name collisions. There were three categories: High (dead men walking), Uncategorised (deer in headlights) and Low (phew ).

There was going to be a study about something at sometime that would decide stuff and the aforementioned deer would roam free. There was going to be a TLD tasting period during which time registries got to play spammer to unsuspecting ISPs (I wonder if I can get a refund like domain tasters used to, if I don’t get enough traffic?).

A comment period was had and people duly commented. Neither the original suggestions nor the comments seem to have any connection with what appeared in the document we read yesterday. The actions and processes discussed in the document are completely new. Oh, and the Board approved them.

A thought for those in the industry: are we so inured to this kind of procedural disdain that one more example simply doesn’t make us angry anymore?

So what of the document? Is it good for us and the industry? Well there is no low or uncategorised risk grouping anymore. Everyone is in the same bucket of riskiness. Depending on who you are, that might be good for you.

The TLD tasting period, where a TLD was delegated and emails were sent to every poor soul who made the mistake of looking up a non-existing TLD, is gone. That is definitely good. An outreach program with network operators and ISPs seems like an eminently sensible idea. A spam campaign chasing random DNS queries seems like a mad idea.

Now to the grim news – there will be another study (isn’t there always) and another process (if it’s implementation can we just… oh never mind).

The study will tell us which strings from the DITL data set (and other unnamed sets) are risky and why and what we should do with them. Such risk will be contextual to the TLD in question. There’s no detail on how many strings we are talking about. There’s no criteria for the string’s presence in the list (number of queries, type of queries, known risks etc). That sounds like a large chunk of work. No matter how it is automated.

The process to be determined is how the strings and suggested mitigations are delivered to and managed by registries. There’s potentially a lot of future system development and labour costs on the horizon for TLD operators.

Many TLDs will not need to wait for this completed work to delegate. However they must accept from ICANN a list of names they can’t delegate until the process/study and their personalised list of names is completed.

Firstly ICANN has to decide if you can take this option up. How will they do that you ask? I would point you to the very clear decision tree located within the document, only it appears to have been left out. Coming soon.

Second, ICANN has to create and send you the standby extra cautious list. Now we are getting nervous. Just how many names will be on this list? Will there be any filtering or common sense applied? Is the extra cautious list subject to comment? Does it exist already?

There’s also a new process that allows someone who suffers harm from the delegation of a second level domain to have it blocked for a period of up to 2 years. When one thinks through such a process it seems most likely that this harm is only determined after the delegation, not prior. Therefore Registries may be in a position where they need to un-delegate a domain already in use by a registrant.

That could be a rude shock to some innocent registrants. The principle of doing this bothers us. The practical and legal implication of doing this bothers us. And the lack of any detail around how this process is managed, most definitely bothers us.

Whenever I hear process and study I also hear delay. In fact the modus operandi of those opposing the gTLD program has not been to fight it, but to suggest one more study and another process, knowing the effect such activities will have.

So here we are, certain in our uncertainty that one day – soon or not so soon – we will be delegated.

We can’t be the only ones who have internal jokes about the randomness of ICANN policy development. They help us make light of the otherwise business crippling proclamations we receive with no warning.

Don’t you wish, just for once, those jokes weren’t so true?

Read previous and future diary entries here.

ICANN director quits, no reason given

Kevin Murphy, October 9, 2013, Domain Policy

Judith Vazquez has resigned from ICANN’s board of directors, a year before her term was due to expire, but ICANN has provided no explanation.

Vazquez joined the board in 2011, when she was appointed by the Nominating Committee. She had served two years of her three-year ICANN term and had one year left.

This week ICANN said, in a notice from general counsel John Jeffrey:

Judith Duavit Vasquez has formally notified me, as Secretary, that she has resigned from the ICANN Board. She has indicated that the effective date of her resignation will be Monday, 7 October 2013.

ICANN didn’t say why Vazquez, who was recruited by the Nominating Committee in 2011, had resigned.

Vazquez is a Filipino businesswomen with, according to her ICANN resume, experience developing the internet in her native country.

Vasquez was on the New gTLD Program Committee, which makes decisions for the board about new gTLDs.

Her company had originally applied for a new gTLD, which excluded her from the committee on conflict of interest grounds, but the the application was withdrawn before Reveal Day.

It will be up to this year’s Nominating Committee to find a replacement to fill in for the remainder of her term.

Jones distances herself from racy Go Daddy ads

Kevin Murphy, October 7, 2013, Domain Policy

Former Go Daddy general counsel Christine Jones has said she “didn’t particularly like” the company’s wildly successful, if sexually provocative, TV advertising.

Jones is one of several candidates for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in the company’s home state of Arizona.

She began her campaign officially this week, having come out on Twitter in August, and spoke to The Republic.

Asked about the “racy” TV spots, which were often focused on a large-chested woman with the Go Daddy logo emblazoned on her skimpy attire, Jones told the paper:

A lot of people have asked me about the Go Daddy ads, and to be candid, I didn’t particularly like those ads, either. If I had been running marketing, the ads would’ve been very different. But in the grand scheme of things, the ads ended up being pretty harmless. The ads really made that company successful, and that success allowed me to focus my personal time on developing policy, which made the Internet a better and safer place for users, especially children. Once people get to know me and they differentiate the marketing spin, which is this kind of edgy, Go Daddy-esque style, from my role there — which was running a place that had a lot of serious people doing a lot of serious work — they’ll understand there is a difference.

Some locals seem to be assuming that Go Daddy will support Jones’ campaign, with the paper reporting that “Jones’ entry into the race has political insiders — and opponents — intrigued and even unsettled by her resume and potentially hefty financial backing.”

There’s not a great deal of information about Jones’ positions in the interview, however.

Still no closure on GAC new gTLD advice

Kevin Murphy, October 2, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN board members met again to discuss the Governmental Advisory Committee’s advice on new gTLDs at the weekend and, again, made baby steps towards addressing it.

The main update in a just-published New gTLD Program Committee resolution is that dozens of previously frozen applications for “closed generic” gTLDs have been thawed.

These applicants will be able to proceed to contracting with ICANN, as long as they agree to sign a version of the Registry Agreement that prohibits use of the string as a closed generic.

Closed generics haven’t been killed off, but anyone still planning to operate one is still in GAC limbo.

The NGPC said in its latest scorecard (pdf):

ICANN has received communications from many of the applicants for strings mentioned in this advice, stating that they are prepared enter the Registry Agreement as approved by the NGPC, which prohibits exclusive registry access for generic strings. Since moving forward with these applicants is consistent with the GAC advice, the NGPC directs staff to move forward with the contracting process for applicants for strings identified in the Category 2 Safeguard Advice that are prepared to enter into the Registry Agreement as approved.

The hundreds of “Category 1” strings — those, such as .law, .health and .games, that the GAC believes need extra regulation before being approved — are still on hold.

The NGPC said: “The NGPC is working on an implementation plan for the advice and will inform the GAC of the details upon approval by the NGPC.”

Does that mean ICANN will be accepting the advice? Right now, that’s not clear.

There was no movement on Amazon’s application for .amazon and transliterations, which were put on hold following the GAC’s advice at the Durban meeting in July.

Amazon submitted a lengthy argument challenging the legal basis of the GAC’s advice, which the NGPC is still mulling over.