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German geo .ruhr enters the root

Kevin Murphy, December 11, 2013, Domain Registries

Verisign today delegated the new gTLD .ruhr to the DNS root zone, making it the 35th new gTLD to go live.

It’s a geographic string, meant for residents of the north-west German region of Ruhr, operated by Regiodot.

nic.ruhr is already resolving.

Regiodot is already taking pre-registrations via approximately 10 signed-up registrars, which all appear to operate in German-speaking countries.

The Ruhr (in German, it’s short for Ruhrgebiet) has over eight million inhabitants, according to Wikipedia, making the potential market for .ruhr larger than many European ccTLDs.

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Win free tickets to NamesCon Las Vegas (even if you’ve already paid)

Kevin Murphy, December 9, 2013, Domain Services

We’ve got five (FIVE!) free tickets to NamesCon to give away to lucky DI readers.

NamesCon is “a pro-new TLDs conference” happening at the Tropicana hotel in Las Vegas from January 13 to 15, 2014.

It’s being organized by domain investor Richard Lau, Jothan Frakes (Domain Roundtable, DomainFest), and Jodi Chamberlain of 32Events (TRAFFIC, Domaining Europe)

NamesCon seems to be planning something a bit different when compared to new gTLD conferences held to date, judging by the speaker line-up, in that there’s more of a crossover between the ICANNer-heavy new gTLD industry and the traditional domainer community.

There’s a whole bunch of confirmed speakers and panelists (including yours truly) and the organizers tell us that over 300 people have so far registered to attend.

Tickets currently cost $399 (it’s $749 on the door) but we have five passes to give away to DI readers.

The organizers tell me that if any of the winners have already purchased a ticket, they’ll get a full refund.

To enter the draw, just leave an answer to the following question (set by NamesCon) in the comments section of this post.

What’s the best way to explain the benefits of new gTLDs to somebody from outside the domain industry?

Winners will be selected from comments using a random number generator at the weekend.

The prizes are 100% discount codes for full conference passes. You’ll still have to arrange and pay for your own travel and accommodation.

If you cannot or do not intend to attend, but still feel compelled to leave a comment, please say so, so I can be sure to exclude you from the draw.

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ICANN will have to make a call on .islam

Kevin Murphy, December 9, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN is going to have to decide whether to approve the new gTLDs .islam and .halal, after the Governmental Advisory Committee punted the issue.

GAC chair Heather Dryden told ICANN chair Steve Crocker last week (pdf) that the GAC will not provide ICANN with the clarity it so wanted on the two controversial gTLDs.

“[T]he GAC concluded its discussions on these applications with the advice provided in the Beijing Communiqué,” Dryden said. “Accordingly, no further GAC input on this matter can be expected.”

ICANN is therefore left with the following advice:

The GAC recognizes that Religious terms are sensitive issues. Some GAC members have raised sensitivities on the applications that relate to Islamic terms, specifically .islam and .halal. The GAC members concerned have noted that the applications for .islam and .halal lack community involvement and support. It is the view of these GAC members that these applications should not proceed.

My take on this is that the GAC has provided what is often called a “non-consensus” objection, which I believe triggers one of the vaguest parts of the Applicant Guidebook.

One of the three types of GAC Advice on New gTLDs reads:

The GAC advises ICANN that there are concerns about a particular application “dot-example.” The ICANN Board is expected to enter into dialogue with the GAC to understand the scope of concerns. The ICANN Board is also expected to provide a rationale for its decision.

It seems pretty obvious now that ICANN’s board — nowadays its New gTLD Program Committee — is expected to make a decision whether to accept or reject .islam and .halal.

It would be the first time that ICANN has had to decide whether to reject a gTLD for public policy reasons without the full backing of the GAC in this application round.

It faced a similar conundrum in the 2003 round — albeit using different rules of engagement — when it had to decide the fate of .xxx (which it obviously chose to approve).

The applicant for .islam and .halal is Turkey-based Asia Green IT System.

The Organization for Islamic Cooperation, which claims to represent 1.6 billion Muslims, does not support the bids. It backed two formal Community Objections to the applications, which both failed.

The OIC’s Council of Ministers is meeting this week in Conakry, Guinea, and is expected to come out with some kind of formal statement opposing Islamic-oriented gTLDs that lack support.

The strength of that statement may prove decisive when ICANN comes to consider the issue.

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Jetpack Domains hit with ICANN breach notice

Kevin Murphy, December 9, 2013, Domain Registrars

A small Californian registrar has been sent a contract breach notice by ICANN.

ICANN says Irvine-based Jetpack Domains has failed to comply with a scheduled audit, breaking the terms of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement that require it to supply records on demand.

The company has until January 2 to provide ICANN with the data it has asked for or risk losing its accreditation, ICANN said (pdf).

Jetpack, which had fewer than 6,000 gTLD domains under management at the last count, appears to use DomainCocoon for registrar management services.

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ICANN floats new rules for dot-brands

Kevin Murphy, December 9, 2013, Domain Registries

Dot-brand gTLDs could get big exemptions to the standard new gTLD Registry Agreement under new rules published for public comment by ICANN over the weekend.

The proposed changes were negotiated by ICANN and the Brand Registry Group, a coalition of dot-brand applicants that one day plans to become a formal part of ICANN’s policy-making structure.

“The changes will allow trademark owners who have applied for new TLDs to promote and maintain trust in their .Brand registries,” the BRG said in a statement supporting the changes.

Dot-brands would be completely exempt from the standard Code of Conduct, which requires registries to treat all accredited registrars equally.

They’d be explicitly allowed to work with only one trusted registrar.

Given that dot-brands are all essentially single-registrants spaces (limited to the brand owner, its affiliates and trademark licensees) it makes sense to eschew the usual competitive registrar market.

Brand owners were also very worried about ICANN’s right to re-delegate defunct gTLDs, including dot-brands, to new registry operators, which could be seen as extreme brand dilution.

So the proposed RA amendment would also prevent ICANN from redelegating dot-brands for two years after the agreement expires, unless there’s a compelling public-interest reason to do so.

If ICANN chose to redelegate during that period, the former dot-brand would be able to object.

Nothing would stop a third party applying for the vacated gTLD in a subsequent application round.

The changes appear to prevent brand registries from claiming exclusive rights to gTLD strings in perpetuity, while still giving them breathing space to wind down and attempt to avoid brand confusion.

The definition of a “brand” seems to have been written in order to prevent gaming by companies with trademarks on generic strings.

To qualify to become a dot-brand, a registry would have to prove that its gTLD string is a trademark it owns for non-domain industry they’re already playing in. Strings starting with dots would be excluded.

ICANN would determine which gTLDs are eligible, and would be able to revoke the dot-brand status if the registry changed its business plans in future.

The proposal has been negotiated by ICANN legal staff and the BRG and has not yet been approved by the New gTLD Program Committee or the ICANN board.

It’s open for public comment until January 31, here.

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