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Seventh new gTLD bid withdrawn

Kevin Murphy, September 6, 2012, Domain Registries

ICANN has now received seven requests to withdraw new gTLD applications, according to documentation published today.

While we learned today that Google and KSB AG are behind four of the junked bids, the identities of the other three are not yet known.

ICANN has said that it will not reveal the withdrawing applications until all the formalities, such as refunds, have been finalized.

The updated stats came in a slide deck (pdf) set to be used in an ICANN webinar scheduled for noon UTC today.

The slides also reveal the aggregate status of applications’ progress through Initial Evaluation.

As you can see from the slide below, over a quarter of applications have had their String Similarity Review already. Just 65 have had their Geographic Names Review, while 127 and 141 have had their technical and financial evaluations respectively.

Slide

ICANN also states that there have been 57 requests for changes to applications — up from 49 at the last count — and that so far nobody has filed a formal objection against any bid.

Google junks three of its new gTLD applications

Kevin Murphy, September 6, 2012, Domain Registries

The identities of the first four new gTLD applications to be withdrawn have been revealed by ICANN.

Google has, as predicted, dropped its bids for .and, .are and .est, because they’re protected three-letter country-codes listed in the ISO 3166 alpha-3 standard.

An application for .ksb, by the KSB, a German maker of “pumps, valves and related liquid transportation systems”, has also been withdrawn, though the reasons are less clear.

KSB is not a protected geographic string, nor has .ksb received any negative public comments. I’m guessing the application was an unnecessary defensive move.

With Google expected to lose 30% of its application fees for the three withdrawn applications ($165,000) I can’t help but wonder why ICANN allowed it to apply for the strings in the first place.

The ban on ISO 3166 alpha-3 codes in the Applicant Guidebook appears to be hard and non-negotiable. The strings essentially enjoy the same degree of exact-match protection as Reserved Names such as .iana and .example.

However, while the TLD Application System was hard-coded to reject attempts to apply for Reserved Names, banned geographic strings did not get the same safeguards.

There’s one other application for an ISO 3166 alpha-3 string — .idn — which does not appear to have been withdrawn yet.

There are at least 16 other applications for protected geographic words that may require government support — but are not outright prohibited — according to our DI PRO study.

According to ICANN, six applications have been withdrawn to date. The change in status only shows up on ICANN’s web site after the refunds have been processed, however.

Google, which applied as Charleston Road Registry, has 98 new gTLD applications remaining.

TLDH wants to unmask mystery gTLD commenter

Kevin Murphy, September 4, 2012, Domain Registries

Portfolio new gTLD applicant Top Level Domain Holdings has responded to the dozens of claims of financial irregularity being submitted to ICANN by a mystery commenter.

The company told DI tonight that the allegations “may be legally actionable” and that it will ask ICANN to remove the comments and ask it to provide identifying information about the commenter.

As I blogged earlier, someone identifying themselves as Alexander Drummond-Willoughby — which some suspect to be a pseudonym — has filed 82 virtually identical comments about TLDH applications.

Today, he started filing the same comments on applications belonging to TLDH clients.

Here’s what TLDH had to say:

TLDH / Minds + Machines is disappointed that ICANN is allowing individuals hiding behind fictional identities to make accusations against us and our clients that are baseless and may be legally actionable. TLDH, as a company listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange, is closely overseen by our Nominated Advisor, Beaumont Cornish, a firm licensed by the LSE to monitor our compliance with Exchange rules and applicable laws. The incoherent insinuations coming from these shadowy commenters are without merit and any charges that we have engaged in illegal or unethical activity are completely untrue. TLDH reserves all its rights and will ask ICANN to remove the comments and provide us with appropriate identifying information of these posters.

Drummond-Willoughby is quite an unusual surname with an aristocratic pedigree, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that that he is fictional, just an absence of evidence — such as a disclosed affiliation or any search engine results for his name — that he is real.

Mystery commenter targets M+M new gTLD clients

Kevin Murphy, September 4, 2012, Domain Registries

Having filed dozens of comments criticizing Top Level Domain Holdings’ financial acumen, someone calling himself Alexander Drummond-Willoughby has turned his attention to the company’s new gTLD clients.

Drummond-Willoughby has filed 82 comments with ICANN, until today all of them targeting TLDH’s own gTLD applications and all of them alleging some kind of unspecified financial irregularity.

But today he’s filed exactly the same allegations against applicants, such as BRS Media and the Fédération Internationale de Basketball, that have selected TLDH subsidiary Minds + Machines as their back-end registry services provider.

It’s a barely coherent argument, but the rub of it appears to be that TLDH has made a few bad financial bets, such as investing £180,000 in a potential .nyc applicant that failed to secure the support of New York City.

The source for Drummond-Willoughby’s information appears to be TLDH’s own regulatory filings — the company is listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market — and not exactly secret.

Drummond-Willoughby, for somebody who’s clued-in enough to know about the new gTLD program, has done a remarkably good job of keeping his name out of Google’s index and other search engines, leading to suspicions that it’s a pseudonym.

Here’s his comment on the FIBA bid for .basketball.

UPDATE: TLDH has provided the following statement:

TLDH / Minds + Machines is disappointed that ICANN is allowing individuals hiding behind fictional identities to make accusations against us and our clients that are baseless and may be legally actionable. TLDH, as a company listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange, is closely overseen by our Nominated Advisor, Beaumont Cornish, a firm licensed by the LSE to monitor our compliance with Exchange rules and applicable laws. The incoherent insinuations coming from these shadowy commenters are without merit and any charges that we have engaged in illegal or unethical activity are completely untrue. TLDH reserves all its rights and will ask ICANN to remove the comments and provide us with appropriate identifying information of these posters.

Why .com still doesn’t have a thick Whois

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2012, Domain Registries

ICANN’s board of directors quizzed staff about the lack of a “thick” Whois obligation in Verisign’s .com contract, according to meeting minutes released last night.

The vote was 11-0 in favor, with four abstentions, when the board controversially approved the deal during the Prague meeting in June.

Director George Sadowsky raised the thick Whois issue, which has been a sharp wedge issue between non-commercial users and the intellectual property lobby, according to the minutes.

Senior vice president Kurt Pritz responded:

Kurt noted that while a requirement for a “thick” registry had been a topic of conversation among ICANN and Verisign, the ongoing GNSO Policy Development Process initiated on this same issue rendered this topic somewhat ill-suited for two-party negotiations. In addition, the current .COM registrants entered registration agreements with the understanding of .COM as thin registry, and the resultant change – along with the ongoing policy work – weighed in favor of leaving this issue to policy discussions.

In other words: thick Whois is best left to community policy-making.

Thick Whois is wanted by trademark holders because it will make it easier to enforce data accuracy rules down the road, while non-commercial stakeholders oppose it on privacy grounds.

Domainers, at least those represented by the Internet Commerce Association, have no objection to thick Whois in principle, but believe the policy should go through the GNSO process first.

Verisign is publicly neutral on the matter.

The ICANN board vote on .com was considered somewhat controversial in Prague because it took place before any substantial face-to-face community discussion on these issues.

Sadowsky abstained, stating: “I feel very uncomfortable going forward with provisions that will tie our hands, I think, in the long run without an attempt to reach an accommodation at this time.”

Three other directors (Tonkin, De La Chapelle and Vasquez) abstained from the vote due to actual or the potential for perceived conflicts of interest.

The .com agreement is currently in the hands of the US Department of Commerce which, uniquely for a gTLD, has approval rights over the contract. It’s expected to be renewed before the end of November.