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.XXX to run the ICANN gauntlet yet again

Kevin Murphy, August 6, 2010, Domain Registries

Bring on the Christians!

The contract between ICANN and ICM Registry to run the .xxx adults-only top-level domain is to be submitted for an ICANN public comment period, again.

ICANN’s board resolved yesterday to publish the proposed registry agreement for comment for at least 30 days.

But it has not yet decided whether to refer the deal to its Governmental Advisory Committee, which remains ICM’s major potential pitfall on its route to the root.

As long as the public comment period kicks off quite soon, the ICANN board could be in a position to make that call at its weekend retreat, September 24.

The .xxx application has generated more public comment over the years than all other ICANN public comment periods combined.

Its last such period, earlier this year, saw thousands of comments, most of them filed in response to outreach by right-wing American Christian groups.

Objections are also regularly received from members of the Free Speech Coalition, a porn trade group.

I expect this forum will be no different. It will be interesting to see what tactics are rolled out this time, given previous failures.

Here’s the meat of the latest resolution:

RESOLVED (2010.08.05.21), upon receipt of ICM’s application documentation, ICANN Staff is authorized to post ICM’s supporting documents and proposed registry agreement for the .XXX sTLD for public comment for a period of no less than 30 days.

RESOLVED (2010.08.05.22), upon completion of public comment period, ICANN Staff shall provide the Board with a summary of the public comments and shall make a recommendation to the Board as to whether the proposed registry agreement for the .XXX sTLD is consistent with GAC advice.

RESOLVED (2010.08.05.23), once the Board has received the above public comment summary and recommendation from the ICANN Staff regarding the proposed registry agreement for the .XXX sTLD, the Board shall at its next possible meeting, consider this recommendation, and determine, consistent with the ICANN Bylaws, whether a GAC consultation shall be required.

.jobs gets its landrush windfall

Kevin Murphy, August 6, 2010, Domain Registries

Is .jobs the newest generic top-level domain?

ICANN has approved changes to Employ Media’s .jobs registry contract, meaning the company is now free to start auctioning off premium generic .jobs domain names to the highest bidder.

The decision paves the way for the company to implement its deal with the DirectEmployers Association, under which the DEA plans to use thousands of geo.jobs and industry.jobs domains as portals to a massive free jobs board.

Currently, .jobs domains are only available in the format companyname.jobs, and there have been only about 15,000 registrations. The new contract removes that restriction.

Under the changes, whatever domains are left after the DEA takes its chunk could be auctioned, and then .jobs could be opened up to essentially any registration.

The .jobs contract still restricts who can register domains, however, to so-called Qualified Applicants.

That’s defined like this (my emphasis):

A qualified applicant (“Qualified Applicant”) is a person who is (a) a member of SHRM; or (b) engaged in human resource management practices that meet any of the following criteria: (i) possess salaried‐level human resource management experience; (ii) are certified by the Human Resource Certification Institute; or (iii) are supportive of the SHRM Code of Ethical and Professional Standards in Human Resource Management, as amended from time to time (the “Code”).

Looks like a check-out check-box to me.

ICANN’s resolution was made over the strong objections of many jobs web sites and the International Association of Employment Web Sites.

Palestine gets its own Arabic domain names

Kevin Murphy, August 6, 2010, Domain Registries

ICANN has awarded five more non-ASCII top-level domains under its internationalized domain name fast-track process for country-code TLD managers.

Palestine, Tunisia and Jordan will all shortly receive delegations for Arabic-script versions of their existing ccTLDs. They join previous recipients including Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Palestine gets فلسطين, Tunisia gets تونس and Jordan gets الاردن.

These apparently translate as “Falasteen”, “Tunis” and “al-Ordan”, respectively, and are presumably more useful to Arabic speakers than .ps, .tn and .jo.

Because they’re all Arabic, the dots appear to the right of the TLD, rather than the left.

The Occupied Palestinian Territory is, of course, a fringe case when it comes to ccTLDs.

But long ago, IANA made it a matter of policy that it would make no decision about which country or territory deserves its own ccTLD.

If it’s on the ISO 3166-1 list, which is overseen by the UN, it’s in. Palestine was added to that list in 1999, and was awarded .ps by ICANN/IANA in 2000.

The .ps registry is sponsored by the Palestinian National Authority’s telecoms ministry.

ICANN has also resolved to delegate Thailand the IDN ccTLD .ไทย and Sri Lanka both .ලංකා and .இலங்கை.

Interestingly, these two TLDs were approved as part of yesterday’s board meeting’s consent agenda.

The three Arabic names were approved separately, preceded by this:

RESOLVED (2010.08.05.13), the Board IANA Committee is directed, in coordination with ICANN’s CEO, to create improvements to the processes and new guidelines for implementation of the IDN ccTLD Fast Track process.

Judgment day for .xxx and .jobs

Kevin Murphy, August 5, 2010, Domain Registries

ICANN’s board of directors will today meet to decide the fate of the .xxx and .jobs top-level domains.

ICM Registry will find out whether its contract to run .xxx will have to face a potentially lengthy review by ICANN’s notoriously slow-footed Governmental Advisory Committee.

Employ Media will find out whether it will be allowed to relax its registration rules to allow non-company-name .jobs domains.

If the board decides no further GAC intervention is needed, ICM will be on a fast track to having its TLD considered for delegation in Cartagena this December.

If Employ Media’s proposal is rejected, it faces more years in the wilderness of managing a registration base in the low tens of thousands.

I have a track record of lousy predictions, but I’m going to go out on a limb again and make a low-confidence prediction that both registries are going to get what they want.

I’m not sure if it’s been noted before, but there are some strong similarities between the two TLDs and their proposals.

In the case of .xxx, some of the main opponents of the domain have been the adult industry itself. With the .jobs liberalization, the loudest outcry has come from jobs boards.

Both are essentially cases of a registry proposing something that makes good business sense for itself, but which is not necessarily what a significant portion of its would-be constituents want.

In the case of ICM, lack of support from the porn business was what originally killed off the application (at least, that was the official line), a decision that ICANN was recently forced to reverse if not recant.

In the case of .jobs, ICANN’s recent summary and analysis of the well-attended public comment period, which the board will be given prior to voting, may be a telling.

Most of the opposition to the .jobs deal was organized by the International Association of Employment Web Sites, which itself sent a long letter spelling out precisely why it thinks the scheme is bogus.

Of the 2,600 words IAEWS submitted, ICANN’s summary and analysis document quotes just two sentences, one of which is this:

“Neither human resources professionals employed in corporate human resources (‘HR’) departments nor executive search/staffing firms [which are part of the .JOBS community] are eligible for membership in IAEWS.”

The quote is pulled from the introduction of the IAEWS letter, rather than the substance of its objection, and the text in square brackets is ICANN’s own insertion.

I can’t think of any reason that text is worth quoting other than in order to dilute the significance of the IAEWS’ arguments against the .jobs liberalization.

Indeed, the document uses more wordage to describe the nature of the IAEWS letter-writing campaign than it does the content of its letters, which can’t look good for the IAEWS.

Employ Media’s response to the IAEWS letter is quoted at greater length, particularly the bit where it compares its own plans to the new gTLD program.

While they claim that the addition of occupation, industry and geographical identifiers at the second level within the .JOBS sTLD will lead to increased confusion within the marketplace, it is hard to reconcile this argument to ICANN’s extensive public policy work and implementation plan in connection with the new gTLD process. The same fundamental economic basis for going forward with the whole new gTLD initiative also applies to this .JOBS RSEP request; these issues should not be re debated and should not delay or deny approval of the .JOBS RSEP request.

If you’re an ICANN board member, aware of how much of ICANN’s credibility is tied up with the new TLD program, can you really argue with that?

Of course, board and staff don’t always agree, so I may be way off the plot here, but it seems to me that .jobs is likely to very soon become a considerably more open namespace.

VeriSign may settle CFIT lawsuit

Kevin Murphy, August 4, 2010, Domain Registries

VeriSign’s chief executive has not ruled out settling its potentially damaging lawsuit with the Coalition For ICANN Transparency out of court.

During the company’s second quarter earnings call earlier this week, Mark McLaughlin was asked whether there was a way the lawsuit could be made to go away, settling investor nerves.

His response: “It is an option that could be pursued.”

CFIT, backed by Momentous.ca, claims that VeriSign’s .com and .net no-bid contracts with ICANN, including the price increases they allow, are anti-competitive.

If VeriSign loses the case, it could face the loss of its .com and .net monopolies, which makes me think it will certainly seek to settle the case before that becomes a risk.

VeriSign currently has to decide whether to request a review at the Supreme Court, or go to the District Court for trial. It has until October 7 to make its call.

Also during Monday’s earnings call, McLaughlin addressed the growth opportunities VeriSign is looking at, following its renewed focus on the domain name business.

Asked whether the introduction of new TLDs would affect .com and .net growth, McLaughlin said:

I think it’s positive… just related to .com and .net, with the introduction of new TLDs there’s an expectation it just brings more people to the market and we generally do better when more people show up to the market. And the second thing, we intend to participate in some of those ourselves, so we see growth opportunities for us.

He also confirmed again that VeriSign will seek to launch non-ASCII internationalized versions of its existing TLD base, which includes .com, .net, tv and .name.

As Andrew Allemann noted yesterday, he also declared the pay-per-click-based speculative registration market essentially “dead”.

Free entry to the .uk iPad prize giveaway

Kevin Murphy, August 2, 2010, Domain Registries

Nominet is giving away eight iPads and dozens of iTunes vouchers to new .uk domain name registrants, but you can enter the prize draw for free if you know where to look.

The promotion starts today and runs until September 27. Every week, the company will give away one iPad. Every day, a £25 iTunes voucher will be up for grabs.

The promotion is being offered via participating .uk registrars, as well as by Nominet itself.

Without delving into the terms and conditions, you’d be forgiven for thinking you have to register a domain name to enter the draw.

Not so. Under UK law, companies have to offer no-purchase-necessary alternatives when they run competitions like this, and Nominet is no exception.

If you live in the UK, you can enter here for free.

It looks like you’ll have to enter every week to be eligible for all eight prize draws.

EurID picks Netnod for .eu resolution

Kevin Murphy, August 2, 2010, Domain Registries

EurID, the .eu registry manager, has inked a deal to have its domain names resolved internationally via Netnod’s network of name servers.

Netnod is the not-for-profit Swedish internet exchange operator which also runs one of the internet’s 13 DNS root servers.

The deal means .eu domains will be resolved from Netnod’s constellation of Anycast DNS servers.

Anycast is a technology for mirroring servers on a large scale by enabling them to all advertise the same IP address from diverse locations on the internet.

EurID already has similar deals to run .eu on Anycast networks belonging to NeuStar and CommunityDNS, reducing its exposure to a failure at any single provider.

That’s some serious redundancy.

The registry says that .eu domains are now resolved by 35 server locations around the world.

.XXX domain contract could get approved next Thursday

The application for the porn-only .xxx top-level domain is on the just-published agenda for ICANN’s board meeting next Thursday.

The line item reads merely “ICM Registry Application for .XXX sTLD”, but I’m told that ICM and ICANN staff have already negotiated a new contract that the board will be asked to consider.

If the board gives it the nod, it would keep the .xxx TLD on track for possible delegation at ICANN’s Cartagena meeting in early December, meaning sales could begin as early as the first quarter 2011.

According to last month’s Brussels resolution, the board has to first decide whether the contract complies with previous Governmental Advisory Committee advice, or whether new advice is required.

If ICM jumps that hurdle, the contract will be published for public comment (fun fun fun) for three weeks to a month, before returning to the board for a vote on delegation.

Also on the agenda for the August 5 board meeting is the issue of whether to give Employ Media the right to liberalize its .jobs TLD and start accepting generic domain registrations.

In the HR industry, the .jobs debate has been just as loud as the .xxx controversy was in the porn business. Some companies think the changes would be unfair on existing jobs sites.

There are a few other intriguing items on next Thursday’s agenda.

The board will discuss the “International Dimension of ICANN”, “Data & Consumer Protection” and “UDRP Status Briefing”, all of which strike me as rather enigmatic, among other topics.

The UDRP item may refer to the ongoing debate about whether ICANN needs to have contractual relations with its UDRP providers.

Yes, .co domains are subject to the UDRP

I’ve been getting a fair bit of search traffic over the last few days from people evidently wondering whether .co domain names are subject to the same UDRP rules as .com, so I thought I’d answer the question directly.

Yes, they are.

For avoidance of doubt, I’ve just talked to .CO Internet’s director of marketing, Lori Anne Wardi, who had just talked to the registry’s policy people.

She told me that .co domains are subject to the exact same ICANN UDRP as .com.

If you’re a .co registrant, you’re bound to the policy the same as you are in .com. If you’re a trademark holder, you file a complaint in the same way.

The only difference at the moment is that .CO Internet has contracted with only one UDRP provider, WIPO, but Wardi said that more providers may be signed up in future.

UNICEF looking for a .brand TLD partner

The UN-backed charity UNICEF has become the second organization, after Canon, to confirm publicly it is planning to apply for a .brand top-level domain.

The organization has put its feelers out for a registry operator to apply for and manage .unicef, publishing a Request For Information on its web site this week.

The RFI says:

Taking the long view, as time goes on a name such as www.donations.unicef and www.cards.unicef will become more intuitive in a more crowded Internet, and thus more valuable because the name reflects exactly that of an organization and declares what it does.

With unscrupulous individuals frequently seeking to capitalize on global tragedies to bilk money out of people through bogus web sites, charities could very well see some anti-phishing benefits from having their own sufficiently publicized TLD.

As I noted yesterday, it looks like the Red Cross may be thinking about a similar initiative.

UNICEF appears to want an operator that will be able to both manage the ICANN application process and then, for at least two years, the operation of the registry.

The deadline is July 30, so vendors have just a week to fill out and submit a questionnaire outlining their capabilities.

The questions appear, to me, to betray a degree of unfamiliarity with the DNS business and the new TLD process in particular.

What are the timeframes for developing and provisioning the application including all necessary activities (i.e. obtaining ICANN’ registration, facilitating the transition of current domains to the top level domain etc) from the moment a contract is signed with the selected vendor?

Good luck answering that one.

(Hat tip: newTLDs.tv)