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OpenTLD says suspension would “devastate” its business

Kevin Murphy, August 14, 2015, Domain Registrars

OpenTLD has fired off its newest salvo in its ongoing cybersquatting dispute with ICANN, saying the ICANN-imposed suspension would “devastate” its business.

The company has also addressed many of ICANN’s cybersquatting allegations, while failing to deny it squatted on two competitors’ trademarks.

In its latest arbitration filing (pdf), OpenTLD said: “Quite simply, the suspension of OpenTLD’s ability to offer gTLD registrations and inbound transfers would decimate its unique business model.”

ICANN had argued that the suspension of its registrar accreditation was no big deal because its gTLD domain base is measured in the low thousands, whereas the total domains under management of parent Freenom, which offers free domains in .tk and other ccTLDS, is in excess of 25 million.

But OpenTLD said the two businesses as “deeply intertwined” and separating the two would impair its ability to do business.

ICANN is pushing for the suspension because OpenTLD lost two UDRP cases earlier this year. Both were filed by competitors — Key-Systems and NetEarth — who accused the registrar of attempting to lure resellers to its platform by infringing rivals’ trademarks.

ICANN has since followed up by accusing OpenTLD of continuing to cybersquat famous brands, including Google and Facebook, even after the suspension notice was issued. These claims, as I noted last week, are very dubious, however.

In its latest filing, OpenTLD denies that any of those domains — all of which use its privacy service — were registered by itself. It goes so far as to name the actual registrants.

But it fails to deny that it was the true registrant of the Key-Systems and NetEarth domains lost in the UDRP cases.

Rather, it focuses on ICANN’s claims that it committed “cyberflight” by deleting the UDRP’d domains rather than allowing them to be transferred to the trademark owners.

It admits that the domains were deleted but said this was “inadvertent” and that it attempted to transfer them to its competitors later.

OpenTLD wants the threatened suspension stayed.

The case continues. A decision by the arbitration panel is expected August 24.

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After abc.xyz, will Google now switch to .google?

Kevin Murphy, August 12, 2015, Domain Registries

Google provided the new gTLD industry with one of its most prominent endorsements to date when it revealed this week that its new parent company, Alphabet, will use a .xyz domain name.

But it could just be the first move away from traditional TLDs such as .com — its new gTLD .google entered its “general availability” phase today.

Alphabet will be the holding company for Google the search engine provider, as well as many other subsidiaries focused on non-core areas of its business, and will replace Google as the publicly traded entity.

The new company will use abc.xyz as its primary domain.

XYZ.com CEO Daniel Negari told Wired that the move is “the ultimate validation”, and it’s hard to disagree.

Despite this, almost all the coverage in the tech and mainstream media over the last 24 hours has been about the fact that it does not own alphabet.com.

A Google News search for “alphabet.com” today returns over 67,000 results. Refine the search to include “abc.xyz” and you’re left with fewer than 2,700.

This is perhaps to be expected; BMW owns alphabet.com and has told the New York Times it does not intend to sell it. Journalists naturally gravitate towards conflict, or potential conflict.

Some reporters even suggested, with mind-boggling naivety, that Google hadn’t even done the most cursory research into its new brand before embarking on the biggest restructuring in its history as a public company.

But perhaps the reality is a little simpler: owning a .com that exactly matches your brand just isn’t that important any more.

If any company has insight into the truth of that hypothesis, it’s Google.

It should hardly be surprising that Google digs the possibilities offered by new gTLDs — remember, it applied for 101 strings and has 42 of them already delegated.

Its senior engineers have also blogged repeatedly that all gTLDs, including .com, are treated equally by its search algorithms.

Now that it has made the decision to brand its holding company on a new gTLD domain, could we expect it be similarly nonchalant about a switch to .google?

The dot-brand today came out of its pre-launch phase and entered “general availability”, meaning that the gTLD is now free for it to use.

The .google zone file only has a few domains in it at present, so we’re probably not going to see anything deployed there overnight, but I’d be surprised if we have to wait a long time before .google is put to use in one way or another.

The company set up a fleeting April Fool’s Day website at com.google earlier this year.

Google’s application for .google states:

The mission of the proposed gTLD, .google is to make the worldʹs information universally accessible and useful through the streamlined provision of Google services. The purpose of the proposed gTLD is to provide a dedicated Internet space in which Google can continue to innovate on its Internet offerings. The proposed gTLD will augment Googleʹs online presence in other registries, provide Google with greater ability to categorize its present online locations around the world, and in turn, deliver a more recognizable, branded, trusted web space to both the general Internet population and Google employees. It will also generate efficiencies and increase security by reducing Google’s current dependence on third-party infrastructure.

The company has also stated on its Google Registry web site that it intends to use .google, .youtube and .plus “for Google products”.

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SEO site toppled as most-popular new gTLD domain

Kevin Murphy, August 10, 2015, Domain Registries

There’s a new domain topping the charts as the most-visited new gTLD site.

A few days ago, namu.wiki replaced searchengines.guru in the top spot, the first time the leading position has changed hands since DI PRO first started tracking daily Alexa scores in July 2014.

namu.wiki appears to be a Japanese Korean wiki site dedicated to some kind of manga/anime thing. It was registered in April.

searchengines.guru is a Russian forum devoted to discussions of search engine optimization.

The Japanese Korean site has an Alexa rank of 1,875 today, compared to 1,994 for the SEO site. The highest score we’ve ever recorded for a new gTLD domain was 717.

Interestingly, only two of the site in the top 10 are in English. Two appear to be associated with spam.

The usual caveats about the reliability of Alexa data applies.

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.music applicant caught using bogus Wikipedia page

Kevin Murphy, August 10, 2015, Domain Registries

DotMusic Limited, the .music applicant founded by Constantine Roussos, is using a highly suspicious Wikipedia page in its attempt to win the .music contention set.

The applicant and many supporters have been citing the Wikipedia “music community” page in support of DotMusic’s ongoing Community Priority Evaluation, despite the fact that the page draws text, without citation, from DotMusic’s own application.

The Wikipedia page was created October 21, 2014, just two weeks after rival .music applicant Far Further spectacularly failed in its own Community Priority Evaluation bid.

In March this year, DotMusic cited (pdf) a November 26 version of the Wikipedia page in whole in a controversial application change request.

Three of its supporters (Jeunesses Musicales International, International Society of Music Education, and International Federation of Musicians) have cited the Wikipedia article in DotMusic-drafted letters sent to ICANN.

An early version of the sign-and-submit form letter DotMusic is encouraging supporters to send to ICANN included the Wikipedia reference (this one, for example) but it appears to have been removed from form comments sent after the end of July.

Its web site currently says that its definition of “music community” is “confirmed by Wikipedia”.

In fact, the Wikipedia page pulls lots of its language from DotMusic’s 2012 new gTLD application, as represented in the table below.

WikipediaDotMusic
Music community is defined as a logical alliance of interdependent communities that are related to music,  The Community is a strictly delineated and organized community of individuals, organizations and business, a “logical alliance of communities of a similar nature (“COMMUNITY”)”
The music community shares a cohesive and interconnected structure of artistic expression, with diverse subcultures and socio-economic interactions between music creators, their value chain, distribution channel and fans subscribing to common ideals.  The Community and the .MUSIC string share a core value system of artistic expression with diverse, niche subcultures and socio-economic interactions between music creators, their value chain, distribution channel, and ultimately engaging fans as well as other music constituents subscribing to common ideals.
Under such structured context music consumption becomes possible regardless whether the transaction is commercial and non-commercialUnder such structured context music consumption becomes possible regardless whether the transaction is commercial and non-commercial

The phrase “logical alliance” originates in the ICANN Applicant Guidebook, as part of the CPE rules.

But that still leaves two sentences that appear to have been only lightly edited after being taken wholesale from the DotMusic application.

The Wikipedia page does not refer to domain names or ICANN, nor does it cite DotMusic as a source, despite the fact (per a Google search) that phrases such as “socio-economic interactions between music creators” have only ever appeared in .music’s application.

That’s unusual, because the citations in the article, many of which are to weighty, barely comprehensible scholarly works, give the impression of a well-researched and well-sourced piece.

Only one Wikipedia editor, known by the handle Dr. Blofeld, has contributed anything of substance to the page. Three others have provided cosmetic edits.

While a prolific editor since 2006, the closest he had previously come to writing an article about music were his contributions to a page about a green Versace dress once worn by singer Jennifer Lopez, according to Blofeld’s user page.

He seems to be much more interested in nature, architecture and film (including James Bond films, naturally).

On wonders why he had the sudden urge to scratch-build a 375-word article about the “music community”, having evidently read a dozen academic works on the topic, that fails to cite DotMusic’s application as the source of some of the text.

In summary, the evidence points towards the article being created solely for the purpose of assisting DotMusic towards a CPE victory that would save it the seven-figure sum .music is likely to fetch if it goes to auction.

There are eight applicants for .music in total.

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OpenTLD cybersquatting fight escalates

Kevin Murphy, August 7, 2015, Domain Registrars

ICANN has accused OpenTLD, the registrar arm of Freenom, of cybersquatting famous brands even after it was threatened with suspension.

The claims may be worrying for some registrars as ICANN may in fact be holding the registrar responsible for the actions of its proxy service customers.

OpenTLD was suspended by ICANN in early July, after two UDRP rulings found the company had cybersquatted rival registrars’ brands in order to poach customers.

The suspension was lifted after just a few hours when OpenTLD took ICANN to arbitration under the terms of its Registrar Accreditation Agreement.

In ICANN’s latest arbitration filing, the organization’s lawyers argue that the suspension should not be stayed, because OpenTLD has been shown to engage in a pattern of cybersquatting.

Like the original suspension notice, the filing cites the two UDRP losses, along with footnotes indicating that as many as seven competing brands had been cybersquatted.

But ICANN has now also escalated its allegations to bring in non-registrar brands where it’s far from clear that OpenTLD is the actual registrant.

ICANN’s filing states:

even a brief review of the domain names in OpenTLD’s portfolio demonstrates that OpenTLD appears to be continuing to engage in bad faith and abusive registration practices. As of 3 August 2015, there were at least 73 gTLD domains registered to Stichting OpenTLD WHOIS Proxy (which is OpenTLD’s proxy service) that are identical to or contain the registered trademarks or trade names of third parties, including, by way of small example, the domain names barnesandnoble.link, sephora.bargains, at-facebook.com, ebaybh.com, googlefreeporn.com, global-paypal.com, hotmailtechnicalsupport.com, and secure-apple.com. ICANN is not aware of any legitimate interest or right that OpenTLD has to use these third-party trademarks and trade names.

Even more concerning is the fact that at least 14 gTLD domain names that contain the registered trademarks or trade names of third parties were registered by OpenTLD’s proxy service after the 23 June 2015 Suspension Notice was issued to OpenTLD, further demonstrating that OpenTLD’s overtures of “cooperation” ring hollow.

To be clear, that’s ICANN accusing OpenTLD of cybersquatting because some of the domains registered via its privacy service appear to be trademark infringements.

It’s basically equating infringing use of OpenTLD’s proxy service (such the registration of barnesandnoble.link) with the infringing behavior of OpenTLD itself (such as the registration of godaddy.cf, a February 2015 screenshot of which can be seen below.)

This may just be legal posturing, but I imagine many other registrars would be worried to know that they could have their accreditation suspended for cybersquatting simply because some of their privacy customers are cybersquatters.

I’d wager that every proxy/privacy service available has been used by blatant cybersquatters at one time or another.

Filings in the arbitration case can be found here.

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