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Company files for injunction against 189 new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, October 12, 2012, Domain Registries

Alternate root player Name.Space has sued ICANN for trademark infringement and anti-competitive behavior, saying “insiders” have conspired to keep it out of the new gTLD program.

If successful, the suit would prevent dozens of new gTLD applicants from having their applications approved.

The lawsuit, filed in California this week, follows a warning the company fired at ICANN this March.

While only ICANN is named as a defendant, the suit alleges that the new gTLD program was crafted by and is dominated by “ICANN insiders” and “industry titans”.

It wants an injunction preventing ICANN delegating any of the 189 gTLD strings that it claims it has rights to.

It also fingers several current and former ICANN directors, including current and former chairs Steve Crocker and Peter Dengate Thrush, over their alleged conflicts of interest.

Name.Space has been operating 482 diverse TLDs — such as .news, .sucks, and .mail — in a lightly used alternate root system since 1996.

Most people can’t access these zones and are unaware that they exist.

The company applied to have 118 of these strings added to the root in ICANN’s “proof of concept” gTLD expansion in 2000, when the application fee was $50,000, but was unsuccessful.

Now, the company claims the new gTLD program is “an attack on name.space’s business model and a mean by which to create and maintain market power in the TLD markets”.

The complaint (pdf) states:

Rather than adopting a procedure to account for the pending 2000 Application and facilitate the expansion of TLD providers in the DNS, ICANN has adopted a procedure so complex and expensive that it once again effectively prohibited newcomers from competing. It instead has permitted participation solely by ICANN insiders and industry titans.

If it had applied for all 118 again in this year’s round, it would have cost almost $22 million (though it would have qualified for an $83,000 discount on a single bid).

Name.Space is asking for damages and an injunction preventing ICANN from approving 189 gTLDs that match those it currently operates in its alternate root.

The full list of affected applications is attached to the complaint.

Nominet chair rebuts “skewed and inaccurate” whistleblower claims

Kevin Murphy, October 11, 2012, Domain Registries

Nominet chair Baroness Rennie Fritchie has apologized for “embarrassment” caused by leaked emails that suggested Nominet and UK officials tried to avoid freedom of information laws.

But she has rebutted allegations that Nominet executives conspired to orchestrate a government takeover of the .uk namespace during a fractious board dispute back in 2008.

In a statement to Nominet members today, Fritchie said she has conducted a “fact-finding review” of the allegations and had “concluded that Nominet did not manufacture Government concern.”

As we reported a month ago, former policy director Emily Taylor made a number of claims about Nominet’s actions in 2008, when executives perceived a threat to control of the board by certain vocal domainers.

In order to ensure a friendlier board, Nominet approached the UK government for help, according to Taylor.

This led to an independent review, a restructuring of Nominet’s board, and powers for the government to take over the running of .uk being included in the Digital Economy Act of 2010.

Nominet has maintained, and Fritchie now says she has confirmed, that the concerns originated with the government, BT and the Confederation of British Industry, and not the other way around.

Fritchie wrote:

we have been extremely disappointed to see that correspondence from a troubled time in Nominet’s history has led to a skewed and inaccurate interpretation of events.

Having personally considered all available evidence, I have concluded that Nominet did not manufacture Government concern. There were longstanding issues, and the failure to win support for the proposed improvements in our governance at the AGM in 2008 was the catalyst that put Nominet’s problems firmly in the spotlight.

I have also been reassured that the concerns raised by CBI and BT representatives immediately following the 2008 AGM were not concocted by Nominet.

It also emerged last month that UK government officials and Nominet executives had been communicating via private email accounts, apparently in order to avoid Freedom of Information Act requirements.

One Nominet email from 2008 provided to DI signed off with “It feels wonderful to work free from fear of FOI !!”

It is for this email that Fritchie appears to be apologizing. She wrote:

We would however like to apologise for the embarrassment caused to members by an inappropriate suggestion, made in an email from a Nominet employee, that information could or should be deleted by officials to avoid an anticipated Freedom of Information request. This was a misguided attempt to ensure that open and honest conversations about how to secure the membership model of Nominet could take place, without being inappropriately influenced by those with vested interests. I would like to assure members that this was the result of troubled times, and is not at all representative of the way that Nominet operates.

The message was posted to Nominet’s members-only forum this afternoon.

The story may not be over yet, however.

Last month, Andrew Smith, Member of Parliament for Nominet’s home town of Oxford, told DI that he had referred Taylor’s freedom of information claims to Head of the Home Civil Service and the Chair of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

“These are very serious matters and it is important they are properly investigated,” he said.

Directi to relaunch .pw as an open TLD

Kevin Murphy, October 8, 2012, Domain Registries

Directi will soon relaunch .pw, the ccTLD for the tiny Micronesian nation of Palau, as an open pseudo-gTLD.

The official launch of the registry will happen at the ICANN meeting in Toronto next week, according to Directi CEO Bhavin Turakhia, with a sunrise period kicking off in December.

It’s the first TLD for which Directi — an applicant for 30 new gTLDs as well as a top-ten registrar — will act as the registry.

.pwThe company will brand the offering around the retroactive acronym “Professional Web”.

Turakhia hopes success will come from a combination of low cost — registry fees are not yet finalized, but will be sub-.com, he said — and the fact that .pw is mostly virgin territory.

“It’s a pretty good pricing model,” he said. “We’re making sure that people have access to desirable names at an affordable cost.”

The company plans to run .pw “exactly like a gTLD”, with standard sunrise, landrush and registration lifecycle policies. It will even adopt the UDRP, Turakhia said.

CentralNic, which already runs subdomain services such as .gb.com and .us.com, has been hired to run the back-end, despite the fact that Directi is using ARI Registry Services for its gTLD bids.

Sunrise is expected to start in early December and run for about 70 days. Landrush will run for a month, starting in February 2013. Pricing has yet to be finalized.

Directi is currently looking for registrars to sell the domains, above and beyond its own network of registrars.

Directi obtained the exclusive license to .pw about four years ago via EnCirca, the registrar that attempted to relaunch .pw under the “Personal Web” slogan in 2004.

The company originally planned to use the second level as a bundled service to tie in with a social networking slash instant messaging product that it was working on, but those plans have changed.

As a result .pw hasn’t been accepting registrations for a while.

Palau is a Pacific island nation with only about 20,000 citizens. As such, .pw doesn’t have a great many legacy registrations.

One such registration is pay.pw, which Directi is using for a payment gateway service.

Turakhia said that six second-level domains have been reserved for Palau’s use: co.pw, ne.pw, or.pw, ed.pw, go.pw and belau.pw. No other two-letter domains will be available.

.cialis and .chatr new gTLD bids dumped

Kevin Murphy, October 4, 2012, Domain Registries

Two more new gTLD applications have been formally withdrawn.

ELi Lilly & Co has dropped its bid for .cialis and Rogers Communications has withdrawn its .chatr application.

Both were dot-brand applications — Cialis is a drug and Chatr is a Canadian wireless company — and neither was contested, though there are four applications for the very similar .chat.

This makes a total of six dead bids, following Google’s withdrawal of .est, .and and .are and German pump-maker KSB withdrew its dot-brand .ksb.

From ICANN’s statements, we know that there’s at least one other bid that is in the process of being withdrawn, but its identity is not yet known.

doMEn uses comedy compo to plug .me domains

Kevin Murphy, October 3, 2012, Domain Registries

doMEN, the .me registry, is marketing .me domain names with a series of comedy videos, presented in the form of a knockout competition and sweepstake.

The three-week “Comedy Cagematch” will see 30-second videos featuring 16 comedians being voted on by internet users. Voting gets you the chance to win a $500 camera.

The campaign has been put together by comedy-focused ad agency RadioFace, which has already produced this video featuring stand-up TJ Miller.

Apparently, if you have a .com you also have to use words like “problopportunity” (which I thought was pretty funny).

The promotion starts on Register.me from October 8. Only Americans and Canadians can enter the sweepstakes.