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Why .xxx will be domainer-friendly (and why it won’t)

Kevin Murphy, August 26, 2010, Domain Registries

The proposed .xxx top-level domain may be “sponsored”, but the restrictions on who will be able to register names are so loose that pretty much anybody, including domainers, will be able to register one.

I’ve now had time to dig through the mountain of documents that ICANN published earlier this week. I’m submitting something to The Register later today, but I thought I’d first look here at the domaining angle.

First, the bad news: .xxx domains won’t be cheap.

ICM Registry, which wants to run the TLD, plans to charge $60 per year, and that’s just the registry fee.

That’s a lot of money to recoup if you’re planning to park a domain, so it’s likely that much of the value of .xxx for domainers will be in development and resale.

The proposed contract does suggest, and ICM president Stuart Lawley is on record as saying, that the price of registrations could eventually come down. Whether that would include renewals remains to be seen.

Now for the good news: you won’t actually have to be a pornographer to register a .xxx domain.

It’s true that .xxx is ostensibly restricted to members of the adult entertainment community, but the definition also includes companies that supply products and services to the industry.

According to Lawley, flipping domain names falls into that category.

So, if you register a nice .xxx in order to sell it later to an actual pornographer, you’re technically part of the .xxx Sponsored Community. Congratulations, you’re in the adult business.

Parking .xxx domains will also be possible, and it doesn’t look like parking companies will need to make any changes in order to support the TLD.

It’s true that all .xxx sites will have to be “labelled” as porn, but that doesn’t mean, as I initially thought, that all .xxx web sites, including the parked ones, will have to slap a logo on their pages.

Lawley says that ICM will handle all the labelling transparently at the registry end, using a W3C standard called POWDER. Apparently this is doable without touching anybody’s HTML.

Of course, getting hold of a prime piece of .xxx real estate at launch will not be easy.

Anybody with designs on a geo .xxx domain is out of luck. ICANN will reserve all place names, and two-letter domains are banned, due to potential confusion with country codes.

But single-letter domains will be possible. The provision that banned it has been deleted from the new contract.

ICM plans to auction some premium names. It may even reserve some names, such as movie.xxx, in order to offer registrations at the third level.

An additional barrier is that roughly 9,400 people have already “pre-reserved” about 176,000 names (an average of 18 each). That’s about as many words as there are in the English language by some counts.

Quite how these reservations will be handled isn’t spelled out in detail in the contract, as far as I can tell.

The .xxx TLD is still in the application phase, of course, and there are ways it could still fail. If the contract is ultimately signed, general availability is expected seven months later.

ICANN posts .xxx contract for comment

Kevin Murphy, August 24, 2010, Domain Registries

ICANN has just published the proposed contract for ICM Registry’s porn-only .xxx top-level domain, and over a dozen supporting documents.

Now the fun begins!

Another 30-day public comment period is now underway, which will likely see more concerted efforts by the Free Speech Coalition and its accidental allies on the religious right to have .xxx killed off.

It will also be interesting to see whether the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee decides to chip in with its $0.02.

The GAC has always been wary of the .xxx application and remains the tallest hurdle to jump before the TLD has a chance of being approved.

There’s a lot of information in these documents, including much more detail on IFFOR, the International Foundation For Online Responsibility, which will set the TLD’s policies.

I’m going to bury my nose in these docs, and will provide an update later if I find anything interesting, which seems likely.

VeriSign plans single-letter .com auctions

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2010, Domain Registries

VeriSign has confirmed that it wants to auction off single-character .com domain names, following a test with the equivalent .net domains.

The company recently asked ICANN for permission to sell one and two-letter .net domains. As Andrew Allemann noted at the time, that was a pretty strong indicator it would want to do the same with .com.

Now the company has admitted as much, and is looking for an online auction provider to handle the sales. It published a Request For Proposals today. The RFP says:

VeriSign intends to submit a proposal to ICANN through the RSEP [Registry Services Evaluation Process] and anticipates allocating .com single and two character domain name registrations through an auction as well

One and two-letter domains are currently restricted, due to the potential confusion with country-code TLDs. ICANN has been gradually lifting that restriction in some of the less-popular TLDs.

If VeriSign is also given permission, which seems likely, the auctions would certainly be lucrative.

If o.co can fetch $350,000, how much would Overstock, which has been screaming out for o.com for years, stump up for the .com equivalent? I also recall, years ago, Yahoo saying it wanted y.com.

But VeriSign might not be the main beneficiary of the proceeds. In its .net application, it says that it would use any money raised with the .com auctions for the common good.

VeriSign is not hereby proposing a release of .com single and/or two character domain names. VeriSign anticipates that any such proposal will be structured differently than the proposal for .net and will include use of proceeds from any auction for the benefit of the general Internet community.

That’s open to interpretation, of course. Investing a few million dollars in upgrading its infrastructure could be said to benefit the general internet community.

Who voted against three Arabic ccTLDs and why?

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2010, Domain Registries

Two ICANN board members voted against the recent resolution to grant Arabic top-level domains to Palestine, Jordan and Tunisia, it has emerged.

ICANN has published the preliminary report for its August 5 board meeting, which breaks down the votes for each of the 27 resolutions and provides a minuscule amount of color about the discussions.

While the resolutions approving internationalized domain names for Singapore and Thailand were carried unanimously and without discussion, the three Arabic-script IDNs were discussed and received two negative votes and three abstentions.

So which two board members voted against these ccTLDs and why?

Beats me. The IDN ccTLD fast track process is one area where ICANN is quite secretive, and the report does not break down the substance of the discussion or the identities of the directors.

Strangely, two resolutions I would consider much more controversial faced less opposition.

The report shows that the resolution passing ICM Registry’s .xxx domain to the next stage of approval was carried unanimously, and that only one director voted against the .jobs amendment.

ERE.net has more on the .jobs story.

East Africans to seek regional TLD

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2010, Domain Registries

The East African Community has reportedly started planning to apply to ICANN for its own top-level domain, .eac.

I must confess, I’d never heard of the EAC before. I’ve discovered it’s an intergovernmental organization comprising five African nations – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – that’s been around in its current incarnation for about 10 years.

It’s one of those rare organizations granted a .int domain, currently living at eac.int.

According to AfricaNews.com, internet experts from the five countries have met to discuss applying for .eac. Geoffrey Kayonga, director of the Sanvei Institute of Technology in Kigali, Rwanda, is quoted:

We are trying to see how best we can most probably create a taskforce that is going to ensure that we obtain the regional code called ‘.eac’

There’s already a movement to create a .africa TLD for the whole of the continent, which was recently given the nod by tech ministers within the African Union.