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ICANN drops .jobs shut-down threat

Kevin Murphy, December 14, 2012, Domain Registries

ICANN has withdrawn its breach notice against .jobs registry Employ Media, opening the floodgates for third-party job listings services in the gTLD.

In a letter sent to the company earlier this week, ICANN seems to imply that it was wrong when it threatened in February 2011 to shut down .jobs for breaking the terms of its registry agreement:

ICANN has concluded that Employ Media is not currently in breach, but is instead in good standing under the Registry Agreement, with respect to the issues raised in the 27 February 2011 Notice of Breach letter.

ICANN will not seek to impose restrictions on new or existing policy initiatives within .JOBS as long as such conduct is consistent with the .JOBS Charter and the terms of the Registry Agreement.

The surprising move presumably means that Employ Media will be dropping its Independent Review Panel proceeding against ICANN, which was due to start in-person hearings next month.

The original breach notice alleged that the registry had gone too far when it sold thousands of generic domain names to the DirectEmployers Association to use for jobs listings sites.

This .Jobs Universe project saw DirectEmployers launch sites such as newyork.jobs and nursing.jobs.

The project was criticized harshly by the .JOBS Charter Compliance Coalition, an ad hoc group of jobs sites including Monster.com, which lobbied ICANN to enforce the .jobs contract.

The .jobs gTLD was originally supposed to be for companies to advertise only their own job openings.

The reasoning behind ICANN’s change of heart now is a little fuzzy.

Ostensibly, it’s because it received a letter December 3 from the Society for Human Resources Management, Employ Media’s policy-setting “sponsoring organization”.

The letter states that all of DirectEmployers’ domain names are perfectly okay registrations — “being used consistently with the terms of the .JOBS Charter” — and have been since the .Jobs Universe project started.

The domain names were all registered by DirectEmployers executive William Warren, who is a SHRM member as required by .jobs policy, the letter states.

Nothing seems to have changed here — it’s been Employ Media and SHRM’s position all along that the registrations were legit.

So did ICANN merely sense defeat in the IRP case and get cold feet?

Read the letters here.

ICM seizes on Google’s porn algorithm change

Kevin Murphy, December 14, 2012, Domain Registries

Grasping the opportunity for a bit of easy publicity, ICM Registry has seized upon a recent Google algorithm change to promote its .xxx gTLD’s brand.

It was reported earlier this week that Google has made it harder to accidentally stumble across sexually explicit imagery in Google Images by making its Safe Search filtering mandatory in the US.

The company defended itself from cries of censorship by pointing out that porn could still be found, as long as you are a bit more “explicit” about what it is you’re looking for, telling CNet:

If you’re looking for adult content, you can find it without having to change the default setting — you just may need to be more explicit in your query if your search terms are potentially ambiguous.

Now ICM is plugging .xxx as a “workaround” to this problem, saying in a press release today:

one can simply type a description of whatever porn one wants into any search bar followed by the letters “XXX.” Results are instant and on target. For example, if one is looking for adult content that includes a mainstream generic word like “Toys,” simply enter the search term “Toys XXX” and problem solved.

ZDNet gave similar advice in an article this week, and ICM says that traffic to its own search engine, search.xxx, saw a 50% spike in the last 24 hours as a result.

Could this be a portent for changes in user search behavior in the age of niche new gTLDs?

Seven new gTLD applications withdrawn, two after GAC Early Warnings

Kevin Murphy, December 14, 2012, Domain Registries

Seven more new gTLD applications have been officially withdrawn from the ICANN evaluation process, two of which were recently hit with governmental warnings, bringing the total to 13.

The applications yanked since DI’s last update are:

.ansons (CBM Creative Brands Marken GmbH)
.caremore (WellPoint, Inc)
.glean (Lifestyle Domain Holdings, Inc)
.gmbh (GMBH Registry, LLC)
.hilton (HLT Stakis IP Limited)
.skolkovo (Fund for Development of the Center for Elaboration and Commercialization of New Technologies)
.swiss (Swiss International Air Lines Ltd)

The withdrawal of .swiss means that a contention set is now no longer a contention set.

The other .swiss applicant is the Swiss government itself, which filed a Governmental Advisory Committee Early Warning against its rival last month and is now pretty much guaranteed a win.

The latest withdrawals also thin the field for .gmbh, reducing the number of applicants from six to five.

All of the .gmbh applications received GAC Early Warnings from Germany. The country is concerned that only legal GmbH entities — equivalent to “Ltd” or “LLC” companies — should be able to own these domains.

The .hilton, .glean, .ansons, and .caremore applications were all dot-brands.

So, to an extent, was .skolkovo. Skolkovo is an emerging high-technology campus outside of Moscow with big intentions to become the Russian Silicon Valley. It’s not known why its bid was pulled.

New gTLD lottery tickets now on sale

Kevin Murphy, December 12, 2012, Domain Registries

ICANN has started selling its $100-a-pop New gTLD Prioritization Draw raffle tickets in Los Angeles, with a little less than a week to go until the make-or-break drawing.

The organization is understandably eager not to balls it up this time — the Draw replaces Digital Archery, which was killed off largely due to how silly it was — so there are strict rules in place.

Due to the Californian lottery laws the Draw will operate under, applicants have to show up in person to buy their tickets, or ask a designated proxy to do it for them.

To avoid any funny business, each buyer has to show up with a government ID with details matching those on the special Designation Form, which in turn must be signed by a named individual from the gTLD application itself.

It’s strictly one ticket per application, of course.

Some applicants have got in early. Here’s photographic evidence that some applicants have successfully bought theirs, courtesy of Uniregistry counsel Bret Fausett.

Draw tickets

The draw itself will take place on December 17, starting at about 1pm local time, at the LA airport Hilton. Anyone who shows up to buy tickets after 11am that day will be turned away.

With over 1,900 applications, we could be looking at eight hours or more of pulling pieces of paper out of a bucket.

The whole thing will be webcast for people who, like me, have nothing better to do with their time.

Opting out of the process is as simple as not buying a ticket, but there’ll be a secondary draw to determine the prioritization of opted-out applications.

Applications for internationalized domain names will be drawn first, followed by non-IDNs, followed by opted-out IDNs, followed by opted-out non-IDNs.

Why is this lottery so important?

For many applicants it’s going to determine their time to market, which could mean the difference between launching into a market eager for new real estate and launching into one jaded by flops.

In some cases a good draw number could be worth millions. But unfortunately for applicants, they won’t be able to trade their tickets or prioritization slots.

YouPorn owner arrested in tax evasion probe

Kevin Murphy, December 10, 2012, Domain Registries

YouPorn owner and regular ICM Registry antagonist Fabian Thylmann has reportedly been arrested in Belgium in connection with a German tax evasion investigation.

He was taken into custody at Brussels airport today under a warrant from the Cologne District Court, according to German daily Die Welt.

Thylmann is the owner — some say nominally so — of Manwin Licensing, the online porn empire behind brands such as YouPorn, Brazzers and, under license, Playboy.

Manwin sued ICANN and ICM late last year over the .xxx gTLD, saying it violates US antitrust laws, charges which are denied.

The company is also engaged in an ICANN Independent Review Panel procedure over the same issues.

ICM says that the lawsuit, and a related boycott, are merely attempts to disrupt its business. Thylmann, the company claims, offered to invest in ICM but was rebuffed.

According to Die Welt, Manwin’s German headquarters was raided last Tuesday as part of an ongoing tax evasion probe, which was spurred in part by the newspaper’s own investigation into the company.