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New DNA social media site highlights “in the wild” domains

Kevin Murphy, June 18, 2015, Domain Services

The Domain Name Association has launched a new web site to show off domains, primarily new gTLD names, that have been spotted “in the wild”.

InTheWild.domains points to a Tumblr blog where members and others can share, for example, photos of billboards or promotional videos that prominently feature new domains.

“Tumblr offers the DNA a very efficient and flexible platform that will help the DNA social media team and you find and post more domains, rather on non-productive management tasks,” the DNA told members.

The site currently has a few dozen posts, such as a WePark.nyc billboard and a VSquared.rocks red carpet video.

Most listed domains are in 2012-round new gTLDs, but there’s a .info, a .us and a .co in there too. I don’t see any .com names.

The submission process appears to be open to everyone, but submissions are moderated by the DNA’s social media people.

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Grogan hopeful of content policing clarity within “a few weeks”

ICANN may be able to provide registrars, intellectual property interests and others with clarity about when domain names should be suspended as early as next month, according to compliance chief Allen Grogan.

With ICANN 53 kicking off in Buenos Aires this weekend, Grogan said he intends to meet with a diverse set of constituents in order to figure out what the Registrar Accreditation Agreement requires registrars to do when they receive abuse complaints.

“I’m hopeful we can publish something in the next few weeks,” he told DI. “It depends to some extent on what direction the discussions take.”

The discussions center on whether registrars are doing enough to take down domains that are being used, for example, to host pirated content or to sell medicines across borders.

Specifically at issue is section 3.18 of the 2013 RAA.

It requires registrars to take “reasonable and prompt steps to investigate and respond appropriately” when they receive abuse reports.

The people who are noisiest about filing such reports — IP owners and pharmacy watchdogs such as LegitScript — reckon “appropriate action” means the domain in question should be suspended.

The US Congress heard these arguments in hearings last month, but there were no witnesses from the ICANN or registrar side to respond.

Registrars don’t think they should be put in the position of having to turn off what may be a perfectly legitimate web site due to a unilateral complaint that may be flawed or frivolous.

ICANN seems to be erring strongly towards the registrars’ view.

“Whatever the terms of the 2013 RAA mean, it can’t really be interpreted as a broad global commitment for ICANN to enforce all illegal activity or all laws on the internet,” Grogan told DI.

“I don’t think ICANN is capable of that, I don’t think we have the expertise or resources to do that, and I don’t think the ICANN multistakeholder community has ever had that discussion and delegated that authority to ICANN,” he said.

CEO Fadi Chehade recently told the Washington Post that it isn’t ICANN’s job to police web content, and Grogan has expanded on that view in a blog post last week.

Grogan notes that what kind of content violates the law varies wildly from country to country — some states will kill you for blasphemy, in some you can get jail time for denying the Holocaust, in others political dissent is a crime.

“Virtually everybody I’ve spoken with has said that is far outside the scope of ICANN’s remit,” he said.

However, he’s leaving some areas open for discussion,

“There are some constituents, including some participants in the [Congressional] hearing — from the intellectual property community and LegitScript — who think there’s a way to distinguish some kinds of illegal activities from others,” he said. “That’s a discussion I’m willing to have.”

The dividing line could be substantial risk to public health or activities that are broadly, globally deemed to be illegal. Child abuse material is the obvious one, but copyright infringement — where Grogan said treaties show “near unanimity” — could be too.

So is ICANN saying it’s not the content police except when it comes to pharmacies and intellectual property?

“No,” said Grogan. “I’m saying I’m willing to engage in that dialogue and have that conversation with the community to see if there’s consensus that some activities are different to others.”

“In a multistakeholder model I don’t think any one constituency should control,” he said.

In practical terms, this all boils down to 3.18 of the RAA, and what steps registrars must take to comply with it.

It’s a surprisingly tricky one even if, like Grogan, you’re talking about “minimum criteria” for compliance.

Should registrars, for example, be required to always check out the content of domains that are the subject of abuse reports? It seems like a no-brainer.

But Grogan points out that even though there could be broad consensus that child abuse material should be taken down immediately upon discovery, in many places it could be illegal for a registrar employee to even check the reported URL, lest they download unwanted child porn.

Similarly, it might seem obvious that abuse reports should be referred to the domain’s registrant for a response. But what of registrars owned by domain investors, where registrar and registrant are one and the same?

These and other topics will come up for discussion in various sessions next week, and Grogan said he’s hopeful that decisions can be made that do not need to involve formal policy development processes or ICANN board action.

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Barclays probably not breaching contract, says ICANN compliance chief

Barclays doesn’t seem to have violated its new gTLD registry agreements, despite admitting to criminal charges related to currency manipulation, according to ICANN’s top compliance executive.

Allen Grogan, chief contract compliance officer, told DI today that a “literal” reading of the Registry Agreements for .barclays and .barclaycard would not see the bank in breach.

“As far as I know we haven’t received a formal compliance complaint about it. If we received a complaint we would investigate it,” Grogan said.

“At first blush I wouldn’t see a clear-cut violation of the literal language of the agreement,” he said.

Barclays’ suitability to be a new gTLD registry has come under the spotlight in CircleID blog posts recently, first by domainer George Kirikos and then Internet Commerce Association counsel Phil Corwin.

All RAs contain a provision that allows ICANN to terminate the contract if any officer or director of the registry is convicted of a financially-related misdemeanor or any felony.

Barclays was one of five banks that recently fessed up to felony currency market fixing charges in the US, paying a combined $2.5 billion fine.

However, as Kirikos, Corwin and now Grogan have pointed out, the RA only talks about crimes committed by officers and directors, not the companies themselves.

Grogran pointed out that to hold a corporation accountable for its crimes long after the fact might be a bit excessive.

Criminal employees and directors can be fired, but a company cannot fire itself.

“Does that means for the next hundred years ICANN or no other corporation should do business with them?” he said.

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.so leaves GMO for local provider, hikes prices

The Somalian government has switched registry provider for its .so ccTLD from GMO Registry to soNIC, apparently a local provider.

The IANA records for .so were updated yesterday to indicate that Mogadishu-based soNIC is now the technical contact.

According to the current GMO-managed registry web site, new registrations were halted June 9 and will reopen at some point after July 8, when soNIC takes over.

In the meantime, renewal prices have been cranked up.

The .so domain opened up worldwide in late 2010, having been delegated the previous year.

The new registry tried to ride the wave created by .co’s launch a few months earlier, with middling results.

soNIC will evidently “ramp up abusive use monitoring and enforcement of acceptable use policies”. I wonder if that involves anti-piracy measures (sorry).

At the time the ccTLD launched, I noted that Somalia was pretty much the worst place in the world to live.

But, just as the new registry plans to clean up its namespace, the nation itself has started to clean up its act somewhat in the meantime. It’s now only number two on the Failed State Index.

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ICANN ponders rejecting all closed generics

ICANN is thinking about rejecting all the remaining “closed generic” new gTLD applications from the current round.

According to minutes of a June 5 New gTLD Program Committee meeting published last night, ICANN is considering two options.

First, it could “prohibit exclusive generic TLDs in this round of the New gTLD Program and consult with the GNSO about developing consensus policy for future rounds”.

Or, it could initiate a “community process… to develop criteria to be used to evaluate whether an exclusive generic applicant’s proposed exclusive registry access serves a public interest goal.”

The NGPC has not yet reached a decision.

The rejection option would be fastest and easiest, but risks the wrath of companies that applied for closed generics — which were always envisaged when the new gTLD rules were being developed — in good faith.

Alternatively, developing a process to measure the applications against the “public interest” would be very time-consuming, possibly not even feasible, and would add even more delay to competing applicants.

This is one of the longest-delayed responses to the Governmental Advisory Committee’s April 2013 Beijing communique, which said “exclusive registry access should serve a public interest goal.”.

Closed generics, which ICANN now calls “exclusive access” gTLDs, are dictionary words that the applicant proposes to keep for itself, allowing no third parties to register names.

There are currently only six new gTLD applications that are stubbornly sticking to their original closed generic position.

Applicants for another 175 gTLDs have either changed their applications to allow third-party registrants or denied that they ever even planned to give themselves exclusive access.

Of the six hold-outs, three are delaying their respective contention sets while ICANN endlessly mulls the problem.

Here’s a table showing the affected strings.

Lifestyle Domain Holdings, Inc. .foodContested by Donuts and Ecyber Solutions.
Booking.com B.V..hotelsUncontested.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. .groceryWas contested by Safeway, now uncontested.
Hughes Satellite Systems Corporation.dvrUncontested.
Dish DBS Corporation.dataContested by M+M and Donuts.
Dish DBS Corporation.phoneContested by Donuts.

The applicants for the closed generics have each submitted responses explaining why they believe their proposals serve the public interest. They’re largely corporate legalese bibble.

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