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Chehade talks up split from US oversight

Kevin Murphy, October 28, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade used his keynote address at the newdomains.org conference this morning to discuss his plans to divorce the organization from US governmental oversight.

With a split from the US recurring theme in his recent speeches, Chehade nevertheless warned that there were risks that such a move could create a dangerous governance vacuum.

“The current ICANN contract that gives the US government a unique role in the root management function is not sustainable,” he said. “It’s just not sustainable.”

That seems to be a reference to the IANA contract, in which the US has essentially a veto on ICANN’s decisions regarding root zone changes such as new gTLD delegations.

“I think we need to think together how we grow from that and how we globalize that contract,” he said. “But we need to be very careful about creating a vacuum or uninteded consequences that would destabilize the root of the internet.”

While Chehade noted that a split from the US has always been envisaged, he said that the revelations about US internet surveillance made by NSA defector Edward Snowden has provided a catalyst to speed it up.

When Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff recently called for a “multilateral” (read: inter-governmental, (read: ITU)) approach to internet governance, Chehade and an ICANN team traveled to Brazil to persuade her to instead focus on the creation of a “multistakeholder” model instead.

There’s now a “coalition” of the “I*” groups (ICANN, IETF, etc), big-name companies such as Disney, and governments such as Brazil, focused on creating multistakeholder solutions to problems — such as spam and cyber-bullying — that are not in ICANN’s purview Chehade said.

There’s a multistakeholder meeting planned for April or May next year (I’ve heard both dates), to be hosted by Brazil, that will look at internet governance post-Snowden.

This meeting is about “allowing ICANN to not expand its remit”, according to Chehade. He said: “We don’t want to expand our remit.”

What we seem to be looking at here is the creation for a new organization, of which ICANN could be a member, that will allow stakeholders to coordinate responses to tricky cross-border internet problems.

While ICANN seems to be taking the leading role in its creation, it doesn’t sound like ICANN is trying to get into issues beyond naming and addressing, judging by Chehade’s speech this morning

Chehade also talked up ICANN’s support for the domain name industry.

He admitted that ICANN has caused a lot of problems for new gTLD applicants over the course of the gTLD program, but promised that this will change, with ICANN taking a more “background” role.

“You need less risk and more stability from the ICANN side,” he said. “You have suffered for a long time from a lot of instability, a lot of unknowns.”

Increased automation, internationlization and professionalism from ICANN will serve this goal, he said.

ICANN’s compliance department, he added, should “not be the policeman for the industry but be customer service for the registrants”, he said.

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Six more gTLD contracts signed

Kevin Murphy, October 28, 2013, Domain Registries

ICANN signed six more new gTLD Registry Agreements on Friday, bringing the week’s total to eight.

Donuts added .cab, .computer and .support to its rapidly expanding portfolio of generics, while its partner United TLD (Demand Media) added .dance.

GMO Registry, which had teething troubles during Initial Evaluation before switching back-end providers, signed a contract for the Japanese geographic .nagoya.

Finally, Spanish clothing company Punto Fa, S.L., trading as MANGO, got the dot-brand .mango.

ICANN now has 72 new gTLD RAs, the first four of which have gone live.

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Three new gTLDs makes it through evaluation

Kevin Murphy, October 25, 2013, Domain Registries

Three new gTLD applications passed either Initial or Extended Evaluation this week, according to ICANN’s latest updates.

MMA IARD, a French insurance company, passed IE for .mma, a dot-brand. It’s an uncontested application, so it seems unlikely that “mixed martial arts” will ever have its own exact-match gTLD.

Boston Consulting Group and I-REGISTRY passed Extended Evaluation on .bcg and .online respectively.

Both had failed IE first time around for failing to provide sufficient financial statements, and both seem to have rectified the problem in EE.

I-REGISTRY’s pass means all four remaining .online applicants are through evaluation and can begin to fight out the contention set among themselves.

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ICANN signs contracts for .wang and .democrat

Kevin Murphy, October 25, 2013, Domain Registries

The new gTLD applicants behind .wang and .democract are the latest to sign Registry Agreements with ICANN.

Demand Media’s United TLD is behind .democrat, while .wang was applied for by small Chinese portfolio applicant Zodiac Holdings. Both were uncontested applications.

Both are to be open gTLDs.

For .democrat, Demand expects names to be registered by anyone who identifies themselves as a democrat. There were no objections, and to the best of my knowledge no explicit support, from “Democrat” parties

.wang is a weird one.

It’s the Latin-script transliteration of the Chinese character 网, which means “net”. Zodiac couldn’t apply for the Chinese because it’s a single character, which are not yet allowed under ICANN rules.

I understand that 网 is often used by Chinese speakers to mean “network” or “website”, but I don’t know how commonly the ASCII “wang” is used instead. Seems like a stretch.

It also of course is a common Chinese surname and a juvenile euphemism for “penis”.

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TLDH raises $5 million from gTLD auctions

Kevin Murphy, October 25, 2013, Domain Registries

Top Level Domain Holdings made almost $5 million by losing auctions for the .lawyer and .website gTLDs this week, according to the company.

The London-listed company told the markets today that it has added £2.97 million ($4.81 million) to its coffers as a result of the auctions, in which Radix won .website and Donuts won .lawyer.

The number is net of the 4% cut taken by Innovative, which conducted the auctions, and the two $65,000 refunds TLDH will receive from ICANN when it withdraws the applications.

Some portion of the $4.8 million TLDH will have received from Donuts, where .lawyer was a two-horse race.

Radix’s winning bid for .website will have been split evenly between TLDH and Donuts.

At least one of these TLDs seems to have sold for significantly more than the average private auction selling price, which was $1.33 million after the first 14 Innovative auctions.

Innovative has managed auctions for 18 strings, but we don’t know the total price of the latest four.

The .website and .lawyer deals means TLDH now has £10.1 million ($16.3 million) in cash reserves, according to a company press release.

It still has 43 contested applications, however. On a $16 million budget — quite a lot less than some of its portfolio rivals — the company is going to have to make some smart tactical moves to maximize its gTLD portfolio.

“Our strategy remains to best monetise those applications where we see least value so that we can maximise our ability to acquire those names in which we see greatest value,” chairman Fred Krueger said in the press release.

It still has stakes in 25 uncontested gTLDs.

NOTE: An earlier version of this story contained inaccurate statements — failing to take into account that .website was a three-way contest — about the average selling price of new gTLDs at auction.

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