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ICANN’s seven-point test for borked new gTLD bids

Kevin Murphy, September 6, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has published a set of seven criteria for judging whether new top-level domain applicants should be allowed to change the details of their applications.

The test is designed to enable applicants to correct stupid errors in — or make more substantial changes to — the original applications.

ICANN had received 49 such requests at the last count.

It is believed that at least three applicants — Verisign, DotConnectAfrica and Kerry Logistics — have requested changes to typos in the applied-for string itself.

Others are thought to have asked for permission to correct copy-paste errors, when they’ve applied for multiple gTLDs.

These are the factors ICANN will use to determine whether a change will be allowed:

Explanation – Is a reasonable explanation provided?

Evidence that original submission was in error – Are there indicia to support an assertion that the change merely corrects an error?

Other third parties affected – Does the change affect other third parties materially?

Precedents – Is the change similar to others that have already been approved? Could the change lead others to request similar changes that could affect third parties or result in undesirable effects on the program?

Fairness to applicants – Would allowing the change be construed as fair to the general community? Would disallowing the change be construed as unfair?

Materiality – Would the change affect the evaluation score or require re-evaluation of some or all of the application? Would the change affect string contention or community priority consideration?

Timing – Does the timing interfere with the evaluation process in some way? ICANN reserves the right to require a re-evaluation of the application in the event of a material change. This could involve additional fees or evaluation in a subsequent application round. (AGB §1.2.7.)

It’s not yet clear who makes the decision — whether it’s ICANN staff or its board of directors. I’ve asked ICANN for clarification and will update this post when I find out.

All changes will be published in a public change log and subject to 30 days of public comment, according to ICANN’s announcement this morning.

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Google junks three of its new gTLD applications

Kevin Murphy, September 6, 2012, Domain Registries

The identities of the first four new gTLD applications to be withdrawn have been revealed by ICANN.

Google has, as predicted, dropped its bids for .and, .are and .est, because they’re protected three-letter country-codes listed in the ISO 3166 alpha-3 standard.

An application for .ksb, by the KSB, a German maker of “pumps, valves and related liquid transportation systems”, has also been withdrawn, though the reasons are less clear.

KSB is not a protected geographic string, nor has .ksb received any negative public comments. I’m guessing the application was an unnecessary defensive move.

With Google expected to lose 30% of its application fees for the three withdrawn applications ($165,000) I can’t help but wonder why ICANN allowed it to apply for the strings in the first place.

The ban on ISO 3166 alpha-3 codes in the Applicant Guidebook appears to be hard and non-negotiable. The strings essentially enjoy the same degree of exact-match protection as Reserved Names such as .iana and .example.

However, while the TLD Application System was hard-coded to reject attempts to apply for Reserved Names, banned geographic strings did not get the same safeguards.

There’s one other application for an ISO 3166 alpha-3 string — .idn — which does not appear to have been withdrawn yet.

There are at least 16 other applications for protected geographic words that may require government support — but are not outright prohibited — according to our DI PRO study.

According to ICANN, six applications have been withdrawn to date. The change in status only shows up on ICANN’s web site after the refunds have been processed, however.

Google, which applied as Charleston Road Registry, has 98 new gTLD applications remaining.

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Another controversial VP leaves ICANN

Kevin Murphy, September 5, 2012, Domain Policy

It’s house-cleaning time at ICANN, it seems.

Elad Levinson, controversially hired 18 months ago as vice president of “organizational effectiveness” has been terminated, we’ve learned.

Levinson, who started in May 2010 as a consultant before going full-time as a VP, was tasked with sorting out some of the internal problems at ICANN.

But his hiring was not warmly welcomed by many in the ICANN community (or, we hear, staff), coming at a time when other more mission-critical positions were still vacant.

As former CEO Rod Beckstrom’s most controversial hire — Levinson’s previous ventures made him look like a bit of a hippy with a penchant for psychobabble — his departure is not unexpected.

It follows the resignation of communications VP Barbara Ann Clay, which we reported yesterday.

The rumor mill has it that Clay and Levinson are not the only ICANN executives to face the chop this week, but they’re the only names we’ve been able to confirm so far.

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ICANN comms chief quits

Kevin Murphy, September 4, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN vice president of communications Barbara Ann Clay has resigned, DI has learned.

Clay was appointed to the role in 2010 under Rod Beckstrom, and the fact that she is leaving now, while the CEO role is in transition, will come as little surprise to ICANN watchers.

As head of comms, Clay presided over a new gTLD outreach program that managed to result in 1,930 applications but which was criticized by some for not focusing enough on the developing world.

A generally low-profile executive, the only time DI has had cause to mention Clay’s name was when she complained to the government of Senegal about a crappy hotel.

She’s the second senior executive with responsibility over the new gTLD program — the third if you include Beckstrom — to leave ICANN since Reveal Day.

Program director Michael Salazar resigned in June at about the same time digital archery was getting killed off.

Clay’s last day on the job is believed to be September 14.

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TLDH wants to unmask mystery gTLD commenter

Kevin Murphy, September 4, 2012, Domain Registries

Portfolio new gTLD applicant Top Level Domain Holdings has responded to the dozens of claims of financial irregularity being submitted to ICANN by a mystery commenter.

The company told DI tonight that the allegations “may be legally actionable” and that it will ask ICANN to remove the comments and ask it to provide identifying information about the commenter.

As I blogged earlier, someone identifying themselves as Alexander Drummond-Willoughby — which some suspect to be a pseudonym — has filed 82 virtually identical comments about TLDH applications.

Today, he started filing the same comments on applications belonging to TLDH clients.

Here’s what TLDH had to say:

TLDH / Minds + Machines is disappointed that ICANN is allowing individuals hiding behind fictional identities to make accusations against us and our clients that are baseless and may be legally actionable. TLDH, as a company listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange, is closely overseen by our Nominated Advisor, Beaumont Cornish, a firm licensed by the LSE to monitor our compliance with Exchange rules and applicable laws. The incoherent insinuations coming from these shadowy commenters are without merit and any charges that we have engaged in illegal or unethical activity are completely untrue. TLDH reserves all its rights and will ask ICANN to remove the comments and provide us with appropriate identifying information of these posters.

Drummond-Willoughby is quite an unusual surname with an aristocratic pedigree, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that that he is fictional, just an absence of evidence — such as a disclosed affiliation or any search engine results for his name — that he is real.