GMO Registry and Radix have won Chinese government approval for their respective new gTLDs .shop and .site.
It’s the second batch of foreign new gTLDs to get the nod from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, following .vip, .club and .xyz in early December.
They’re also the first two Asian registries from outside China to get the right to flog their domains in China — GMO is Japanese and Radix is UAE-based with Indian roots.
Their new Chinese government licenses mean Chinese registrars will now be able to allow their customers to actually use .shop and .site domains to host web sites.
The registries in turn have had to agree to enforce China’s rather arbitrary and Draconian censorship policies on their Chinese customers.
The approvals were announced by MIIT December 29.
.site currently has about 570,000 domains in its zone file, making it a top-10 new gTLD by volume, while .shop, which launched much more recently, has over 100,000.
The ability for Chinese customers to develop their domains is no doubt good for the long-term health of TLDs, but it’s not necessarily a harbinger of shorter-term growth in a market where domains are often treated little more than meaningless baseball cards to be traded rather than commodities with intrinsic value.
ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee has told ICANN it needs to do more to address the problem of name collisions before it approves any more new gTLDs.
In its latest advisory (pdf), published just before Christmas, SSAC says ICANN is not doing enough to coordinate with other technical bodies that are asserting authority over “special use” TlDs.
The SAC090 paper appears to be an attempt to get ICANN to further formalize its relationship with the Internet Engineering Task Force as it pertains to reserved TLDs:
The SSAC recommends that the ICANN Board of Directors take appropriate steps to establish definitive and unambiguous criteria for determining whether or not a syntactically valid domain name label could be a top-level domain name in the global DNS.
Pursuant to its finding that lack of adequate coordination among the activities of different groups contributes to domain namespace instability, the SSAC recommends that the ICANN Board of Directors establish effective means of collaboration on these issues with relevant groups outside of ICANN, including the IETF.
The paper speaks to at least two ongoing debates.
First, should ICANN approve .home and .corp?
These two would-be gTLDs were applied for by multiple parties in 2012 but have been on hold since August 2013 following an independent report into name collisions.
Names collisions are generally cases in which ICANN delegates a TLD to the public DNS that is already broadly used on private networks. This clash can result in the leakage of private data.
.home and .corp are by a considerable margin the two strings most likely to be affected by this problem, with .mail also seeing substantial volume.
But in recent months .home and .corp applicants have started to put pressure on ICANN to resolve the issue and release their applications from limbo.
The second incident the SSAC paper speaks to is the reservation in 2015 of .onion
If you’re using a browser on the privacy-enhancing Tor network, .onion domains appear to you to work exactly the same as domains in any other gTLDs, but under the hood they don’t use the public ICANN-overseen DNS.
The IETF gave .onion status as a “Special Use Domain“, in order to prevent future collisions, which caused ICANN to give it the same restricted status as .example, .localhost and .test.
But there was quite a lot of hand-wringing within the IETF before this status was granted, with some worrying that the organization was stepping on ICANN’s authority.
The SSAC paper appears to be designed at least partially to encourage ICANN to figure out how much it should take its lead from the IETF in this respect. It asks:
The IETF is an example of a group outside of ICANN that maintains a list of “special use” names. What should ICANN’s response be to groups outside of ICANN that assert standing for their list of special names?
For members of the new gTLD industry, the SSAC paper may be of particular importance because it raises the possibility of delays to subsequent rounds of the program if ICANN does not spell out more formally how it handles special use TLDs.
“The SSAC recommends that ICANN complete this work before making any decision to add new TLD names to the global DNS,” it says.
DotConnectAfrica’s attempt to have ICANN legally blocked from delegating the .africa gTLD to rival applicant ZACR has been denied.
The ruling by a Los Angeles court, following a December 22 hearing, means ICANN could put .africa in the root, under ZACR’s control, even before the case comes to trial.
A court document (pdf) states:
The plaintiff is seeking to enjoin defendant Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) from issuing the .Africa generic top level domain (gTLD) until this case has been resolved…
The plaintiff’s motion for the imposition of a Preliminary Injunction is denied, based on the reasoning expressed in the oral and written arguments of defense counsel.
My understanding is that the latest ruling means ICANN may no longer be subject to that injunction, but ICANN was off for the Christmas holidays last week and unable to comment.
“Sanity prevails and dotAfrica is now one (big) step closer to becoming a reality!” ZACR executive director Neil Dundas wrote on Facebook. He declined to comment further.
Even if ICANN no longer has its hands tied legally, it may decide to wait until the trial is over before delegating .africa anyway.
But its lawyers had argued that there was no need for an injunction, saying that .africa could be re-delegated to DCA should ICANN lose at trial.
DCA case centers on its claims that ICANN treated it unfairly, breaking the terms of the Applicant Guidebook, by awarding .africa to ZACR.
ZACR has support from African governments, as required by the Guidebook, whereas DCA does not.
But DCA argues that a long-since revoked support letter from the African Union should still count, based on the well-known principle of
jurisprudence the playground “no take-backs”.
The parties are due to return to court January 23 to agree upon dates for the trial.
Donuts has delayed the price increases coming to its trademark-blocking service and extended availability of the “plus” version for three more months.
Domain Protected Marks List Plus, which lets companies block brands and variations such as typos and brand+keywords across Donuts stable of 200ish TLDs, will now be available until March 31.
The price hike for vanilla DPML, which does not include the variant-blocking, has also been delayed until the end of January, the registry said.
Both deadlines were previously December 31.
DPML Plus, which grants 10-year blocks on one trademark and three variants in every Donuts TLD, has a recommended retail price of $9,999.
Retail prices for the plain DPML are reportedly going up from $2,500 per string to $4,400 for a five-year block at one registrar when the price rise kicks in. That’s a 76% increase.
Afilias’ .mobi is to become the latest of the pre-2012 gTLDs to agree to adopt the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy in exchange for lower ICANN fees.
Its Registry Agreement is up for renewal, and Afilias and ICANN have come to similar terms to .jobs, .travel, .cat, .pro and .xxx.
Afilias has agreed to take on many of the provisions of the standard new gTLD RA that originally did not apply to gTLDs approved in the 2000 and 2003 rounds, including the URS.
In exchange, its fixed registry fees will go down from $50,000 a year to $25,000 a year and the original price-linked variable fee of $0.15 to $0.75 per transaction will be replaced with the industry standard $0.25.
It’s peanuts really, given that .mobi still has about 690,000 domains, but Afilias is getting other concessions too.
Notably, the ludicrous mirage that .mobi was a “Sponsored” gTLD serving a specific restricted community (users of mobile telephones, really) rather than an obvious gaming of the 2003-round application rules, looks like it’s set to evaporate.
Appendix S to the current RA is not being carried over, ICANN said, so .mobi will not become a “Community” gTLD, with all the attendant restrictions that would have entailed.
Instead, Afilias has simply agreed to the absolute basic set of Public Interest Commitments that apply to all 2012 new gTLDs. Text that would have committed the registry to abide by the promises made in its gTLD application have been removed.
But the change likely to get the most hackles up is the inclusion of URS in the proposed new contract.
URS is an anti-cybserquatting measure that enables trademark owners to shut down infringing domains, without taking ownership, more quickly and cheaply than the UDRP.
It’s obligatory for all 2012-round gTLDs, and five of the pre-2012 registries have also agreed to adopt it during their contract renewal talks with ICANN.
Most recently, ICM Registry agreed to URS in exchange for much deeper cuts in its ICANN fees in .xxx.
In recent days, ICANN published its report into the public comments on the .xxx renewal, summarizing some predictably irate feedback.
Domainer group the Internet Commerce Association, which is concerned that URS will one day be forced upon .com and .net, had a .xxx comment that seems particularly pertinent to the .mobi news:
Given the history of flimsy and self-serving justifications by [Global Domains Division] staff and the ICANN Board for similar actions taken in 2015, we are under no illusion that this comment letter will likely be successful in effecting removal of the URS and other new gTLD RA provisions from the revised .XXX RA. Nonetheless, we strenuously object to this GDD action that intrudes upon and debases ICANN’s legitimate policymaking process, and urge the GDD and Board to reconsider their positions, and to ensure that GDD staff ceases and desists from taking similar action in the context of future RA renewals and revisions until the RPM Review WG renders the community’s judgment as to whether the URS and other new gTLD RPMs should become Consensus Policy and such recommendation is reviewed by GNSO Council and the ICANN Board.
The Intellectual Property Constituency of the GNSO, conversely, broadly welcomed the addition of more rights protection mechanisms to .xxx.
The Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group, meanwhile, expressed concern that whenever ICANN negotiates a non-consensus policy into a contract it negates and discourages all the work done by the volunteer community.
You can read the summary of the .xxx comments, along with ICANN staff’s reasons for ignoring them, here (pdf).
The .mobi proposed amendments are also now open for public comment.
Any lawyers wishing to rack up a few billable hours railing against a fait accompli can do so here.