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Chehade tries to explain domain “hogging” comments

Kevin Murphy, March 30, 2015, Gossip

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade has distanced himself from comments in which he seemed to equate domain investing with “cybersquatting”.

In January, Chehade said in a Huffington Post interview that new gTLDs would help prevent domain “hogging”, which was widely interpreted as his taking a dim view of domaining.

When asked about his remarks last month, he did not backtrack.

Now he has backtracked, responding to an angry letter from the Internet Commerce Association, which represents many of the largest domainers.

In March 24 letter (pdf) published over the weekend, Chehade said that he interpreted the HuffPo interviewer’s question to refer to the practice of registries holding back premium domains, rather than secondary market activity:

I regret that the ICA interpreted some of my comments in the interview as expressing a “disdainful view” of domain investing. As you might have gathered from the reporter’s questions, some people have asked whether the new gTLD program might have created an opportunity for “land grabb[ing]” by industry insiders. It was not my impression that the question being asked referred to established practices in the secondary market; rather, I believe the reporter was inquiring about some of the very practices by registries you cited in your letter. My response — that alternatives are available in different gTLDs — was intended to try to allay the concern that the program was creating artificial scarcity of domains, not to criticize participants in the marketplace.

Was this a fair interpretation of the interviewer’s question? Is this just a misunderstanding?

Watch the two-minute video above to make up your own mind.

Addressing the ICA’s concerns that he had equated domain investing with cyberquatting, Chehade wrote:

We are in complete agreement that there is a very important legal distinction between registering generically-termed domain names and cybersquatting.

Man escapes from prison by typosquatting

Kevin Murphy, March 30, 2015, Gossip

A convicted fraudster reportedly escaped from a UK prison by typosquatting.

Neil Moore was serving time on remand when he used a smuggled mobile phone to register a domain name that looked a lot like that of the UK court service, according to local media reports.

The domain, registered last March, was hmcts-gsi-gov.org.uk, a typo of the genuine hmcts.gsi.gov.uk.

Had Moore registered the name after last June, when Nominet enabled direct second-level .uk registrations, he would have been able to get a much more convincing typo.

He populated the Whois with the name of his case’s investigating officer and the address for the Royal Courts of Justice.

He then emailed the prison from his new domain with instructions for his bail.

Prison staff fell for it and he was released.

The scam went unnoticed for three days until his lawyers went to interview him. He handed himself back in to police hours later.

Moore was in prison for socially engineering over £1.8 million ($2.6 million) out of major firms by pretending to be bank staff.

He’s fessed up to several counts of fraud and one count of escape from lawful custody. He’ll be sentenced in April.

Domain Incite is five years old today

Kevin Murphy, February 27, 2015, Gossip

Five years ago Domain Incite published its first story, with the introductory line “Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?”

I went on to describe how I’d registered the name domainincite.com and thrown up a live, resolving web site in less than one hour.

But that wasn’t quite the beginning.

What I neglected to mention were the eight hours I spent sitting with my father that weekend, brainstorming domains that captured the slightly acerbic tone I expected to use and which were also available at a reasonable price.

That was also when we came up with the tag line “domainincite.com n. because all the good domains were taken”, which has sat at the top of DI’s “About” page since day one.

Dad died last October, and I’d be lying if I said I’ve had an easy time getting over it.

Watching somebody you love dying of cancer is, needless to say, traumatic. Many readers will understand this all too well.

It can leave you with their final weeks indelibly at the forefront of your memories, whereas you should be remembering the enjoyable times you spent together.

I wouldn’t dream of blaming Dad for my eventual choice of domain, but we had fun collaborating on its conception.

That was something we did together, which gives DI’s birthday this year a bittersweet flavor for me.

Crocker caught with his pants down, literally, at ICANN 52

Kevin Murphy, February 24, 2015, Gossip

Here’s your daily WTF moment, courtesy of ICANN’s official YouTube account.

If you’ve ever wanted to see ICANN chair Steve Crocker without his trousers — and let’s face it, who hasn’t? — now’s your chance.

Don’t ask. I’m just as baffled as you.

ICANN 53 will be in Buenos Aires

Kevin Murphy, December 8, 2014, Gossip

ICANN has picked Buenos Aires, Argentina, for its 53rd public meeting.

The choice of city was approved by the ICANN board late last week.

The meeting will be held June 21-25 next year, sandwiched between February’s return to Singapore and October’s first foray into Dublin.

The BA venue has not been disclosed yet, but it’s possible ICANN will return to the Sheraton hotel and convention center.

It’s the third time ICANN has held one of its public meetings in Argentina. It visited BA last year for ICANN 48 and the sleepy seaside town of Mar Del Plata in 2005.

Having attended both previous meetings, I’ve discovered that it’s possible for a vegetarian to quickly become seriously malnourished in Argentina, so it’s quite likely DI’s coverage of ICANN 53 will heavily leverage the excellent remote participation facilities.

BA’s great if you love steak, however.

Is this the longest and stupidest new gTLD name yet?

Kevin Murphy, November 13, 2014, Gossip

Thank goodness for the new gTLD program.

Without it, there wouldn’t be the opportunity for chaps like Guo Xiufeng to express themselves with names like ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo-oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.ooo.

Note, I was forced to add a hyphen to fit the domain into this column. It’s just a string of 63 Os, — the maximum length of a second-level domain permitted by the DNS — followed by the inexplicable .ooo gTLD.

The domain resolves to a site posing the question “Is Showfom sexy?”.

When I asked Google that question, I found this February 2014 tweet from Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling.

Bizarrely, the registrant of showfom.sexy appears to be somebody else entirely.

If you want the answer, you’ll have to click the link.

The long .ooo domain is currently the 1,303rd most-trafficked new gTLD domain and the 919,853rd most-popular domain on the internet, according to our Alexa-derived popularity stats.

Cowley, one foot out of the industry, joins Architelos

Kevin Murphy, October 21, 2014, Gossip

Former Nominet CEO Lesley Cowley has become a consultant for Architelos, as part of a raft of domain and non-domain industry positions she’s taken on.

Primarily, Cowley has become chair of the UK’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency — a public-sector role with a vague conceptual relationship with domain names (ie, managing lots of unique identifiers).

At Architelos, a provider of registry management software and services, she will be a “executive coach and consultant”, Cowley wrote in a blog post.

She will also remain a volunteer with ICANN, where she’s the former chair and current councilor of the ccNSO.

Cowley has also been named a non-executive director of aql, a data center in Leeds, UK.

She announced her resignation in May, after 12 years as Nominet CEO. Her replacement has not yet been named.

Fight over ICANN’s $400,000 Hollywood party

Kevin Murphy, September 22, 2014, Gossip

Corporate sponsors raised $250,000 to fund a $400,000 showbiz gala for ICANN 51 next month, but ICANN pulled the plug after deciding against making up the shortfall.

Sources tell DI that the lavish shindig was set to take place at Fox Studios in Los Angeles on October 15, but that ICANN reneged on a commitment to throw $150,000 into the pot.

Meanwhile, a senior ICANN source insists that there was no commitment and that a “misunderstanding” is to blame.

ICANN announced a week ago that its 51st public meeting would be the first in a while without a gala event. In a blog post, VP Christopher Mondini blamed a lack of sponsors and the large number of attendees, writing:

One change from past meetings is that there will not be an ICANN51 gala. Historically, the gala has been organized and supported by an outside sponsor. ICANN51 will not have such a sponsor, and therefore no gala. ICANN meetings have grown to around 3,000 attendees, and so have the challenges of finding a gala sponsor.

This explanation irked some of those involved in the aborted deal. They claim that the post was misleading.

Sources say that sponsors including Fox Studios, Neustar and MarkMonitor had contractually committed $250,000 to the event after ICANN promised to deliver the remaining $150,000.

But ICANN allegedly changed its mind about its own contribution and, the next day, published the Mondini post.

“The truth is there were sponsors, the truth is it wasn’t too big,” said a source who preferred not to be named. “There was enough money there for a gala.”

The venue was to be the Fox Studios backlot, which advertises itself as being able to handle receptions of up to 4,000 people — plenty of space for an ICANN gala.

I’ve confirmed with Neustar, operator of the .us ccTLD, that it had set aside $75,000 to partly sponsor the event.

But Mondini told DI that ICANN had not committed the $150,000, and that claims to the contrary were based on a “misunderstanding” — $150,000 was the amount ICANN spent on the Singapore gala (nominally sponsored by SGNIC), not how much it intended to spend on the LA event.

“There was no ICANN commitment to make up shortfall,” he said. “It was misheard as an ICANN commitment.”

More generally, ICANN’s top brass are of the opinion that “we shouldn’t be in the business of spending lots of money on galas”, Mondini added.

“ICANN paying for galas is the exception rather than the rule,” he said.

He added that he stood by his blog post, saying that a failure to find sponsors to cover the full $400,000 tab is in fact a failure to find sponsors.

No gala at ICANN 51

Kevin Murphy, September 16, 2014, Gossip

One thing ICANN’s thrice-yearly public meetings never lack is free booze, but there’s going to be a little bit less of it at ICANN 51 in Los Angeles next month.

ICANN said yesterday that the gala event, which is typically held on the Wednesday night, will not happen in LA.

ICANN veep Christopher Mondini blogged:

Historically, the gala has been organized and supported by an outside sponsor. ICANN51 will not have such a sponsor, and therefore no gala. ICANN meetings have grown to around 3,000 attendees, and so have the challenges of finding a gala sponsor.

LA is of course ICANN’s home town, hence the lack of need for a local host/sponsor company.

There have been some really spectacular galas over the years — and some not-so-great ones — so the lack of such an event this time around may be mildly disappointing to some attendees.

On the bright side (arguably), Music Night, which was introduced in the Beckstrom era but hasn’t appeared at the last few meetings, is rumored to be making a return for LA.

Usually a Tuesday-night event sponsored by PIR and Afilias, Music Night sees musically inclined ICANN community members jamming together, followed by a bit of karaoke.

Facebook has it that the ah hoc band GEMS (Global Equal Multi-Stakeholders) will be making an appearance to play a selection of bottoms-up, consensus-based classic rock numbers.

Unfortunately, personal circumstances are very probably going to keep yours truly away from ICANN 51, but gifts of whiskey sent to the usual address will of course be consumed in solidarity on the appropriate evening.

Verisign probes name collisions link to MH370

Kevin Murphy, April 1, 2014, Gossip

Verisign is investigating whether Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 went missing due to a DNS name collision.

The Boeing 777 disappeared on a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, March 8. Despite extensive international searches of the Indian Ocean and beyond, no trace of the plane has yet been found.

Now Verisign is pondering aloud whether a new gTLD might be to blame.

The theory emerged during Verisign’s conference in London two weeks ago, at which the company offered a $50,000 prize to the researcher with the best suggestion about how to keep the collisions debate alive.

Chief propaganda officer Burt Kaslinksiki told DI that the decision to launch the investigation today was prompted by a continuing lack of serious interest in name collisions outside of Verisign HQ.

“We cannot discount the possibility that the plane went missing due to a new gTLD,” he said. “Probably something to do with .aero or .travel or something. That sounds plausible, right?”

“The .aero gTLD was delegated in 2001,” he said after a few minutes thought. “Is it any coincidence that just 13 years later MH370 should go missing? We intend to investigate a possible link.”

“Think about it,” Koslikiniski said. “When was the last time you saw a .aero domain? The entire gTLD has vanished without a trace.”

He pointed to a slide from a prize-winning Powerpoint presentation made at the London conference as evidence:

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“We’re not saying new gTLDs cause planes to smash into the ocean and disappear without a trace, we’re just saying that it’s not not un-impossible that such a thing might conceivably, feasibly happen,” he said.

He added that it was also possible that name collisions were to blame that time Justin Bieber got photographed pissing in a bucket.

Verisign is proposing that ICANN add “modest” new registration restrictions to all new gTLDs as a precaution until the company’s investigation is concluded, which is expected to take four to six years.

Specifically, new gTLD registries would be banned from accepting any registrations for:

  • Any domain name comprising a dictionary word, or a combination of dictionary words, in any UN language.
  • Any domain name shorter than 60 characters.
  • Any domain name containing fewer than six hyphens.
  • Any domain name in which the second level is written in the same script as the TLD.
  • Anything not written in Windings.

Kalenskiskiski denied that these restrictions would unreasonably interfere with competing gTLDs’ business prospects.

“Nobody seemed to care when we managed to get 10 million domains blocked based on speculation and fearmongering,” he said. “We’re fairly confident we can get away with this too.”

“If ICANN puts up a fight, we’ll just turn The Chulk loose on ’em again to remind them who pays their fucking salaries,” he explained.

“In the rare instances where these very reasonable restrictions might prevent somebody from registering the new gTLD name they want, there’s still plenty of room left in .com,” he added.