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Former ICANN VP calls bull on Beckstrom’s exit speech

Kevin Murphy, June 26, 2012, Domain Policy

If you were following DI on Twitter during the opening ceremony of ICANN 44 yesterday, you may have noticed I only tweeted one direct quote from incoming CEO Fadi Chehade.

I pulled this one line out of what was a fairly long and passionate address because I had a “hunch” what might be coming up next when outgoing CEO Rod Beckstrom took the stage for the final time.

Now, former ICANN vice president of corporate affairs Paul Levins has called out his old boss for taking credit where credit may not be due.

Beckstrom said, during his opening remarks:

My first day on the job, I was given a blank sheet of paper and I was told that the Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Commerce of the US government was not going to be renewed by ICANN.

And I was told, “You better come up with something better and you have to get it done in 90 days because the MoU is going to expire.”

Together we worked and we created the Affirmation of Commitments.

The MoU and the AoC which replaced it have been ICANN’s primary statements of legitimacy with the US government, spelling out its responsibilities to the internet community.

Levins, writing on CircleID last night, calls Beckstrom out on the statement.

We were not starting with a blank piece of paper. It’s to his credit that he allowed that to continue, but it’s not healthy to perpetuate a belief that what replaced the Joint Project Agreement — the Affirmation of Commitments (AoC) — was miraculously developed in the space of only weeks prior to the expiration of the JPA — that an accountability rabbit was pulled from the hat.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It was ultimately the result of ten years of community effort.

But in the lead up to the JPA expiry, the direct negotiating and writing team was me, Theresa Swinehart and importantly — from the Department of Commerce (DoC) — the willing, creative and sincere cooperation of Fiona Alexander and Larry Atlas the then Senior Advisor at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Communication at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

The first written draft of the AoC had been produced over the eight months prior to Beckstrom’s arrival, Levins writes.

It’s fairly well known that Levins was one of the first people to lose his job under Beckstrom, but several others who were on ICANN staff at the time have confirmed to DI that the AoC was developed as Levins says.

His op-ed doesn’t strike me, in that light, as a full case of sour grapes.

Levins, who seems to be one of the many ICANN attendees who was impressed by Chehade’s debut address yesterday, signs off his editorial with what could be considered advice to both Chehade and Beckstrom:

…truth and sincerity is what should continue to drive the AoC’s ongoing implementation. But it should also drive the corporate memory of its creation.

Humility was a personality trait that ICANN specifically asked for when it advertised the CEO’s job earlier this year.

Judging by the reactions of ICANN 44 attendees who listened to Chehade’s speech yesterday — and have met him — humility is something Chehade appears to possess in buckets.

Everybody I’ve spoken to so far is impressed with the new guy, though some have also pointed out that they felt the same way this time in 2009.

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ICANN gives Verisign’s .com contract the nod

ICANN’s board of directors has approved Verisign’s .com registry agreement for another six years.

In a closed meeting on Saturday, the results of which have just been published, the board decided against making any of the changes that had been suggested by the community.

There had been a small uproar over the fact that Verisign will retain the right to increase its .com registry fee by 7% in four out of the next seven years.

The new contract also rejiggers the fees Verisign pays ICANN to bring them more into line with other registry agreements. As a result, ICANN will net millions more in revenue.

Other parties had also asked for improved rights protection, such as a mandatory Uniform Rapid Suspension system, and for the current restrictions on single-character domain names to be lifted.

But the board decided that “no revisions to the proposed .COM renewal Registry Agreement are necessitated after taking into account the thoughtful and carefully considered comments received.”

The agreement will now be forward to the US government for approval. Unlike most registry contracts, the Department of Commerce has the right to review the .com deal.

The current contract expires November 30.

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Batching session provides more questions than answers

Kevin Murphy, June 24, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN plans to start evaluating new generic top-level domain bids on schedule July 12, despite the fact that its digital archery application batching system is offline.

That’s according to senior vice president Kurt Pritz, who told a session of the GNSO Council here in Prague this morning that “we want to ensure evaluations start taking place as scheduled”.

Due to the large amount of contention it seems most likely that there will be three batches, he said, which will take 15 months to process through Initial Evaluation.

Teams at ICANN’s outside evaluators – Ernst & Young, KMPG et al – are already doing test evaluations in order to “calibrate” their scoring for consistency, Pritz said.

Applications will be continuously sent to evaluators for processing throughout the three batches – split into batches at the “output” stage rather than the “input” stage, he said.

“We feed applications in and batches are how they are reported out,” he said.

But with the future of digital archery currently uncertain, one wonders how the “input” will be ordered.

If ICANN is set on pushing applications into the evaluation funnel by July 12, by which time the batching problem may have not been resolved, we could be faced with some weird scenarios.

Theoretically, a batch three application could be processed next month and not be spat out of the system for another year and a half. That’s my interpretation of what Pritz said, anyway, shared by some but not all people who were in the room.

More details are sure to emerge as ICANN 44 progresses…

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First new gTLD registry hub provider launches

Kevin Murphy, June 24, 2012, Domain Services

The first effort to provide a centralized “hub” between domain name registrars and new generic top-level domain registries has hit the market.

Norwegian new gTLD consultant/applicant CloudNames has launched The Registry Hub, and says it will offer more than 70% of its equity to the first companies that sign up for the service.

The problem it wants to address is that of complexity.

With hundreds of new mass-market gTLDs likely to appear over the next few years, it will be hard for registrars to keep track of them all.

The Registry Hub says it will provide a “technical, legal and commercial proxy” between registries and registrars.

It’s not entirely dissimilar to the business models of the reseller-oriented registrars that we see today.

One problem it hopes to tackle is paying registry fees.

It’s standard in the domain name industry today for registrars to pay their registry fees in advance – leaving a deposit with each of the registries they work with, which they chip away at over time.

That’s nice for the registry’s cash-flow, but it’s not going to be great for smaller registrars in a world with a few hundred new gTLDs they might want to sell.

These hub services – I’m expecting to see more announce themselves, soon — would consolidate deposits to make it commercially easier for smaller registrars to sell many more gTLDs.

Smart new gTLD registries will probably find market adoption easier if they can figure out ways to avoid this deposit problem entirely, perhaps by switching to a post-payment system.

The Registry Hub would take a small fee for each domain name registered through its service.

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Is this why digital archery is borked?

Kevin Murphy, June 24, 2012, Domain Tech

Another possible explanation has been put forward for ICANN’s suspension of digital archery, this time by one of the third-party digital archery service providers.

The ambitiously named Digital Archery Experts says it alerted ICANN to the presence of a technical problem a week ago.

Chief technology officer Dirk Bhagat described it thus:

Instead of generating the timestamp immediately, we believe the TAS timestamp generation process may be delayed by increases in system load…

Since most applicants are aiming for the 000 millisecond variance at the minute mark, this can introduce varying timestamps since applicants are shooting for the exact same second on the minute. We have also noted that our results were a lot more consistent when attempts were made to hit the target at various offsets after the minute mark, for example, aiming for 15:32:07 instead of 15:32:00.

It’s not exactly rocket science. In short, he’s saying that the TAS can’t handle too many applicants logging in and shooting at the same time; more load equals poorer performance.

This won’t be news to many applicants, some of whom saw downtime last week that seemed to be caused by a meltdown of the sluggish Citrix virtual machine software.

It also seems to be consistent with the hypothesis that the massive amount of calibration going on — much of it by digital archery service providers themselves — has caused more load than TAS can handle.

With only 20% of applications currently assigned a timestamp, and only a week left on the clock, the situation could only have been exacerbated by lots of last-minute arrows being fired.

While digital archery may be conceptually similar to grabbing a dropping domain or hitting a landrush, it seems pretty clear that TAS is not as redundantly provisioned as the typical registry SRS.

Bhagat said that ICANN could mitigate the impact of the problem by separating timestamp generation as much as possible from the parts of the infrastructure impacted most by system load.

This might all be academic, however.

ICANN suspended digital archery yesterday, a day after new gTLD program director Michael Salazar quit for reasons unknown.

Digital archery and batching are high on the agenda here at ICANN 44 in Prague, and many attendees hope that the controversial system may be gone for good before the week is out.

That includes some members of the Governmental Advisory Committee, which in an open meeting yesterday seemed to be coming to the conclusion that it would advise ICANN to ditch digital archery.

The GAC and the ICANN’s board’s new gTLD program committee are having their first public facetime this afternoon at 1630 local time, at which a better sense of how both plan to proceed might emerge.

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