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Domainers want the head of auDA’s chair

Disgruntled domainers have managed to arrange for a vote on whether auDA chair Stuart Benjamin should be fired.

auDA, the .au ccTLD administrator, has been under fire for many months from registrants who believe the organization is being managed in an increasingly erratic and secretive manner.

Now, a campaign and petition at Grumpy.com.au, run by Domainer.com.au publisher Ned O’Meara, has led to auDA calling a special meeting July 31 with a single resolution on the agenda:

That Stuart Benjamin be removed as a director of the Company with immediate effect.

Benjamin will therefore lose his job with simple majority votes of both classes of auDA members — “supply” class, meaning registrars, and “demand” class, meaning registrants.

O’Meara blogged yesterday that he believes there is “a slightly less than even chance” of the resolution being carried due to the possible lack of votes from supply class members.

But auDA rejected as legally “invalid” three additional resolutions that had been proposed.

Grumpy members had also wanted auDA to restore all of its board’s meeting minutes that were inexplicably deleted from the organization’s web site.

They’d wanted a recently instituted member code of conduct to be scrapped, rewritten, and then put to members for a vote.

The code of conduct bans “harassment” and “bullying” of auDA staff, but it also prevents members from talking to the media about auDA in disparaging terms.

Finally, they’d also wanted auDA to abandon its plan to build an in-house registry infrastructure (replacing current provider Neustar) without first putting the plan to a member vote.

But all of these resolutions have been taken off the table on the basis of unspecified “legal advice” provided to auDA.

According to O’Meara and others, dissatisfaction with the organization has been brewing for some time, ever since late 2015 when Benjamin was brought in as a “demand” class director and appointed chair, only to be quickly dismissed and immediately reinstated as an “independent” director and reappointed chair.

In March 2016, 16-year CEO Chris Disspain was fired and replaced by Cameron Boardman.

I’m told auDa has been hemorrhaging staff for months — 10 of its 13 employees have apparently left the organization this year.

.blog renewal prices will not go up, registry promises

Knock Knock Whois There, the .blog registry, has promised not to raise its wholesale fees on existing registrations.

The company, which is affiliated with WordPress, seems to have made the move in response to ongoing registrar discomfort following Uniregistry’s plan to significant raise the price of several of its new gTLDs (which has since been backpedaled).

The promise has been baked into the Registry-Registrar Agreement under which all of its registrars can sell .blog names.

The new RRA reads (with the new text in italics):

5.1.1. Registrar agrees to pay Registry Operator or its designee in accordance with the fee schedule set forth in Exhibit A for initial and renewal registrations and other services provided by Registry Operator to Registrar (collectively, “Fees”). Registry Operator reserves the right, from time to time, to modify the Fees in a manner consistent with ICANN policies and Registry Policies. However, once a domain is registered, Registry Operator will not modify the Renewal Fee of that domain.

This of course leaves the door open for KKWT to increase the price of a new registration, but it seems renewal prices are frozen.

I believe the current wholesale .blog fee starts at $16 per year.

The new RRA also adds ICANN-mandated language concerning the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy and a clarification about registrar legal indemnifications, KKWT said.

.net price increases approved

Verisign has been given the right to continue to raise the wholesale price of .net domains.

It now seems likely the price charged to registrars will top $15 by 2023.

ICANN’s board of directors at the weekend approved the renewal of the .net Registry Agreement, which gives Verisign the right increase its prices by 10% per year for the six years of the contract.

Assuming the company exercises all six options — and there’s no reason to assume it will not — the price of a .net would be $15.27 by the time the contract expires, $0.75 of which would be paid to ICANN in fees.

There was some negative public comment (pdf) about the increases, largely from domainers and those representing domainers, but the ICANN board saw nothing to persuade it to change the terms of the contract.

In notes appended to its resolution, the board stated:

the Board understands that the current price cap provisions in Verisign’s Registry Agreements, including in the .NET Registry Agreement, evolved historically to address various market factors in cooperation with constituencies beyond ICANN including the Department of Commerce. During the negotiations for the renewal, Verisign did not request to alter the pricing cap provisions, the parties did not negotiate these provisions and the provisions remain changed from the previous agreement. The historical 10% price cap was arguably included to allow the Registry Operator to increase prices to account for inflation and increased costs/investments and to take into account other market forces but were not dictated solely by ICANN.

(I assume the word “changed” in that quote should have read “unchanged”.)

Unlike contract renewals for other pre-2012 gTLDs, the .net contract does not include any of the new gTLD program’s rights protection mechanisms, such as the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy.

ICANN explained this disparity by saying these mechanisms are not consensus policies and that it has no right to impose them on legacy gTLD registry operators.

India to have SIXTEEN ccTLDs

While most countries are content to operate using a single ccTLD, India is to up its count to an unprecedented 16.

It already has eight, but ICANN’s board of directors at the weekend approved the delegation of an additional eight.

The new ccTLDs, which have yet to hit the root, are .ಭಾರತ, .ഭാരതം, .ভাৰত, .ଭାରତ, .بارت, .भारतम्, .भारोत, and .ڀارت.

If Google Translate and Wikipedia can be trusted, these words all mean “India” in, respectively, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali, Odia, Arabic, Nepali, Hindi and Sindhi.

They were all approved under ICANN’s IDN ccTLD Fast Track program and will not operate under ICANN contract.

India already has seven internationalized domain name versions of its ccTLD in seven other scripts, along with its vanilla ASCII .in.

National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) will be ccTLD manager for the whole lot.

India may have as many as 122 languages, according to Wikipedia, with 30 spoken by more than a million people.

As .boots self-terminates, ICANN will not redelegate it

The dot-brand .boots may become the first single-dictionary-word gTLD to be taken off the market, as The Boots Company told ICANN it no longer wishes to be a registry.

Boots, the 168-year-old British pharmacy chain, told ICANN in April that it is unilaterally terminating its Registry Agreement for .boots and ICANN opened it up for comment this week.

As with the 22 self-terminating dot-brands before it, .boots was unloved and unused, with just the solitary, ICANN-mandated nic.boots in its zone file.

Boots, as well as being a universally known brand name in the UK and Ireland, is of course a generic dictionary word representing an unrelated class of goods (ie footwear).

It’s the first dying dot-brand to have this kind of dual use, making it potentially modestly attractive as a true generic TLD.

However, because it’s currently a dot-brand with no third-party users, it will not be redelegated to another registry.

Under Specification 13 of the Registry Agreement, which gives dot-brands special rights, ICANN has the ability to redelegate dot-brands, but only if it’s in the public interest to do so. That’s clearly not the case in this instance.

These rules also state that ICANN is not allowed to delegate .boots to any other company for a period of two years after the contract ends.

Given that there’s no chance of ICANN delegating any gTLDs in the next two years, this has no real impact. Perhaps, if the ICANN community settles on a rolling gTLD application process in future, this kind of termination may be of more interest.