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ICANN not done with TAS bug analysis

Despite sending out hundreds of notifications to new gTLD applicants today, it looks rather like ICANN’s analysis of the TLD Application System bug is not yet complete.

(MAY 10 UPDATE – in a statement today, ICANN provided significantly more information about the notification process, rendering much of the speculation originally in this post moot. Read it here.)

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TAS to reopen May 22. Big Reveal on for Prague?

Kevin Murphy, May 9, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s bug-plagued TLD Application System will reopen on May 22 and close on May 30, according to a statement just issued by chief operating officer Akram Atallah.

The dates, which are only “targets”, strongly suggest that that the Big Reveal of all new gTLD applications is going to happen during the public meeting in Prague in late June.

If ICANN still needs two weeks to collate its application data before the reveal, we’re looking at June 14, or thereabouts, as the earliest possible reveal date.

But that’s just ten days before ICANN 44 officially kicks off, and I think it’s pretty unlikely ICANN will want to be distracted by a special one-off event while it’s busy preparing for Prague.

For the Big Reveal, my money is on June 25.

Atallah also said this morning that all new gTLD applicants have now been notified whether they were affected by the TAS bug, meaning ICANN has “met our commitment to provide notice to all users on or before 8 May”.

That said, some applicants I spoke to this morning, hours after it was already May 9 in California, said they had not received the promised notifications. But who’s counting?

The results of ICANN’s analysis of the bug appear to show that no nefarious activity was going on.

“We have seen no evidence that any TAS user intentionally did anything wrong in order to be able to see other users’ information,” Atallah said.

ICANN has also discovered another affected TAS user, in addition to the 50 already disclosed, according to Atallah’s statement.

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Demand Media mum on $18m new gTLDs investment

Demand Media has invested $18 million in new generic top-level domains, but it won’t disclose whether it has spent all of the money on application fees.

The company, which owns number two domain name registrar eNom, held its first-quarter earnings conference call this evening, during which it revealed the investment.

A roughly $18 million investment could mean as many as 100 new gTLD applications, but Demand executives refused to elaborate on its plans.

CFO Charles Hilliard said that new gTLDs are seen as a “significant strategic growth opportunity” and that Demand would provide more details upon the closure of ICANN’s application window.

As Mike Berkens has already suggested tonight on TheDomains, a massive investment in application fees seems to be the most plausible use for the money.

The fact that the whole of the investment appears to have been made in April would support this view.

But CEO Richard Rosenblatt also confirmed during the call that the company has now also entered into the registry services provider business, providing the back-end for other applicants.

It does not appear to have been particularly successful attracting clients. Rosenblatt said that Demand has created a back-end platform and “signed our first two strategic customers”.

Just two clients would put Demand at the low end of the registry service provider rankings in this first new gTLD round.

I’m aware of at least one applicant that changed its mind about partnering with the company for its application.

ICANN’s background checks on new gTLD applicants include probes into, among other things, adverse cybersquatting decisions under the UDRP.

Demand Media, as a massive domain registrant, gets hit by UDRP complaints fairly regularly, and some have said it’s lost enough to be disqualified from running a registry under ICANN’s rules.

As far as I’m aware, it’s currently an open question whether hiding UDRP losses and applications behind subsidiaries will be enough to evade these background checks.

But if Demand is prepared to pump $18 million into applications, it must have a pretty good inkling that it won’t tumble at the first hurdle.

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Amsterdam accepts pre-registrations for city gTLD

The City of Amsterdam has confirmed that it has joined the ranks of major international cities applying to ICANN for a new generic top-level domain.

It has commissioned local publishing company HUB Uitgevers to manage .amsterdam, along with its technical partner SIDN, the .nl ccTLD registry.

Unusually, the project has also already started accepting pre-registrations at its official site.

The ICANN application fees are being covered by the local government, but a City of Amsterdam spokesperson said it expects to make the money back from annual royalty payments from HUB.

The famously liberal tourist destination has about 1.2 million inhabitants, according to Wikipedia.

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ICANN affirms full refunds for pissed-off gTLD applicants, silent on new CEO

Kevin Murphy, May 8, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s board of directors has approved full refunds for any new gTLD applicant that asks for one – something that the organization has already been offering for over a month.

At its two-day retreat in Amsterdam this weekend, the board’s New gTLD Program Committee resolved:

to offer to applicants a full refund of the New gTLD Application fee actually paid to ICANN if the applicant wishes to withdraw its application prior to the date that ICANN publicly posts the identification of all TLD applications.

The date of the Big Reveal, when the names of every applicant and every applied-for gTLD will be publicly posted and the refunds will no longer be available, has not yet been set.

While the resolution refers to the TLD Application System data leakage bug, the refund does not appear to be restricted to directly affected applicants. Anyone can claim it.

However, as regular DI readers know, ICANN had been offering full refunds to applicants that withdraw before the Big Reveal for weeks before the TAS bug emerged.

ICANN customer services reps told DI and at least one gTLD applicant in March that: “Applications withdrawn prior to the posting of the applied-for strings are qualified for a $180000 refund”.

ICANN said in a statement today:

We recognize that this represents an increase of only US $5000 over the refund that withdrawing applicants would otherwise receive, but we believe it is an important part of fulfilling our commitment to treat applicants fairly.

Under the terms of the Applicant Guidebook, the maximum refund available after the Reveal is $148,000.

In other news from Amsterdam…

The ICANN board has decided to let director Thomas Narten join the New gTLD Program Committee, which comprises all of the board members without new gTLD conflicts of interest.

Narten had been barred from the recently formed committee because he worked for IBM, which planned to apply for one or more new gTLDs.

But the board said he has now “mitigated the previously-identified conflict of interest with respect to the New gTLD Program”, so he gets to join the committee as a non-voting liaison.

It’s not clear from the weekend’s resolution why Narten is no longer conflicted. Two obvious possibilities spring to mind.

There was no news from Amsterdam on ICANN’s CEO hunt.

Incumbent Rod Beckstrom intends to “hand the baton” to his successor at the Prague meeting in late June, and the board already has a favored candidate lined up to replace him.

I understand that this candidate did attend the Amsterdam board retreat, albeit under a veil of secrecy lest his or her identity leak out before official confirmation.

But I also understand that the board has decided to move super-cautiously on the CEO decision, in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

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