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ICANN has found a sub-$500 URS provider

Kevin Murphy, January 30, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN has picked a provider for its Uniform Rapid Suspension anti-cybersquatting service, one that’s willing to manage cases at under $500 per filing.

The news came from new gTLD program manager Christine Willett during webcast meetings this week.

“We have identified a provider for the URS who’s going to be able to provide that service within the target $300 to $500 filing fee price range. We’re in the process of formalizing that relationship,” she said last night.

The name of the lucky provider has not yet been revealed — Willett expects that news to come in February — but it’s known that several vendors were interested in the gig.

URS is a complement to the existing UDRP system, designed to enable trademark owners to execute quick(ish) takedowns, rather than transfers, of infringing domain names.

ICANN found itself in a bit of a quandary last year when UDRP providers WIPO and the National Arbitration Forum said they doubted it could be done for the target fee without compromising registrant rights.

But a subsequent RFP — demanded by members of the community — revealed several providers willing to hit the sub-$500 target.

ICANN expects to approve multiple URS vendors over time.

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BlackBerry maker kisses goodbye to rim.jobs with corporate name change

Kevin Murphy, January 30, 2013, Gossip

Research in Motion is to change its corporate name to BlackBerry, after the popular mobile devices it makes.

The company reportedly announced the news at the launch of the Blackberry 10 in London today,

Why mention this on a domain name industry news blog?

Three reasons.

  • It means RIM will be able to more easily get its company name as a dot-brand new gTLD. Under the current rules, .rim would be problematic because it’s the Slovenian translation of Rome, a protected capital city name.
  • Great excuse for a rim.jobs headline.
  • It’s a very slow news day.

It should be pointed out that RIM could have applied for .blackberry in the current new gTLD round, but it didn’t.

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Chehade: “Honestly, if it was up to me, I would delay the whole release of new gTLDs by at least a year…”

Kevin Murphy, January 25, 2013, Domain Policy

“…but I’m not going to.”

CEO Fadi Chehade this afternoon delivered a blisteringly frank assessment of ICANN’s new gTLD program, admitting that if it were up to him he would delay the whole thing by a year.

Speaking bluntly, mainly to registries and registrars, at a regional ICANN meeting in Amsterdam this afternoon, Chehade painted a stark picture of the challenge ICANN faces in meeting its deadlines.

It’s worth quoting at length:

Honestly, if it was up to me, I would delay the whole release of new gTLDs by at least a year.

I’m being very candid with you. I know none of you want to hear this, and I’m not going to do this — let me repeat, I’m not going to do this — but you should know that a lot of the foundations that I would be comfortable with, as someone who has built businesses before, are just not yet there.

I’m being super-candid with you because many of you wrote me in the last three weeks to say: ‘Be up-front with us, we’re business-people, tell us the truth.’ Well, the truth is that the people, processes and tools to enable a sector such as this are being built as the car is already running very fast.

We’re putting enormous pressure on our team to not to slip by a day. I’m now managing them with Akram [Atallah, COO] down to days. Before I came it was by quarters, by months, and I say no — every day we slip we’re delaying this industry from serving the market it’s supposed to serve.

It’s just a different mindset. And it’s a difference set of, frankly, talents that we’re bringing to the table. We have people who took six years to write the [new gTLD Applicant] Guidebook and we’re asking engineers and software people and third-party vendors and hundreds of people to get that whole program running in six months.

When the number two at IBM called me, Erich Clementi, after we signed the deal with them to do the [Trademark Clearinghouse] he said “Are you nuts?”. Literally, quote. He said: “Fadi you’ve built these systems for us before. You know it takes three times the amount of time it takes to write the specs to build reliable systems.”

But that’s the position we’re in, guys. I’m being candid with you. I know all of I know all of you want me to have this thing up and running yesterday. I want it running the day before yesterday. But this is what we’re facing. We’re facing a difficult situation, we’re working hard as we can, our people are at the edge. We have people who are working seven days a week now — it’s never happened before — on the new gTLD program.

We’re hiring as fast as we can. We’re now taking away from Christine [Willett, new gTLD program manager] some of the work she had to do so she can communicate better with you.

We’re doing a whole bunch of things so we can deliver this for you.

I don’t mean to scare you, because I know many of your businesses rely on this, but the right people are now in place, we’re building it as fast as we can but I want you to understand that this is tough, and I wish it were different. I wish you would all raise your hands and say: “You know what? Let’s take a break and meet in a year”.

I know you can’t do that, I know I can’t do that, and I know that the market can’t wait for that.

We’re going to do our best, and if in the process if we miss telling you something, if we move too fast on something before we share it with everybody as we normally should… give us a little bit of a break.

I don’t want to delay this program, but under all circumstances my mind would tell me: stop.

Chehade’s remarks come two weeks after new gTLD applicants gave new program manager Willett a good kicking during a webinar updating them on the program’s progress, during which it was revealed that a key deadline had been missed for at least the fourth or fifth time.

What else can we learn from his comments?

Well… here’s my interpretation:

  • Put down the mic and back off, Kinderis. Yeah, that means you too, Fausett, and you, Neuman.
  • It will be an absolute miracle if the Trademark Clearinghouse doesn’t suffer from teething troubles.
  • Applicants are almost certainly going to see more delays of some form or another (always a safe prediction), and probably from the place they least expect it.
  • The program wasn’t ready when it was approved in May 2011 (as many people, including yours truly, said at the time and have continued to say since).
  • It’s probably not much fun working at ICANN right now, but at least the new boss knows what the hell he’s doing.

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Industry man Chehade admits strawman “mistake”

Kevin Murphy, January 25, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade today admitted that he badly handled recent discussions about improving trademark protections in the new gTLD program, saying he made a “mistake”.

The remarks came during his speech at a meeting of registries and registrars in Amsterdam this afternoon.

The address, which along with a Q&A lasted an hour, was remarkable for Chehade’s passion and candor, and his apparently conscious decision to portray himself as an industry man.

But he arguably risked alienating the parts of the ICANN community that would certainly not define themselves as part of the “industry”, such as the intellectual property community.

This was no more evident as when he discussed the controversial trademark protection “strawman” proposals.

“We’re moving very fast at ICANN now,” he said. “You almost have no idea how fast we’re moving. We are opening so many new things and fixing so many things, that frankly should have been done for a long time at ICANN, that the speed at which we’re moving is making me, and sometimes my team, make mistakes.”

“I made one big mistake in the last few months,” he said. “I didn’t quite fully understand… this concept of ‘trying to take a second bite at the apple’, when I engaged with the Trademark Clearinghouse discussions.”

That’s a reference to meetings in Brussels and Los Angeles late last year, convened by Chehade at the request of the Intellectual Property Constituency and Business Constituency.

These meetings came up with the strawman proposals, which would create (arguably) new rights protection mechanisms and bolster others in favor of trademark owners.

Registries, registrars and new gTLD applicants complained that the IPC/BC proposals had already been considered multiple times by ICANN and the community and discarded.

Apparently Chehade has now come around to their way of thinking, helped in part by Non-Commercial User Constituency member Maria Farrell’s complaint about the strawman process.

“I frankly didn’t fully understand until I went through the process, and appreciated what people were actually trying to do,” Chehade said. “So, okay, big learning experience for me… I take it, I move on and hopefully I won’t make that mistake again.”

What does this mean for the strawman? Well, it’s not looking great.

While the proposals are still open for public comment, at some point ICANN is going to have to decide which bits it wants to adopt as “implementation” and which are more suited to policy development.

After today’s comments, I’d expect Chehade to be less inclined to push for the former.

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It’s official: people hate the domain name industry

Kevin Murphy, January 25, 2013, Domain Services

I’ve said it many times before: the domain name industry has problems with its reputation. But now the official figures are in that — apparently — prove it.

According to ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade, the industry is perceived four times worse the IT industry average.

That figure — whatever it means — came out of a “reputational analysis” study conducted by expensive consultants hired by ICANN, Chehade told registrars and registries in Amsterdam today.

“The results were not flattering,” he said. “The negative perception of our industry runs four times the IT industry average.”

“Our industry is not a well-established or well-received industry,” Chehade said.

A second study conducted by a pricey PR firm — which looked at media coverage and polled the big three tech industry analysis firms — apparently confirmed the results.

“None of the three top analysts cover our sector,” he said. “They don’t even look at it.”

“Let’s stop the constant attacking of our registrars and registries,” he later added.

“Are there bad actors? Every industry has bad actors, but ours are somehow featured all the time in the media,” he said. “How about if we talk about the good guys that do real works and serve their communities and help businesses thrive? That’s the story I want to tell.”

Chehade said he’d shared the results of the two studies with the CEOs of major registrars at a roundtable discussion at ICANN HQ last week.

He said he’s trying to reach out to analysts to engage more with ICANN in a bid to improve the industry’s reputation.

“As the new gTLD program rolls in the second half of this year, it’s very important that we’re prepared with the right people in these places so our perception, and how the industry talks about us, is the right thing,” he said.

Chehade, who’s been at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week, also pointed to a pronounced lack of awareness of the domain name sector among other industry leaders.

“Out of the CEOs I met — and I met many — I’d say half of them don’t know who we are,” Chehade said.

He said that one profile-raising idea that came out of his registrar CEO round-table was to create “the first DNS world conference… a true business and industry conference”.

There’s also talk about a “good housekeeping” seal for well-behaved domain name industry companies.

“If it’s perception issue or an actual issue, we need to do things that start showing the world we are a responsible industry,” he said.

Chehade plans to meet next month with registry CEOs and invited new gTLD applicant back-ends, and later with the leaders of ccTLD registries.

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