Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

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.

Nokia considers new TLD application

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2010, Domain Registries

Is Nokia planning to add its name to the list of “.brand” new top-level domain applicants?

That’s the intriguing possibility that emerged during a conference call of ICANN’s vertical integration working group yesterday.

Nokia working group representative Tero Mustala said, “our company is considering the possibilities to apply for a new gTLD”.

The revelation came as one of the disclosure statements that each participant was obliged to make, and should probably not be taken as an official company position.

As far as I know, this is the first time that the mobile phone giant has been connected to a new TLD bid. But is it a .brand? Unknown.

Nokia is an old hand at TLD applications, being among the over a dozen companies that financed the successful .mobi sponsored TLD application back in 2005.

In the 2000 “test-bed” round, it applied for .mas, .max, .mid, .mis, .mobi, .mobile, .now and .own but failed on technological grounds.

Under the new TLD application process, unsuccessful 2000 applicants get an $86,000 credit towards their new application, if they apply for the same string(s). That’s not an amount of money Nokia would care too much about, obviously.

There have been very few publicly disclosed .brand applications. Canon was the first and loudest. A couple of other companies, such as IBM, have been dropping hints.

.travel domains to be opened to all

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2010, Domain Registries

Attention domainers. The .travel registry wants your business.

Tralliance has become the latest of the sponsored top-level domain registries to decide it needs to loosen the shackles of sponsorship and target a more general user base.

Its sponsor, The Travel Partnership Corporation, has quietly changed the policies governing .travel in order to substantially liberalize the namespace.

I say quietly, because the policy changes were published August 20 and there does not appear to have been any coverage yet beyond TTPC’s own site and this press release from a registrar today.

The new policy document contains only two small changes, but they have big implications.

The first is to add a new category of approved registrant to the existing list, which includes hotels, airlines and so on. The new category is:

Creators and providers of travel and tourism products, services and content.

This seems to be general enough to exclude nobody, especially when one puts it in the context of the second big change that TTPC is proposing, which seems to allow domain parking.

Currently, the registry policies state that all .travel domains need to resolve to active travel-related web sites or email addresses. That restriction is to be dumped entirely.

In fact, the word “restriction” has been replaced with “incentive”. This is from the redlined policy doc:

The Registry has the discretion to develop restrictions incentives for on use of any domain name, such restrictions incentives to apply to any name registration that occurs after such restrictions come into effect. Restrictions may include, but are not limited to, a requirement to develop a website that uses the registered name, to ensure that each registered name resolves to a working website

No such incentives are included, but I’d guess that they may end up looking a little like the recent moves by .jobs and .co to engage in joint marketing deals with companies willing to promote the TLD.

The upshot of all this is that it appears that .travel domains will soon be close to unrestricted. Registrants will still have to undergo a one-time authentication process, but that’s looking increasingly like a formality.

The policy changes take effect September 20. It doesn’t look like they would disenfranchise anybody, except perhaps those who considered .travel an exclusive club, so I doubt there’ll be the same kind of outcry that .jobs recently saw.

The .travel domain launched in October 2005. As of April 2010, it had 47,338 active registrations.

VeriSign antitrust case heading to District Court

Kevin Murphy, August 28, 2010, Domain Registries

The Coalition For ICANN Transparency will have its day in court, after VeriSign this week asked for a “speedy resolution” to the five-year-old antitrust case.

In a filing (pdf) with the Northern California District Court on Wednesday and in an accompanying SEC document, the company said it want it wants the case heard on its merits.

According to CFIT lawyer Bret Fausett, VeriSign had the option to refer the case to the Supreme Court after losing a motion to dismiss on appeal last month.

VeriSign had until October 9 to make its mind up, but evidently did not need that long.

This is the meat of the motion:

On July 9, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an amended opinion in this case and remanded the case to this Court “for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.” The Ninth Circuit spread the mandate on July 19. VeriSign, Inc. respectfully requests that the Court schedule a case management conference at its earliest convenience to discuss plans for a speedy resolution to the case.

The case is important because if VeriSign loses it could lead to the company losing its lucrative monopoly on the .com and .net registries.

While it wants a speedy resolution, analysts are not so hopeful. JP Morgan believes: “All together, the motions in the trial, discovery, trial, and potential appeal could take years to complete.”

The analyst also notes that pretrial discovery will likely lead to a definitive answer to the question: who the hell is CFIT anyway?

.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.