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Your first look inside ICANN’s new global HQ

Kevin Murphy, June 20, 2012, Gossip

After over a decade, ICANN moved its global headquarters from the LA suburb of Marina Del Rey to a new location a few miles down the road in Playa Vista this week.

Now, thanks to the magic of Facebook, I can bring you the exclusive first photograph from inside the building.

Methane Alarm

Playa Vista, it turns out, already had substantial build-ups of methane before ICANN showed up.

I can’t help but feel that the new tenants can only exacerbate things.

It’s well known to environmentalists that bovine flatus is a leading cause of atmospheric methane. I sincerely hope that Playa Vista’s ecology can handle its new influx of concentrated bullshit.

The TLD Song: an instant classic

Kevin Murphy, June 18, 2012, Gossip

I may not agree with all of Lauren Weinstein’s views on ICANN’s new generic top-level domain expansion, but damn, the man can spoof a Gilbert & Sullivan song.

Check out Weinstein’s blog for the lyrics and a downloadable MP3.

Kudos, sir.

Venue has “more reservations than bedrooms” for ICANN Prague

Kevin Murphy, June 9, 2012, Gossip

Anyone fancy a twos-up with another ICANN attendee in Prague?

The Hilton Prague Hotel has apologized for screwing up delegates’ reservations for the June 23-28 public ICANN meeting, and has reconfirmed the reservations of those affected.

But it’s told ICANN that it still doesn’t have enough rooms for that week. In a letter to ICANN meeting organizers, dated June 6, the hotel wrote:

The Hilton Prague still has more reservations than bedrooms for the period of the ICANN meeting, but both the Hilton Prague and ICANN event organizers are together working on minimizing the overbooking situation in order to be able to accommodate as many ICANN attendees as possible.

Not exactly encouraging, is it?

The overbooking problem seems to have been caused by the hotel running a special ICANN reservation system in parallel with its regular system, but not correctly linking the two.

Speculating, this might mean that only those who booked through official channels were affected.

Speculating further, it might also mean that those who booked independently are at risk of losing their reservations, should the Hilton decide to prioritize known ICANN delegates.

Even if I’m wrong on both counts, it does appear that not everyone who booked at the Hilton for the meeting will be staying where they hoped.

Hilton Prague screws over ICANN delegates

Kevin Murphy, June 2, 2012, Gossip

Lots of people attending ICANN’s public meeting in Prague later this month are complaining that the venue, the Hilton Prague Hotel, has rebooked them into hotels miles away.

It’s not clear how widespread the problem is, but I’d guess dozens of people are affected, judging by the chatter.

Amusingly, given recent events, it appears that a technical glitch with the hotel’s booking system is to blame.

One attendee, who was bumped to a hotel an hour’s walk away from the venue, was told the rebooking was “due to the unexpected circumstances with the reservation system”.

The Hilton is the venue and the first-choice hotel for the week-long meeting. ICANN had negotiated a special rate for attendees.

It’s not the first snafu to hit a meeting hotel recently. Last October, the venue one of the hotels chosen for the meeting in Dakar, Senegal, was slammed as smelly, dirty and insecure by many delegates.

However, with regard to the Prague snafu, I’ve been unable to confirm whether ICANN has filed an official complaint with the Czech minister of telecommunications yet.

While DI is attending Prague, your humble reporter is not affected by the mix-up. I’ll be sleeping on public transport and doing my morning ablutions in McDonald’s as usual.

Ombudsman reports on ICANN 43 “girls” scandal

Kevin Murphy, April 4, 2012, Gossip

ICANN Ombudsman Chris LaHatte has delivered his official report on the ICANN 43 sexism controversy.

As you may recall, during the ICANN 43 meeting in Costa Rica last month, domain name lawyer John Berryhill complained to LaHatte about a booth operated by Czech ccTLD operator CZ.nic.

Marketing ICANN 44, which CZ.nic is hosting in Prague this June, the booth offered cartoon postcards advertising “girls” as one of several reasons — alongside “beer”, “culture” etc — to attend the meeting.

Berryhill complained that the cards objectified women and were inappropriate for an ICANN meeting.

LaHatte writes:

The complainant says the use of the postcard was demeaning to women and an unnecessary objectification of them.

After some discussion, they [CZ.nic] understood the way in which this was seen, from another perspective, and quickly agreed to remove the postcards as an option in the kiosk display. What they saw as a light-hearted tribute to attractive woman in the Czech Republic, they then were able to see as offensive to others. Because they were so ready to perceive and accept the alternative view, it was not necessary to take any further action

A presentation by CZ.nic later in the week at the Costa Rica meeting eschewed any mention of the cards in question.

In the interests of disclosure, since first reporting this story I’ve discovered that Berryhill discovered the postcards via one of my own tweets, so I’m probably partly responsible for creating my own controversy here.

ICANN’s secret “penthouse-level” domain program

Kevin Murphy, April 1, 2012, Gossip

Filthy with cash from incoming new gTLD applications, ICANN is secretly working on a new “penthouse-level domains” project, DomainIncite has learned.

The program, detailed in leaked emails (pdf) between senior ICANN executives, will open up the space to the right of the final, overlooked dot in a fully-qualified domain name.

The new “pLD” project will allow brand owners, for example, to apply to run a domain name to the right of their newly acquired dot-brand gTLD, creating new marketing opportunities.

Penthouse-level domains are believed to be the brainchild of outgoing CEO Rod Beckstrom.

“I figured I may as well torpedo the whole fucking joint on my way out,” he said, stuffing ICANN’s air-conditioning system with three-day-old sushi.

Officially, ICANN expects the program to be warmly welcomed by the trademark community

“The most common complaint we hear from dot-brand gTLD applicants is that they have no idea what to put at the second level,” said ICANN spin doctor Brad White.

“Do you use www.canon or www.canon.canon?” he said. “It’s confusing. But with a penthouse-level domain such as, I dunno, .com, Canon would be able to have www.canon.canon.com”.

“Companies that missed the dot-brand gTLD deadline would be able to apply for dot-brand pLDs instead, enabling addresses such as www.canon.com.canon,” he said. “And that’s much simpler.”

Sixteen new rights protection mechanisms have been created, all of which are expected to be so carefully balanced as to be essentially useless.

The new pLD application fee is likely to be set at $185,000 per character, according to sources, $175,000 of which has been earmarked for Jones Day’s cocaine bill.

Registry service providers have welcomed the penthouse-level domains move and today dismissed criticisms that the program places too high a financial burden on rights holders.

“The important thing you have to remember is that applying for a new penthouse-level domain isn’t the same as simply registering a gTLD,” said an Afilias spokesperson.

“The further to the right a word is on your screen, the more expensive it is to manage,” he said. “It stands to reason, right? Right? Yeah, well it does, trust me. We’re the experts.”

“And so are we,” said AusRegistry CEO Adrian Kinderis.

A burgeoning ecosystem of consultants is already emerging to support the pLD concept.

Mike Berkens and Monte Cahn today announced the launch of Right Of The Right Of The Dot Inc and, just in case, they have also defensively registered rightoftherightoftherightofthedot.com.

Minds + Machines also revealed it has ambitious plans to apply for dozens of new penthouse-level domains.

“We’re going to wait and see what pLDs others plan to apply for, then apply for those too,” said CEO Antony Van Couvering.

But other parts of the ICANN community have received the news with less enthusiasm.

“My name is Marilyn Cade,” said Business Constituency chair Marilyn Cade, before saying some other things that I forgot to write down.

“We’re completely opposed to new pLDs,” said CADNA’s Josh Bourne. “That’s why I’m proud to announce the launch of our reasonably priced new pLD consulting service.”

“And we’re doubly proud to announce that we’ve hired Steve Crocker to run it,” he added.

In related news, Paul Foody and George Kirikos were both found dead at the bottom of a cliff this morning in what police are describing as an apparent suicide pact.

“Goodbye cruel world,” said ICANN’s Filiz Yilmaz, reading from a laptop on Kirikos’ behalf.

***

Based on an idea by Barry Shein.

Hot girls land CZ.nic in hot water

Kevin Murphy, March 13, 2012, Gossip

Czech domain name registry CZ.nic has been told off by the ICANN Ombudsman for a sexist display at its booth here at the ICANN 43 meeting in Costa Rica.

The company, which will host ICANN 44 in Prague, is currently running a light-hearted promotion whereby attendees can claim a free public transport pass if they choose from a selection of postcards illustrating what they’re “most looking forward to” at the June meeting.

Options include historical sites, beer, and nightlife. And until this morning, you could also choose “girls”. There was no equivalent “boys” option.

I’m not the most tactful person in the world, but even I found the CZ.nic booth a bit icky.

So, apparently, did somebody else.

ICANN Ombudsman Chris LaHatte confirmed that he received a complaint today and stepped in to ask CZ.nic’s reps to remove the offending postcards, which they did.

LaHatte confirmed that the booth display did not meet ICANN’s longstanding Expected Standards of Behavior, which states in part that participants must:

Treat all members of the ICANN community equally, irrespective of nationality, gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or beliefs, disability, age, or sexual orientation.

It’s no secret that ICANN meetings, like most tech conferences, can be a bit of a sausage-fest at times, but there are hundreds (probably) of women in attendance too.

At recent meetings, the DNS Women’s Breakfast has become a regular networking event.

(Which, come to think of it, is a closed session and therefore probably a bit sexist too).

UPDATE: For all the pervs demanding photographic evidence in the comments, prepare to be disappointed.

Girls

DomainIncite turns two

Kevin Murphy, February 28, 2012, Gossip

I almost forgot. Actually, I did forget.

Yesterday was DomainIncite’s second birthday.

It was an eventful year for the site, reflecting an eventful year for the industry. We broke a metric ton of domain name news and our page view and unique reader counts more than doubled.

And of course we launched DomainIncite PRO, our subscription-supported analysis service. For PRO, we’ve brought on board two new contributing analysts already, with a third hopefully coming soon.

As this is the one day of the year I let the Chinese wall in my head crumble, I’d like to give my annual shout-out to all of DI’s advertisers, past and present. Your support is very much appreciated.

As readers with young children in their families will know, two is the age at which kids start becoming aggressive, pain-in-the-ass monsters that will stop at nothing when it comes to seeing what they can get away with.

Just sayin’.

Anyway, it’s all good. Happy birthday me.

Five amusing Twitter accounts to follow

Kevin Murphy, January 29, 2012, Gossip

One of the good things about Twitter is that there’s no Whois (yet), which makes it fertile ground for pseudonymous humor.

Here are the five bogus domain humor tweeters I find amusing.

No, before you ask, none of these are me. I’ve only written one thing under a fake identity since I launched DI.

@BobRecstrum

Bob tweets in-character as a “heightened” version of ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom.

He’s basically a globe-trotting narcissist hippy with delusions of grandeur and an obsessive penchant for taking panoramic iPhone photos of himself shaking hands with world leaders.

His avatar, inexplicably, is Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Bob Recstrum

@thereforeICANN

This account, which usually offers a satirical view of ICANN proceedings, typically peaks during its thrice-yearly public meetings.

Whoever is responsible for this account has clearly been around ICANN for a while – s/he goes to the meetings, reads the web site, and knows what’s coming before it happens.

@dns_borat

This one’s for the geeks. Imagine everyone’s favorite Kazakhstani roving reporter, but he’s a DNS administrator.

That’s pretty much it really.

@DotSucks

This account was only created in the last few days. I’d hazard a guess that it has links to the adult entertainment industry, due to the obvious anti-.xxx sentiment on display.

The premise, of course, is that new gTLDs are basically a massive shakedown. Shows promise.

(I’ll note that the first time I heard of .sucks back in 2000 when it was floated by then-chair of ICANN Esther Dyson, ironically now one of the new gTLD program’s highest-profile critics.)

@domainhumor

This one is slightly different for two reasons: 1) I know who it is. 2) He/she has not tweeted much funny stuff lately.

I follow it in the hope that this might change one day.

Outrage as bookshop drops apostrophe

Kevin Murphy, January 12, 2012, Gossip

The lunatic fringe of the British press is having a field day today with the news that high-street bookseller Waterstone’s has changed its name to Waterstones.

The apostrophe has been dropped to make the brand more domain name friendly, according to managing director James Daunt.

“Waterstones without an apostrophe is, in a digital world of URLs and email addresses, a more versatile and practical spelling,” he reportedly said.

The Daily Mail, never a rag to avoid pandering to traditionalists, said the rebranding “sparked outrage among customers and punctuation experts”

It quoted the chairman of the Apostrophe Protection Society (which apparently actually exists) as saying “it’s just plain wrong”, missing a sitting duck opportunity for a funny typo.