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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.

ICANN 48 travelers face chaos after plane crash

Kevin Murphy, November 16, 2013, Gossip

Nobody was hurt. Don’t worry.

But dozens of ICANN 48 attendees experienced huge delays, frustration and anger after a plane skidded off the runway at Buenos Aires, temporarily closing the whole of the Ministro Pistarini International Airport and sending travelers off on diversions totaling thousands of miles.

The early-morning “incident involving a plane”, which is what my own flight crew only ever referred to it as, did not cause any injuries and was apparently cleaned up quite quickly.

But there seems to have been barely anyone flying into Ezeiza on the eve of ICANN 48 yesterday that was not in some way affected.

Consider these stories, collected from the conference floor and Twitter, strictly anecdotal.

  • Several flights carrying ICANNers, due to land at around the same time, found themselves diverted to large cities in neighboring Latin American countries. Many found themselves sitting in hot metal tubes on airport tarmacs in Montevideo, Uruguay, Santiago, Chile and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil before finally turning back to BA.
  • One flight, carrying several delegates from Washington DC, was diverted to Santiago — a 2,000-mile round trip — not once but TWICE, leaving passengers ultimately delayed by well over a day. After the first diversion, and sitting on the Santiago runway for two or three hours, the plane returned to BA only to be told by air traffic control to stay in an hours-long holding pattern while the airport cleared up the backlog. Realizing he lacked the fuel (and apparently the foresight) to do so, the pilot decided to return to Santiago instead, where passengers eventually had to spend the night. They finally started rolling into BA this afternoon.
  • Another, diverted to Montevideo, apparently had to divert for a second time when, moments away from landing, the pilot realized the “runway wasn’t long enough” and had to pull up.
  • My own British Airways flight from London Heathrow, carrying at least a dozen ICANNers, was diverted to Rio de Janeiro, a three-hour flight away. After four hours on the Rio runway and another two sitting in the departure lounge without instruction or information we were finally told that we’d have to wait another eight hours before we could leave, on a newly scheduled flight getting into BA in the wee hours, some 17 hours late. Some stayed at the airport and waited it out. Business class passengers (you know who you are) were safely smuggled away to a hotel to avoid the scuffles that almost broke out over the pallets of flavorless refugee-camp MREs the remaining economy class passengers were offered to keep them quiet. Some of us jumped into taxis and hit Copacabana beach instead.

So it all worked out okay in the end.

Bwahahahaha!

DNS Women Breakfast and other photos from Durban

Kevin Murphy, July 24, 2013, Gossip

DI covered the ICANN 47 meeting in Durban remotely last week, but I’m happy to say that we have some photos from the meeting to publish nevertheless.

These pictures were all graciously provided by award-winning freelance photographer and long-time ICANN meeting attendee Michelle Chaplow.

Fadi Chehade

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade delivering his keynote address during the opening ceremony on Monday.

Signing

Representatives of the first new gTLD registries to sign the Registry Agreement and the first registrars to sign the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement line up on stage to sell their souls to ICANN, also during the opening ceremony.

One of these men reportedly shed a tear as he committed his John Hancock to paper; whether through happiness or grief, it’s impossible to know for sure.

DNS Women's breakfast

Attendees of the DNS Women Breakfast, which gives members of the under-represented gender an opportunity to plot world domination over coffee and croissants three times a year.

From humble beginnings a few years ago, we’re told that over 70 women attended the Durban brekkie.

Journos

Three participants on the second “What the Journalists Think” panel, which this time was exclusively made up of African journos.

Akram

Finally, Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s new Generic Domains Division, smiling despite an apparently busy week.

Chehade joins Twitter

Kevin Murphy, July 9, 2013, Gossip

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade now has his own Twitter account, the organization has confirmed.

Here he is, tweeting this morning:

And here’s ICANN confirming it:

And here’s somebody who is definitely not Chehade, but is quite amusing anyway:

Innovative Auctions hires storied new employee

Kevin Murphy, June 15, 2013, Gossip

Innovative Auctions, which is running private new gTLD auctions, has hired a poker-playing former Google engineer and grandson of Nobel-winning economist Milton Friedman.

Patri Friedman becomes the company’s 11th employee, according to an Innovative blog post.

According to his Wikipedia page, Friedman has had some success playing high stakes poker and was once a software engineer for Google, but his most recent gig was with the Seasteading Institute, where he’s still listed as chairman.

Seasteading is an ambitious project to create a floating libertarian nation state off the coast of Northern California, like something out of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. Really.

At Innovative, he’ll be in charge of user experience and documentation, which seems quite dull in comparison.

Innovative has so far carried out just six new gTLD auctions. Presumably, it’s expecting to manage many more.

No Las Vegas, alas. ICANN picks LA for 2014 meeting

Kevin Murphy, May 22, 2013, Gossip

ICANN has picked Los Angeles for the third of its three 2014 public meetings.

The decision was approved by its board of directors at its retreat in Amsterdam last week.

As you may know, ICANN’s meeting schedule cycles through its five geographic regions, and North America’s next turn comes next year, picking up hopes that it might finally choose Las Vegas.

Alas, we get LA instead.

According to the board’s resolution, the cost of holding a meeting in LA should come in a couple hundred grand below the price of holding it elsewhere, presumably due to reduced travel expenses.

It will be the fourth time ICANN has gathered community members in its home town, but the first time since 2007. Back when ICANN did four meetings a year, LA was the home of its annual general meetings.

Recent North American meetings have been held in Toronto, San Francisco and Puerto Rico. The Mexico City meeting in 2009 counts as Latin America on ICANN’s map of the world.

Singapore and London have already been named at 2014 venues for Asia and Europe respectively.

Verisign (or a domainer) needs to put this on a T-shirt

Kevin Murphy, May 2, 2013, Gossip

If I don’t see somebody wearing this on a T-shirt at the next ICANN meeting I will be very upset.

Keep .com

Credit: an anonymous artist.

Chehade promises to cure herpes

Kevin Murphy, April 1, 2013, Gossip

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade has promised to find a cure for herpes by the end of the year.

Delivering an impromptu keynote speech at the National STD Prevention Conference in Atlanta today, Chehade also apologized for the continuing existence of the pernicious viral infection, which he blamed on predecessor Rod Beckstrom.

“I came here to listen,” he told an audience of confused gynecologists. “And I’ve heard what you have said. Herpes simplex is a problem, I know this now. I’m on your side.”

“I therefore commit ICANN to curing herpes by the end of the year.”

“But we can’t do this alone,” he continued. “I therefore call on all stakeholders to work together on this important initiative.”

He added that the ICANN board of directors reserves the right to create its own cure and implement a mandatory vaccination program, should the community fail to come to agreement.

Chehade’s speech came at the tail end of a tiring outreach tour that has seen him address community members from all corners of the globe.

But reaction from the assembled physicians, epidemiologists and obstetricians was enthusiastic.

“He said everything I wanted to hear,” one beaming attendee told DI after Chehade’s 20-minute standing ovation died down. “Who knew Eugene Levy knew so much about herpesviridae?”

“I’ve no idea who that guy is,” said another delegate. “He just kinda wandered on stage and started talking. But I like him a lot.”

Herpes is an aggressive sexually transmitted viral infection, symptomized primarily by unsightly, weeping sores on the lips and genitals.

Some ICANN community members have already questioned whether finding a cure is within ICANN’s narrow technical mandate.

“This is mission-creep, pure and simple,” academic or something Milton Mueller blogged. “The cure for herpes, along with All Other Things, should be subject to free market forces.”

Mueller pointed to Chehade’s surprise appearance last week at the National Congress of Theoretical Physicists, during which he committed ICANN to preventing the heat death of the universe, as further evidence that ICANN is acting outside its remit.

Members of the domain name industry also expressed outrage.

Donuts, which has applied for .herpes, claimed Chehade’s speech threatened to interfere with its business model.

“If ICANN cures herpes, who’s going to defen… who’s going to register a .herpes domain name?” CEO Paul Stahura said.

The trademark community cautiously welcomed Chehade’s plans, but said they did not go far enough to protect rights holders.

“For too long, herpes has caused irritation for many in the IP community,” said Intellectual Property Constituency chair Kristina Rosette. “Not to mention widespread squatting problems.”

But ICANN should take care to protect the rights of HerpesTM, a popular brand of canned soup in Latin America, she added.

Meanwhile, DotConnectAfrica pointed to a throwaway line in Chehade’s speech as unambiguous proof of an illegal conspiracy against its .africa bid involving ICANN, DI, the Freemasons, the Illuminati, the Rosicrucians, the Bilderberg Group and the Ku Klux Klan.