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ICANN bleeps brand names from new gTLDs podcast

Kevin Murphy, December 20, 2011, Gossip

Nike is a dirty word at ICANN.

At least, that’s my conclusion after listening to ICANN’s latest Start podcast on the new gTLDs program, which bleeps out the names of brands given as examples.

During a discussion between communications staffers Scott Pinzon and Michele Jourdan about the possibility of .brand top-level domains, Jourdan remarks:

If you’re looking for [BLEEP!] shoes and you go to shoes.[BLEEP!] you can be pretty sure that those are going to be actual [BLEEP!]-branded shoes.

Later, Pinzon poses a hypothetical:

I have an idea on how I think I can make a lot of money. I’m going to apply for the TLD dot-[BLEEP!] and then just hold out until a certain firm bought it from me. What are my chances?

It just sounds filthy (at least it does with my mind filling in the blanks).

Since I assume Pinzon and Jourdan would not have used words they intended to subsequently censor, I’m thinking an excessively paranoid legal department is probably to blame here.

You can download the 20-minute podcast, which is aimed at new gTLD newbies, here.

ICANN says sorry for crappy hotel complaint

Kevin Murphy, December 2, 2011, Gossip

ICANN has apologized to the government of Senegal for its uppity letter of complaint about a hotel used for its recent Dakar meeting.

As I blogged (with sarcasm) earlier this week, ICANN marketing chief Barbara Clay had written to Senegal’s telecommunications minister Moustapha Guirassy to complain that the Hotel des Almadies was not up to the expected standards.

The poor service “damaged ICANN’s reputation as well as the reputation of the Hotel and Senegal”, the letter, which has since been removed from ICANN’s web site (read it here), stated.

Clay has now written to Guirassy to apologize. The letter (pdf) reads:

The letter was sent without appropriate clearance by ICANN’s leadership and so it was not an official statement of ICANN’s position.

ICANN’s leadership, and indeed the entire ICANN community, deeply appreciate the generosity shown by Senegal in hosting our 42nd public meeting. ICANN’s leadership – and I personally – truly regret any embarrassment or distress my letter may have caused you or the Government of Senegal.

I hope you will accept this sincere expression of regret.

The $124-a-night Almadies came in for a torrent of complaints from ICANN’s At Large Advisory Committee and others due to the substandard rooms, poor wifi, rats, smells and lack of security.

Outrage! ICANN complains about crappy hotel

Kevin Murphy, November 29, 2011, Gossip

Sometimes ICANN’s love of procedure defies parody.

It’s no secret that the $124-a-night Hotel des Almadies used at its recent meeting in Dakar, Senegal, was not really up to the Club Med* standards that ICANN wonks are accustomed to.

The At-Large Advisory Committee even conducted a survey of its members after the meeting and found that a whopping 68% of them had complained to hotel management for one reason or another.

ICANN’s response?

It’s sent a letter to Senegal’s telecommunications minister, complete with a 20-page illustrated ALAC report going into excruciating detail not only about the shoddy facilities but also the policy background of the complaint.

Along with reports of rats, patchy Wi-Fi, “musty smells” and inadequate security, there are references to Resolution 2010.08.05.12, the ALAC/At-Large Improvements Implementation Project Plan, and Section 3.2.2.5 of the Travel Policy of the ALAC Review Final Report.

According to the letter, from marketing chief Barbara Clay, ICANN had received assurances that the hotel rooms would be renovated before the Dakar meeting kicked off.

Clay wrote that the hotel’s failure to follow up on its promises “damaged ICANN’s reputation as well as the reputation of the Hotel and Senegal” and she asks for compensation.

I’m guessing Rod Beckstrom’s not going to be on President Wade’s Christmas card list after all.

(*As anyone who has attended more than one ICANN meeting knows, they’re nothing but a week-long orgy of beach limbo parties, $20 cocktails and sordid sexual encounters with exotic prostitutes, all paid for by the humble internet-using public.)

Rumor mill: three stories we expect to write soon

Kevin Murphy, October 21, 2011, Gossip

File these rumors under: unconfirmed, but plausible.

Sometimes the gossip is impossible to confirm to the extent that I’m comfortable reporting it as fact, but interesting enough that I think it could use a wider airing.

Here are three examples of Stuff We’ve Heard Recently. Take it all with a great big pinch of salt.

Go Daddy to become a registry

The world’s largest registrar is poised to make an entrance into the registry market, it is whispered.

The rumors don’t go as far as to whether the company plans to apply for some new gTLDs itself, or whether it plans to become a back-end registry services provider, or something else.

But if ICANN’s new relaxed stance on vertical separation means its competitors plan to join the registry space, it seems likely that Go Daddy will want a piece of the action too.

It is already a joint-venture partner in .me registry Domen, though I believe Afilias is responsible for the technical heavy lifting at the back end.

It’s too early to speculate too much, but I’ve written before that Go Daddy is possibly the only registrar likely to catch the attention of competition watchdogs if it decides to vertically integrate.

The official word from Go Daddy when I asked for confirmation a few weeks ago was: “We have no comment and we have no formal announcement pending.”

.pro to be liberalized

Multiple sources say that the restricted .pro gTLD, which has been around but seriously under-used since 2004, is set to begin to undergo a significant liberalization soon.

I’m expecting to see operator RegistryPro, which is now owned by HostWay, file a Registry Services Evaluation Process request with ICANN in the next few weeks.

Details are sketchy, but I would not be surprised if the company says it wants to do away with its restrictive registration policy entirely.

Currently, registrants have to provide evidence of professional credentials if they want to register a .pro name, although there’s a huge loophole that allows registrations via credentialed proxies.

RegistryPro hired itself a new CEO, Karim Jiwani, in May, and it’s been broadly predicted that he plans to shake up .pro to make it more of a commercial success.

Its parent may have already put in some of the groundwork for a .jobs-style directory service – HostWay, via a shell company, registered over 40,000 US zip codes in .pro in August 2010.

MarkMonitor gets acquired

This is more speculation than rumor.

There’s a wave of M&A activity in the domain name industry, as companies prepare for introduction of new gTLDs, and one of the potential growth areas is brand management.

With hundreds of new gTLDs likely to launch over a relatively short space of time, companies such as MarkMonitor could find their services in more demand than ever.

Whenever I ask anyone which registrars they think are likely to be hit by the consolidation bug, MarkMonitor is always on the shortlist.

The private company is backed by venture capitalists which will no doubt be looking to execute an exit strategy sooner or later, but the list of potential buyers is quite small.

Consider it a hunch, for now.

The DI Dakar Drunk-Dial Domain Dirt Dropbox

Kevin Murphy, October 19, 2011, Gossip

For the first time since DomainIncite launched, I’m skipping an ICANN meeting.

While many regular readers will be landing in Dakar, Senegal, over the next few days, I’ve decided this time to cover the meeting remotely.

For a reporter, in many ways remotely participating in ICANN meetings is a far easier proposition than actually being on the ground.

There’s no running around looking for power points to charge the laptop, no sweltering heat or icy air-con to contend with, no risk of almost getting mugged because you could only afford a hotel in the cheap end of town, very little danger of being forced to speak French.

The drawback of course is that the true value of an ICANN meeting isn’t in the uniformly webcast or magically transcribed sessions themselves.

It’s in the furtive hallway conversations, the over-the-shoulder whispered comments, the drinking banter and the passionate after-hours debates in the hotel bar.

I’m going to miss all that this time around.

To compensate, I’d like to announce the launch of the DI’s very own “remote participation” mechanism.

Let’s call it the DI Dakar Drunk-Dial Domain Dirt Dropbox or, if you like acronyms, the DIDDDDDD.

Hear a bit of good gossip in the bar? Maybe there’s a rumor about a new gTLD applicant, rumblings about disquiet in the GAC, a potential new ICANN CEO candidate…

Simply email your nugget to drunkgossip@domainincite.com and I’ll treat it every bit as confidentially as I would if I was standing right next to you with a bottle of Bière la Gazelle in my hand.

To make things more interesting, for every email sent to this address during Dakar, I’ll chug two fingers or down a shot.

Day or night, I promise.

Black Hawk Down writer pens domain name book

Kevin Murphy, October 11, 2011, Gossip

Worm — The First Digital World War, a new book from Black Hawk Down author Mark Bowden, has a surprising cast of characters culled partially from the domain name industry.

The non-fiction hardback, released this month, covers the fight against the Conficker worm, which heavily leveraged DNS to spread when it arrived on the scene three years ago.

A glance inside at Amazon shows the dramatis personæ include then-CEO of ICANN Paul Twomey, Internet Systems Consortium chair Paul Vixie and Alice’s Registry founder Rick Wesson.

Conficker, you may recall, used algorithmically generated domain names to propagate. The coordinated effort aimed at stopping it worked in part by preemptively registering those domains.

Making a readable techno-thriller out of a bunch of geeks bickering sounds like a tough call. I’ve ordered a copy, and it will be interesting to see whether Bowden pulled it off.

In the meantime, I think some harmless speculation about the movie adaptation is called for.

For Twomey, I’m thinking Russell Crowe…

German toilet provider has Best. Domain. Ever.

Kevin Murphy, September 29, 2011, Gossip

A few of us attending the newdomains.org conference in Munich this week spotted what is possibly the most inadvertently funny domain name in the history of the internet.

We found this advertised in the men’s room at Oktoberfest:

ass-container.de

It would be funny enough merely seeing that domain on a poster in a public toilet, but what makes it perfect is that the company it advertised, ASS GmbH, is in the business of providing portable toilets for large events.

Mike Berkens of TheDomains has photographic evidence of the poster itself (I don’t usually take a camera to the toilet with me) but in the absence of that photo, here’s a capture from the firm’s site.

Ass Container

ICANN revolving door: invisible whiteboard lady jumps to Afilias

Kevin Murphy, September 21, 2011, Gossip

In yet another shocking example of the unregulated “revolving door” between ICANN and powerful companies in the domain name industry, a blurry lady using an invisible whiteboard appears to be working for ICANN and Afilias at the same time.

Proof can be found in these screenshots, taken today from afilias.info and newgtlds.icann.org.

The photographs appear to have been digitally altered to disguise the mystery double-agent’s appearance, but it’s clearly the same woman.

ICANN:

ICANN clip art

Afilias:

Afilias clipart

Call your lawyers! Write to the Department of Commerce! We have ourselves a scandal!

UPDATE: She works for CentralNic too!!!

CentralNic Clip Art

Go Daddy and Joan Rivers win .CO awards

Kevin Murphy, July 20, 2011, Gossip

The .co registry .CO Internet has announced the winners of its inaugural Bulby Awards, given out to the best .co sites.

Key registrar partner Go Daddy won an award (for x.co), as did the companies’ joint Super Bowl spokesmodel Joan Rivers (for joan.co).

Go Daddy’s Bulby was for the Best Use Of A Single Letter Domain. It beat Twitter (t.co) and Overstock (o.co). Rivers beat the singer Charlotte Church for Best Personal Site.

Sociable.co beat domain blogger Elliot Silver (bahamas.co) to the Best Content award.

The winners were tallied up from votes submitted online, .CO said. The results can be found here.

Afilias does something similar for .info domains every year, but its awards have cash prizes.

VeriSign drops $150,000 on ICANN Singapore

Kevin Murphy, May 23, 2011, Gossip

VeriSign, which signed up for an unprecedented $500,000 sponsorship package for ICANN’s meeting in San Francisco, has spent a rather more modest amount for the June meeting.

The company is currently listed as a Platinum Elite sponsor for the Singapore meeting, which kicks off June 19. This tier has a list price of $150,000, though I believe ICANN’s prices are negotiable.

VeriSign’s two main registry services competitors, Neustar and Afilias, had already signed up for cheaper sponsorship tiers, with lower visibility.

It would be my guess that the company waited for its rivals to show their hands before deciding to how much it needed to spend to trump them.

The Singapore meeting may see the approval of the Applicant Guidebook for the new top-level domains program.

(UPDATE: Thanks to the reader who pointed out that ICANN will almost certainly vote to approve the renewal of VeriSign’s .net contract in Singapore.)

There are 19 sponsors for Singapore so far, but currently no takers for the two available top-tier Diamond packages, which are listed at $250,000.

The amount VeriSign coughed up for San Francisco is believed to have largely contributed to the speaking fees of former US president Bill Clinton.

ICANN expects to make about $1.2 million from its three fiscal 2011 meetings, which is less than the cost of a single meeting.