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Bulgaria to appeal ICANN rejection

Kevin Murphy, September 15, 2010, Domain Registries

The Bulgarian government will appeal ICANN’s rejection of .бг, its proposed Cyrillic-script version of the .bg country-code top-level domain, according to reports.

“We have reasons to hope that our proposal may be accepted by the end of next year,” Deputy Transport Minister Parvan Rusinov said, according to Novinite.com.

ICANN rejected the string earlier this year due to its confusing similarity to Brazil’s ccTLD, .br.

The Bulgarian government conducted a online poll, offering its citizens the choice of a few lengthier alternatives, but .бг still came back the winner.

In today’s reports, Rusinov is quoted saying that the government could either file a modified application, or wait for the launch of an appeals procedure in 2011.

It does not appear that the IDN ccTLD Fast Track process currently allows appeals, so I can only assume that such a mechanism is under consideration as part of the upcoming process review. It has been rumored.

ICANN doesn’t talk about IDN fast track applications until they are approved, but Bulgaria’s government has been happily chatting to the local press for months.

Technology minister Alexander Tsvetkov was quoted back in June saying that the country would ask ICANN to reconsider its decision. If he meant a Reconsideration Request, that never happened.

Pornographers rally to decry .xxx

Kevin Murphy, September 14, 2010, Domain Registries

The Free Speech Coalition has issued an official call to action to rally its members against the .xxx top-level domain application.

It’s been on the front page of the porn trade group’s web site since yesterday, but has been slow to take off judging by the number of responses filed with ICANN in the last 24 hours.

The FSC wants it members to write to ICANN to ask for the TLD to be rejected. It hits seven major points, but essentially just backs up what FSC chair Diane Duke told ICANN last week, which I reported on here.

There’s also a Zoomerang survey that industry members can take. It asks users to merely answer two questions in the affirmative:

I am a member of the online adult entertainment community and I oppose ICM’s application for a .XXX sTL

I have have defensively pre-registered .XXX domain names and I oppose .XXX

The idea is to show that many .xxx pre-registrations are made by people who would prefer that the TLD never sees the light of day.

Nominet to release ultra-short .uk domains this year

Kevin Murphy, September 13, 2010, Domain Registries

Nominet, the .uk registry, today outlined its plan to start releasing one and two-character .co.uk domains before the end of 2010.

The launch plan comprises two sunrise periods and a landrush. Contested applications in all three phases will be settled by an auction, with profits going to the Nominet Trust.

The first sunrise is for holders of UK-enforceable trademarks, when the mark was registered and in use in the UK before January 1, 2008. The second will allow holders of unregistered rights to participate.

The landrush will be open to all. Applications will be handled by approved .uk registrars.

Nominet said it plans to publish the launch timeline in more detail on November 1, but that the first sunrise will open before the end of the year.

The list of names to be released is published here (pdf). It includes all 10 digits and all 26 letters of the alphabet under .co.uk, .net.uk, .org.uk and .me.uk, with the exception of u.net.uk, which is already registered.

The vast majority of two-character combinations will also be released under all four of these 2LDs, with the exception of a handful of old registrations such as bt.co.uk and existing 3LD namespaces such as ac.net.uk.

Domains matching existing two-letter country-code TLDs do not appear to be exempt.

.XXX registry goes on the counter-attack

Kevin Murphy, September 10, 2010, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has issued a strongly worded response to its critics at the Free Speech Coalition, questioning the porn trade group’s relevance.

As I blogged yesterday, the FSC has asked ICANN to release documents disclosing the level of support the .xxx domain, so it can more effectively argue against its approval.

ICM has responded with a letter to ICANN that paints the FSC as overly US-centric and says its arguments deal with issues that have long been resolved.

We understand that the FSC currently has approximately 1,000 members. We further understand that both its leadership and its members are almost exclusively U.S.-based.

The bottom line is that the FSC’s comments simply restate the arguments they have made in the past. Their claims were inaccurate, unsupportable, untimely, and irrelevant when first made, and remain so today.

The would-be registry claims that, contrary to the FSC’s claims, only a tiny portion of its 179,000 pre-registrations are defensive in nature, 6,435 in total.

Porn group tries to delay .xxx bid

Kevin Murphy, September 9, 2010, Domain Registries

The Free Speech Coalition has asked ICANN to prove that the .xxx top-level domain application has the level of support that ICM Registry claims it has.

The FSC, which represents thousands of porn webmasters, has filed a request under ICANN’s Documentary Information Disclosure Policy for a list of the people who have already pre-registered .xxx domains, among other items.

The organization wants to prove that .xxx has no support among the adult community, and that most of ICM’s 179,000 pre-registrations are made by domainers or are defensive, made by pornographers who really don’t want .xxx.

FSC president Diane Duke wrote to ICANN general counsel John Jeffrey (pdf):

The adult entertainment community – the community which would be most impacted by the introduction of a .xxx sTLD – requires more information about the application in order to provide the appropriate level of feedback to the ICANN Board for it to make an informed decision.

The FSC also wants ICANN to add another 30 days to the current public comment period after the disclosure is made, to give it a chance to respond properly to the new data.

This would, of course, add further delay to the .xxx application.

The FSC also wants to know more about IFFOR, the International Foundation For Online Responsibility, the policy body that would oversee .xxx.

Specifically, the DIDP request covers the names of IFFOR’s board of directors, policy council members, business plans and financial projections.

ICM is opposed to the request and will be officially responding shortly. Its president, Stuart Lawley, told me the information the FSC has requested is known to ICANN, but that it’s confidential.

He also said that the issue of community support is already closed; ICANN made that decision five years ago, a decision that was reinforced earlier this year by an Independent Review Panel.

dotFree to allow pre-registrations October 1

Kevin Murphy, September 8, 2010, Domain Registries

The dotFree Group, which plans to apply for the top-level domain .free, plans to start allowing pre-registrations from October 1, this year.

While .xxx has had an open pre-registration period for years, I believe .free is the first of the next round of new TLD applicants to offer a similar pre-launch phase.

It would be well over a year from now before .free would be able to actually start taking live registrations, assuming its application was even successful.

The Czech company has just relaunched its web site with a new look and new information. It appears to be closely modelled on the .CO Internet site, even copying big chunks of text in some cases.

It also includes a page targeting registrars, containing this text:

How much do I earn for every free registered .FREE domain?

We plan to pay each reseller $0.05 for every .FREE domain name which was referred to us. The definitive reseller commission is still under review.

Now there’s a way to get Go Daddy beating down your door.

It’s not much of an incentive, and it suggests that dotFree isn’t planning on targeting a traditional registrar channel, at least as far as the free .free domains go.

If you can make a recurring $10 mark-up (my estimate) on a .co domain, or a one-off $0.05 on a .free, which TLD would get your store-front real estate?

However, as I’ve previously reported, not all .free domains will be free, so there may yet be opportunities for the ICANN-accredited registrar market.

Opponents pick holes in .jobs auction plan

Kevin Murphy, September 6, 2010, Domain Registries

A coalition of jobs web sites has accused Employ Media of trying to violate its own charter with its proposal to open up the .jobs namespace to all-comers.

The newly formed .JOBS Charter Compliance Coalition wants ICANN to reverse its approval of the proposal, which would largely liberalize the .jobs domain.

The ad hoc group, made up of dozens of organizations including the International Association of Employment Web Sites, Monster.com and the Newspapers Association of America, wrote:

ICANN is sanctioning a registry operator’s decision to disregard the commitments contained in its charter, which is the fundamental basis upon which the sTLD was awarded.

ICANN approved Employ Media’s “phased allocation program” last month. It allows the company to loosen its previously restrictive policies on who can register domain names and for what purposes.

The first phase of the program, a request for proposals, has already launched. It would assign premium generic .jobs domains to companies willing to offer interesting business partnerships.

It’s seen by some as an obvious smokescreen for Employ Media to hand thousands of domains to the DirectEmployers Association, which plans a huge free jobs portal called Universe.jobs.

The new Coalition is against this plan, and has submitted a paper (pdf) to ICANN claiming to show how the RFP proves Employ Media wants to violate its sponsorship charter.

Its argument seems to boil down to the fact that the charter limits registrations to active human resources professionals, and that the DEA, like members of the Coaltion, does not fall into that strictly defined category.

The document was filed as an addendum to the Coalition’s reconsideration request, which itself was filed with ICANN last month before the Employ Media RFP was published.

.SO launch date is November 1

Kevin Murphy, September 6, 2010, Domain Registries

.SO Registry, the manager of Somalia’s .so country-code top-level domain, has named November 1 as the opening date for sunrise registrations.

The launch plan has been published here. Until the weekend, the organization has just said that it would open in autumn.

The ccTLD is to be unrestricted, along the same lines as .co, but the launch schedule is a little different to the one offered by .CO Internet, with no phases running in parallel.

Trademark holders can file sunrise applications, which will cost a minimum of $90 for a three-year registration, for the month of November. Domains with multiple applications will be auctioned in the first half of December.

Landrush applications will run from December 16 to February 9 at $10 per year. Contested domains will be auctioned February 10 to 28. General availability is slated for March 1, 2011, also with a registry fee of $10.

Other than that, there’s scant information currently available on the .SO Registry web site. Notably, there’s currently nothing about UDRP or other dispute resolution procedures.

The ccTLD has been delegated to Somalia’s Ministry of Post and Telecommunications since April 2009, but the registry is reportedly being handled by GMO Registry, the Japanese company already tapped to handle Canon’s .canon and its own .shop application.

T.co to be ubiquitous by Christmas

Kevin Murphy, September 2, 2010, Domain Registries

Twitter is planning on rolling out its t.co URL shortening service to all users by the end of the year, according to a company mailshot this week.

The company received the uber-short domain as part of .CO Internet’s Founders Program, probably the new registry’s biggest marketing coup to date.

Twitter intends to wrap all links inside shortened t.co URLs, and will check their intended destination pages against a list of known malware sites before users are forwarded.

Twitter told users in an email:

You will start seeing these links on certain accounts that have opted-in to the service; we expect to roll this out to all users by the end of the year. When this happens, all links shared on Twitter.com or third-party apps will be wrapped with a t.co URL.

For the branding of the .co namespace, this is obviously good news. Twitter handles something like 65 million tweets per day, many of which contain links. All will now carry the .co domain.

Five killer TLDs nobody wants (and five rubbish ones)

Kevin Murphy, September 1, 2010, Domain Registries

Not including the incumbents, there are roughly 130 known new top-level domain applicants at the moment, covering everything from music to sport to health.

While several would-be TLDs, such as .gay and .eco, are known to have multiple applicants, there are some no-brainer strings that so far no company has staked a claim on.

Here’s five, off the top of my head.

.blog

Apparently there are something like 400 million active blogs on the internet today. And that’s just in the English language. I’ll take 1% of that, thanks.

.sex/.porn

We may already have .xxx by the time the first application round opens, but that’s no reason to prevent the porn industry taking its fate into its own hands and applying for either of these strings.

Both of these potential TLDs are category killers, moreso than .xxx. According to Google’s keyword tool, [sex] and [porn] each get 24.9 million searches per month, compared to 20.4 million for [xxx].

Yes, it will add even more defensive registrations costs, but it could be run on a cheap-as-chips basis, with free grandfathering, and without the expensive policy oversight body that they all seem to hate so much.

.sucks

The only UDRP-proof TLD. No sunrises, no trademark worries, just tens of thousands of disgruntled former employees happily slandering away.

That’s the theory, anyway. To be more mercenary, this is the one TLD guaranteed to make millions in defensive registrations alone.

Esther Dyson said she liked the idea back in 2000, and I agree with her. The internet needs a renewed dose of anarchic freedom of speech.

.poker

Online poker is worth billions. The term [poker] attracts far more interest than [casino], some 20 million searches per month, according to Google.

The value of the landrush auctions alone would be enough of an incentive for a registry to apply for .poker. Registration fees could also be set pretty high.

And, for balance, five rubbish TLDs.

Again, I’m not talking about guaranteed flops that have already been announced (.royal anyone?), but rather the TLDs that appear attractive at first look, but would, in my humble opinion, almost certainly fail hard.

.book

Sure, every year something like 400,000 books are published in the UK and US, but how many of them really get marketed to the extent that they need their own web site? Very few, I suspect.

And if you’re planning on using the TLD to sell books, good luck trying to train the world out of the Amazon mindset.

.kids

A legal nightmare, requiring a bloated policy oversight body to make sure all content is kid-friendly, which is pretty much impossible when nobody can even agree what a kid is.

You need look no further than the spectacularly unsuccessful government-mandated .kids.us effort to see what a waste of time a .kids would be. It has fewer domains than .arpa.

Still, it kept the politicians happy.

.news

A smaller market than you’d think. Google News only sources from about 25,000 publications, and only 4,500 of those are in English. How many will want to make the switch to a new TLD?

I’d say a .news TLD would struggle to hit six figures.

.secure

No, it isn’t. This is the internet.

A .secure TLD would be a PR nightmare from launch day to its inevitable firey death six months later.

.any-fad-technology

Back in 2000, there was an application for .wap. Really. It almost makes .mobi look like a good idea.

Pretty much no technology is immune from this rule. You can’t build a sustainable business on a string that’s likely to be tomorrow’s Betamax. Even the humble DVD has a shelf life.