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Whois headed for the scrap heap in “paradigm shift”

Kevin Murphy, June 25, 2013, Domain Policy

Whois’ days are numbered.

An “Expert Working Group” assembled by ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade has proposed that the old Whois service we all love to hate be scrapped entirely and replaced with something (possibly) better.

After several months of deliberations the EWG today issued an audacious set of preliminary recommendations that would completely overhaul the current system.

Registrants’ privacy might be better protected under the new model, and parties accessing Whois data would for the first time have obligations to use it responsibly.

There’d also be a greater degree of data validation than we have with today’s Whois, which may appease law enforcement and intellectual property interests.

The new concept may also reduce costs for registries and registrars by eliminating existing Whois service obligations.

The EWG said in its report:

After working through a broad array of use cases, and the myriad of issues they raised, the EWG concluded that today’s WHOIS model—giving every user the same anonymous public access to (too often inaccurate) gTLD registration data—should be abandoned.

Instead, the EWG recommends a paradigm shift whereby gTLD registration data is collected, validated and disclosed for permissible purposes only, with some data elements being accessible only to authenticated requestors that are then held accountable for appropriate use.

The acronym being proposed is ARDS, for Aggregated Registration Data Services.

For the first time, gTLD registrant data would be centralized and maintained by a single authority — likely a company contracted by ICANN — instead of today’s mish-mash of registries and registrars.

The ARDS provider would store frequently cached copies of Whois records provided by registries and registrars, and would be responsible for validating it and handling accuracy complaints.

To do a Whois look-up, you’d need access credentials for the ARDS database. It seems likely that different levels of access would be available depending on the user’s role.

Law enforcement could get no-holds-barred access, for example, while regular internet users might not be able to see home addresses (my example, not the EWG’s).

Credentialing users may go some way to preventing Whois-related spam.

A centralized service would also provide users with a single, more reliable and uniform, source of registrant data.

Registrars and registries would no longer have to provide Whois over port 43 or the web, potentially realizing cost savings as a result, the EWG said.

For those concerned about privacy, the EWG proposes two levels of protection:

  • An Enhanced Protected Registration Service for general personal data privacy needs; and
  • A Maximum Protected Registration Service that offers Secured Protected Credentials Service for At-Risk, Free-Speech uses.

If I understand the latter category correctly, the level privacy protection could even trump requests for registrant data from law enforcement. This could be critical in cases of, for example, anti-governmental speech in repressive regimes.

The proposed model would not necessarily kill off existing privacy/proxy services, but such services would come under a greater degree of ICANN regulation than they are today.

It appears that there’s a lot to like about the EWG’s concepts, regardless of your role.

It is very complex, however. The devil, as always, will be in the details. ARDS is going to need a lot of careful consideration to get right.

But it’s a thought-provoking breakthrough in the age-old Whois debate, all the more remarkable for being thrown together, apparently through a consensus of group members, in such a short space of time.

The EWG’s very existence is somewhat controversial; some say it’s an example of Chehade trying to circumvent standard procedures. But it so far carries no official weight in the ICANN policy-making process.

Its initial report is currently open for public comment either via email direct to the group or planned webinars. After it is finalized it will be submitted to the ICANN board of directors.

The board would then thrown the recommendations at the Generic Names Supporting Organization for a formal Policy Development Process, which would create a consensus policy applicable to all registries and registrars.

With all that in mind, it’s likely to be a few years before (and if) the new model becomes a reality.

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Famous Four wins two new gTLD contention sets

Four new gTLD applications were withdrawn overnight, resolving three contention sets.

Top Level Domain holdings has pulled its bids for .review and .science, in both cases leaving subsidiaries of portfolio applicant Famous Four Media as the only remaining applicant.

Meanwhile, Famous Four withdrew its .fit application, leaving TLDH as the only remaining applicant.

Buyouts? It seems possible. The .review application passed its Initial Evaluation a month ago, so the ICANN refund due to TLDH will have been dramatically reduced.

As a publicly traded company, TLDH is likely to issue a statement at some point explaining the current state of its applications.

But one of the side effects of ICANN’s preference for private deals is that we won’t always know when two or more companies privately resolve their contention sets.

There are at least two other contention sets where I have very good reasons to believe that deals have already been done, partially resolving the set, but nothing has yet been disclosed.

Also overnight, L’Oreal’s application for .garnier, a dot-brand, was withdrawn. It’s the fifth, and probably not the last, of L’Oreal’s 14 original new gTLD application to be dropped.

Governmental Advisory Committee advice has been leveled against .fit and .review, but not .science.

UPDATE: The original version of this story erroneously reported that TLDH, rather than Famous Four, had withdrawn its .fit application. This has now been corrected. Apologies for the error.

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US and EU could be victims of ICANN power shift

Kevin Murphy, June 24, 2013, Domain Policy

Europe and North America could see an influx of new nations under changes to the way ICANN defines geographic regions, potentially diluting the influence of EU states and the USA.

Europe could soon be joined by several Middle Eastern countries, while North America could be expanded to encapsulate Caribbean nations.

The changes, which would alter the composition of key ICANN decision-making bodies, could come as a result of the Geographic Regions Review Working Group, which delivered a draft final set of recommendations over the weekend, after four years of deliberations.

Among its conclusions, the WG found that there are “anomalies” in how ICANN handles regions and that countries should have the right to move to a different region if they choose.

ICANN has long divided the world into five regions (North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean) along unique and sometimes unusual lines.

The regions are used to ensure diversity in the make-up of its board of directors, among other things. ICANN’s bylaws state that no region may have more than five directors on the board.

The working group was tasked with figuring out whether the current geographic regions made sense, whether there should more or fewer regions, and whether some countries should change regions.

ICANN’s regions as they stand today have some weirdness.

Cyprus, for example, is categorized as being in Asia-Pacific, despite it floating in the Mediterranean, being a member of the European Union and largely speaking Greek.

Mexico and most Caribbean islands are in Latin America, as far as ICANN is concerned, leaving the US, Canada and US overseas territories as the North American region’s only eight members.

Then there are anomalies relating to “mother countries”. The Falkland Islands, for example, is physically found in the Latin American region but is classified as European by ICANN because it’s a British territory.

Under changes proposed by the working group, many of these anomalies could slowly shake themselves out.

But the working group decided against forcing nations from one region into another (with an opt-out) as had been proposed in 2011. Instead, countries could choose to change regions.

This is the key recommendation:

The Working Group recommends that the Board direct Staff to prepare and maintain ICANN’s own unique organizational table that clearly shows the allocation of countries and territories (as defined by ISO 3166) to its existing five Geographic Regions. The initial allocation should reflect the status quo of the current assignments. However, Staff should also develop and implement a process to permit stakeholder communities in countries or territories to pursue, if they wish, re-assignment to a geographic region that they consider to be more appropriate for their jurisdiction.

While this looks like a free-for-all — there doesn’t seem to be anything stopping France moving to Africa, for example — in practice the working group seems to be expecting certain shifts.

For example, some Middle Eastern nations had expressed an interest in moving from Asia-Pacific to Europe, while some Caribbean island states apparently feel more aligned with North America.

Assuming the recommendations are taken on board and regional switches are approved on a case-by-case basis, both North America and Europe could soon swell to include new countries.

The working group’s recommendations would avoid the seismic shifts previously envisaged, however.

There will be no separate region for Arab states, which had been requested. Nor will there be any forced move of territories into regions different from their mother countries (which would have proved politically difficult in the case of disputed land masses such as the Falklands).

While the report is being called “final” it has been presented for public review until October, after which it will be formally sent to ICANN’s board.

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New .org contract could make registrars sign up to 2013 RAA

Registrars risk losing their right to sell .org domain names unless they sign up to the new 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement.

The change is among several proposed to Public Interest Registry’s .org Registry Agreement with ICANN, which was published for public comment over the weekend.

Amendments to the .org RA, which came to the end of its six-year term in April, are very similar to those put forward for the .info and .biz contracts last month.

But .org is a far larger and more popular TLD, putting more pressure on more registrars to sign up to the 2013 RAA, with its new Whois verification and privacy service obligations.

For registrars on the 2009 and 2001 RAAs, the clock would start ticking the day that registrars representing two thirds of all .org registrations sign the 2013 RAA.

That threshold could be met in .org if the top eight or nine registrars make the switch.

PIR would then get 60 days to tell its remaining registrars that they have 270 days to move to the new RAA. Any registrar that failed to adopt it in that time would lose its right to sell .org domain names.

As with the .info and .biz contracts, the provisions related to the 2013 RAA would only kick in if Verisign asks for the same changes for its .com and .net agreements, which may never happen.

Other changes proposed for the .org contract include:

  • Cross-ownership restrictions. PIR will be able to own a registrar under the new deal, lifting the long-standing ban on gTLD registries selling domains in their own TLD.
  • Price increases. PIR will be able to raise its .org registry fee by 10% per year, from its current level of $8.25.
  • Code of Conduct. PIR will have to abide by the same registry Code of Conduct as new gTLD operators, which contains provisions mainly related to equal registrar access.

The propose .org contract is open for public comment until August 12.

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ICANN has 99 gTLD passes but .payu ain’t one

ICANN has delivered another 100 new gTLD Initial Evaluation results this evening, with 99 passes and one failure.

The failure is the application for .payu, a dot-brand filed by a Dutch e-payments company. It’s eligible for extended evaluation, having scored a 0 on its “financial statements” question.

These are the successful applications, many of which are receiving their results well after their original due dates:

.dnp .otsuka .okinawa .media .extraspace .tickets .bradesco .mtpc .infiniti .ooo .lilly .everbank .mom .latrobe .maif .town .free .tube .wales .ist .ong .auto .shopyourway .golf .viajes .doosan .tatar .yoga .mail .chk .pru .one .medical .limo .ovh .storage .infy .desi .secure .domains .computer .racing .zara .target .pictet .music .nba .bank .goodhands .ing .sling .meme .giving .jewelry .deals .nadex .credit .one .here .luxury .cern .salon .ninja .zip .vana .lancome .tires .recipes .film .teva .auto .istanbul .grocery .web .diet .baby .support .hotel .infosys .lol .beats .vons .moscow .inc .guge .car .forsale .hsbc .energy .man .team .book .family .green .aetna .movie .politie .home .group

There are now 819 passes, 9 failures and 1,019 applications still in Initial Evaluation. Next week, we’ll pass the halfway mark, with IE due to be completed in August.

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