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.jobs landrush beauty contest opens

Kevin Murphy, August 28, 2010, Domain Registries

Employ Media has made a request for proposals from companies that want to apply for generic .jobs domain names, to predictable criticism.

ICANN recently permitted the company to start selling non-“company name” .jobs domains, and the RFP is the first phase of its plan.

It basically constitutes a landrush process, albeit one that makes .cn registrations seem laissez faire, and in which you don’t actually get to “own” any domain names at the end.

To apply, companies have to present Employ Media with a business plan and a list of their desired domains, among other information.

The registry appears to be reluctant to talk about the money side of things, other than the non-refundable $250 application fee.

The closest thing in the RFP to an outstretched palm appears to be this paragraph:

Employ Media’s role is to make .JOBS domain names available to those interested in serving the needs of the International HR management community as set forth in the .JOBS Charter. Describe how your proposal will contribute to Employ Media’s role in a manner that reflects the value (financial, services or otherwise) of the proposed .JOBS domains.

The CollegeRecruiter.com blog, and some reader comments, suggest that the registry has been asking potential applicants for “creative” ideas, including revenue sharing deals, and then threatening legal action when such overtures are recounted in public fora.

CollegeRecruiter’s CEO Steven Rothberg was one of the leading opponents of the .jobs liberalization plan.

The only organization I’m aware of that is on record intending to respond to the RFP is the DirectEmployers Association, which intends to apply for thousands of generic domains under its controversial universe.jobs plan.

What .xxx means for trademark holders

Kevin Murphy, August 26, 2010, Domain Registries

Trademark holders have been screwed over by ISP domain name wildcarding more than they realise, I’ve discovered from the .xxx contract documents.

ICM Registry is planning a novel approach to trademark protection if its application to launch the .xxx top-level domain is successful, but it’s been watered down compared to its original plan.

Hypothetically, let’s say you’re Lego. You really, really don’t want some cybersquatter snapping up lego.xxx and filling it with… well, you can imagine what Lego porn might look like.

At the same time, for the sake of your family-friendly brand, you don’t want to actually own a resolvable lego.xxx either.

And you certainly don’t want to be forced to to hand some pornographer over $60 a year for each of your brands. Some companies could see this as supporting pornography.

ICM had originally planned to allow companies in this position to pay a one-time fee to have their brand.xxx turned off permanently.

Personally, I like this idea. It would give the IP lobby a lot less to complain about in discussions surrounding the new TLD program.

But the company may now water down this plan, called IP Protect, due to the way that non-existent domains are increasingly handled by some ISPs.

As you probably know, ISPs worldwide are increasingly capturing NXDOMAIN traffic in order to show search results and advertising links to their customers.

It’s generally frowned upon in DNS circles, and it’s now likely to have the effect of making IP Protect costlier and more of an administrative hassle for brand owners.

You’re Lego again. You pay ICM the one-time shut-down fee, only to find that Comcast is now showing its users links to Lego porn whenever they type in lego.xxx.

ICM president Stuart Lawley tells me that one option currently being looked at is to have IP Protect domains resolve to a standard page at an ICM-controlled server.

The problem here is that ICM has to pay ICANN and its registry back-end provider annual fees for every resolving domain name, and that cost will have to be passed on to the registrant, in our case Lego.

Lawley says that ICM is “engaging” with the ICANN intellectual property community to figure out the best solution. It appears that both options are still open.

Why .xxx will be domainer-friendly (and why it won’t)

Kevin Murphy, August 26, 2010, Domain Registries

The proposed .xxx top-level domain may be “sponsored”, but the restrictions on who will be able to register names are so loose that pretty much anybody, including domainers, will be able to register one.

I’ve now had time to dig through the mountain of documents that ICANN published earlier this week. I’m submitting something to The Register later today, but I thought I’d first look here at the domaining angle.

First, the bad news: .xxx domains won’t be cheap.

ICM Registry, which wants to run the TLD, plans to charge $60 per year, and that’s just the registry fee.

That’s a lot of money to recoup if you’re planning to park a domain, so it’s likely that much of the value of .xxx for domainers will be in development and resale.

The proposed contract does suggest, and ICM president Stuart Lawley is on record as saying, that the price of registrations could eventually come down. Whether that would include renewals remains to be seen.

Now for the good news: you won’t actually have to be a pornographer to register a .xxx domain.

It’s true that .xxx is ostensibly restricted to members of the adult entertainment community, but the definition also includes companies that supply products and services to the industry.

According to Lawley, flipping domain names falls into that category.

So, if you register a nice .xxx in order to sell it later to an actual pornographer, you’re technically part of the .xxx Sponsored Community. Congratulations, you’re in the adult business.

Parking .xxx domains will also be possible, and it doesn’t look like parking companies will need to make any changes in order to support the TLD.

It’s true that all .xxx sites will have to be “labelled” as porn, but that doesn’t mean, as I initially thought, that all .xxx web sites, including the parked ones, will have to slap a logo on their pages.

Lawley says that ICM will handle all the labelling transparently at the registry end, using a W3C standard called POWDER. Apparently this is doable without touching anybody’s HTML.

Of course, getting hold of a prime piece of .xxx real estate at launch will not be easy.

Anybody with designs on a geo .xxx domain is out of luck. ICANN will reserve all place names, and two-letter domains are banned, due to potential confusion with country codes.

But single-letter domains will be possible. The provision that banned it has been deleted from the new contract.

ICM plans to auction some premium names. It may even reserve some names, such as movie.xxx, in order to offer registrations at the third level.

An additional barrier is that roughly 9,400 people have already “pre-reserved” about 176,000 names (an average of 18 each). That’s about as many words as there are in the English language by some counts.

Quite how these reservations will be handled isn’t spelled out in detail in the contract, as far as I can tell.

The .xxx TLD is still in the application phase, of course, and there are ways it could still fail. If the contract is ultimately signed, general availability is expected seven months later.

ICANN posts .xxx contract for comment

Kevin Murphy, August 24, 2010, Domain Registries

ICANN has just published the proposed contract for ICM Registry’s porn-only .xxx top-level domain, and over a dozen supporting documents.

Now the fun begins!

Another 30-day public comment period is now underway, which will likely see more concerted efforts by the Free Speech Coalition and its accidental allies on the religious right to have .xxx killed off.

It will also be interesting to see whether the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee decides to chip in with its $0.02.

The GAC has always been wary of the .xxx application and remains the tallest hurdle to jump before the TLD has a chance of being approved.

There’s a lot of information in these documents, including much more detail on IFFOR, the International Foundation For Online Responsibility, which will set the TLD’s policies.

I’m going to bury my nose in these docs, and will provide an update later if I find anything interesting, which seems likely.

VeriSign plans single-letter .com auctions

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2010, Domain Registries

VeriSign has confirmed that it wants to auction off single-character .com domain names, following a test with the equivalent .net domains.

The company recently asked ICANN for permission to sell one and two-letter .net domains. As Andrew Allemann noted at the time, that was a pretty strong indicator it would want to do the same with .com.

Now the company has admitted as much, and is looking for an online auction provider to handle the sales. It published a Request For Proposals today. The RFP says:

VeriSign intends to submit a proposal to ICANN through the RSEP [Registry Services Evaluation Process] and anticipates allocating .com single and two character domain name registrations through an auction as well

One and two-letter domains are currently restricted, due to the potential confusion with country-code TLDs. ICANN has been gradually lifting that restriction in some of the less-popular TLDs.

If VeriSign is also given permission, which seems likely, the auctions would certainly be lucrative.

If o.co can fetch $350,000, how much would Overstock, which has been screaming out for o.com for years, stump up for the .com equivalent? I also recall, years ago, Yahoo saying it wanted y.com.

But VeriSign might not be the main beneficiary of the proceeds. In its .net application, it says that it would use any money raised with the .com auctions for the common good.

VeriSign is not hereby proposing a release of .com single and/or two character domain names. VeriSign anticipates that any such proposal will be structured differently than the proposal for .net and will include use of proceeds from any auction for the benefit of the general Internet community.

That’s open to interpretation, of course. Investing a few million dollars in upgrading its infrastructure could be said to benefit the general internet community.

Who voted against three Arabic ccTLDs and why?

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2010, Domain Registries

Two ICANN board members voted against the recent resolution to grant Arabic top-level domains to Palestine, Jordan and Tunisia, it has emerged.

ICANN has published the preliminary report for its August 5 board meeting, which breaks down the votes for each of the 27 resolutions and provides a minuscule amount of color about the discussions.

While the resolutions approving internationalized domain names for Singapore and Thailand were carried unanimously and without discussion, the three Arabic-script IDNs were discussed and received two negative votes and three abstentions.

So which two board members voted against these ccTLDs and why?

Beats me. The IDN ccTLD fast track process is one area where ICANN is quite secretive, and the report does not break down the substance of the discussion or the identities of the directors.

Strangely, two resolutions I would consider much more controversial faced less opposition.

The report shows that the resolution passing ICM Registry’s .xxx domain to the next stage of approval was carried unanimously, and that only one director voted against the .jobs amendment.

ERE.net has more on the .jobs story.

East Africans to seek regional TLD

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2010, Domain Registries

The East African Community has reportedly started planning to apply to ICANN for its own top-level domain, .eac.

I must confess, I’d never heard of the EAC before. I’ve discovered it’s an intergovernmental organization comprising five African nations – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – that’s been around in its current incarnation for about 10 years.

It’s one of those rare organizations granted a .int domain, currently living at eac.int.

According to AfricaNews.com, internet experts from the five countries have met to discuss applying for .eac. Geoffrey Kayonga, director of the Sanvei Institute of Technology in Kigali, Rwanda, is quoted:

We are trying to see how best we can most probably create a taskforce that is going to ensure that we obtain the regional code called ‘.eac’

There’s already a movement to create a .africa TLD for the whole of the continent, which was recently given the nod by tech ministers within the African Union.

Casino.com plotting top-level domain bid?

Kevin Murphy, August 16, 2010, Domain Registries

Is this the first gambling-related new top-level domain applicant?

Casino.com, in this frankly odd press release, seems to be dropping hints that it would be interested in applying for a new TLD when ICANN opens up the bids next year.

Discussing the controversy over the porn-only .xxx domain, the release goes on to say:

In spite of this, online casino sites are considering the idea of a unique domain as well, hoping that it will give them the same impact as governments and schools by using .gov and .edu.

It would of course be a huge shock if there were no gambling TLDs proposed in the first round.

I expect a .poker or .casino TLD could be quickly flipped for millions, given the potential value of their sunrise auctions. Casino.com itself was sold for $5.5 million, back in 2003.

Of course, actually applying to ICANN for .poker could be an expensive gambit. With multiple applicants, it’s one TLD that could easily head to auction.

Top-level domain count likely to top 300 this year

Kevin Murphy, August 16, 2010, Domain Registries

Perusing the big stack of marketing literature that I picked up at ICANN Brussels in June, I noticed that few companies agree about how many top-level domains currently exist.

Mildly surprising really, given that the official count isn’t especially difficult to come by. According to IANA’s database, there are 292 delegated TLDs today.

That number breaks down like this:

251 ASCII ccTLDs
9 IDN ccTLDs
4 gTLDs
3 “restricted” gTLDs
1 “infrastructure” TLD
13 “sponsored” gTLDs
11 test IDN TLDs

Interestingly, according to IANA, there are only four vanilla, open gTLDs – .com, .net, .org and .info.

I wonder how many sites NeuStar has shut down because .biz is “restricted” to business users? Or how many .mobi domains have been put on hold for breaking the “sponsored” guidelines.

The list does not yet count the six IDN ccTLDs that ICANN’s board approved August 5. So there are actually 298 approved top-level domains today.

In the IDN ccTLD pipeline as of Brussels were also Qatar, Singapore and Syria, which had met string approval but were not yet delegated, and about 15 others that had not.

There are two (or three) more voting meetings for ICANN’s board this year, and so it seems likely that the delegated TLD count will break through the 300 mark before 2011.

dotFree’s “free” domain names explained

Kevin Murphy, August 12, 2010, Domain Registries

As I reported a couple of days ago, a Czech company called The dotFree Group wants to apply to ICANN for a .free top-level domain, and will offer domain names for free.

Now for the small print – not all .free domain names will be free, and there will be strict limitations on how many free domains any given individual is able to register.

Here is an email interview I conducted with dotFree chief executive Dominique Piatti, which I think covers the basics of the business model and contains a few surprises.

I’ve corrected a few typos, but other than that it’s unedited.

DI: Applying for a new TLD will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and running it over the longer term will cost more. How does dotFree plan to cover the cost of running a free TLD?

Piatti: We are working with Venture Capital companies together from Eastern Europe and have an estimated turnover of EUR 1.25 million for 2011. In addition to this we are generating substantial revenue with our current projects www.cz.cc (which is a free second-level domain name registry) and with the Domain Registrar Script which is currently in version 1.3.5 (www.registrar-script.cz.cc).

DI: .free could be a desirable TLD for domain investors. Will there be any limitations on how many .free domains an individual is allowed to register? What would prevent a single person registering hundreds of thousands of .free domains?

Piatti: Yes, currently we plan that each individual is allow to have 1 .free domain at no costs within their account. If a user plans to have more domain names he can upgrade to VIP status (eg. $5/year and you can hold up to 20 domains in your account) similar like we have it successfully tested with www.cz.cc over the past 12 months. We have an advanced fraud detection tool developed which identifies double accounts owned by the same person.

DI: Do you anticipate a .free aftermarket? Would somebody be able to register, for example, “poker.free” for free and then sell it to somebody else for hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Piatti: Yes, we launch .free the same way as any other TLD in the market with the difference that every individual can have a .free domain at no costs. We will launch similar to the most recent TLD’s like .co and .me with premium domains, auctions etc. Also, aftermarket sales are possible therefore.

DI: Would “premium” domains also be free, or would you charge for them like you do with premium .cz.cc names?

Piatti: All our premium domains will cost around $5/year and will not be free. There are around 200,000 premium domains planned.

DI: Do you anticipate selling .free domains via registrars like Go Daddy and eNom, or would you expect to sell direct to the end user?

Piatti: Both. In our business plan we have the ICANN accredited registrars as distribution channels listed but we will also distribute those .free domain names directly over our own website.

DI: Would there be a “landrush” period? Would you auction premium names or would it be first-come-first-served?

Piatti: The launch will be very similar to .co and .me with everything it takes to make .free a highly successful gTLD.