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The ANA is right: there needs to be more time for new gTLD public comments

Kevin Murphy, July 30, 2012, Domain Policy

The Association of National Advertisers has told ICANN that more time is needed for the public to file comments on new gTLD applications. I think it has a point.

As it stands, ICANN plans to forward any comments submitted before August 12 to the program’s evaluators, but the ANA thinks several more months are needed.

In a letter (pdf) to ICANN interim CEO Akram Atallah, ANA president Bob Liodice wrote:

When ICANN initially approved the gTLD Program in June 2011, ICANN’s own planning and financial estimates only envisioned 500 applications; it is possible that a sixty-day comment window might have been sufficient to evaluate that number of applications. However, almost four times that number of applications has been received, and so a mere sixty days is not enough time for the public to evaluate the details of the many string applications that may impact their interests.

Liodice asks for at least 180 more days for public comments.

The letter has been circulated to various members of the US government, but for once there’s no threat of a lawsuit.

I have to say I agree with the ANA on this occasion: more time is needed for commenting, although I’m not sure a full extra six months is necessary.

Making sense of the sheer volume of data available since the Big Reveal can be overwhelming, even for somebody who covers this topic every day.

Comments filed to date — about 1,400 of them — are narrowly focused on a small subset of wedge-issue applications. About half were organized by Morality in Media and probably could be described as anti-porn astroturf.

It’s very likely that many regular ICANN community members who intend to file substantive comments intend to do so at the last minute, per standard ICANN practice, but I think in this case there needs to be more input from outside of the usual circle of suspects.

More time to comment, and more media outreach by ICANN, might be able to create a stronger mandate — or highlight more potential problems — for some of these 1,930 applications.

With a single year-long Initial Evaluation batch now essentially confirmed could the public comment window not also be extended?

First anti-gay gTLD opponent emerges

Kevin Murphy, July 30, 2012, Domain Policy

The first public objections have been filed against applications for the .gay generic top-level domain.

Abdulaziz Al-Zoman reckons .gay shouldn’t be allowed because being gay is “against the law and public morality” in many countries, according to a comment that he filed against all four .gay applications.

Here’s the whole comment:

ICANN is dealing and playing a very strong role in worldwide public policies. It sets global public Internet-related policies that effect many worldwide societies and communities with verity of values and cultures. Therefore, ICANN MUST adhere and respect these cultures and values and not to impose its own “western” culture and values to other communities.

If “gay” is an accepted activity in USA it does not mean it is also accepted or welcomed elsewhere. ICANN should not enforce western culture and values into other societies. It should not ignore other society’s values. If the new gTLD programs had been limited to the United States, the homeland of ICANN, then it might be accepted to have the applied-for gTLDs strings (.gay). In spite of this, even if these strings (.gay) represent a permitted western standard of expressions, ICANN should not impose it globally upon the rest of the world. ICANN should not ignore the fact that activities related to this string are considered criminal act or unlawful in some parts of the world. Furthermore, ICANN should stick to GAC principles that call for respecting the sensitivity regarding terms with national, cultural, geographic and religious significance.

The applied-for gTLD string (gay) is not welcomed in many societies and communities and is against the law and public morality. ICANN should work for the benefit of all societies. It should not indulge itself in prompting and expanding western culture on the Internet. If it is really desired and needed in the ICANN home community (USA), then it can be provided under the .us TLD (e.g., gay.us) but not in the worldwide root space.

Al-Zoman appears to be referring to Saudi society, which has about as slim a grasp on morality as you’ll find anywhere in the world.

Sadly, his comments are likely a precursor to a battle within ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee over whether a formal GAC objection to .gay should be filed.

This is Big Question stuff.

Should ICANN operate according to the internet’s principles of openness, fairness and inclusion, or should it make its decisions based on demands emerging from medieval, theocratic backwaters?

You can probably guess what my opinion is.

New gTLD winners could be named June 2013

Kevin Murphy, July 30, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has sketched out a tentative timetable for the evaluation of its new generic top-level domain applications that would see the first successful gTLDs appear over a year from now.

But the plan has little meat on its bones, and ICANN has admitted that it still doesn’t know exactly how the evaluation process is going to pan out.

In a new call for comments, ICANN confirmed that all 1,930 applications are going to be evaluated at the same time, and that the evaluators have already started work.

The winners and losers from Initial Evaluation, ICANN said, could be announced June or July 2013.

This would mean that the first new gTLDs would start going live on the internet “in late third quarter of 2013, six months later than originally expected”, ICANN said.

But which successful applications would start hitting the root first is still wide open to debate.

The idea that the applications would be processed in batches of 500 or thereabouts, is now pretty much dead. That’s been obvious since digital archery was killed off, but it’s now confirmed.

ICANN said it has a “tentative project plan” that “foresees the processing of applications in a single batch, and simultaneous release of results” about a year from now.

But with “batching” dead, we now have a “metering” problem.

Hypothetically, as many as 1,409 unique gTLD applications could emerge successfully from evaluation at the same time, in June or July next year.

That’s the theoretical ceiling; in reality the number will be substantially reduced by withdrawals, objections and contention.

But before any of them can go live the applicants need to negotiate and/or sign registry agreements with ICANN and undergo formal pre-delegation technical testing. That creates two bottlenecks at ICANN in its legal and IANA departments.

ICANN now wants to know how to “meter” successfully evaluated applications, to smooth out the roll-out so that no more than 1,000 new gTLDs are delegated in any given year.

An idea that emerged in Prague was to order applications according to how “clean” they were, as measured many clarifying questions the evaluators had to ask the applicants. But that idea has now been dismissed as “unworkable”, ICANN said.

ICANN’s board of directors had promised to make about three weeks after the Prague meeting – a deadline that passed over a week ago – but it’s now turning to the community for ideas.

Before August 19, it wants to know:

1. Should the metering or smoothing consider releasing evaluation results, and transitioning applications into the contract execution and pre-delegation testing phases, at different times?

a. How can applications be allocated to particular release times in a fair and equitable way?

b. Would this approach provide sufficient smoothing of the delegation rate?

c. Provide reasoning for selecting this approach.

2. Should the metering or smoothing be accomplished by downstream metering of application processing (i.e., in the contract execution, pre-delegation testing or delegation phases)?

a. How can applications be allocated to a particular timing in contract execution, pre-delegation testing, or delegation in a fair and equitable way?

b. Provide reasoning for selecting this approach.

3. Include a statement describing the level of importance that the order of evaluation and delegation has for your application.

My hunch based on conversations in Prague is that the majority answer to question 1 will be “No” and that the majority answer to question 2 will be “Yes”, but that’s just a hunch at this point.

Go Daddy, Neustar and eNom join White House fake pharma takedown project

Kevin Murphy, July 26, 2012, Domain Policy

Big name companies from the domain name industry are among those leading a new White House-backed project aimed at tackling bogus internet pharmacies.

DI first reported on the formation of the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies back in December 2010, but it only fully announced itself on Monday this week.

It’s a US-based public-private partnership that counts Go Daddy, Neustar and eNom among its members. Other participants include Google, Microsoft, PayPal and Yahoo.

The project was announced along with officials from the US Department of State and the Food and Drug Administration at an event in Washington DC earlier this week.

The goals are consumer education and enforcement action against “rogue” pill sites.

Go Daddy’s acting general counsel Nima Kelly said in a statement:

Go Daddy’s partnership with the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies is to help create awareness and fund educational campaigns in conjunction with the FDA. Go Daddy is also hosting the safemedsonline.org site pro bono.

Neustar vice president of business affairs Jeff Neuman, who’s also treasurer of CSIP, told us:

the overall goals of CSIP include providing a neutral forum for sharing relevant information about illegal US internet pharmacies among members and aiding law enforcement efforts where appropriate.

Neustar is working with the rest of the partners to address rogue pharmacies at their very source—their web addresses. Neustar has been and will continue to be vigilant in taking down rogue sites that contain malware and those that do not comply with our acceptable use policies – which include compliance with applicable drug laws.

ICANN fixes new gTLD portal bugs

Kevin Murphy, July 23, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has brought its new gTLD program customer service portal back online after about five days of patching-related downtime.

In a notice posted late last night, ICANN said the delay was due to the wait for a vendor patch. ICANN said:

A recent, proactive review of the CSC system identified potential vulnerabilities. To address these vulnerabilities, the CSC portal was taken offline while vendor-provided patches were applied. There have been no known compromises to any data.

New gTLD applicants will now have to log in to their TLD Application System accounts, which use the Citrix remote terminal software, to use their customer service tools.

Non-applicants will be able to ask customer service questions via email.

The Knowledge Base — essentially a program FAQ — is still offline, but ICANN said it hopes to bring it back up within a few days.