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Go Daddy: 6% chance somebody else wants that available reg-fee domain too

Kevin Murphy, August 10, 2012, Domain Registrars

If you’ve found an available, unregistered domain name, there’s at least a 6% chance that somebody else has also found it that very same day, according to Go Daddy.

More than 6% customer searches for available domain names are performed by more than one person each day, head of product development Richard Merdinger said in a blog post.

According to Merdinger, due to the sheer volume of searches, “more than six percent of customer searches for available domain names are performed by more than one person each day.”

The post, which was written in response to a single highly questionable allegation of “front-running”, added:

This overlap in domain name requests happens every day. As unique as customers believe their domain name ideas are, there’s more “innovation collision” than many people realize. With so many domain name registrations happening every day, there is a good probability a domain name you searched for is also being searched by someone else.

He also publishes some anonymized log data to prove his point.

There are tens of millions of domain searches on Go Daddy every day, apparently.

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Infodump: what we learned about new gTLDs today

Kevin Murphy, August 9, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN held a webinar today in which it detailed a whole lot of the current thinking about the evaluation phase of the new gTLD program, including some new deadlines and target dates.

Senior vice president and acting program head Kurt Pritz fought through a cold to give new gTLD applicants more information and clarification than they’d received since Prague in June.

These are some of the things we learned:

  • Three applications have been withdrawn already. We don’t know which ones.
  • There have been 49 requests to change applications. Again, we don’t know which ones yet. ICANN is in the process of finalizing a threshold check to allow or deny these changes, details of which it expects to publish soon.
  • “Clarifying Questions” are the new buzzword. CQs — yes, they have an acronym — are additional questions the evaluators need to ask applicants before they can score parts of their application. The vast majority of applications are going to get at least one CQ. The two-week deadline to respond to these questions, as described in the Applicant Guidebook, will likely be ignored in many cases.
  • About 90% of applications will get a CQ about their financial status. This mainly concerns their Continuing Operations Instrument, the super-complex and expensive back-up cash commitments each applicant had to secure. But applicants who got letters of credit don’t need to panic if their banks have recently had their ratings downgraded.
  • Another 40% can expect to get questions about their technical plans. Some applicants may have relied too heavily on their back-end providers to describe their security plans, it seems.
  • About half of all geographic gTLD applications have not yet supplied letters of support from the relevant government. This was already anticipated and is accounted for by Guidebook processes however, Pritz said.
  • Don’t expect an answer to the metering question any time soon. Batching may be dead, but ICANN does not expect to figure out its replacement — a way to throttle new gTLDs’ go-live dates — until October. There’s an open comment period on this and plenty more jaw-wagging to come.
  • Objections will come before Initial Evaluation results. This sucks if you’re a likely objector. The deadline for filing objections is January 12, 2013, but evaluation results are not expected until June 2013 at the earliest. This means the much cheaper option of waiting to see if an application is rejected before paying for an objection is no longer a viable strategy. But it’s good for applicants, which will get a little more visibility into their likelihood of success and their costs.
  • Contention sets will probably be revealed in November. The String Similarity Panel, which decides which gTLDs are too similar to each other to co-exist, is not expected to give its results to ICANN until late October, four and a half months after the June 13 Reveal Day — so applicants won’t know the full size of their contention sets until probably a couple of weeks after that.
  • The new gTLD public comment period will probably be extended. After several requests, ICANN is very probably going to give everyone more time to comment on the 1,930 1,927 applications, beyond the August 12 scheduled closing date. An announcement is likely on Friday.

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DI PRO offers full-text new gTLD comment search

Kevin Murphy, August 9, 2012, Domain Tech

With ICANN today saying that it is “very inclined” to extend the public comment period on new gTLD applications, I thought it timely to announce a new feature for DI PRO subscribers.

If you’ve used ICANN’s web site to try to read some of the 4,000+ comments received to date, you might have noticed that it’s not always particularly easy to find what you’re looking for.

So I thought I’d write something a bit more functional.

These are some features of the new DI PRO new gTLD public comment search engine that I don’t think the ICANN site currently offers:

Search the full text of the comments. This is useful for, say, figuring out which comments discuss particular themes or issues, or are part of organized astroturf campaigns.

Search and sort by commenter affiliation. Want to see every comment filed by Tiffany or Lego or Heinz? If the commenter has disclosed his or her affiliation, you can do that.

Search by partial commenter name. There’s no need to remember the full name of the commenter you’re looking for. First name, last name, or just a few letters will suffice.

Search by alternate applicant name. The DI PRO database understands which applications originate from the likes of Google and Donuts and Famous Four Media, even if the application has been filed by a subsidiary with a different name.

The database is updated at least twice daily, rather than in real-time, so users may find a small delay between the time a comment appears on the ICANN site and the time it is indexed by DI.

Subscribers can start searching here.

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Congressmen say new gTLDs need more comments

Kevin Murphy, August 8, 2012, Domain Policy

Senior members of the US Congress have asked ICANN to prove that it’s giving the internet community enough opportunity to comment on its 1,930 new gTLD applications.

A letter from the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate judiciary committees sent to ICANN yesterday basically implies rather heavily that, again, ICANN’s new gTLD program outreach sucks.

Sens. Leahy and Grassley, and Reps. Smith and Conyers write:

many members of the public outside the ICANN community are unaware that the New gTLD program is underway. Of those who are aware, few know about the public comment process or comprehend that their opportunity to participate in this forum is scheduled to end in less than a week.

Probably not coincidentally, the letter comes soon after requests for more time to comment from the Association of National Advertisers and the Intellectual Property Constituency.

The IPC wants another 30-45 days added to the comment period, which is currently set to close — at least for comments that will be forwarded to evaluators — this Sunday.

The Leahy letter highlights the need for comment on “potentially sensitive names like ‘.church’, ‘.kids’, and ‘.sucks'”, which should be a cause for concern for at least seven gTLD applicants.

Given who’s pulling the strings here, it’s not surprising that the letter also highlights the demands from IP interests for stronger rights protection mechanisms, such as a permanent Trademark Clearinghouse service.

They write:

ICANN’s current policy only requires the Clearinghouse to be available for the first 60 days after a registry launches. Moreover, the Clearinghouse will only give notice when someone registers a website that is identical to a trademark; not when the website contains the trademark in a varied form.

As an example, this means that a nonprofit such as the YMCA will receive notice only if a user registers a website such as www.yrnca.give or www.ymca.charity within the first 60 days of the “.give” or” .charity” registry. The YMCA would not receive notice if a person registers those names after 60 days, or if someone registers a closely related name such as www.ymcaDC.charity.

(To which I add, as an aside: and what if Intel wants to register www.buymcafee.shop?)

I think the Congressmen/ANA/IPC have a point, anyway, at least about the lack of commenting from people outside the tightly knit ICANN community.

A lot of data was released on Reveal Day, and much more has been released since.

There are 1,930 new gTLD applications.

The public portions weigh in at almost 400 MB in HTML format and generally run to between 15,000 and 50,000 words apiece.

The 20,000 published application attachments (which MD5 hashing reveals comprise close to 3,000 unique files) are currently taking up about 6 GB of space on the DI PRO server (where subscribers can cross-reference them to see which files show up in which applications).

It’s a lot to read.

That must be at least part of the reason there hasn’t been a single community-based objection comment about Google’s single-registrant .blog application yet.

For me, that’s the benchmark as to whether anyone in the real world is paying attention to this program.

I mean, seriously: no bloggers are concerned about Google using .blog as an exclusive promo tool for its third-rate blogging platform?

What’s worrying the Congressmen is that ICANN’s expensive Independent Objector is not allowed to object to an application unless there’s been at least one negative comment about it

The IO can file community-based objections on behalf of those who cannot afford to do it themselves, but it’s not at all clear yet what the cut-off date for the IO to discover these comments is.

Hopefully, when ICANN reveals its proposed evaluation timetable this week, some of these questions will be answered.

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Go Daddy opens Indian call center — a portent?

Kevin Murphy, August 8, 2012, Domain Registrars

Let’s hope this isn’t the beginning of the end for Go Daddy.

When newly installed CEO Warren Adelman abruptly quit and took a back-seat advisory role at the company last week, my gut reaction was that all is not well at Go Daddy.

CEOs of companies with new owners don’t just up and quit eight months into the job unless there are performance problems or substantial disagreements about management style, in my view.

Adelman was replaced on an interim basis by Scott Wagner of Go Daddy’s main investor, the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.

The news a couple of days later that KKR had appointed a new exec to oversee Go Daddy in India also caught my attention.

I was half tempted to write a post there and then speculating that Go Daddy was about to shift its flagship customer service operations — currently based in the US — to India.

While that news hasn’t arrived yet, the company has today confirmed that it has opened a call center in Hyderabad.

Today, the new facility appears to be limited to supporting Indian customers, according to a press release:

A team of local agents, who speak local languages, are now providing Go Daddy’s brand of award-winning customer service to Indian customers. Since opening a little more than one month ago, agents have taken more than 10,000 calls, mostly from entrepreneurs and business owners. To date, Go Daddy India now supports more than 120,000 customers.

But for how long will this be true?

Private equity firms exist to buy companies, make them more profitable, and flip them for a return on their investment. That usually means cutting costs in unpopular ways.

With the new owners in charge, I have to wonder if Go Daddy’s excellent US-based call centers — a constant source of bragging rights in the Bob Parsons era — are at risk.

It’s a lot more expensive to hire wage-slaves in Arizona than India.

I expect that decision will come down to whether Go Daddy starts to view its American call centers as a cost center, rather than a profit center, and whether it thinks it can ship the function overseas without sacrificing quality and alienating its US and other English-speaking customers.

Shipping jobs to cheaper climes might look like a no-brainer on paper, but there’s ample opportunity for #fail in this case.

If, of course, it ever happens. This article is pure speculation.

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