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.amazon domain isn’t a slam dunk after all

Kevin Murphy, January 9, 2019, Domain Policy

Amazon’s application for the .amazon dot-brand may not be as secure as it was thought, following an ICANN decision over the Christmas period.

Directors threw out a South American government demand for it to un-approve the .amazon bid, but clarified that ICANN has not yet made a “final decision” to allow the gTLD to go live.

The Board Accountability Mechanisms Committee formally rejected (pdf) a Request for Reconsideration filed by the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, which is made up of the governments of the eight countries near that big foresty, rivery, basiny thing, on December 21.

ACTO had asked the board to overturn its October resolution that took .amazon off its longstanding “Will Not Proceed” (ie, rejected) status and put it back on the path to delegation.

Secretary general Jacqueline Mendoza last month blasted ICANN for multiple “untrue, misleading, unfortunate and biased statements”, in connection with ACTO’s purported acquiescence to the .amazon bid.

Refusing ACTO’s request, the BAMC stated that ACTO had misinterpreted the resolution, and that ICANN did not intend to delegate .amazon until Amazon the company and ACTO had sat down to talk about how they can amicably share the name.

The October resolution “could have been clearer”, the BAMC said, adding:

the Resolution was passed with the intention that further discussions among the parties take place before the Board takes a final decision on the potential delegation of .AMAZON and related top-level domains. The language of the Resolution itself does not approve delegation of .AMAZON or support any particular solution. Rather, the Resolution simply “directs the President and CEO, or his designee(s), to remove the ‘Will Not Proceed’ status and resume processing of the .AMAZON applications.”

There are pages and pages of this kind of clarification. The committee clearly wants to help to smooth over relations between ICANN and the governments.

On the face of it, there’s a slight whiff of ret-conny spin about the BAMC recommendations.

There’s some ambiguity in the public record about what the ICANN board actually voted for in October.

Shortly before the ICANN board voted to resume processing .amazon, CEO Goran Marby stated, in front of an audience at ICANN 63 in Barcelona, both that a decision to delegate was being made and that ACTO was still at the table:

what we in practice has done is, through facilitation process, constructed a shared delegation of .AMAZON where the company has or will provide commitments to the ACTO countries how the .AMAZON will be used in the future. And the decision today is to delegate it, forward it to me to finalize those discussions between the company and those countries.

And I’m also formally saying yes to the invitation to go to Brazil from the ACTO countries to their — finish off the last round of discussions.

While the new clarifications seem to suggest that ACTO still has some power to keep .amazon out of the root, the BAMC decision also suggests that the full board could go ahead and approve .amazon at the ICANN 64 meeting in Japan this March, with or without governmental cooperation, saying:

the BAMC recommends that the Board reiterates that the Resolution was taken with the clear intention to grant the President and CEO the authority to progress the facilitation process between the ACTO member states and the Amazon corporation with the goal of helping the involved parties reach a mutually agreed solution, but in the event they are unable to do so the Board will make a decision on the next steps at ICANN 64 regarding the potential delegation of .AMAZON and related top-level domains. The BAMC encourages a high level of communication between the President and CEO and the relevant stakeholders, including the representatives of the Amazonian countries and the Amazon corporation, between now and ICANN 64.

If you’ve not been following the story, ACTO has concerns about .amazon due to its similarity to the name of the rain-forest region.

Amazon the company has promised to encode cultural safeguards in its ICANN contract and offered to donate a bunch of free stuff to the countries to sweeten the deal

The current Amazon offer has not been published.

The BAMC recommendation will now be considered by the full ICANN board, which is usually just a formality.

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Chile opens .cl to all ICANN registrars

Kevin Murphy, January 9, 2019, Domain Registries

The Chilean ccTLD registry has opened its doors to all ICANN-accredited registrars, no matter where they are based.

NIC Chile, part of the University of Chile, this week announced its Registrar Agents Program, an effort to grow the TLD internationally.

Becoming .cl-accredited appears to be a relatively simple process, requiring a brief application, technical tests (it’s an EPP registry) and contract-signing.

A pilot program that kicked off in September 2016 has already attracted 11 ICANN-accredited registrars, mostly but not exclusively those in the corporate brand-protection space.

Chilean companies that want to act as registrars must go through a separate process and do not need ICANN accreditation.

There are no local presence requirements to register a .cl domain.

Today, the TLD has just shy of 575,000 registered domains, having broke through the half-million mark about three years ago.

It may be interesting to see if growth rates increase with a larger pool of registrars, but .cl is already quite broadly available at major retail registrars (presumably via gateway or reseller arrangements) so getting hold of one doesn’t appear to be problematic.

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“Please send women!” ICANN board urges

Kevin Murphy, January 7, 2019, Domain Policy

The ICANN board of directors wants more women around the table, according to recent correspondence to the independent Nominating Committee.

The recommendation to balance the genders further was among several made in a letter (pdf) to NomCom from ICANN chair Cherine Chalaby last week. He wrote:

There has been increasing sensitivity within the Board regarding gender balance, probably reflecting comparable sensitivity throughout the community. Without compromising the fundamental requirement to have Board members with the necessary integrity, skills, experience, the Board would find it helpful to have more women on the Board.

It is not specified why a greater number of women would be considered “helpful”.

Of the current 20 directors, six are women. That’s 30%, only slightly less than the proportion of women that usually attend ICANN’s public meetings.

However, two of the six are non-voting committee liaisons. The female portion of the 16 voting members is therefore a rather lower 12.5%.

Of the eight directors selected by NomCom, three are currently female.

The 2018 NomCom had 33 female and 76 male applicants, though these were for more positions than just the board of directors.

Chalaby’s letter, which “strongly encourages” NomCom to follow the board’s guidance for director selection, also shows a clear preference for incumbents.

The board is concerned that it takes new directors “a year or two to come up to speed” and that too-fast board churn could lead to a loss of “institutional knowledge”.

Combined, these two recommendations may be good news for the two first-term female NomCom appointees: Sarah Deutsch and Avri Doria, whose terms expire in November 2020.

Three male NomCom-appointed directors have terms due to expire at this year’s Annual General Meeting: Khaled Koubaa, Maarten Botterman, and Chalaby himself. Koubaa and Botterman are currently on their first three-year terms, while Chalaby is term-limited after nine years of service.

Chalaby’s letter also urges the NomCom to consider personal qualities such as intelligence, technical knowledge, management experience, domain industry independence and communication skills during their deliberations.

“While it will be a rare candidate who ticks all of the boxes on the list of additional characteristics and skill sets, the Board as a whole should do so,” Chalaby wrote.

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NamesCon names con speakers

Kevin Murphy, January 7, 2019, Domain Services

With NamesCon’s swansong Las Vegas show just a few weeks away, its agenda and speaker list is well on the way to being finalized.

Organizers recently announced Bhavin Turakhia, Haseeb Tariq and Richard Lau as speakers.

Turakhia, founder of Radix and several registrars, is perhaps best-known for selling Media.net for $900 million and for being one of India’s richest entrepreneurs. His Monday keynote has the tagline “Insights and Inspiration”.

Tariq recently join Fox, but his bread-and-butter has been founding and selling tech startups and high-end domain names. He’s speaking on portfolio pricing strategies.

Overall, the agenda seems to be heavy on speakers from .GLOBAL and affiliated business intelligence service provider RegistryOffice, which are sponsoring the conference.

I won’t be attending, sadly, this year, but these other sessions caught my eye on the agenda:

  • Akram Atallah is part of a panel discussion on data analysis on Tuesday. I believe it’s his first speaking engagement since leaving ICANN’s top brass to become Donuts CEO in mid-November. He’s outnumbered by the .GLOBAL/RegistryOffice posse, so if he has anything interesting to say it may be lost in the sales pitches. Turakhia is also on the panel.
  • Andrew Allemann (Domain Name Wire), Elliot Noss (Tucows) and Zak Muscovitch (Internet Commerce Association) are spending an hour discussing the forthcoming .com price increases after lunch on Tuesday. With no Verisign rep on stage, I’m not sure how balanced the discussion will be, but all three men are engaging speakers and the session may be worth a look.
  • Sessions on emerging technologies include a discussion of Domain Connect with speakers from GoDaddy, WP Engine and Microsoft, and a solo talk on the intersection of blockchain and DNS fromm MMX CEO Toby Hall.
  • Allemann is also hosting a yet-to-be-announced panel of domainers who chose to invest in new gTLDs, entitled “What Were They Thinking?” which may be worth a look-see.

NamesCon runs from Sunday January 26 to Wednesday January 30. Standard ticket prices are $999 or $1,349 for the VIP treatment, though I believe discounts are still available for pre-orders.

It’s the conference’s final year at the cheap-and-cheerful Tropicana hotel in Las Vegas. The organization announced last year that NamesCon Global, its annual North American event, would be moving cities.

While many regular attendees seem to think somewhere warm would be preferable — Florida or California, perhaps — I’ve also heard whispers that a Canadian relocation has not been ruled out.

Canada. In January. Time to buy shares in manufacturers of tuques, perhaps?

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Dark horse NameSilo doubles size in 2018

Kevin Murphy, January 7, 2019, Domain Registrars

Domain name registrar NameSilo says it managed to double its size in terms of cash bookings and domains under management in 2018.

The Vancouver-based company said that in 2018 it added 1.27 net new domains, an increase of 106%.

Bookings were $20.1 million, up from the $11.1 million it reported in 2017, according to the company.

NameSilo now says it has 2.49 million domains under management.

That would be a whopping 500,000 increase on the end of September, judging by the latest gTLD registry transaction reports.

The registrar is now the 17th-largest gTLD registrar by DUM, bigger than old hands such as Register.com and Name.com.

And yet I think it’s fair to say the company is a bit of a dark horse. It’s certainly managed to stay under my radar until now.

You’d be hard pressed from its web site to figure out who runs the company or where to find them, despite what ICANN registrar contracts require.

But press releases show it went public, kinda, when it backed into Canadian investment vehicle Brisio Innovations Inc last year, in a deal worth $9.5 million.

It’s now listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange, an alternative investment market, with the rather catchy ticker “URL”.

Given the rapid DUM growth, one might suspect an over-reliance on bargain-bucket new gTLDs, but that does not appear to be the case. About three quarters of its names in September were in .com.

The company credits word of mouth for its recent growth successes, and there may be some truth in that.

NameSilo performed well each month last year in terms of net transfers, often in the five-figure range. It ranked fifth in those terms in September across all gTLDs, beating the likes of Google, NameCheap and AliBaba, with almost 15% of its 90,000 net new DUM coming from transfers.

Given the much larger number of attempted adds and grace period deletes NameSilo experiences every month compared to its similarly sized peers, I rather suspect a lot of its new business is coming in via drop-catching.

The company offers customers API-only access to its platform for drop-catching deleting domains, among other purposes.

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