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ICM hires Fausett to help with YouPorn antitrust case

Kevin Murphy, August 29, 2012, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has hired new lawyers to help it fend off the antitrust lawsuit filed against it by YouPorn owner Manwin Licensing.

Gordon & Rees senior partner Richard Sybert is taking over as lead counsel in the case, which relates to the launch of .xxx last year.

Notably, the new team includes long-time ICANN legal expert Bret Fausett of Internet.Pro, who represented the Coalition For ICANN Transparency in its antitrust case against ICANN and Verisign.

That’s a bit of a coup for ICM. Manwin’s recent legal arguments have relied heavily on the antitrust precedents Fausett helped set in the CFIT case.

Gordon & Rees replaces Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr as ICM’s outside counsel, due to the recent departure of Wilmerhale’s ICANN guru and ICM defender, Becky Burr.

Burr joined Neustar as its chief privacy officer in May.

Manwin sued ICM and ICANN last October, arguing that the launch of .xxx was little more than a shake-down.

Earlier this month, a California District Court judge ruled that ICANN is not immune from competition law and that the litigation can proceed.

The case will turn in part on the question of whether there’s a market for “defensive registrations” under competition law and whether ICANN and ICM illegally exploited it.

Half of registrars “not sure” about new gTLDs – survey

Kevin Murphy, August 27, 2012, Domain Registries

About half of domain name registrars are still not sold on the idea of new generic top-level domains, according to the results of a small Nic.at report.

The Austrian ccTLD registry commissioned a survey of 220 Austrian companies, 32 .at registrars and 32 creative agencies about the possible impact of new gTLDs.

Nic.at said:

Overall, the industry is approaching the topic of the incoming top level domains with muted enthusiasm: at present around half of registrars are not sure whether they are going to offer their customers the new extensions.

A quarter of the surveyed marketing agencies reckoned internet users will take to new gTLDs, but only 12% of registrars were as confident, according to the report.

The agencies seemed to be more interested in domains than social media, however. Only 12% said that their social media focus made them unaware of the gTLD expansion.

Read the full report in PDF format here.

As well as managing .at, Nic.at is acting as the named registry back-end for 12 new gTLD applications, mostly German.

Fight breaks out over .kiwi

Kevin Murphy, August 24, 2012, Domain Registries

New Zealand country-code manager InternetNZ has approved the creation of .kiwi.nz, setting the stage for a battle over the proposed new gTLD .kiwi.

InternetNZ announced the new second-level domain today. It’s designed to “increase choice” for New Zealanders who want to register their personal names as domain names.

But it stands to clash with .kiwi, a new gTLD applied for by Dot Kiwi Ltd, a New Zealand subsidiary of a Canadian company, which has partnered with Minds + Machines on the bid.

Dot Kiwi, which had objected to the .kiwi.nz domain, has branded InternetNZ’s move “dissappointing and lacking in common sense”, and suggested it is an attempt to capitalize on .kiwi’s advertising.

The applicant said in a statement:

Our opposition to InternetNZ’s confusing introduction of .kiwi.nzis well documented in repeated submissions we have made to them. Those submissions have been ignored. There will now be widespread confusion with the .kiwi.nz domain and the well-advertised forthcoming launch of the .kiwi domain.

But InternetNZ president Frank March said in a press release that the policy used to approve .kiwi.nz does not consider the possibility of confusion with proposed new gTLDs:

The policy for evaluating a new second-level domain takes into account existing second-level domains in .nz but not possible future changes, such as direct registration under .nz (which is currently being consulted on) or new generic Top Level Domains that may or may not be introduced at some point in the future.

The creation of the new second-level domain does not appear to give InternetNZ leverage to object to .kiwi, under a strict reading of the ICANN Applicant Guidebook.

For ccTLDs to file a String Confusion Objection against a new gTLD application, they must assert confusion with the TLD; the objection does not appear to cover 2LDs.

To date, there has been only one public comment filed with ICANN about .kiwi on confusion grounds.

Kiwis will get an opportunity to vote with their wallets, it seems.

Registrations under .kiwi.nz are expected to open September 11, but under InternetNZ policy .kiwi.nz will not actually go live until a minimum threshold of 500 domains has been passed, the company said.

KSRegistry to provide back-end for three ccTLDs

Kevin Murphy, August 23, 2012, Domain Registries

KSRegistry, the registry services arm of Key-Systems, has won deals to provide the back-end infrastructure for .gd, .tc and .vg.

The three Caribbean island nations — Grenada, Turks and Caicos Islands and British Virgin Islands — have used London-based AdamsNames for their registries for many years.

AdamsNames is now outsourcing the gigs to KSRegistry, according to a press release.

The transition means that the three ccTLDs will move to a standard EPP interface and dump its XML-RPC one, making it easier for registrars to start selling the names.

The .tc space is currently closed to new registrations, however. AdamsNames said it plans to relaunch the ccTLD in October following a marketing campaign.

KSRegistry, which is the named back-end provider for 27 new gTLD applications, also recently took over technical services for .dm, the Dominican ccTLD.

New gTLD hopefuls set aggressive targets for ICANN

Kevin Murphy, August 22, 2012, Domain Registries

ICANN should start delegating new gTLDs in the first quarter of next year as previously planned and the Governmental Advisory Committee should work faster.

That’s according to many new gTLD applicants dropping their ideas into ICANN’s apparently semi-official comment box on application “metering” over the last week or so.

ICANN wanted to know how it should queue up applications for eventual delegation, in the wake of the death of batching and digital archery.

According to information released over the past couple of weeks, it currently plans to release the results of Initial Evaluation on all 1,924 still-active applications around June or July next year, leading to the first new gTLDs going live in perhaps August.

But that’s not good enough for many applicants. Having successfully killed off batching, their goal now is to compress the single remaining batch into as short a span as possible.

The New TLD Applicant Group, a new observer group recognized by ICANN’s Registry Stakeholder Group, submitted lengthy comments.

NTAG wants Initial Evaluation on all applications done by January 2013, and for ICANN to publish the results as they trickle in rather than in one batch at the end.

The suggested deadline is based on ICANN’s recent statement that its evaluators’ processing powers could eventually ramp up to 300 applications per month. NTAG said in its comments:

Notwithstanding ICANN’s statements to the contrary, there is not a consensus within the group that initial evaluation results should be held back until all evaluations are complete; in fact, many applicants believe that initial evaluation results should be released as they become available.

That view is not universally supported. Brand-centric consultancy Fairwinds and a couple of its clients submitted comments expressing support for the publication of all Initial Evaluation results at once.

January 2013 is an extremely aggressive deadline.

Under the batching-based schedule laid out in the Applicant Guidebook, 1,924 applications would take more like 20 months, not seven, to pass through Initial Evaluation.

NTAG could not find consensus on methods for sequencing applications among its members. Separate submissions from big portfolio applicants including Donuts, Uniregistry, TLDH and Google and smaller, single-bid applicants gave some ideas, however.

Donuts, for example, hasn’t given up on a game-based solution to the sequencing problem – including, really, Rock Paper Scissors – though it seems to favor a system based on timestamping.

The company is among a few to suggest that applications could be prioritized using the least-significant digits of the timestamp they received when they were submitted to ICANN.

An application filed at 15:01:01 would therefore beat an application submitted at 14:02:02, for example.

This idea has been out there for a while, though little discussed. I have to wonder if any applicants timed their submissions accordingly, just in case.

Comments submitted by TLDH, Google and others offer a selection of methods for sequencing bids which includes timestamping as well alphabetical sorting based on the hash value of the applications.

This proposal also supports a “bucketing” approach that would give more or less equal weight to five different types of application – brand, geographic, portfolio, etc.

Uniregistry, uniquely I think, reckons it’s time to get back to random selection, which ICANN abandoned due to California lottery laws. The company said in its comments:

Random selection of applications for review should not present legal issues now, after the application window has closed. While the window was still open, random selection for batches would have given applicants an incentive to file multiple redundant applications, withdrawing all but the application that placed earliest in the random queue and creating a kind of lottery for early slots. Now that no one can file an additional application, that lottery problem is gone.

Given that the comment was drafted by a California lawyer, I can’t help but wonder whether Uniregistry might be onto something.

Many applicants are also asking the GAC to pull its socks up and work on its objections faster.

The GAC currently thinks it can file its official GAC Advice on New gTLDs in about April next year, which doesn’t fit nicely with the January 2013 evaluation deadline some are now demanding.

ICANN should urge the GAC to hold a special inter-sessional meeting to square away its objections some time between Toronto in October and Beijing in April, some commenters say.

ICANN received dozens of responses to its call for comments, and this post only touches on a few themes. A more comprehensive review will be posted on DI PRO tomorrow.