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ICANN snubs Belgium, gives Donuts the all-clear for .spa

ICANN has rejected demands by the Belgian government by giving Donuts the go-ahead to proceed with its application for .spa, which Belgium says infringes on a geographic name.

Noting that the Governmental Advisory Committee had submitted no consensus advice that Donuts .spa bid should be rejected, the ICANN board’s New gTLD Program Committee said last week “the applications will proceed through the normal process.”

That means the two-way contention set is presumably going to auction.

The English dictionary word “spa” derives from Spa, a small Belgian town with some springs.

The other applicant is Asia Spa and Wellness Promotion Council, which has made a deal with Spa to donate some of its profits to local projects and give the city some control over the registry.

Donuts refused to sign a similar deal, leading to Belgium last month asking ICANN to delegate the gTLD to ASWPC and not Donuts.

The GAC’s last word on .spa was this, from the recent Singapore meeting:

Regarding the applications for .spa, the GAC understands that the relevant parties in these discussions are the city of Spa and the applicants. The GAC has finalised its consideration of the .spa string and welcomes the report that an agreement has been reached between the city of Spa and one of the applicants.

There’s no ICANN fudging here; if the GAC wanted to issue a consensus objection it could have.

The question is: why didn’t it?

Why does the string “amazon”, which does not exactly match the name of a place in its local languages, qualify for a GAC objection, while “spa”, which exactly matches the name of a city, does not?

Will anyone buy .luxury names?

The new gTLD .luxury went into general availability this afternoon, having reported a surprisingly promising sunrise period, but will it attract any interest from early-bird registrants?

The gTLD’s names are priced at roughly $700 retail, regardless of name, which is usually high enough to deter many professional domainers. This should mean volumes on day on will be low.

But the registry, Luxury Partners, reckons it had over 600 sunrise registrations — made mostly by recognized luxury brands — which it said made it the biggest new gTLD sunrise to date.

Does that show demand by luxury brands, as the registry posits, or merely targeted defensive registration strategies by companies that feel a particular affinity with the “luxury” tag?

The registry said in a press release:

While most registrants expressed interest in securing their brand name under .LUXURY, the namespace also holds great appeal to companies and investors wanting to secure premium generic terms to target specific market verticals within the luxury sector.

For a high-priced name, it’s also got a surprising amount of registrar support. I count something like 50 accredited registrars listed on its nic.luxury web site.

GA started at 1500 UTC today. If the registry approves our request for zone file access we’ll have its day one numbers tomorrow.

.club pips .berlin to #2 spot

.CLUB Domains moved into the number two spot on the new gTLD league table overnight, but its growth appears to be slowing.

In today’s zone files, .club has 47,362 domains under management, having added 734 on Sunday; .berlin stood at 47,243, having added 33 yesterday.

.guru still leads with 56,813 names.

Sunday is typically a slow day for domain registrations across the industry, but .club’s growth does appear to be slowing compared to its first few days of general availability, regardless.

It saw 1,141 net new names on Friday and 1,351 on Saturday. The previous Friday and Saturday adds were at 4,904 and 3,828.

It’s difficult to get a comprehensive picture of daily growth due to the registry missing a few days of zone files last week.

Amazon’s bid for .amazon is dead

ICANN has killed off Amazon’s application for the new gTLD .amazon, based on longstanding but extremely controversial advice from its Governmental Advisory Committee.

According to a New gTLD Program Committee resolution passed on Wednesday and published last night, the applications for .amazon and Chinese and Japanese translations “should not proceed”.

That basically means all three applications are frozen until Amazon withdraws them, wins some kind of appeal, manages to change the GAC’s mind, or successfully sues.

Here’s the last bit of the resolution:

Resolved (2014.05.14.NG03), the NGPC accepts the GAC advice identified in the GAC Register of Advice as 2013-07-18-Obj-Amazon, and directs the President and CEO, or his designee, that the applications for .AMAZON (application number 1-1315-58086) and related IDNs in Japanese (application number 1-1318-83995) and Chinese (application number 1-1318-5581) filed by Amazon EU S.à r.l. should not proceed. By adopting the GAC advice, the NGPC notes that the decision is without prejudice to the continuing efforts by Amazon EU S.à r.l. and members of the GAC to pursue dialogue on the relevant issues.

The NGPC noted that it has no idea why the GAC chose to issue consensus advice against .amazon, but based its deliberations on the mountain of correspondence sent by South American nations.

Peru and Brazil, which share the Amazonia region of the continent, led the charge against the bids, saying they would “prevent the use of this domain for the purposes of public interest related to the protection, promotion and awareness raising on issues related to the Amazon biome”.

Amazon had argued that “Amazon” is not a geographic term and that it was against international law for governments to intervene and prevent it using its trademark.

ICANN commissioned a legal analysis that concluded that the organization was under no legal obligation to either reject or accept the applications.

Under the rules of the new gTLD program, the NGPC could have rejected the GAC’s advice, which would have led to a somewhat lengthy consultation process to resolve (or not) their differences.

The big question now is what Amazon, which has invested heavily in the new gTLD program, plans to do next.

A Reconsideration Request would be the simplest option for appeal, though almost certainly a futile gesture. An Independent Review Process complaint might be slightly more realistic.

There’s always the courts, though all new gTLD applicants have to sign legal waivers when they apply.

A fourth option would be for Amazon to negotiate with the affected governments in an attempt to get the GAC advice reversed. The company has already attempted this — offering to protect certain key words related to the region at the second level, for example — but to no avail.

.club misses first target but hopes to be #1 new gTLD “within days”

.CLUB Domains failed to overtake .guru in its first week of general availability as promised, but the company is nevertheless upbeat about taking the number one spot “within days”.

The last zone file available for .club shows 41,203 names, but that’s the May 14 file. The company, or its back-end, has been having trouble keeping its zone file current in the ICANN system this week.

That was an increase of of 10,523 over five days, or 2,104 per day on average.

As of 1500 UTC yesterday, the company reckoned it had 44,450 sales.

That would still place it at #3 in the league table behind .guru with 56,097 (up 200 names today) and .berlin with 47,079 (up 60 names).

If the growth rates stay roughly the same, .club may well overtake .guru in less than a week.

CEO Colin Campbell told us in March that “I firmly believe that .CLUB will exceed all other new generic top level domains in the first week of launch in registrations and overtake .GURU as the leader.”

The company is hosting a party in New York with celebrity endorser 50 Cent next Thursday (disclosure: I’m attending on .CLUB’s dime) which may or may not lead to a spike.