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Fly9 offers services to simplify new gTLD sales

Kevin Murphy, May 20, 2013, Domain Services

Portland-based developer Fly9 launched last week, offering new gTLD registries a broad range of software designed to make it easier to sell domain names.

The company, founded by SnapNames and Afilias alum Ravi Surya, hopes its platform will help new gTLD operators tap into registrars’ customer bases in a soon-to-be-flooded market.

“The problem with new TLDs is they’ll all depend on registrars, but the registrars are all busy selling other things, like hosting, they’re not interested in selling your TLD,” Surya said.

For a start-up, only just coming out of stealth mode, three-year-old Fly9 seems to have an awful lot of products with an awful lot of features, judging by a quick demo we saw last week.

Perhaps most interesting is the core TLD Distribution Platform. It’s a software service designed to plug the gap between the registry back-end and the registrar/reseller and simplify channel management.

The idea is to make it easier for newbie registry operators to leverage registrars’ marketing clout, but without asking the registrar to do a lot of technical integration work.

Say you’ve been awarded .pumpkins by ICANN. It’s a niche TLD and registrars — spoiled for choice in a world of 500 new gTLDs — aren’t exactly clamoring to sign up to offer it.

Fly9’s service would enable you to give these registrars a way to very quickly start selling .pumpkin domains, using their own registrar accreditation and payment systems but using Fly9’s hosted, white-label microsite.

According to Surya, registry managers can use the service to sign up registrars as little as five minutes. Adding branding and customizing the site for the registrar would obviously take longer.

Registries can also elect to use Fly9’s partner registrar, NameSystem, and create a channel of resellers instead.

The Fly9 suite also includes services for handling pre-registrations, sunrise periods, and premium domain auctions and Surya said the service can also handle EPP extensions for restricted gTLDs.

Pricing is based on transaction volume, but the software has already been licensed to two major back-end registry technical providers, which Surya said he could not yet name.

LogicBoxes and Architelos are among those offering software services for new gTLD management, but I’d be hard pressed to think of another company doing precisely what Fly9 is right now.

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Two failures among latest 44 new gTLD results

ICANN has released its weekly batch of new gTLD Initial Evaluation results and it includes the program’s second and third failures.

Two dot-brand applications — .olayangroup and .mckinsey, filed by Olayan Investments and McKinsey Holdings — didn’t get passing scores and are now categorized as “Eligible for Extended Evaluation”.

Both — like the only other failure to date, also filed by Olayan — passed the technical evaluation but failed on question 45, which asks the applicant to provide financial statements.

The strings that have passed IE this week are:

.dog, .pharmacy, .sener, .skydrive, .soy, .sport, .grocery, .rightathome, .scjohnson, .jll, .hosting, .americanexpress, .yamaxun, .analytics, .construction, .land, .management, .systems, .surgery, .news, .data, .reisen, .rugby, .theater, .university, .cba, .ads, .how, .chrome, .vanguard, .meo, .lotte, .hughes, .praxi, .uno, .versicherung, .blog, .bmw, .shangrila, .yandex and .bbc

There are now 341 passing applications and three failures.

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Donuts puts 63 new gTLDs to private auction, but at least 17 are dead on arrival

Donuts has committed 63 of its 307 new gTLD applications to a private auction next month, but at least 17 of them are doomed already because rival Uniregistry won’t take part.

Donuts, which does not want to enter into joint ventures with competing gTLD applicants, has decided to use a private auction managed by Cramton Associates instead of an ICANN auction.

The first round of auctions are due to kick off June 3, but Cramton has set a deadline of next week for applicants to commit the strings they want to bid on.

Donuts has put forward these ones (note that they’re different to those reported elsewhere earlier due to a couple of typos in the original press release):

.apartments, .auction, .audio, .baseball, .boats, .cafe, .church, .college, .construction, .direct, .discount, .fish, .football, .forsale, .furniture, .fyi, .global, .gratis, .guide, .juegos, .jewelry, .legal, .living, .luxury, .phone, .photography, .plus, .red, .run, .storage, .theater, .trading, .vote, .beauty, .broadway, .city, .club, .forum, .garden, .help, .hosting, .hot, .marketing, .media, .memorial, .wedding, .chat, .online, .pizza, .sale, .salon, .school, .search, .show, .soccer, .team, .group, .site, .style, .law, .store, .blog, and .art.

Running the list through the DI PRO database, we quickly discover that 33 of these strings are in two-horse races, 13 have three applicants, nine have four and three have five.

The remaining four contention sets have six, seven, nine and 10 applicants respectively.

Uniregistry, the portfolio applicant run by domainer Frank Schilling, is involved in 17 of the contention sets, and Schilling confirmed to DI today that the company does not intend to participate.

As we’ve previously reported, Uniregistry says it has concerns that private auctions may be illegal under US antitrust law, though substantial doubt has been cast over that assertion since.

Because all applicants in a contention set need to commit for the auction to be meaningful, we can assume that at least 17 of Donuts’ proposed auctions will not go ahead, unless Uniregistry changes its mind.

Top Level Domain Holdings has applied for 13 of the strings Donuts wants to take to auction. TLDH has also expressed concern in the past about the private auction concept.

Directi, Famous Four Media and Google are each involved in eight of the contention sets, while Amazon is involved in five.

According to Cramton, each auction will take place in bidding rounds, with the first round having a maximum bid of $50,000 multiplied by the number of applicants and subsequent rounds increasing that by 10% multiplied by the number of bidders.

If any applicant in a given auction requests privacy, then the winning amount will not be disclosed.

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‘Whistleblower’ claims cronyism and fear at ICANN

Kevin Murphy, May 17, 2013, Domain Policy

An anonymous individual claiming to be an ICANN staffer has warned the organization’s board of directors about senior-level cronyism and a “climate of fear” among employees.

However, DI’s private conversations with other ICANN staffers suggest that the concerns may not be widely shared, at least not to the same extreme.

DI received a lengthy email yesterday in which it is claimed that hiring practices since last year have seen “incompetent” friends of CEO Fadi Chehade and COO Akram Atallah appointed to senior positions, which has hurt morale and proved divisive among employees.

Here are some extracts:

While it is natural for a new CEO or COO to bring in their own team, many senior hires to ICANN have been selected without going through an interviewing process, hired despite recommendation by staff to the contrary, in some cases with lack of relevant experience and not following basic business practices on the selection on the basis of merit. It in many cases has been replaced by hiring friends, family and neighbors.

In some cases these hires have turned out to be quite competent but in other cases they are flat-out incompetent. They not only will remain on staff because Akram views them as loyal but they have enjoyed additional responsibilities and promotions unfairly based on their relationship with Akram or Fadi.

Because of these hiring practices, staff morale is at a low point. Staff now falls into two camps: (1) those hired before Fadi (2) those hired after Fadi. There are a record number of employees looking for other jobs. Some have already left and if a significant number leave in the future, ICANNs qualified talent pool will suffer.

The email was unsigned and sent from an anonymized account, but includes sufficient detail that nobody who has seen it doubts that it came from an ICANN employee.

The author refers to an intern, briefly employed, who would have had little to no interaction with the rest of the community and was even unknown to some staff, for example.

I’ve confirmed that the email was sent to at least some members of the board of directors — currently holed up at a retreat in Amsterdam — at about the same time it was sent to DI.

The email lists about 10 current or former ICANN executives who, it is claimed, were hired because they are friends with either Atallah or Chehade or worked with them at other companies.

To the extent that the relationships detailed are professional, they’re easily confirmed by online resumes. Others have been confirmed privately by ICANN staffers.

While the email names names, I’m not going to.

Having spent the last day running the email author’s concerns privately by a handful of ICANN employees, I was unable to find the same degree of concern expressed by anyone.

Some I spoke to recognized the scenario outlined in the email — a new batch of senior staff aligned to the new boss and perhaps not yet fully integrated with the old guard — but said that this is to be expected whenever a new CEO takes over.

“I’m really surprised that someone feels so strongly,” said one staffer. “It’s not that horrendous, new CEOs bring in their people and we’re not going to appreciate them all.”

The phrase “climate of fear”, used in the email, invokes (possibly deliberately) the words of Maria Farrell, the former ICANN staffer who humiliated then-CEO Rod Beckstrom with a scathing public assessment of staff morale during the meeting in San Francisco two years ago.

But another message that also came through loud and clear talking to staff is that while morale might remain low, things at ICANN are a lot better than they were before Chehade took over.

“At least Fadi and his people seem competent,” one person said.

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Donuts hires the face of the new gTLD program

Portfolio gTLD applicant Donuts has hired Michele Jourdan, who until last week was head of new gTLD communications at ICANN.

Michele JourdanShe has joined the company as director of sales and marketing, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Applicants and others following the program closely will remember her from the regular update videos published by ICANN.

She worked for ICANN for almost five years, but only in the last year or so started to take a visible front seat role in interactions with community members. I understand she left ICANN a week ago.

Jourdan is not the first ICANN alum Donuts has taken on.

Its CFO is former ICANN CFO Kevin Wilson, and we recently learned that former new gTLD program manager Kurt Pritz has been recruited, non-exclusively, as a consultant.

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Ombudsman probing “late” new gTLD objections

Kevin Murphy, May 16, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN’s Ombudsman Chris LaHatte has received complaints about some new gTLD objections that were apparently filed after the submission deadline but are being processed anyway.

Two companies have officially called on LaHatte to tell ICANN that “late complaints should not be received on the basis that the deadlines were well advertised and achievable”.

The issue seems to be that ICANN had set a deadline of 2359 UTC March 13 for objections to be filed, and some of them arrived slightly late.

The delays appear to have been a matter of mere minutes, and blamed on latency caused by heavy email attachments and other technical problems.

According to ICANN, the dispute resolution providers decided to give objectors a five-minute grace period, essentially extending the deadline from 2359 UTC to 0004 UTC the following day.

The recipients of these objections clearly now want to use this technicality to kill off the objections, avoiding the cost of having to defend themselves.

In a set of answers to questions posed verbally in Beijing last month, published last week (pdf), ICANN said:

ICANN is confident that the Dispute Resolution Service Providers are complying with the guidelines in the [Applicant Guidebook].

I don’t know which applications are affected by the issue, but the question at the Beijing public forum was posed by new gTLD consultant Jim Prendergast of the Galway Strategy Group.

He received applause, so I guess he wasn’t the only person in the room with an interest in the subject.

LaHatte, on his blog, is looking for feedback before making his decision.

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Healthcare dot-brand drops out of gTLD race

WellPoint, a major North American health insurance provider, has dropped its application for .anthem, a proposed dot-brand gTLD.

It’s the fifth application to be withdrawn this week and the 64th to be withdrawn overall. The pull-out rate from the original 1,930 applications now stands at roughly 3.3%.

It’s also the second bid to be yanked by WellPoint. It pulled its application for .caremore in December, before even receiving an evaluation prioritization number in The Draw.

Wellpoint, which did not apply for .wellpoint, has no applications remaining in the program.

Anthem is a brand used by WellPoint to provide health insurance, mainly in California.

It’s also the original name of the company, which entered its present incarnation with the merger of WellPoint Health Networks Inc and Anthem Inc in 2004.

The gTLD was to be a straightforward .brand with a Neustar back-end. It was uncontested and had no public comments, objections or Governmental Advisory Committee to stand in its way.

It had a very low priority number, however, and was not due to receive its Initial Evaluation results until the final week of the schedule.

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Afilias dumps .mail bid, and three other new gTLD withdrawals

Four new gTLD applications have been withdrawn so far this week, including the first to come from .info operator Afilias.

Afilias has pulled its bid for .mail — the second applicant to do so — due to the number of competitors for the string.

A spokesperson said in an email:

The company felt there were simply too many groups in contention for this domain and we’d rather focus our energy supporting and helping to grow the .POST domain, for which we are the [technical services provider].

There are now five applicants competing for the string, including Google, Amazon and Donuts, but they’re all facing objections from the United States Postal Service and the Universal Postal Union, which runs .post.

Elsewhere this week, Directi has ended its bid for .movie, a contention set with seven other bidders.

The company declined to comment on the reasons for the withdrawal, so we probably can’t entirely rule out some kind of partnership with one or more other applicants.

Today we’ve also seen the withdrawal of applications for .ltd and .inc, both belonging to a Dutch company called C.V. TLDcare. I don’t know much about these guys, other than it used OpenRegistry as its technical partner and that .inc and .ltd were its only two applications.

Interesting fact: not a single “corporate identifier” application (.llp, .corp, .ltd, .inc, .llc) has passed Initial Evaluation yet, but seven applications have been withdrawn.

It’s a controversial category, with many US state attorneys general very unhappy about any of these strings being delegated without safeguards.

The latest four withdrawals bring the total to 63.

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Global standards group highlights silliness of GAC’s IGO demands

Kevin Murphy, May 14, 2013, Domain Policy

The International Organization for Standardization, known as ISO, doesn’t want to have its acronym blocked in new gTLDs by the International Sugar Organization.

ISO has told ICANN in a letter that demands for special favors coming from intergovernmental organizations, via the Governmental Advisory Committee, should be rejected.

Secretary general Rob Steele wrote:

We have very strong concerns with the GAC proposal, and firmly oppose any such block of the acronym “ISO.”

To implement a block on the term “ISO” (requiring its release be permitted by the International Sugar Organization) disregards the longstanding rights and important mission of the International Organization for Standardization. To be frank, this would be unacceptable.

please be assured that the International Organization for Standardization is prepared to take all necessary steps if its well-known short name is blocked on behalf of another organization.

For several months the GAC has argued that IGOs are “objectively different category to other rights holders, warranting special protection from ICANN” in new gTLDs.

Just like the “unique” Olympics and Red Cross were in 2011.

The GAC proposes that that any IGO that qualifies for a .int address (it’s a number in the hundreds) should have its name and acronym blocked by default at the second level in every new gTLD.

But ICANN pointed that this would be unfair on the hundreds (thousands?) of other legitimate uses of those acronyms. It gave several examples.

The GAC in response said that the IGOs would be able to grant consent for their acronyms to be unblocked for use by others, but this opened up a whole other can of implementation worms (as the GAC is wont to do).

ICANN director Chris Disspain of AuDA said in Beijing:

Who at each IGO would make a decision about providing consent? How long would each IGO have to provide consent? Would no reply be equivalent to consent? What criteria would be used to decide whether to give consent or not? Who would draft that criteria? Would the criteria be consistent across all IGOs or would consent simply be granted at the whim of an IGO?

In the GAC’s Beijing communique, it seemed to acknowledge this problem. It said:

The GAC is mindful of outstanding implementation issues and commits to actively working with IGOs, the Board, and ICANN Staff to find a workable and timely way forward.

The GAC insists, however, that no new gTLDs should be allowed to launch until the IGO protections are in place.

Given the amount of other work created for ICANN by the Beijing communique, I suspect that the IGO discussions will focus on implementation detail, rather than the principle.

But the principle is important. IGOs are not typically victims of pernicious cybersquatting. If they deserve special protections, then why don’t trademark owners that are cybersquatted on a daily basis?

ISO standardizes all kinds of stuff in dozens of sectors. In the domain name space, it’s probably best known for providing ICANN with ISO 3166-1 alpha-2, the authoritative list of two-letter strings that may be delegated as ccTLDs.

The International Sugar Organization is very important too, probably, if you’re in the sugar business.

Wikipedia gives it a single paragraph, Google ranks the International Society of Organbuilders higher on a search for “ISO”, and its web site suggests it doesn’t do much business online.

Does it need better brand protection than Microsoft or Marriott or Facebook or Fox? Is anyone going to want to cybersquat the International Sugar Organization, really?

If it does deserve that extra layer of protection, should that right trump the more-famous ISO’s right to register domains matching its own brand?

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Massive internet policy database planned in Europe

Kevin Murphy, May 13, 2013, Domain Policy

The European Commission plans to build a massive web site and database of information related to global internet policy-making.

The Global Internet Policy Observatory, which is still in the planning stages, would be a “clearinghouse for monitoring Internet policy, regulatory and technological developments across the world”.

The idea appears to be to make it easier for people interested in this kind of thing to wade through information overload. According to a Commission press release, the site would:

  • automatically monitor Internet-related policy developments at the global level, making full use of “big data” technologies;
  • identify links between different fora and discussions, with the objective to overcome “policy silos”;
  • help contextualise information, for example by collecting existing academic information on a specific topic, highlighting the historical and current position of the main actors on a particular issue, identifying the interests of different actors in various policy fields;
  • identify policy trends, via quantitative and qualitative methods such as semantic and sentiment analysis;
  • provide easy-to-use briefings and reports by incorporating modern visualisation techniques;

GIPO (I’m choosing to pronounce it with a hard G) could get underway in 2014, pending the results of a feasibility study, the Commission said.

Brazil, the African Union, Switzerland, the Association for Progressive Communication, Diplo Foundation and the Internet Society are also all involved in the project.

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