Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Revolt brewing over digital archery

Kevin Murphy, June 6, 2012, Domain Policy

ARI Registry Services is attempting to spearhead an uprising against ICANN’s little-loved digital archery new gTLD application batching system.

The registry services provider wants ICANN to scrap not only digital archery – which is due to kick off on Friday – but the concept of batching in its entirety.

“Batching is a solution to a problem that I’m not sure exists any more,” said ARI CEO Adrian Kinderis.

“ICANN has a large number of single applicants going for a large number of domains, and that has to create some operational efficiencies,” he said.

Instead of batching, Kinderis said ICANN should lump all applications into a single “batch”, so they can all go through their Initial Evaluation phase at the same time.

If ICANN can promise to keep this single batch to 10-12 months of evaluation, rather than the five months currently envisaged by the Applicant Guidebook, he reckons most applicants would go for the idea.

Kinderis couldn’t name names until the companies in question have gone through their respective clearance processes, but said he expects strong support from his competitors.

“We’ve talked to some of the big registries and they’re waiting for us to put this out so they can come to the party and support it,” he said.

ARI sent a letter (pdf) outlining its ideas to ICANN’s board last Friday, and it plans to send another tomorrow morning, which it hopes other applicants will then express support for.

“If they extended initial evaluation to 12 months, I think that would have the support of the ICANN community,” Kinderis said. “No one wants batching.”

ARI is not the first to ask ICANN to scrap digital archery – similar requests have come from Melbourne IT and Group NBT – but it appears to be the first to suggest an alternative.

Digital archery is also not loved by ICANN’s intellectual property constituency, which thinks it puts dot-brands at a disadvantage.

Whether ICANN will go for the ARI proposal remains to be seen.

With the embarrassing TLD Application System outage – and delays – still a recent memory, there may be a desire to keep the program moving along according to plan.

However, if registries representing large numbers of applicants (ARI has 161 on its books, and has been one of the most vocal critics of delays) are asking for delays, ICANN will have to pay attention.

But by acknowledging operational efficiencies, ICANN would also have to acknowledge that its $185,000 application fee might have been a tad on the high side.

Rearranging the program into a single batch may also require the renegotiation of its deals with the independent third-party evaluators that will process the bulk of the program.

The Governmental Advisory Committee, which has used root zone scaling as a political tool in negotiations with ICANN previously, may also balk at a single batch.

But Kinderis said later stages of the program will have natural “organic gateways” – such as auctions and contract signing – that would slow down the delegation of new gTLDs.

“I think it suits the GAC,” he added. “It gives them more time to be a bit more deliberate about their [GAC Advice on New gTLDs] decisions.”

UPDATE: ARI has now sent its second letter, which states in part:

It is our view, and we believe the view of many applicants and the ICANN community generally, that batching and the chosen method of doing so will serve to increase the likelihood of confusion, frustration and uncertainty for Applicants. Applicants want a level playing field where they can all progress through the process at an equal rate. Batching is not something desired by Applicants.

We ask that ICANN staff delay the launch of the batching process, take the time until the Prague ICANN meeting to consider the options outlined in this letter and take the opportunity of the Prague meeting to discuss batching with the community.

Read it in PDF format here.

Now NetNames complains about digital archery

Kevin Murphy, June 5, 2012, Domain Policy

Another big domain name registrar has come out in opposition to ICANN’s “digital archery” system for batching new top-level domain applications.

NetNames, part of Group NBT, has asked ICANN to delay digital archery – currently scheduled to kick off this Friday – until a better batching solution can be found.

In a letter to ICANN, general manager Stephane Van Gelder wrote:

As it stands, DA risks generating applicant confusion. It is a contentious system that seems to favour those with in-depth knowledge of the second-hand domain industry and more specifically, its drop-catching techniques.

There’s no denying that, of course. Pool.com and Digital Archery Experts are both offering archery services to new gTLD applicants based on this kind of insight.

NetNames is also concerned that the archery system was created without any formal community input, and therefore suggests it be delayed until after the Prague meeting later this month.

ICANN saw fit to take its TLD Application System (TAS) offline at the last minute and keep it that way for over a month as it sought to identify and correct a computer problem. We urge that the same flexibility be exercised with regards to batching, so that the currently proposed system, which is clearly flawed and unfair, be re-examined and adapted.

NetNames follows Melbourne IT, which expressed similar concerns to ICANN last week.

Van Gelder is of course also chair of the GNSO Council, though he wasn’t wearing that hat whilst writing this particular letter (pdf).

GAC gets its way in new Applicant Guidebook

Kevin Murphy, June 5, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee is the beneficiary of the biggest changes in the new version of the new gTLD program Applicant Guidebook.

Published late last night, the Guidebook has been revised with mainly cosmetic changes.

The exception is the updated text on GAC Advice on New gTLDs, the mechanism through which the GAC can effectively torpedo any new gTLD application it doesn’t like.

The new text is exactly what the GAC asked for following the ICANN meeting in Dakar last October, rather than the edited version ICANN chose to put in the Guidebook in January.

Basically, the GAC put ICANN staff on the naughty step in Costa Rica this March for failing to insert its advice into the Guidebook verbatim, and this has now been rectified.

The changes don’t mean a heck of a lot for applicants.

Essentially, if the GAC finds a consensus against an application, there’s still a “strong presumption” that the ICANN board should reject it.

If only some governments object, the board is still expected to enter into talks to understand the scope of the concern before making its call.

The new Guidebook has removed two references to the fact that the ICANN board can overrule a GAC advice-objection, but that power still exists in ICANN’s bylaws.

The main reason the text has been removed was that the GAC complained in Costa Rica that it appeared to weaken the consultation process required by the bylaws.

And it was pissed off that ICANN staff had edited its text without consultation.

Will India’s biggest dot-brand be blocked?

Kevin Murphy, June 1, 2012, Domain Policy

TATA Group, the $83-billion-a-year Indian conglomerate, has confirmed to local media that it has applied for the new dot-brand top-level domain .tata.

Reporting on the approximately 50 new gTLD applications known so far to originate in India, the Business Standard confirmed the .tata bid.

But the company may find itself on the receiving end of nasty surprise — Tata is a protected geographical string under ICANN’s new gTLD rules.

Tata is also a Moroccan province listed in the ISO 3166-2 standard and the string is therefore recognized as a “sub-national place name” that gets special privileges.

Such strings are “considered geographic names and must be accompanied by documentation of support or non-objection from the relevant governments or public authorities”, according to the ICANN Applicant Guidebook.

While it will be up to the Geographic Names Panel to make the call, “tata” looks to me like a pretty straightforward case of a protected string.

Has Tata obtained this consent from Morocco already? I guess we’ll find out on June 13, when ICANN reveals the public portions of all 1,900-plus new gTLD applications.

Tata also colloquially means “boob” in American.

Melbourne IT CEO calls for digital archery delay

Kevin Murphy, May 31, 2012, Domain Policy

Theo Hnarakis, CEO of top-ten registrar Melbourne IT, has asked ICANN to delay its imminent “digital archery” gTLD application batching system until a better solution can be found.

Talking to DI today, Hnarakis said he’s worried that digital archery currently favors applicants for desirable generic strings such as .web at the expense of uncontested dot-brands.

With a limited number of places per batch, and with ICANN currently promising to promote all contested applications to the batch containing the best archer, we’re potentially looking at a first batch dominated by contested gTLDs rather than dot-brands.

This, Hnarakis said, will lead to many more second-level defensive registrations by companies that have applied for dot-brand gTLDs but were placed in later batches.

“We’re going to have a situation where very many companies who said they’re going to apply [for a dot-brand] to get off the treadmill of being forced to protect their brand at the second level won’t be able to do so for a year or two years,” he said.

Without an alternative batching process, the new gTLD program risks looking like “another exercise in generating a lot of defensive registrations from brand holders”, he said.

Hnarakis has written (pdf) to the ICANN board of directors’ new gTLD program committee to express his concerns and to point out that when ICANN starts to review the program in 2014 it risks not being able to evaluate the benefits of the dot-brand concept.

He said he prefers a batching method that favors uncontested and uncontroversial strings.

By the time the new gTLD public comment period is over in August, ICANN should have a pretty good idea of which applications are controversial, he said. This would require some subjective decision-making, something ICANN has always resisted, he acknowledged.

He wants a delay to the digital archery process, which is currently scheduled to kick off next Friday, for further community discussions.

“There seems to be a broad sentiment that this isn’t this best method, but people don’t want to rock the boat because they don’t want to see any further delay,” Hnarakis said.

“I don’t care if there’s any further delay,” he said. “I just want to make sure… it’s done in a way that’s fair for all parties, brand holders particularly, and that ICANN comes out of it with some credibility.”

Melbourne IT is well-known for its digital brand management services. It has 146 new gTLD consulting clients, the vast majority of which are dot-brand applicants.