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ARI drops .book new gTLD bid

ARI Registry Services has withdrawn its application for the .book new gTLD.

The application was one of nine for .book and is the first in the contention set to be withdrawn.

The application lists Global Domain Registry Pty Ltd as the applicant, but all the contact information belongs to ARI/AusRegistry and its executives.

ARI was also its selected back-end provider.

The company had proposed a restricted .book, where you could only register a name if you had an ISBN number.

It had a priority number of 1,464, so was not due to get its Initial Evaluation results for many weeks.

It’s a crowded contention set, however — other applicants include Google, Amazon, Top Level Domain Holdings and Donuts — that may well wind up costing a lot of money to resolve.

It’s the 57th new gTLD application to be withdrawn; 1,873 remain.

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Directi fighting “massive” .pw spam outbreak

Recently relaunched budget TLD .pw is being widely abused by spammers already, but registry manager Directi said it’s enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy.

Anti-spam software makers and users have over the last week reported a “massive” increase in email spam from .pw domain names.

Security giant Symantec reports that .pw jumped to #4 in its rankings of TLDs used in spammed URLs in the week ending April 26.

Anti-spam vendor Fort even recommended its customers block the entire TLD at their mail gateways, blogging:

Since we have yet to see a legitimate piece of mail for the .pw domain but have recently seen massive amounts of spam from this domain, we are recommending that you block mail form this domain as soon as practical.

Anti-spam mailing lists have been full of people complaining about .pw spam, according to spam expert John Levine.

Our own TLD Health Check ranks .pw at #19 in abusive domains (which tracks phishing and malware domains rather than spam) for May, having not ranked it at all before April.

But Sandeep Ramchandani, head of Directi’s .PW Registry unit, told DI that the company has deactivated 4,000 too 5,000 .pw domains for breaching its anti-abuse policy.

He said that a single registrar was responsible for the majority of the abusive names, and that the registrar in question has had its discount revoked, resulting in newly registered domains from it going down to “almost nothing”.

“If you remove that registrar, the percentage of abusive names to non-abusive names is not alarming at all,” Ramchandani said.

He said the company has a “zero tolerance” approach to spam. It’s been communicating with many of its critics to let them know it’s on the case.

He noted that it’s not surprising that people are seeing more bad traffic from .pw than good — spammers tend to start using their domains immediately, whereas legitimate registrants take a bit longer.

Directi, which reported 50,000 names registered in the first three weeks of general availability last week, is now up to 100,000 names.

Many of the names were registered via the same aforementioned registrar, so more are likely to be turned off, Ramchandani said.

.pw is the ccTLD for Palau, but Directi brands it as “Professional Web”. It’s going for the budget end of the market, selling domains for less than .com prices even if you exclude discounts.

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Web.com CEO talks “defensive” .web strategy

Number-three registrar Web.com applied for the new gTLD .web in order to protect a trademark, but it’s open to partnerships to secure and manage the string, according to its CEO.

But the .web contention set will take a “considerable amount of time to be resolved”, David Brown told analysts during the company’s first-quarter earnings conference call last night.

“The way we’ve always thought about .web is that given that we have a trademark on the name Web.com, we really needed to apply for .web in order to protect our trademark,” he said.

“In order to protect our trademark globally, we needed to basically defend ourselves by applying for .web, and we’re certainly interested in getting it, but it’s not our core business,” he added.

Web.com, which also owns Network Solutions and Register.com, is one of seven applicants for .web.

But the company did not file any Legal Rights Objections against its competitors, as its trademark may have permitted, reflecting a slightly relaxed attitude to the string that also came across in the yesterday’s call.

Brown said, according to the Seeking Alpha transcript:

We’ll be perfectly content if anyone gets .web because they’re going to distribute it through us, and it’s our name, and we’re advertising and building a brand in the marketplace, and we’re going to be a great deliverer of .web extensions, whoever gets it, whether it’s us or someone else.

He indicated that the ultimate winner of .web is likely to be some kind of cooperative arrangement between applicants. He said:

Our strategy has always been to cooperate. And so we’ve looked at the people who have applied, and we certainly are talking to all of them about who would benefit from this and which team would be the best team to provide services, and so that would be our strategy… We won’t bear the full load of the economics of acquisition ourselves likely. It’ll likely be shared.

To me, this screams “joint venture”, which has always been the way I’ve seen .web pan out. If you recall, when Afilias was formed to apply for .web in 2000, it was a joint venture of many leading registrars of the time.

Brown also said on the call that he expects to see the first new gTLDs get approved in the fourth quarter, but they’ll be the uncontested ones and therefore not particularly lucrative.

Web.com could also be the beneficiary of marketing dollars spent by new gTLDs to secure shelf space, he said.

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ICANN to consider GAC Advice next week

Kevin Murphy, May 3, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN’s board of directors is to discuss its response to the Governmental Advisory Committee’s sweeping new gTLDs advice at a meeting next week.

The New gTLD Program Committee has “Plan for responding to the GAC advice issued in Beijing” on its May 8 agenda. It’s the only specific topic listed for discussion at the meeting.

The GAC’s Beijing communique proposed a radical overhaul of the new gTLD approval process, with new anti-abuse requirements for all applicants and strict restrictions on 517 specific applications.

Due the breadth of the GAC’s advice, there are major procedural questions in play that could change the timeline of the new gTLD program, in addition to the substantial questions related to applications.

The document is currently open for public comment, with a close date for first-stage comments of May 14.

It’s not clear whether comments filed before May 8 will be made available to the board committee.

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Three gTLDs that Google doesn’t treat as gTLDs

Google this week reportedly updated its Webmaster Tools service to treat more ccTLDs as non-geography-specific, but it still seems to be overlooking two gTLDs altogether.

According to its refreshed FAQ, only 19 gTLDs are treated as “gTLDs that can be geotargeted in Webmaster Tools”.

The list does not include .post, which has been in the DNS since August 2012 and available to buy since October, or .xxx, which was delegated and went to general availability in 2011.

While the .arpa gTLD also does not appear (for perfectly sane reasons), the list does include tightly controlled and restricted gTLDs such as .int and .mil, however.

Google treats .asia the same as the ccTLD .eu: a “regional top-level domain” that can be geo-targeted in the same way as a regular gTLD.

The rules appear to apply to the geo-targeting function in Webmaster Tools, which allows webmasters to specify whether their site is designed for only a certain nation or region.

Assuming the list, which was updated this week, is accurate, it’s just the latest example of Google dragging its feet on gTLD acceptance.

One would assume, with Google being an applicant for almost 100 new gTLDs, that before long its gTLD team will be able to affect change elsewhere in the company in a more timely fashion.

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Verisign (or a domainer) needs to put this on a T-shirt

Kevin Murphy, May 2, 2013, Gossip

If I don’t see somebody wearing this on a T-shirt at the next ICANN meeting I will be very upset.

Keep .com

Credit: an anonymous artist.

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ICM sees 20-fold increase in registrations after sharp price drop

ICM Registry says its rate of domain registrations increased 20-fold during the first day .xxx has been on sale at .com prices.

The company took 1,000 registrations at the new $7.85-a-year registry fee since it revealed the price drop yesterday.

While that’s not an earth-shattering number, .xxx’s average daily take is 40 to 50 names, according to ICM CEO Stuart Lawley. The company had roughly 110,000 names under management before the offer started.

Some registrars have only started pushing the names today, he said. Retail prices are roughly the same as those for .com, with Go Daddy, for example, currently selling .xxx for $14.95 a year.

The reduced fee only applies for the month of May, but registrants can lock in prices for up to 10 years.

According to Lawley, domains registered in the last 24 hours were almost exclusively either for one year or 10 years, with an average of 2.3 years.

Almost half (48%) of the new names had been previously registered but allowed to expire over the last few months, he said.

Examples include valentine.xxx, students.xxx, hdmovies.xxx and plenty of others with somewhat more NSFW keywords. ICM actually maintains its own list of dropped porn-related keyword domains here.

One customer yesterday registered .xxx for the new retail price that would have cost him $88,000 on the secondary market for the equivalent .com, Lawley said.

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YouPorn spanks ICM as .xxx prices slashed

YouPorn owner Manwin Licensing scored a PR coup in its lawsuit against ICM Registry today, when the .xxx registry agreed to steep financial concessions in order to settle the case.

One of the effects of the settlement, at least according to Manwin, is that .xxx is slashing its registry fees from $60 to $7.85 a year for any new domains registered in May.

That brings .xxx into line with .com pricing, temporarily.

The discount only lasts for a month, but it applies to any length of registration up to 10 years. A 10-year registration would see ICM get $78.50, as opposed to the usual $600.

ICM said it will offer price reductions in future years too.

According to Manwin, this reduction is part of the settlement of the anti-trust lawsuit that it filed in November 2011.

“One of Manwin’s key motivations was to make .XXX pricing lower and more competitive,” the company said in a press release.

However, ICM told its registrars about the price reduction over a month ago, so Manwin’s claims might not be as straightforward as they seem.

What’s less open to interpretation is ICM’s agreement to donate $2 from every new .xxx domain created into “a fund designated by Manwin to support the adult entertainment industry”.

In return, Manwin has agreed to drop its boycott of .xxx — ads for .xxx sites will now be allowed to appear on its highly trafficked “tube” sites.

According to a Manwin press release, ICM has also made the humbling admission that “websites hosted on their adult-specific TLDs are not the only responsible and safe adult content websites.”

The lawsuit originally claimed that ICM and ICANN acted anti-competitively by introducing .xxx. ICM counter-sued saying that Manwin’s boycott was illegal.

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ICANN issues new gTLD dispute RFPs

ICANN has issued two requests for proposals for providers to administer dispute resolution services for the new gTLD program.

It’s looking for outfits to manage the Registry Restrictions Dispute Resolution Procedure (RRDRP) and Trademark Post-Delegation Dispute Resolution Procedure (Trademark PDDRP).

The former is for people who think a Community gTLD registry is mishandling its registration restrictions, the latter for trademark owners who believe a registry is turning a blind eye to cybersquatting.

ICANN has a requirement that the respondents to the RFPs must have experience with dispute resolution, so expect the usual suspects (ie UDRP providers) to wind up on the shortlist.

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Donuts not pursuing new gTLD joint ventures

Following the news that Uniregistry and Top Level Domain Holdings are to work together on the .country new gTLD, larger portfolio applicant Donuts has said it’s not interested in similar arrangements.

While not entirely ruling out joint ventures along the lines of the .country tie-up, company VP of communications Mason Cole told DI that Donuts’ strategy is to completely own each of the new gTLDs it has applied for.

“We aren’t categorically ruling anything out, but any kind of proposal would have to be very compelling,” he said. “Our strategy from the beginning has been, and still is, to secure the strings we applied for and manage them ourselves.”

While TLDH and Uniregistry seem open to such partnerships, Donuts’ stance appears to reduce the likelihood of three-way joint ventures on the four applications for which the three companies are the only applicants.

Donuts is also in two-horse races on an additional 58 strings.

The company, which is believed to have raised $100 million to $150 million in venture capital funding, is a strong supporter of private auctions to settle contention sets.

It originally brought the auctioneer Cramton Associates, which runs ApplicantAuction.com. into the ICANN process.

Cramton, according to a blog post this week, expects to run a mock auction May 23 and start auctions proper five days later.

ICANN does not expect to finish delivering the results of Initial Evaluation until August, so it seems possible some applicants may participate before they know if they’ve passed.

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