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ICANN’s Sword algorithm fails Bulgarian IDN test

ICANN has released version 4 of its new TLD Draft Applicant Guidebook (more on that later) and it still contains references to the controversial “Sword” algorithm.

As I’ve previously reported, this algorithm is designed to compare two strings for visual similarity to help prevent potentially confusing new TLDs being added to the root.

The DAG v4 contains the new text:

The algorithm supports the common characters in Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, Devanagari, Greek, Japanese, Korean, and Latin scripts. It can also compare strings in different scripts to each other.

So I thought I’d check how highly the internationalized domain name .бг, the Cyrillic version of Bulgaria’s .bg ccTLD, scores.

As you may recall, .бг was rejected by ICANN two weeks ago due to its visual similarity to .br, Brazil’s ccTLD. As far as I know, it’s the only TLD to date that has been rejected on these grounds.

Plugging “бг” into Sword returns 24 strings that score over 30 out of 100 for similarity. Some, such as “bf” and “bt”, score over 70.

Brazil’s .br is not one of them.

Using the tool to compare “бг” directly to “br” returns a score of 26. That’s a lower score than strings such as “biz” and “org”.

I should note that the Sword web page is ambiguous about whether it is capable of comparing Cyrillic strings to Latin strings, but the new language in the DAG certainly suggests that it is.

Could litigation delay ICANN’s new TLDs?

Intellectual property lawyers are wondering aloud about the possibility of ICANN being sued in order to delay the launch of new top-level domains.

The idea was raised during a panel at the annual meeting of INTA, the International Trademark Association, in Boston yesterday, according to its daily newsletter (pdf).

Kristina Rosette of the law firm Covington & Burling reportedly “suggested litigation is a possibility to slow down the application launch. One source of litigation could be trademark owners, worried about mass cybersquatting”.

That’s reported speech, by the way, not a quote. The article does not make clear the context.

Rosette is Intellectual Property Constituency representative for North America on ICANN’s GNSO Council.

The IP community is worried that the launch of new TLDs will lead to companies splurging more money unnecessarily on defensive registrations.

The current best, arguably most optimistic guess on the new TLD timeline comes from registry hopeful Minds + Machines. M+M has applications opening next April.

A delay in the launch of new TLDs would hurt most the startup companies that intend to apply for them, and the service providers and consultants hoping to facilitate the launches.

Some of these companies make minimal revenue, are dependent on funding, and would prefer applications open sooner rather than later.

dotSport complains to ICANN about other .sports

One of the companies that intends to apply for the .sport top-level domain has written to ICANN, begging that it does not approve any TLDs for individual sports.

dotSport’s Policy Advisory Committee, which appears to think it already has rights in the .sport string, said ICANN should respect “sport solidarity”.

In other words, please don’t allow .tennis or .golf to be approved.

The company wrote:

The PAC members reiterate our concern that ICANN may be prematurely entertaining a process that will allow proliferation of names in sub-categories or individual sports, which will lead to a number of detrimental effects

The detrimental effects, referenced in this letter last August, basically boil down to the potential for user confusion and the need for defensive registrations by sports teams and personalities.

You could apply the same arguments to pretty much any potential new TLD – what would .music mean for the .hiphop community?

The dotSport PAC is filled with high-level appointees from more than half a dozen sports federations, representing sports from basketball to rugby to archery, so its views are far from irrelevant.

Its position appears to be that the DNS hierarchy should be used for taxonomic purposes, at least when it comes to sports.

It’s an argument that was floated all the way back in the 2000 round of TLD applications, and probably before.

Purely from a marketing point of view, it seems like a self-defeating objective to mandate the use of www.example.hockey.sport when www.example.hockey is an option.

The main example of such a mandatory multi-level taxonomy, the old-style .us ccTLD, was a spectacular commercial failure.

Could it be that dotSport wants to be the registry for all .sports for the price of one? It certainly appears that way.

DotAsia wants lower ICANN fees

As its active base of .asia domain name registrations continues to plummet, the DotAsia Organization wants to reduce its ICANN fees by a third.

CEO Edmon Chung has written to ICANN’s Kurt Pritz, asking if the annual transaction fee it pays per domain can be reduced from $0.75 to $0.50.

“A lower fee would enable DotAsia to invest further into meaningful community projects as well as to extend the awareness and adoption of the .ASIA domain,” Chung wrote. “The suggested amendment would also bring the fees into line with other gTLDs.”

I don’t expect the proposed changes to be especially controversial, but they do highlight how tough it is to launch a new TLD.

The .asia TLD has proved to be a bit of a damp squib, especially since the early-mover speculators started jumping ship, so the company could probably use being thrown a bone.

After .asia’s landrush, the company grew its registration base to a peak of 243,000 in April 2009, according to HosterStats.com, but it currently stands at around 183,000.

.CO Internet scores TechCrunch marketing coup with Disrupt.co

The newly relaunched .co domain has won itself a whole bunch of free publicity by signing up TechCrunch to its Founders Program.

The tech news blog will use the domain Disrupt.co as part of its startup conference of the same name that kicks off today.

The web site will host “Startup Battlefield”, a competition during TechCrunch Disrupt for new companies and services.

.CO Internet is marketing Colombia’s .co ccTLD as a generic. The launch is currently in its trademark sunrise period, with registrations opening to other registrants next month.

Its Founders Program is a marketing scheme designed to get the word out about the availability of .co domains. Few partners could be as useful to this end as TechCrunch.

Founders get a free premium domain if they promise to promote it properly. CO Internet is still looking for more partners, with applications closing June 15.

I expect disrupt.com, currently parked, will also be getting a lot of traffic today.