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Famous Four wins two new gTLD contention sets

Four new gTLD applications were withdrawn overnight, resolving three contention sets.

Top Level Domain holdings has pulled its bids for .review and .science, in both cases leaving subsidiaries of portfolio applicant Famous Four Media as the only remaining applicant.

Meanwhile, Famous Four withdrew its .fit application, leaving TLDH as the only remaining applicant.

Buyouts? It seems possible. The .review application passed its Initial Evaluation a month ago, so the ICANN refund due to TLDH will have been dramatically reduced.

As a publicly traded company, TLDH is likely to issue a statement at some point explaining the current state of its applications.

But one of the side effects of ICANN’s preference for private deals is that we won’t always know when two or more companies privately resolve their contention sets.

There are at least two other contention sets where I have very good reasons to believe that deals have already been done, partially resolving the set, but nothing has yet been disclosed.

Also overnight, L’Oreal’s application for .garnier, a dot-brand, was withdrawn. It’s the fifth, and probably not the last, of L’Oreal’s 14 original new gTLD application to be dropped.

Governmental Advisory Committee advice has been leveled against .fit and .review, but not .science.

UPDATE: The original version of this story erroneously reported that TLDH, rather than Famous Four, had withdrawn its .fit application. This has now been corrected. Apologies for the error.

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US and EU could be victims of ICANN power shift

Kevin Murphy, June 24, 2013, Domain Policy

Europe and North America could see an influx of new nations under changes to the way ICANN defines geographic regions, potentially diluting the influence of EU states and the USA.

Europe could soon be joined by several Middle Eastern countries, while North America could be expanded to encapsulate Caribbean nations.

The changes, which would alter the composition of key ICANN decision-making bodies, could come as a result of the Geographic Regions Review Working Group, which delivered a draft final set of recommendations over the weekend, after four years of deliberations.

Among its conclusions, the WG found that there are “anomalies” in how ICANN handles regions and that countries should have the right to move to a different region if they choose.

ICANN has long divided the world into five regions (North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean) along unique and sometimes unusual lines.

The regions are used to ensure diversity in the make-up of its board of directors, among other things. ICANN’s bylaws state that no region may have more than five directors on the board.

The working group was tasked with figuring out whether the current geographic regions made sense, whether there should more or fewer regions, and whether some countries should change regions.

ICANN’s regions as they stand today have some weirdness.

Cyprus, for example, is categorized as being in Asia-Pacific, despite it floating in the Mediterranean, being a member of the European Union and largely speaking Greek.

Mexico and most Caribbean islands are in Latin America, as far as ICANN is concerned, leaving the US, Canada and US overseas territories as the North American region’s only eight members.

Then there are anomalies relating to “mother countries”. The Falkland Islands, for example, is physically found in the Latin American region but is classified as European by ICANN because it’s a British territory.

Under changes proposed by the working group, many of these anomalies could slowly shake themselves out.

But the working group decided against forcing nations from one region into another (with an opt-out) as had been proposed in 2011. Instead, countries could choose to change regions.

This is the key recommendation:

The Working Group recommends that the Board direct Staff to prepare and maintain ICANN’s own unique organizational table that clearly shows the allocation of countries and territories (as defined by ISO 3166) to its existing five Geographic Regions. The initial allocation should reflect the status quo of the current assignments. However, Staff should also develop and implement a process to permit stakeholder communities in countries or territories to pursue, if they wish, re-assignment to a geographic region that they consider to be more appropriate for their jurisdiction.

While this looks like a free-for-all — there doesn’t seem to be anything stopping France moving to Africa, for example — in practice the working group seems to be expecting certain shifts.

For example, some Middle Eastern nations had expressed an interest in moving from Asia-Pacific to Europe, while some Caribbean island states apparently feel more aligned with North America.

Assuming the recommendations are taken on board and regional switches are approved on a case-by-case basis, both North America and Europe could soon swell to include new countries.

The working group’s recommendations would avoid the seismic shifts previously envisaged, however.

There will be no separate region for Arab states, which had been requested. Nor will there be any forced move of territories into regions different from their mother countries (which would have proved politically difficult in the case of disputed land masses such as the Falklands).

While the report is being called “final” it has been presented for public review until October, after which it will be formally sent to ICANN’s board.

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New .org contract could make registrars sign up to 2013 RAA

Registrars risk losing their right to sell .org domain names unless they sign up to the new 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement.

The change is among several proposed to Public Interest Registry’s .org Registry Agreement with ICANN, which was published for public comment over the weekend.

Amendments to the .org RA, which came to the end of its six-year term in April, are very similar to those put forward for the .info and .biz contracts last month.

But .org is a far larger and more popular TLD, putting more pressure on more registrars to sign up to the 2013 RAA, with its new Whois verification and privacy service obligations.

For registrars on the 2009 and 2001 RAAs, the clock would start ticking the day that registrars representing two thirds of all .org registrations sign the 2013 RAA.

That threshold could be met in .org if the top eight or nine registrars make the switch.

PIR would then get 60 days to tell its remaining registrars that they have 270 days to move to the new RAA. Any registrar that failed to adopt it in that time would lose its right to sell .org domain names.

As with the .info and .biz contracts, the provisions related to the 2013 RAA would only kick in if Verisign asks for the same changes for its .com and .net agreements, which may never happen.

Other changes proposed for the .org contract include:

  • Cross-ownership restrictions. PIR will be able to own a registrar under the new deal, lifting the long-standing ban on gTLD registries selling domains in their own TLD.
  • Price increases. PIR will be able to raise its .org registry fee by 10% per year, from its current level of $8.25.
  • Code of Conduct. PIR will have to abide by the same registry Code of Conduct as new gTLD operators, which contains provisions mainly related to equal registrar access.

The propose .org contract is open for public comment until August 12.

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ICANN has 99 gTLD passes but .payu ain’t one

ICANN has delivered another 100 new gTLD Initial Evaluation results this evening, with 99 passes and one failure.

The failure is the application for .payu, a dot-brand filed by a Dutch e-payments company. It’s eligible for extended evaluation, having scored a 0 on its “financial statements” question.

These are the successful applications, many of which are receiving their results well after their original due dates:

.dnp .otsuka .okinawa .media .extraspace .tickets .bradesco .mtpc .infiniti .ooo .lilly .everbank .mom .latrobe .maif .town .free .tube .wales .ist .ong .auto .shopyourway .golf .viajes .doosan .tatar .yoga .mail .chk .pru .one .medical .limo .ovh .storage .infy .desi .secure .domains .computer .racing .zara .target .pictet .music .nba .bank .goodhands .ing .sling .meme .giving .jewelry .deals .nadex .credit .one .here .luxury .cern .salon .ninja .zip .vana .lancome .tires .recipes .film .teva .auto .istanbul .grocery .web .diet .baby .support .hotel .infosys .lol .beats .vons .moscow .inc .guge .car .forsale .hsbc .energy .man .team .book .family .green .aetna .movie .politie .home .group

There are now 819 passes, 9 failures and 1,019 applications still in Initial Evaluation. Next week, we’ll pass the halfway mark, with IE due to be completed in August.

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PuntCAT cross-ownership ban lifted

PuntCAT has become the first gTLD registry operator to have a ban on owning an affiliated registrar lifted.

The change means the company will be able to directly market its .cat domain names to registrants via a registrar that it owns.

An amendment to its ICANN contract posted yesterday deletes the clause that prevents the company owning more than 15% of an ICANN-accredited registrar. The change follows a December request.

PuntCAT is the first to take advantage of ICANN’s liberalization of rules on registry-registrar cross ownership.

Afilias and Neustar will benefit from the same changes, but their respective .info and .biz registry agreements are currently in public comment periods and not yet signed.

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New registrar contract could be approved next week

ICANN’s board of directors is set to vote next week on the 2013 Registrar Accreditation agreement, but we hear some last-minute objections have emerged from registrars.

The new RAA has been about two years in the making. It will make registrars verify email addresses and do some rudimentary mailing address validation when new domains are registered.

It will also set in motion a process for ICANN oversight of proxy/privacy services and some aspects of the reseller business. In order to sell domain names in new gTLDs, registrars will have to sign up to the 2013 RAA.

ICANN has put approval of the contract on its board’s June 27 agenda.

But I gather that some registrars are unhappy about some last-minute changes ICANN has made to the draft deal.

For one, some linguistic tweaks to the text have given registrars an “advisory” role in seeking out technical ways to do the aforementioned address validation, which has caused some concern that ICANN may try to mandate expensive commercial solutions without their approval.

There also appears to be some concern that the new contract now requires registrars to make sure their resellers follow the same rules on proxy/privacy services, which wasn’t in previous drafts.

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Hexonet scores dot-brand deal with Brights

Hexonet has made a deal with new gTLD consultancy Brights Consulting to provide registrar technical services for all of Brights’ dot-brand clients.

All new gTLDs, even dot-brands, are obliged to use accredited registrars to register domain names. Under this deal, Brights will use Hexonet’s RegistrarOC service to make the process a little easier.

RegistrarOC is basically a way for companies accredited by ICANN as registrars to outsource the technical and compliance functions of running a registrar to Hexonet.

Brights will use its own accreditation and RegistrarOC to manage its clients’ portfolios of second-level domains in their respective dot-brands, Hexonet chief strategy officer Robbie Birkner said.

The exact number of dot-brands Brights is taking care of has not been disclosed, but I believe it’s in double figures. Most are based in Japan, same as Brights.

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Two more new gTLD bids dropped

Uniregistry and LʹOréal, two of the highest profile new gTLD applicants, both withdrew applications today.

Uniregistry has pulled out of the .marketing race, leaving it a two-way battle between Tucows and Donuts. It’s the first application withdrawn by the company, which has applied for 54 gTLDs.

Its .marketing bid was due to get its Initial Evaluation results today. By withdrawing before this happens, the company gets a much bigger refund from ICANN.

LʹOréal, meanwhile, has withdrawn is fourth dot-brand, .maybelline, which is due its IE results next week. The company has 10 applications, a mixture of brands and closed generics, outstanding.

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Nominet fires CCO over baby death “cover-up”

Nominet has terminated its recently appointed chief commercial officer, Jill Finney, who was today alleged to have been involved in the “cover-up” of baby deaths at a British hospital.

The allegations concern Finney’s previous job as deputy CEO of the Care Quality Commission, which regulates the UK’s National Health Service.

According to reports today, Finney was one of three people responsible for suppressing an internal CQC report detailing its own failure to spot problems at a maternity unit.

Poor standards of care at the hospital in question led to the deaths of as many as 16 babies and two mothers, the Guardian reported today.

It’s a big story in the UK, where a tendency for NHS executives to put the reputations of their hospitals over transparency and patient care has become a political football.

In a statement, Nominet, which regularly faces its own complaints about transparency and accountability, said:

The increasing public scrutiny over our CCO’s former role at CQC has made it impossible for her to continue with her role and responsibilities at Nominet.

With regret, we felt it necessary to terminate Jill Finney’s employment with immediate effect. Ms Finney will be paid one month’s salary in lieu of notice.

Finney joined Nominet directly from the CQC in February. Her name had been associated with transparency failures at the CQC even then, which made the hire seem odd at the time.

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Next new gTLD auction set for August 13

Innovative Auctions today announced that its second new gTLD auction is scheduled for August 13 and that several companies have already signed up to participate.

The news follows the settlement of the first round of auctions, which saw $9.01 million shared between losing applicants and Innovative for the rights to six new gTLD strings.

“[A]ll of the participants from this auction who have additional strings in contention have signed on to use the process to resolve their remaining contentions,” Innovative said.

That would mean Afilias, Merchant Law Group and XYZ.com, which took part in this month’s auctions, are all likely to attempt to settle their outstanding contention sets with Innovative.

That’s another roughly 40 strings on top of Donuts’ already-committed monster portfolio.

Of course, the auctions will only be able to go ahead if all of the other applicants in each contention set also agree to participate, which in some cases will be a non-starter.

The money from the first auctions has already been distributed to the losing applicants, according to Innovative.

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