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Loss-making M+M predicts December new TLD announcement

Top Level Domain Holdings, the parent company of Minds + Machines, has reported another six months of steep losses as it patiently waits for ICANN to launch its new TLD round.

The company, which is listed in London, reported revenue for the period to the end of April of £32,000 ($49,000), with a loss of £462,000 ($708,000).

TLDH still has almost £4m in cash and equivalents, so it’s not likely to go out of business before the new TLD round commences. Unless the round is delayed by litigation, of course.

M+M has apparently been tightening its belt a little since April. I’m aware of at least one key employee who is no longer working there.

TLDH says in its interim report that it expects ICANN to finalize its Applicant Guidebook in November and announce the application window for the first round in Cartegena in December.

While that’s definitely compatible with noises ICANN’s chairman was making in Brussels, I know I’m not the only person who believes this is a somewhat optimistic estimate.

The report also makes reference to the issue of registry-registrar integration, noting that the ICANN Nairobi resolution to prohibit cross ownership benefits M+M, which is not a registrar.

TLDH’s share price closed up 2% today.

DirectEmployers calls shenanigans on .jobs outcry

The DirectEmployers Association has gone on the offensive in the continuing battle over the .jobs liberalization, accusing its detractors of conducting an “astroturf” campaign.

Bill Warren, founder and executive director of the DEA, has filed comments to ICANN here.

He accuses the International Association of Employment Web Sites of conducting “nothing less than a smear campaign using modern day technology such as e-mail, blogs, and twitter”.

He’s referring to the scores of letters and emails that have arrived at ICANN over the last week, criticizing .jobs registry Employ Media’s proposal to drop the rule that only company names are allowed in the .jobs namespace.

Jobs sites, in particular, are pissed that Employ Media plans to hand over tens of thousands of premium generic .jobs domains to the DEA to use as gateways to a massive new jobs board, rather than open them up for general registration.

If you currently run a jobs site at NewYorkJobs.com or NursingJobs.com, for example, you would be unable to register NewYork.jobs or Nursing.jobs.

The DEA would likely own both of these domains, along with thousands of others, a situation described by one commenter as a “big giant SEO scam“.

Warren’s letter generally avoids discussing the merits of this plan, instead focusing on attacking its critics’ tactics.

the overwhelming majority of opposing comments – and we’ve reviewed each – clearly indicate no review of the substantial body of work that comprises the RSEP [Registry Services Evaluation Process] submission by Employ Media

It’s true that the majority of the letters include at least some form text created by Steven Rothberg of CollegeRecruiter.com, one of the key individuals behind the IAEWS campaign.

The letters are generally less spammy than similar letter-writing campaigns conducted during the recent .xxx controversy, however, with many writers attempting to add their own two cents.

(Speaking of .xxx, Warren claims that IAEWS has hired the same lawyer who represented .xxx registry ICM. I’m guessing he means Becky Burr of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, but I’m waiting for confirmation of that)

Warren believes that the Society of Human Resource Management, the sponsor and policy-maker for the .jobs domain, “managed a policy development process to arrive at a bottom up, consensus recommendation in the interests of the specific community .jobs exists to serve”.

According to ERE.net, the HR news site that has been doing a far better job of reporting this story than me, this SHRM policy council has been pretty much asleep at the wheel, and may even have been captured. Warren himself apparently used to chair it.

Personally, as somebody with no horse in this race, I merely find it distasteful that Warren is complaining so vehemently about jobs boards having their say in the ICANN process, when the SHRM process deliberately excluded their opinions from its outreach.

The SHRM survey (pdf) filed in support of the .jobs proposal specifically says: “Consultants were also not included in this universe, so that companies specializing in providing job search engines/job boards could not distort the responses from practicing HR professionals.”

The Employ Media proposal to change its contract has already passed an ICANN competition review, so I’m not sure there are any documented ways it can be killed off under the RSEP, although the board will still have to vote on it.

.CO sunrise sees gaming attempts

.CO Internet has published a list of over 1,500 domains that were rejected during its two-month-long trademark-protection sunrise period for the .co namespace.

While the document does not break down the reasons why each name was rejected, it appears to list some attempts to game the system by registering non-existent trademarks or trademarks belonging to other entities.

It’s a 48-page document, compiled by Deloitte, but the range of rejected domains can be illustrated without leaving the C’s.

Names that were applied for and rejected despite being household names include the likes of circuitcity.co, compusa.co, comet.co and currys.co, all electronics retailers, and chevrolet.co.

Since these are names for which trademarks certainly do exist, I’m drawing the conclusion that the sunrise applicant was not the owner of the trademark.

There were also attempts to register personal names, such as christopher.co and courtney.co, as well as geographical terms, such as coventry.co, cleveland.co and chennai.co.

One wildly optimistic applicant even took a chance on colombia.co.

Some applicants went after the .co variants of popular .com web sites, such as chucknorrisfacts.co and collegehumor.co.

In terms of generic terms, applications were rejected for the likes of coffeehouse.co and countrymusic.co.

All of these names, and 1,500 more from the list, will be released back into the landrush period, in which anybody can attempt to register them, a few hours from now.

The recently extended landrush period ends this Friday. General availability begins next week.

Hat tip to Key-Systems, which released the list earlier today.

VeriSign antitrust claims will be heard in court

VeriSign has suffered another legal setback in its antitrust court battle with the Coalition For ICANN Transparency, after an appeals court ruled that CFIT has a case to be heard.

CFIT reckons VeriSign’s deal with ICANN to run the .com registry, which has a presumptive right of renewal and allows annual price increases, breaks US competition law.

Its complaint had been thrown out of court, but was restored on appeal last year. Today, VeriSign’s request for a rehearing was rejected, meaning the case is cleared for trial.

CFIT counsel Bret Fausett tweeted this evening that it will head either back to the District Court, or to the Supreme Court.

The news couldn’t come at a worse time for VeriSign.

The company has spent the last couple of years getting out of most of its non-domain markets, epitomized by the recent sale of its SSL unit to Symantec, so it is ultra-exposed to risk and uncertainty in its highly lucrative .com business.

For that reason, I doubt this case will ever see trial. We’re looking at a settlement, most likely. VeriSign’s probably going to have to break out the check-book.

CFIT is basically a front operation for Momentous.ca, owner of aftermarket player Pool.com.

Jobs boards slam plan to open up .jobs

Providers of online jobs boards have started to complain to ICANN about plans by registry manager Employ Media to liberalize the .jobs sponsored top-level domain.

It’s rare that an ICANN public comment period attracts a decent amount of comment from outside the usual suspects, but this controversial proposal seems to be heading that way.

Employ Media wants to amend its registry contract to remove the restriction that limits .jobs registrations to the corporate name of employers, a key component of its original commitments.

This has naturally enough stirred debate in the HR community, which now appears to have divided itself into two camps – employers for the changes and jobs boards strongly against.

Several HR professionals with large companies including IBM, BT and Intercontinental Hotels have already filed brief messages with ICANN in support of the .jobs proposal.

Now, the counterargument is being made by a few operators of employer-independent jobs boards, including CollegeRecruiter.com and SalesGravy.com.

The Employ Media proposal would allow it to fulfil its deal with the DirectEmployers Association, which plans to lease thousands of geographic and industry domains.

The DEA plan would essentially be a single jobs site with thousands of domains acting as entry points to vertical listings. Want a job in Chicago? Type in chicago.jobs.

Importantly – and this may explain why HR folk like it – the site would be ad-supported and free for employers to list their openings.

Naturally, existing listings sites see this as an unacceptable competitive threat.

Steve Rothberg, CEO of CollegeRecruiter.com, said in his comment that Employ Media “went out of its way” to avoid getting feedback from existing jobs sites.

The results of an Employ Media survey submitted as part of its application to ICANN make that point pretty clearly.

Todd Goldstein, founder of AccountingJobsToday.com, observed in his comment that the proposal would dilute Employ Media’s original commitment to be “a place for employers” and accused the registry of trying to “route around” its promises to ICANN.