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ICM names former ACLU chief to policy board

ICM Registry has appointed former American Civil Liberties Union president Nadine Strossen to the Policy Council of IFFOR, the oversight body responsible for the .xxx top-level domain.

Strossen held the role at the ACLU between 1991 and 2008. Her appointment to the largely volunteer role at IFFOR is a bit of a coup for the organization.

She fills the seat designated for a free speech advocate.

Also named to the council is Sharon Girling, a former British cop who was closely involved in many high-profile child abuse imagery stings, including Operation Ore.

Law professor Fred Cate has been appointed the council’s security/privacy expert, and first amendment lawyer Bob Corn-Revere is ICM’s appointed representative.

There will be five other policy council members, all drawn from the porn industry, named in July or August, IFFOR said in a press release.

IFFOR, the International Foundation For Online Responsibility, will get $10 a year from every .xxx domain name registered.

Afilias links up with Right Of The Dot

Afilias and Right Of The Dot have announced a partnership to jointly assist new top-level domain applicants.

Right Of The Dot is Monte Cahn and Mike Berkens’ latest venture, a consulting firm focused primarily on helping new registries price their “premium” second-level domains.

Afilias runs the .info registry and provides registry services for many other TLDs, including .org.

The Afilias deal is the first major partnership Right Of The Dot has announced.

dotBerlin hires Nic.at

Austrian registry Nic.at has signed its second city top-level domain partner in the form of dotBerlin, the company that has been planning a .berlin bid for several years.

The news follows its deal with dotHamburg, announced last week.

Nic.at, which now manages over 1 million .at domains, is the largest German-speaking registry that is also offering back-end registry services to new gTLD applicants.

This, I’m told, makes it particularly reassuring to German local government, which get proven scale and a local(ish) partner which speaks the same lingo.

There’s another .berlin applicant, UniteBerlin, which is backed by Minds + Machines and, following its recent partnership announcement, Neustar.

The support of Berlin’s local authority will decide the winner.

Neustar eats own dog food, plans .neustar bid

Neustar has become the first domain name registry to publicly reveal its own “.brand” top-level domain application, announcing this week a .neustar bid.

The company is one of many offering registry services to brand owners that want to run their own custom TLD, so it makes marketing sense for Neustar to put its money where its mouth is.

But it may also run the risk of diluting its .biz brand (such as it is), depending on whether or not it plans to migrate its primary site, neustar.biz, entirely to .neustar.

Neustar is one of only a handful of companies to announce .brand bids. Canon and Hitachi are the two best-known, but others including IBM and Nokia have expressed serious interest.

ICANN has previously predicted as many as 200 .brand bids in the first round, which begins January 12, 2012.

First post-approval new gTLD bids announced

After ICANN approved its new generic top-level domains program here in Singapore on Monday, many people I spoke to predicted a new “quiet period” for gTLD application announcements.

There’s a feeling among some that there’s little to be gained now from revealing what gTLD you plan to apply for, particularly if you’re a smaller player that could easily be out-bid by a larger, later applicant.

Nevertheless, today we have the news that GJB Partners plans to apply for .jewelers, one of the narrowest niche gTLDs to be announced to date.

GJB’s managing partner is George Bundy, CEO of .fm and .am registry BRS Media, which also plans to apply for .radio.

I imagine the choice of string took some thought – it’s plural rather than singular, US rather than UK English (in which it would be “.jeweller”).

In such cases, you only need to pick one. If this bid is successful, ICANN’s confusing similarity rules will make sure that .jeweller, .jeweler and .jewellers never see the light of day.

Also emerging this week, the city of Tokyo has announced that it will seek a .tokyo delegation, and is calling for expressions of interest.

That news follows the announcement last week of a commercial bidder for the .okinawa and .ryukyu geo-TLDs, to represent the Japanese region of Okinawa.

Japan gets two new geo TLD projects

BusinessRalliart, a Japanese technology company, has announced that it plans to apply for two geographic top-level domains covering the prefecture of Okinawa.

According to a few local news reports, the two proposed TLDs are .okinawa and .ryukyu, covering the names of the region and the islands themselves.

It’s not entirely clear from the articles whether the company will also apply for the Japanese-script equivalents.

What’s particularly interesting is the fact that, according to a translation provided by UrbanBrain, the investors in the project are reportedly a car rental firm and a restaurant chain.

I’m speculating, but it seems likely that these investors will get some premium domain name real estate under these TLDs as part of the deal.

I’m expecting to see quite a few of these kinds of relationships emerging in the first round of new TLD applications – getting an investor and an anchor tenant on board in one deal makes good sense for a limited community or geographic TLD.

Nic.at strikes .hamburg deal

Hamburg Top-Level-Domain GmbH, a potential bidder for the .hamburg top-level domain, has headed across the border into Austria for its registry services provider.

The company has signed up to use Nic.at, currently the registry for the .at country-code TLD, according to a press release.

The initiative appears to be looking for money at the moment.

dotHamburg’s chief executive Oliver Süme said: “The knowledge that the technical side of things is in safe hands is an important criteria for potential investors looking to invest in .hamburg.”

The company will also need to secure the support of Hamburg’s local government, given the recent changes to ICANN’s Applicant Guidebook.

Governments get .xxx wish-list

National governments have been given the chance to block “words of cultural and/or religious significance” from the forthcoming .xxx top-level domain.

ICM Registry has told ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee that its members have until the end of July to provide lists of names they want banning from the .xxx namespace.

The GAC is due to meet during ICANN’s meeting in Singapore next Tuesday to discuss an “ICM Registry Request”, which is believed to be said block-list.

Approved strings would be marked as reserved and would resolve to a standard placeholder page. Unlike trademark holders, governments will not be required to pay a fee.

Strings in non-Latin alphabets will not yet be supported, according to ICM, but governments are allowed to submit them anyway, for future reference.

ICM will decide which strings make it to the list, but I can’t see it refusing reasonable requests — pissing off governments probably wouldn’t be a wise move given that some of them already plan to block the whole TLD at their national borders.

Short .tel domains available tomorrow

Telnic has announced that two-letter and numeric-only .tel domain names will becomes available from tomorrow at 2pm UTC.

You’ll be able to register any two-letter .tel domain that has not already been claimed in a two-week landrush period, which ends today, with the exception of combinations that match ccTLDs.

Numeric-only and numeric/hyphen domains are restricted to seven characters and under, in order to avoid clashes with telephone numbers.

The release of numeric .tel domains was the subject of a minor controversy when Telnic first made the request to ICANN last year.

Telnic said pricing is expected to be the same as regular .tel registrations – usually about the same price as a .com domain name.

A list of participating registrars can be found here.

M+M gets into bed with Neustar

Minds + Machines has committed to use Neustar’s registry services for some of its new top-level domain applications, the companies have announced.

M+M parent Top Level Domain Holdings said in a press release that the companies:

will work together exclusively in respect of all geographic gTLDs pursued by TLDH, apart from a short list of those already in progress. TLDH will oversee sales, marketing, registrar relations, ICANN compliance and other management functions, while Neustar will provide back-end registry and DNS services.

The deal may cover applications including .bayern, .berlin, and .mumbai, judging from the press release.

M+M will continue to use Espresso, its version of the CoCCA registry platform, for non-geo TLDs.

Under ICANN rules, geographical TLDs will require the support of the respective governments.

Reading between the lines, it appears that demand for proven scale and financial stability may have been the primary driver for the deal.

Neustar manages .us and biz, among others, while M+M has a far shorter track record. Neustar has annual revenue of over half a billion dollars, compared to TLDH’s approximately $100,000.