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Music industry gets its ass handed to it by gTLD panel

Kevin Murphy, October 7, 2014, Domain Registries

The music industry-backed application for the new gTLD .music today suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of a Community Priority Evaluation panel.

The Far Further (.music LLC) application scored a pitiful 3 out of 16 possible points in the evaluation, missing the required 14-point passing threshold by a country and western mile.

CPE is a way for applicants representing genuine communities to avoid an auction. If one applicant in a contention set wins a CPE, all the others must withdraw their applications.

But in this case the CPE panel went so far as to accuse the applicant of attempting to get its hands on a nice generic string by creating a new community, rather than by representing an existing one:

The Panel determined that this application refers to a proposed community construed to obtain a sought-after generic word as a gTLD. Moreover the applicant appears to be attempting to use the gTLD to organize the various groups noted in the application documentation, as opposed to applying on behalf of an already organized and cohesive community.

The application was backed by dozens of music industry trade groups and (by inference) thousands of their member associations and millions of individual members, spread over 150 countries.

But that wasn’t enough to persuade the CPE panel that “music” is even a “community” within the meaning of the ICANN new gTLD program’s Applicant Guidebook:

While the Panel acknowledges that many of the members in the proposed community share an interest in music, the AGB specifies that a “commonality of interest” is not sufficient to demonstrate the requisite awareness and recognition of a community among its members.

The panel pointed to the existence of legions of amateur musicians — estimated at 200 million — that do not identify with the community as defined in Far Further’s new gTLD application, which is restricted to the four million or so members of the application’s backers.

The panel found therefore that “there is no entity mainly dedicated to the entire community as defined by the applicant, nor does the application include reference to such an organization”.

The very fact that the Far Further application included reference to 42 trade groups, covering different facets of the music industry, seems to have counted against it. One overarching body dedicated to “music” in its entirety may have been enough to win the applicant some points.

The fact that the panel decided the community did not exist had a knock-on effect in other parts of the evaluation.

Has the community been around for a long time? No, because the community doesn’t exist. Is it a big community? No again, because the community doesn’t exist. And so on.

The only places Far Further managed to pick up points were on its registration policies, where it had promised to restrict registration to certain community members, and on community endorsement.

There are eight applicants for .music in total. One other, regular DI commenter Constantine Roussos’ DotMusic Limited, is also a Community application that is eligible for CPE.

It’s always seemed highly improbable that any .music applicant could pass CPE, but it’s looking even less likely for DotMusic after today’s result for Far Further.

.music, it seems, is heading to auction, where it is likely to fetch big bucks.

.now and .realestate will be restricted, but Donuts keeps .tires open

Kevin Murphy, October 7, 2014, Domain Registries

It was a battle between open and restricted registration rules this week, as three more new gTLD contention sets were resolved between applicants with opposing policies.

Donuts won .tires (open), Amazon won .now (closed) and the National Association of Realtors won .realestate (restricted).

Donuts beat Goodyear and Bridgestone — two of the biggest tire companies in the world — to .tires. Both withdrew their respective applications over the last week.

If it was an auction it was not conducted via the usual new gTLD auction houses. It seems like Donuts settled the contention privately (or maybe just got lucky).

Both tire companies had proposed single-registrant closed generic spaces. Donuts, of course, has not.

Goodyear has active dot-brand applications for .goodyear and .dunlop remaining. Bridgestone has active applications for .bridgestone and .firestone, also dot-brands.

Amazon, meanwhile, won the .now contention set over five other applicants — Starbucks HK, XYZ.com, One.com, Global Top Level and Donuts, which have all withdrawn their bids.

Amazon’s application for .now envisages a closed registry in which all the second-level domains belong to the company’s intellectual property department.

Also this week, the NAR, which already has the dot-brand .realtor under its belt, beat Donuts, Minds + Machines and Uniregistry to the complementary generic .realestate.

Unfortunately for estate agents worldwide, the NAR plans a tightly restricted .realestate zone, in which only its own members will at first be able to register, according to its application.

The application does seem to envisage a time when others will be permitted to register, however.

The organization said in a press release this week that .realestate will be more open than .realtor, but that full policies will not be released until next year.

Freenom adds .gq to free African ccTLD roster

Kevin Murphy, October 2, 2014, Domain Registries

Freenom has struck a deal with registry for the once-dormant ccTLD for Equatorial Guinea to offer .gq domain names for free worldwide.

The ccTLD is the latest from Africa to buy into the company’s free domains model, after .cf (Central African Republic), .ml (Mali) and .ga (Gabon).

The local registry for Equatorial Guinea is telecom provider GETESA

Netherlands-based Freenom is best-known for .tk, which with over 26 million names is the second-largest TLD after .com, despite ostensibly representing the 1,500 inhabitants of tiny Pacific island Tokelau.

Funded to the tune of $3 million last December, the company makes its money by monetizing the residual traffic from expired and deleted domains in the zones it manages, as well as add-on services.

.gq is currently in sunrise and expects to go live with general availability December 1.

A recent Anti-Phishing Working Group report found that Freenom’s ccTLDs are much more likely to host phishing attacks, relative to their size.

Equatorial Guinea is a small country, with just over 650,000 citizens. While ostensibly oil-rich, most of its inhabitants suffer from truly shocking poverty, human rights and infant mortality rates.

.nz second-level names now available

Kevin Murphy, October 2, 2014, Domain Registries

The New Zealand Domain Name Commission has started making second-level domains under .nz available for the first time.

Like .uk, which opened up the second level this year, .nz names have previously only been available at the third level, under .co.nz, .net.nz and over a dozen other extensions.

But from this week, existing registrants will be able to register the shorter version of their name via their choice of registrar.

Registry fees are the same as under existing .nz SLDs, while a two-year reservation is free.

The priority period for existing registrants runs through March 30 next year. After that, .nz will open for first-come first-served general availability.

People who first registered their names between May 30 2012 and February 11 2014 — when the DNC was considering the second-level liberalization — get automatic rights to their names.

But for names registered before May 30 2012 there’s the possibility of conflicts — for example between the owners of matching .co.nz and .org.nz names.

In those cases, either party can either give up their rights, claim their rights, or demand that the .nz name not be registered to anyone.

It seems that while the DNC may offer a reconciliation service for conflicted registrants, any registrant of a 3LD registered before May 2012 will be able to dig their heels in and prevent the matching SLD being registered.

There were 551,024 domains across all .nz SLDs at the end of August.

“Frustrated” Morocco denies it supported .tata gTLD

Kevin Murphy, October 2, 2014, Domain Registries

The Moroccan government claims that it did not give its support to the .tata dot-brand gTLD, which was granted to Tata Group, the massive Indian conglomerate, in July.

According to Boubker Seddik Badr, director of digital economy at Morocco’s ministry of trade, .tata “did not receive any endorsement from any Moroccan authority”.

In a September 17 letter (pdf), he expressed his “surprise and very deep frustration” that .tata had been approved by ICANN regardless.

Under ICANN rules, .tata was classified as a “geographic” string because it matches the name of a Moroccan province found on an International Standards Organization list of protected names.

But Tata’s application was finally approved — it was the last bid to pass through evaluation — after a period Extended Evaluation. Its evaluation report (pdf) reads:

The Geographic Names Panel has determined that your application falls within the criteria for a geographic name contained in the Applicant Guidebook Section 2.2.1.4, and the documentation of support or non-objection provided has met all relevant criteria in Section 2.2.1.4.3 of the Applicant Guidebook.

The Guidebook states that letters of support or non-objection:

could be signed by the minister with the portfolio responsible for domain name administration, ICT, foreign affairs, or the Office of the Prime Minister or President of the relevant jurisdiction; or a senior representative of the agency or department responsible for domain name administration, ICT, foreign affairs, or the Office of the Prime Minister.

It’s not clear what documentation Tata provided in order to pass the geographic names review.

Tata Group is a family-owned, $103.27 billion-a-year conglomerate involved in everything from oil to tea to cars to IT consulting to airlines.

The company does not yet appear to have signed a Registry Agreement with ICANN for .tata.

ICANN is to hold its 52nd week-long public meeting in Marrakech, Morocco in February 2015.