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Late new gTLD objections “not unfair”

Kevin Murphy, June 10, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN Ombudsman Chris LaHatte has ruled that the decision to accept formal new gTLD objections sent one minute after the filing deadline “does not create unfairness”.

The decision is a blow to at least one applicant, which had tried to have an objection against it kicked out for being late.

LaHatte received a complaint from the applicant, believed to be represented by Galway Strategy Group’s Jim Prendergast, last month.

The complainant said that an objection by a competing applicant was sent at 00:01:02 UTC on March 15, one minute and three seconds after the deadline laid out in ICANN’s Applicant Guidebook.

But the dispute resolution providers hired by ICANN to manage objections decided to give a little leeway, agreeing among themselves (with ICANN’s tacit consent) to a five-minute extension.

Now LaHatte has decided — entirely reasonably in my view — that this was not unfair.

He wrote: “It is my view that a five minute window is a proportionate response and does not create unfairness for the applicants, but does provide fairness given that it is only five minutes.”

He added that at least one other objection, which was filed much later, was rejected for its tardiness.

Atallah shunted sideways in ICANN exec rejig

Kevin Murphy, June 7, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN has a new COO, after incumbent Akram Atallah was moved into a new role as president of a new Generic Domains Division.

The organization has hired Susanna Bennett to replace him. She is currently with Jazz Technologies and Jazz Semiconductor, where she is CFO and VP of human resources.

The new Generic Domains Division will “focus on generic domain operations, domain name industry engagement and web services for the community” ICANN said in a press release.

Bennett is the second person to be hired from Jazz in as many months. While it wasn’t announced, Jazz alum Allen Grogan joined the legal department last month as chief contracting counsel.

Before Jazz, Grogan worked for CoreObjects, Viacore and Vocado, three of the companies that CEO Fadi Chehade led before joining ICANN.

Atallah and Chehade recently came under fire from an anonymous ICANN staffer, claiming that they’ve been causing division among employees by hiring their friends and former co-workers.

More recipients of some reshuffling today include VP of stakeholder engagement for North America Jamie Hedlund, who is becoming a “special advisor” to Chehade.

Fellow Beckstrom-era hire Christopher Mondini is moving from VP of business engagement to VP of stakeholder engagement for North America and global business engagement.

Nora Abusitta, hired in January, will become VP of public responsibility programs. She’s currently the senior director of inter-governmental development.

The official (unrealistic) go-live date for new gTLDs is September 28

Kevin Murphy, June 6, 2013, Domain Policy

September 28 could be (won’t be) the launch date of the first new gTLD sunrise period, according to a (unrealistic) timetable released by ICANN yesterday.

During a webinar for new gTLD applicants, program head Christine Willett presented the following slide:

Timetable

As you can see, using this timetable the first registry contract would be signed one month from now and the TLD itself would hit the root around August 28. Sunrise would follow a month later.

Willett was very clear that the timetable represents the absolute shortest path an application could take, and that it’s unlikely that any application will actually make it.

What the timetable deliberately fails to include is any delay caused by Governmental Advisory Committee advice.

The GAC’s Beijing communique had advice for all applicants, remember, but the response is currently being handled by the ICANN board and not new gTLD program staff, so the outcome is unknown.

The communique contains six “Safeguards Applicable to all New gTLDs” which are controversial because they appear to duplicate or preempt existing policy work, for example on Whois rules.

If ICANN adopts the advice wholesale, it’s difficult to see how these safeguards could be enforced if not by contract, which could delay the contract approval or contracting phases of the timeline.

If ICANN does not adopt the advice wholesale, it will have to consult with the GAC to find a “mutually acceptable solution”.

Last time it deviated from GAC advice, which covered considerably less complex ground, there was a great deal of to-and-fro over the space of months along with four days of face-to-face meetings.

The only hint so far that ICANN may be creating a fast-track for applicants came in notes from its May 18 New gTLD Program Committee meeting, which said:

The Committee agreed that it would adopt a strategy that permits full consideration of the ongoing community comment forum while resolving GAC advice in a manner that permits as many applications as possible to keep making forward progress.

Speculatively, could we be looking at some kind of hack? A way for new gTLD applicants to blindly sign up to whatever future agreement the GAC and ICANN come to, in exchange for a speedy delegation?

Or is it an indication that ICANN is leaning towards approving the “safeguards” that apply to all new gTLDs?

The GAC advice is open for public comment until June 11, so we won’t find out until the second half of the month at the earliest.

GNSO wins minor victory in Trademark+50 dispute

Kevin Murphy, June 6, 2013, Domain Policy

The ICANN board has rescheduled an important decision for trademark owners, apparently at the behest of members of the Generic Names Supporting Organization Council.

The board’s New gTLD Program Committee was due to vote June 11 on whether to approve the rejection of a Reconsideration Request filed by the Non-Commercial Stakeholders Group.

But the item has been removed from the agenda and will now instead be discussed at a new June 18 meeting that appears to have been specially scheduled for the purpose.

The rescheduling follows an appeal by GNSO Councillor Jeff Neuman directly to the committee and other senior ICANNers.

Neuman and others were concerned that a June 11 decision would preempt a discussion of the issue slated for the Council’s June 13 meeting, which would have been very bad for board-GNSO relations.

For the full background, read this post.

Essentially, Neuman and other councilors are worried that ICANN seems to be riding roughshod over the GNSO in an attempt to make a proposal known as “Trademark+50” a part of the new gTLD program.

Trademark+50 is a mechanism that will greatly expand the number of strings trademark owners can submit to the Trademark Clearinghouse and get limited protection for.

The NCSG’s Reconsideration Request had asked ICANN to reconsider its classification of the proposal as an “implementation” change that didn’t require GNSO “policy” review.

But the ICANN board’s Board Governance Committee, which adjudicates such matters, last month rejected the request in what I would describe as a sloppily argued and disconcertingly adversarial decision.

It’s now up to the New gTLD Program Committee, acting for the full board, to rubber-stamp the rejection, clearing the path for Trademark+50 to become law for new gTLD registries.

Rescheduling the decision won’t change the outcome, in my view. Trademark+50 is very probably a done deal.

But voting before the GNSO Council even had a chance to put its concerns to the board would have given fuel to the argument that ICANN ignores the GNSO when it is politically expedient to do so.

ICANN may have dodged a bullet for now, but the dispute continues.

ICANN hires new VP from Yahoo!

Kevin Murphy, June 3, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN has poached a Yahoo! executive to head up its outreach efforts in Asia.

Singapore-based Kuek Yu-Chuang, who held a similar role at Yahoo, has been named vice president for global stakeholder engagement for Asia. He starts August 1.

Asia is one of the regions in which ICANN is trying to establish itself a more prominent presence.

Singapore has been named as a “hub”, ostensibly of equal importance to its LA headquarters, and it was announced in April that a satellite office will also be opened in China.

Before Yahoo, Yu-Chuang had experience working for the Singapore government.