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Afilias to extend abuse policy to .pro

Six months after acquiring RegistryPro, Afilias wants approval to extend its existing anti-abuse policy into the .pro gTLD.

The company has filed a Registry Services Evaluation Process request with ICANN for its Anti-Abuse Policy, which is apparently much the same as the one in place at .info for the last four years.

The policy would formally allow Afilias to take down .pro sites in cases of phishing, malware and other types of broadly condemned network abuse. It doesn’t appear to cover wedge issues such as cybersquatting.

Earlier this year, a DI PRO survey found that .pro was, by a large margin, the gTLD with the most instances of apparent cybersquatting among the world’s top 100 brands.

However, .pro has never been particularly known as a haven for other types of abusive practice, possibly due to the verification loops registrants need to jump through to get their domains resolving.

I understand that cleaning up and reinvigorating .pro’s image has been put firmly on the Afilias agenda in recent months. It’s a great string, and I reckon it could do well with the proper marketing.

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Go Daddy, Neustar and eNom join White House fake pharma takedown project

Kevin Murphy, July 26, 2012, Domain Policy

Big name companies from the domain name industry are among those leading a new White House-backed project aimed at tackling bogus internet pharmacies.

DI first reported on the formation of the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies back in December 2010, but it only fully announced itself on Monday this week.

It’s a US-based public-private partnership that counts Go Daddy, Neustar and eNom among its members. Other participants include Google, Microsoft, PayPal and Yahoo.

The project was announced along with officials from the US Department of State and the Food and Drug Administration at an event in Washington DC earlier this week.

The goals are consumer education and enforcement action against “rogue” pill sites.

Go Daddy’s acting general counsel Nima Kelly said in a statement:

Go Daddy’s partnership with the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies is to help create awareness and fund educational campaigns in conjunction with the FDA. Go Daddy is also hosting the safemedsonline.org site pro bono.

Neustar vice president of business affairs Jeff Neuman, who’s also treasurer of CSIP, told us:

the overall goals of CSIP include providing a neutral forum for sharing relevant information about illegal US internet pharmacies among members and aiding law enforcement efforts where appropriate.

Neustar is working with the rest of the partners to address rogue pharmacies at their very source—their web addresses. Neustar has been and will continue to be vigilant in taking down rogue sites that contain malware and those that do not comply with our acceptable use policies – which include compliance with applicable drug laws.

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DotConnectAfrica — disconnected from reality?

DotConnectAfrica’s campaign for .africa (or .dotafrica, depending who you talk to) is getting increasingly weird.

As you may recall, DCA is the Mauritius-based company, headed by the charismatic and telegenic entrepreneur Sophia Bekele, which has been campaigning for a .africa gTLD for the last few years.

It “accidentally” applied for “.dotafrica” — a sign of almost mind-boggling incompetence — instead of the intended “.africa”, but remains confident that ICANN will allow it to change its application to correct the error.

Despite these failings, the firm has put a lot of hard work raising the profile of the .africa gTLD, for which it should be commended. Unfortunately, it’s not going to win.

If anyone is going to get the .africa registry contract, it’s the other applicant: Uniforum, the South African ccTLD registry.

Despite this painful truth, DCA appears to be in denial.

Take this op-ed, published yesterday on CircleID.

In it, somebody from DCA (the piece does not have a byline) states:

DotConnectAfrica remains a strong contender for the DotAfrica string name and actually stands the best chance of being awarded the mandate to operate the .AFRICA gTLD registry

What’s the basis for this confidence?

[DCA] has adhered to, and respected all the guidelines of the new gTLD programme, in addition to accepting ICANN’s oversight of the entire process, unlike UniForum which might be penalized for wrongly attributing the rights of DotAfrica gTLD to the AU [African Union] instead of ICANN in direct contravention of the new gTLD programme guidelines

DCA is essentially saying that ICANN, and not the African Union, should be the body that gets to decide who should run .africa.

That’s true. It’s also complete rubbish.

Nobody, not even DCA, denies that .africa is a “geographic” gTLD application, as defined by the Applicant Guidebook.

You may have noticed that in the current new gTLD round there are no applications that are both “geographic” and contested by multiple applicants. There’s a good reason for that.

According to ICANN’s rules: “If an applicant has applied for a gTLD string that is a geographic name (as defined in this Guidebook), the applicant is required to submit documentation of support for or non-objection to its application from the relevant governments or public authorities.”

Geographic gTLDs only get approved if the government(s) of that geographic region don’t object, in other words.

These letters of support or non-objection are not being published by ICANN, but the public record has quite a bit to say about which governments support which bids.

In the case of .africa, which covers a lot of countries, ICANN requires letters of support or non-objection from 60% of the nations concerned, and no more than one letter of objection from a government.

Uniforum executives told me recently that the company has this 60% support. It also has the explicit, exclusive, unambiguous support of the African Union Commission.

Here’s what the AU has to say on the matter (pdf):

the AU Commission selected UniForum SA (the ZA Central Registry Operator or ZACR), to administer and operate dotAfrica gTLD on behalf of the African community. The endorsement of the ZACR is the only formal endorsement provided by the African Union and its member’s states with regard to dotAfrica.

If DotConnectAfrica wanted to scupper the Uniforum bid, its best bet would be to lobby African governments that are not already supporting Uniforum — such as those that are not members of the AU — in order to secure more than one letter of objection.

That wouldn’t give DCA a chance to win .africa — contested geographic gTLDs do not go to auction — but it would mean Uniforum’s bid would be rejected for want of support.

But DCA is taking a different — and completely inexplicable — approach.

In a June press release, which tried and failed to explain why DCA applied for .dotafrica instead of .africa, the company said:

Uniforum should really be worrying about the more serious problem it has on its hand, to wit: the agreement signed with the AU is with Uniforum SA/ZA Central Registry, but the putative registry operator/applicant for ‘Africa’ is UniForum SA trading as Registry.Africa.

Where is UniForum SA trading as Registry.Africa’s endorsement for ‘Africa’ gTLD? Is it the specious letter of appointment to apply for DotAfrica gTLD, or the purported agreement between the AU and Uniforum SA/ZA Central Registry? DCA Trust will be watching closely to see how UniForum will try to correct these documentation problems to ensure that no illegal acts are committed.

Did you understand that?

DCA is saying that because Uniforum plans to operate .africa under a standard “doing business as” brand of Registry.Africa — something fully disclosed in its gTLD application — its official letter of support from the AU is somehow open to debate.

To make the company look even more out of touch, DCA has recently had an unhealthy focus on the “insidious mass media manipulation” campaign that it reckons Uniforum has been waging against it. Presumably this blog post can be added to that file at DCA HQ.

I’m struggling to recall where I’ve witnessed such nutty PR before.

Oh, wait.

DotConnectAfrica, yesterday

If DCA wants to be taken seriously it’s going to have to explain — in plain, unobfuscated English — one of two things:

1) Which governments support its application (and this letter from 2009 doesn’t count).

2) Why the 60% rule does not apply to its .africa bid.

Until either of those things are clarified, DCA’s messaging is just a confusing mess.

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.sx denies .sex gTLD objection rumor

Kevin Murphy, July 26, 2012, Domain Services

The CEO of SX Registry has denied rumors that the company already plans to object to the two .sex new gTLD applications, but has not yet ruled out such a move.

The company runs Sint Maarten’s new ccTLD, .sx, and gossip at the ICANN meeting in Prague last month suggested that an objection or two against .sex might be made on confusing similarity grounds.

The rumors were fueled in part by SX Registry’s sexy launch marketing.

But in a recent email to DI, Normand Fortier wrote:

At this time SX Registry is still reviewing the impact of various gTLD applications and contrary to some published rumors, has not taken any official position or decision regarding a future course of action.

Existing ccTLD operators are allowed to file String Confusion Objections against gTLD applications, if they feel there’s a risk of confusion if the gTLD is approved.

And .sx/.sex is far from a unique case.

In fact, of the 375 applications for three-letter gTLDs in the first round, 304 have only one character variance with one or more existing ccTLDs, according to DI PRO’s string similarity analysis.

ICANN’s Sword algorithm, which compares the visual similarity of strings, gives .sex a score of 57% against .sx.

I’ve checked every three-character gTLD application against every existing ccTLD and found dozens of proposed gTLDs with much higher similarity scores when compared to ccTLD strings.

The full results are available to DI PRO subscribers over here.

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ICANN begins evaluating new gTLD applications

ICANN has already started formally evaluating some of the 1,930 new generic top-level domain applications it has received, according to sources.

Technical and financial evaluations are believed to have been going on for several days at the three outside firms ICANN has contracted with – Ernst & Young, KPMG and JAS Global Advisors.

ICANN staff said a few times during the Prague meeting last month that July 12 was the kick-off date for evaluations, but I’m led to believe they may have started a little later than that.

Nevertheless, they’re underway.

What’s not yet known is how – or if – the 1,930 applications will be batched into more manageable chunks.

The last official word from ICANN came on June 28, when Cherine Chalaby, chair of the board’s new gTLD program committee, said an update would be provided in about three weeks.

With that admittedly vague deadline now in the past, we can only assume that the publication of a new timetable is imminent.

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