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Serbia’s Cyrillic domain approved

Kevin Murphy, November 8, 2010, Domain Registries

Serbia has moved one step closed to having a localized version of its country-code top-level domain added to the DNS root, after ICANN approved its choice of string.

According to the Serbian National Register of Internet Domain Names (RNIDS), which manages .rs, ICANN has told it the Cyrillic string .срб has been approved (Serbian PDF).

The ccTLD would become the second Cyrillic namespace to be approved, after the Russian Federation, under ICANN’s internationalized domain name fast-track process.

Wikipedia tells me that Serbian is the only European language to use both Latin and Cyrillic characters, but that nowadays Cyrillic is the only official script.

I believe the Latin transliteration of the approved string is .”srb”.

RNIDS said it expects to start accepting registrations in the second half of 2011, following public consultations.

New TLD firms to ICANN: “Get on with it”

Kevin Murphy, November 8, 2010, Domain Registries

A number of prospective domain name registries have called on ICANN to shorten the window for its first round of new top-level domain applications.

While we now know that ICANN is working towards a May 30, 2011 opening date for applications, its recently published timeline does not specify how long the application period will last.

However, last month’s draft document “Delegation Rate Scenarios For New gTLDs” (pdf) states that the window of opportunity for TLD applicants will last 90 days.

Now, many of the companies and organizations that have been waiting the longest to apply have asked ICANN to narrow that period to 30 days.

Jon Nevett, president of Domain Dimensions, in a comment on the delegation rate report, wrote:

In prior presentations and discussions with ICANN staff, a 30-day application window had been discussed. I’m not sure how the 30 days turned into a 90-day window in this report. Tacking a 90-day window on after a four-month communications period does not make sense and is extremely unfair to applicants.

After the publication of the final Applicant Guidebook (AGB), ICANN plans to conduct a four-month outreach and marketing effort before accepting applications. The current draft AGB predicts an eight-month processing period for the very simplest applications.

Nevett, and others that subsequently echoed his views, believe that the longer window punishes companies that have invested resources in new TLD applications over the last few years.

There have already been a number of delays to the program’s launch, which was originally scheduled to kick off in 2009, and then mid-2010.

Nevett wrote:

Let’s stop punishing applicants by sucking them dry of all of their working capital by creating a seven-month communications/application period followed by a minimum eight-month review period piled on the years that they already have been waiting. We could do better.

His views were supported in separate comments by commercial operators including of Minds + Machines and .MUSIC, along with geo-TLD efforts including dotBERLIN and dotAfrica.

While the comment period has seen no opposing views, one criticism previously offered by opponents of the new TLD program is that it will unfairly benefit “insiders” – those people who participate regularly in ICANN for their own business purposes.

Will the new TLD guidebook provide answers?

Kevin Murphy, November 8, 2010, Domain Registries

ICANN is due to publish an Applicant Guidebook for new top-level domain registries tomorrow, and there are still big question marks over its contents.

Judging from a preliminary report from the ICANN board’s most-recent official meeting, some key decisions may not have yet been taken.

Perhaps the biggest unresolved issue is whether to permit the “vertical integration” of registry and registrar functions.

Which way ICANN swings on this problem will determine which companies are eligible to apply for new TLDs, how their business models will be structured, and how realistic “.brand” TLDs will be.

The ICANN community failed to reach consensus on this issue, largely due to differing business interests and a few consumer protection concerns.

But it looks like the ICANN board did not even discuss the matter at its October 28 meeting. The preliminary report has this to say:

2. Vertical Integration

In the interests of time, the Chair adjourned this item of discussion to a later date.

That “later date” may have been last Thursday and Friday, when the board held its rescheduled “retreat”, which is not designated as an official meeting.

On “Rec6”, previously known as the “morality and public order” objections process, the board passed no resolution October 28, but seems to have endorsed further discussions with the community.

The preliminary report states:

The Board discussed staff presentation and, in conformance with staff recommendation, directed staff to provide a briefing paper to the working group and to coordinate a call with the working group to further discuss the issues.

If the Rec6 working group mailing list and the GNSO calendar are any guides, that meeting has not yet been called (at least not publically).

The report also addresses geographic domains and issues that need to be taken into account given what ICANN’s Affirmation of Commitments with the US government says about new TLDs.

The Board agreed that staff provide a paper on geographic names to the GAC, the Chair of the GAC would check on the scope of issues still requiring discussion, and then the Chairs of the GAC and the Board would discuss the process for resolution to move this issue forward prior to Cartagena.

The Board discussed a paper regarding the adherence to the conditions set out in the Affirmation of Commitments in launching New gTLDs, and the need for identifying objective metrics to measure ICANN’s performance. The Board asked staff to consider what known performance indicators for the New gTLD program may be, what the adequacy scale is for measuring, and try to set that out for future conversation.

With all this in mind, it seems to me that while we may have a timeline for the launch of the new TLD program, there’s still much more to do than merely cross t’s and dot i’s.

Can we expect more placeholder text in tomorrow’s Applicant Guidebook?

What does the Overstock commercial mean for .co?

Kevin Murphy, November 5, 2010, Domain Registries

Judging by the number of exclamation marks being deployed over on the .CO Internet blog today, it’s a fairly safe bet that the company is rather happy with Overstock.com’s latest TV commercial.

It’s the first high-profile commercial to feature a .co domain, in this case o.co, which could go some way to raise the newly relaunched TLD’s profile in the US.

While it’s a nice first step for .CO, I wouldn’t say its TLD has necessarily “arrived” yet, on the basis of this ad, for a few reasons.

First, what’s this “shortcut” business?

Overstock.com commercial

Should this be troubling?

The biggest marketing coups .CO has inked to date have been for x.co and t.co, URL shorteners offered by Go Daddy and Twitter respectively. Now, Overstock is using its o.co as a “shortcut”, which bounces visitors to overstock.com.

True, Overstock’s .com domain is its brand, and that’s not about to change, but its use of o.co as a “shortcut” may perpetuate the short-term perception that .co’s primary purpose is short URLs.

On the upside, the company is actively encouraging customers to type a .co domain into their browsers.

Getting this “type-in awareness” is something I know that .CO Internet is looking to foster, something that the Twitter deal does not necessarily bring to the table.

It’s also encouraging that Overstock feels comfortable using a .co domain where it does not own the equivalent .com. That said, nobody does. Most single-letter .com domains are still reserved.

While this may be a branding risk for Overstock, could it actually be helpful for .CO, training fat-fingered users the difference between .com and .co domains? It seems possible.

It’s interesting to note that Overstock is using “www.” for its .co, but not for its .com, presumably in order to train viewers that “this is a URL”, much the same as .com domains were once uniformly advertised with the www prefix.

A reliable sign that .co has “arrived” would be when an advertiser feels happy to drop the www.

Nominet study reveals advertisers’ favorite TLDs

Kevin Murphy, November 4, 2010, Domain Registries

Domains ending in .uk are more popular among advertisers in the UK than .com domains, but not massively so, according to research published today by Nominet, the .uk registry.

A study of 10,000 UK ads found that 65% of them contained a URL, and that 55% of those was a .uk, compared to 42% that were .com names.

I find that first number quite surprising – why are 35% of advertisers not doing something so simple and risk-free as including their domains in their ads? It doesn’t seem to make much sense.

The break-down between .uk and .com surprises me less. In my experience on both sides of the Atlantic, fewer Brits than Americans think of .com as a purely US-oriented TLD.

We share a language after all, and the pervasiveness of the phrase “dot-com” in the late 1990s saw many big British online brands, such as LastMinute.com, opt for generic domains.

Interestingly, Nominet also managed to uncover a correlation between how business-focussed a publication was and use of .com domains over .uk.

Computer Weekly, a trade publication, had .uk addresses in only 33% of its ads, while Computer Shopper, a consumer publication, had them 64% of the time.

At the two extremes, news weekly The Economist had .coms in 82% of its ads, while Auto Express ads were 80% .uk addresses. The average across all magazines was 60% in favor of .uk.

It’s the most comprehensive study of .com versus .uk I’ve read, containing far too many statistics to enumerate here, but it’s also a quick read. It can be downloaded here.

dotFree reports 15,000 .free preregistrations

Kevin Murphy, November 3, 2010, Domain Registries

The dotFree Group, which intends to apply for the .free top-level domain, says it has taken almost 15,000 preregistrations in its first 48 hours.

Dominique Piatti, chief executive of the Czech-based company, tells me the domain count at the two-day mark was 14,831, preregistered by 2,787 users, an average of five domains each.

About 4,000 of those came in the first hour.

Considering that it’s not possible to preregister tens of thousands of “premium” strings – dotFree plans to auction those – that strikes me as a not-bad start.

As I discovered on Monday, the company has also banned the preregistration of any string ending in the number 4, presumably due to the “for.free” pun.

If dotFree’s .free ever gets approved – which is of course by no means certain – it would be at least 18 months from now before any of these preregistrations convert into actual usable domain names

One-letter .uk domains coming December 1

Kevin Murphy, November 3, 2010, Domain Registries

Nominet will start taking applications for one and two-letter .co.uk domains next month, starting with a sunrise period for trademark holders.

The registry said 2,831 previously reserved names are being released under its phased process, which also extends to the .org.uk, .net.uk and .me.uk domains.

Nominet’s decision to hold a sunrise – actually it’s planning two – is quite unusual. Other TLDs that have released super-short domains usually carry out an RFP process first.

The first sunrise, for companies with “registered rights” ends January 17. The second sunrise, for those with “unregistered rights” will start at some point after that.

Domains will be auctioned in the event of competing successful applications, with the profits going to the Nominet Trust.

There’s still no firm date on the open-doors landrush phase, in which registrants without trademarks will be able to bid on the domains.

Uber-short .travel domains up for grabs

Kevin Murphy, November 1, 2010, Domain Registries

Tralliance, the .travel registry, is to allocate one and two-character domains for the first time, via a request for proposals process.

For the month of December, interested parties will be able to apply to register almost any single or double-character domain without having to pay a tonne at auction. Tralliance said:

This will be your best chance to register a high value domain name in one of the most active industries on the Internet, without paying a premium price, simply by giving us your best ideas for how you will promote your names and .Travel.

This appears to be similar to co-marketing offers made in other TLD registries, such as .biz and .mobi, over the last couple of years.

All the letters of the alphabet and all the numerals will be available. Of the two-letter combinations, only strings matching existing country-code TLDs, such as US and UK, are prohibited.

Tralliance said it will release the names in phases, and that a “very limited” number will be available following the December round.

It’s particularly keen on ideas that somehow tie one super-short .travel domain to a bunch of other normally registered .travels, for maximum visibility.

Tralliance received authorization from ICANN to release these short names in August.

DotFree starts taking .free domain preregistrations

Kevin Murphy, November 1, 2010, Domain Registries

The DotFree Group, which plans to apply to ICANN to run .free as a top-level domain, has become one of the first would-be registries to open its doors for preregistrations.

From noon UTC today, the Czech company has made a tool available on its web site enabling users to reserve their desired strings by handing over their contact information.

Of course, there’s no guarantee any preregistration will actually turn into a .free domain – ICANN may turn down DotFree’s application or award the string to another bidder.

While the plan is to offer some .free domains free of charge, DotFree intends to hold tens (or hundreds) of thousands of “premium” strings for auction or paid-for registrations.

In other words, if you try to register any really juicy strings today, you’re out of luck.

DotFree is one of only a few unapproved TLD registries to accept preregistrations.

ICM Registry started taking .xxx preregs a few years ago, but only after it had already received ICANN’s approval (which was, of course, later revoked).

Another wannabe TLD operator, the MLS Domains Association, is charging “multiple listing service” real estate brokers many hundreds of dollars for the opportunity to own their own .mls domain name.

UPDATE: Messing around with the preregistration tool, I’ve noticed that it appears to ban any string that ends with the number 4. Presumably these will be “premium”, due to the “for” pun.

Sunrise for .so domains starts tonight

Kevin Murphy, October 31, 2010, Domain Registries

.SO Registry, manager of the internet’s newest open-doors top-level domain, will open its systems for sunrise registrations in a few hours, at midnight UTC.

The TLD is the country code for the Republic of Somalia, the mostly lawless east-African nation that is broadly recognized as a failed state.

For that reason, among others, the .so namespace is not likely to be as attractive to registrants as, say, the recent relaunch of Colombia’s .co.

Another reason, perhaps coupled to the fact that .so doesn’t really have a comparable English semantic value to .co, is that the registry appears to have done a rather poor job of publicizing the launch.

There has been no media activity as far as I can tell, and its web site does not currently list its approved registrars.

Key-Systems has press-released its involvement, and a quick Twitter poll earlier today revealed that EuroDNS, Blacknight and NetNames are also among the signed-up.

The back-end for the registry is being handled by Japanese operator GMO Registry.

During the trademarks-only sunrise period, which runs until November 30, companies have to commit to a minimum three-year registration, with a registry fee of $90, cheaper than most sunrise phases.

The .so registry has taken on most of the same sunrise policies as .co – its rules were written by the same people – with the noteworthy exception of the Protected Marks List.

.SO Registry is also the first to require trademark holders use CHIP, the new Clearing House for Intellectual Property, a venture launched earlier this month by sunrise specialist Bart Lieben, who recently joined the law firm Crowell & Moring.

After contested sunrise applications are wound up with a Pool.com auction, a landrush will follow, from December 16 to February 9, 2011. General availability is scheduled to kick off March 1.

.SO Registry recently published its restricted names list (pdf), which appears to be made up mostly of English-language profanities, as well as religiously and sexually oriented terms.

The term “gay” is among the restricted terms.

The registry also appears to have “wildcarded” about 20 strings on its restricted list, including %vagina%, %penis% and %lesbian%.