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Tucows, Directi and Namecheap to combine .online gTLD bids

Kevin Murphy, March 27, 2013, Domain Registries

Three applicants for the .online gTLD appear to have settled their differences in what I believe is the first public example of new gTLD contention set consolidation.

Tucows, Directi and Namecheap said today that that they plan to “work together to manage the .online registry.” From the press release:

applicants for the same TLDs have begun to compete, negotiate, and, in some cases, join forces to ultimately produce one winning bid.

The first such alliance was revealed today, when domain industry veterans Directi, Tucows and Namecheap announced that they would work together to manage the .online registry.

The companies are of course three of the most successful domain name registrars out there.

The press release does not specify how the combination will be carried out. Under ICANN rules, two of the applicants would have to drop their applications. It’s not possible to resubmit as a joint venture.

It also does not acknowledge that there are three other applicants for .online — Donuts and smaller portfolio applicants Dot Online LLC and I-REGISTRY Ltd — which are not party to the agreement.

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Chutzpah alert! “Tube” domainer objects to Google’s .tube gTLD bid

Kevin Murphy, March 27, 2013, Domain Registries

Remember the “mystery gTLD applicant” that had promised to campaign against Google’s closed generic gTLD applications?

It turns out the company behind the campaign is actually Latin American Telecom, one of the three applicants for .tube, and that part of its strategy is a Legal Rights Objection.

According to a copy of the LRO kindly provided to DI this week, LAT claims that if Google gets to run .tube it would harm its Tube brand, for which it has a US trademark.

If you haven’t heard of Latin American Telecom, it, despite the name, appears to be primarily a domainer play. Founded in Mexico and based in Pittsburgh, its main claim to fame seems to be owning Mexico.com.

The company says it has also been building a network of roughly 1,500 video sites, all of which have a generic word or phrase followed by “tube.com” in their domains, since 2008.

It owns, for example, the domains IsraelTube.com, MozartTube.com, LabradorTube.com, AmericanWaterSpanielTube.com, DeepSeaFishingTube.com… you get the idea.

They’re all cookie-cutter microsites that pull their video content from Vimeo. Most or all of them appear to be hosted on the same server.

I’d be surprised if some of LAT’s domains, such as BlockbusterTube.com, PlaymateTube.com, FortyNinersTube.com and NascarTube.com, didn’t have trademark issues of their own.

But LAT was also granted a US trademark for the word TUBE almost a year ago, following a 2008 application, which gives it a basis to bring an LRO against Google.

According to its LRO:

The proposed purposes of and registrant limitations proposed for .TUBE by Google demonstrate that the intended purpose of Google’s .TUBE acquisition is to deprive other potential registry operators of an opportunity to build gTLD platforms for competition and innovation that challenge YouTube’s Internet video dominance. It is clear that Google’s intended use for .TUBE is identical to Objector’s TUBE Domain Channels and directly competes with Objector’s pre-existing trademark rights

There’s quite a lot of chutzpah being deployed here.

Would LAT’s ramschackle collection of –tube domains have any meaning at all were YouTube not so phenomenally successful? Who’s leveraging whose brand here, really?

For LAT to win its objection it has to show, among other things, that its TUBE trademark is famous and that Google being awarded .tube would impair its brand in some way.

But the company’s LRO is vague when it come to answering “Whether and to what extent there is recognition in the relevant sector of the public of the sign corresponding to the gTLD”.

It relies surprisingly heavily on its Twitter accounts — which have fewer followers than, for example, DI — rather than usage of its web sites, to demonstrate the success of the TUBE brand.

I don’t think its objection to Google’s .tube application is a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination.

There is a third .tube gTLD applicant, Donuts, but it has not yet received any LROs, according to WIPO’s web site.

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Neustar leading the new gTLD back-end scores so far

Kevin Murphy, March 25, 2013, Domain Registries

New gTLD applications backed by registry service provider Neustar scored the highest results in the first batch of Initial Evaluation results.

All 27 of the applications that have had their IE results revealed by ICANN so far have easily passed the 22 out of 30 points threshold required for a passing score on the technical evaluation.

In most cases, each application had its technical questions answered by the applicant’s chosen back-end provider.

Eight different back-ends are involved in the first 27 bids, some with more applications than others.

Here’s the average score out of 30 for each company.

Back-EndNumber of AppsAverage Score
Neustar529.6
KSregistry129
Demand Media Europe129
Verisign729
ARI Registry Services527.6
Knet427.5
CORE227
CentralNic226

Only Neustar and Verisign scored the full 30 points in an application with their name on it, but their averages were reduced by applications in which they fared less well.

It’s very early days, of course, with the full set of IE results not due to be completely published until August.

We’ll be tracking these scores as more results are released on DI PRO.

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Directi sells 4,000 .pw domains in first half hour

Kevin Murphy, March 25, 2013, Domain Registries

PW Registry, the Direci unit looking after the .pw registry, said it received orders for 4,000 domain names in its first 30 minutes of general availability today.

Disappointing? It’s certainly not up to the standard of, say, .co, which was well into six figures in the same period when it launched a few years ago.

But .pw’s ambitions weren’t quite as lofty as .co’s. It’s the ccTLD for Palau, and its chosen meaning of “professional web” isn’t nearly as intuitive or valuable as .co’s “company”.

Still, it’s early days, and Directi says it saw a reasonable amount of domainer action during its landrush phase.

Landrush and sunrise period numbers have not been disclosed, but the company said that Apple, Pfizer, Volkswagen and Nokia obtained their trademarks during sunrise.

PW Registry has 110 registrars, including many of the big ones, selling its names.

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Chehade to play hard-ball over unilateral right to amend?

Kevin Murphy, March 25, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade has reportedly indicated that the unilateral right to amend powers ICANN wants to put in its registry and registrar contracts are non-negotiable.

Speaking at a meeting of the Association of National Advertisers last week, Chehade is reported to have said: “I’m not going to back off this one.”

He is understood to have been referring to the changes ICANN wants to impose on the base new gTLD Registry Agreement and the Registrar Accreditation Agreement.

Amy Bivins of Bloomberg BNA’s Electronic Commerce & Law Report caught the speech live and tweeted the following:

Bivins’ full report is available behind BNA’s paywall.

The unilateral right to amend is just about the most controversial thing ICANN has proposed in a while.

It would give ICANN’s board of directors the power to make changes to both agreements in situations where registrars or registries cannot agree among themselves to a “special amendment” but there’s agreement by other community members that the change is required.

Registries and registrars argue that a contract in which one party has the power to change the agreement without the consent of the other is not really a contract at all.

But ICANN says the powers are needed, partly to redress existing imbalances: the fact that the RAA and RA both last for 10 years and that the RA has a presumptive right of renewal.

Without the right to change the RA over the protests of the registries, it’s possible that in future proposed changes could be vetoed by registries whose interests are not aligned with the “public interest”, ICANN argues.

ICANN says that it’s impossible to know how consolidation, future new gTLD rounds and power shifts in the ICANN community will affect the balance of power, meaning it needs a way to resist a registry choke-hold should the situation arise.

I suspect the fact that it’s taken about three years to get close to adding the recommendations of law enforcement relating to registrar conduct to the RAA may also have something to do with it.

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Five interesting nuggets from the first batch of gTLD evaluations

Kevin Murphy, March 25, 2013, Domain Registries

ICANN gave many in the industry cause for celebration on Friday when it released its first batch of 27 new gTLD applications that have passed Initial Evaluation.

The plan is to release 30 per week, ramping up to 100 at some point in future, but three applications in the first 30 still have change requests or clarifying questions being processed.

Here are some interesting bits of information we’ve gleaned from the first batch.

Donuts has passed its background checks

Donuts has had the first of its new gTLD applications approved. This means that the evaluation team doing background screening found no reason to be fail the company due to its executives’ track records.

During the public comment period last year, Donuts’ opponents said the company should be barred from getting any new gTLDs because of its close ties to Demand Media, a company with a record of adverse UDRP decisions.

It was also claimed that a Donuts director was involved in cybersquatting the Olympic and Disney brands, but it turned out the director in question had left the company in late 2011.

But ICANN’s evaluation team appears to have given Donuts the all clear.

The Donuts application that has passed Initial Evaluation, for .商店 (shop/store), is one of 199 applications, each filed by unique corporate shells, that share a parent, Dozen Donuts LLC.

The balance of Donuts’ applying companies are owned by Covered TLD LLC, believed to be its joint venture with Demand Media. All 307 are signed up to use Demand Media’s registry back-end.

Seven IDN scripts passed IE

New gTLDs in seven internationalized domain name scripts — Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, Hindi, Korean, German, Cyrillic — have passed through Initial Evaluation.

Transliterations of .com/.net are apparently fine

Some of Verisign’s applications for transliterations of .com and .net in scripts such as Chinese and Hindi have passed IE, meaning the evaluators weren’t worried about possible clashes with their legacy equivalents.

There’s been some concern from some parts of the world that because the applied-for strings are meaningless in the relevant languages, but sound like “com” and “net” when spoken, that it could cause confusion.

New back-end providers have cause for celebration

While there was little doubt that back-end providers Verisign, Neustar, Afilias and CORE would receive passing grades by ICANN — they all run gTLDs already — new market entrants did not have reasons for the same confidence.

However, ARI Registry Services, Demand Media, CentralNIC, KISA, KSRegistry and KNET are all named back-ends for passing applications in the first batch.

This should come as a cause for celebration for these companies, and a relief for their clients.

Because many applications used the same boilerplate back-end text, there’s good reason to believe that other bids using these registry providers are likely to pass the technical portion of Initial Evaluation too.

Afilias doesn’t have any passes yet

Top-three player Afilias, so far, does not have any passing apps.

One of its clients is at position #7 in the priority queue, but it’s one of the three applications in the top 30 to be still chasing follow-up questions or change requests with ICANN.

Probably nothing to worry about here.

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First 27 new gTLDs pass evaluation

Kevin Murphy, March 22, 2013, Domain Registries

ICANN has started reporting the results of Initial Evaluation in its new gTLD program as promised, delivering a passing grade to 27 applications today.

So far, no bids appear to have explicitly flunked IE, judging by ICANN’s web site.

However, some of the applications in the top 27 in the prioritization queue are still flagged as being in IE — the Japanese Chinese-script dot-brand .淡马锡 and Samsung’s .삼성.

ICANN said:

For some applications Initial Evaluation results were not yet available for one or more possible reasons such as: pending change requests, clarifying questions, or follow-up with applicants regarding missing information. The results for these applications will be published as soon as the relevant processes are completed.

Due to the way the queue was rigged, all 27 passes are for internationalized domain names, such as Verisign’s .net transliteration .大拿 and Amazon’s Japanese .fashion (.ファッション).

Those that have passed IE and have no objections and no contention can now pass in to predelegation testing and contract negotiations with ICANN.

All IE results are expected to be released by August.

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Go Daddy poaches another Yahoo exec

Kevin Murphy, March 21, 2013, Domain Registrars

Go Daddy has hired another Yahoo executive to join its senior management.

James Carroll, senior vice president of the consumer and global platform group, is to head Go Daddy’s international business, according to All Things D.

Go Daddy is of course now headed by former Yahoo Blake Irving, who has made international expansion one of his key growth strategies.

Irving hired Carroll at Yahoo too, All Things D reported.

With Yahoo apparently undergoing a shakeup under its new CEO Marrissa Meyer, it’s not impossible we might see more execs winding up at Go Daddy before long.

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Google starts supporting DNSSEC

Kevin Murphy, March 21, 2013, Domain Tech

Google has started fully supporting DNSSEC, the domain name security standard, on its Public DNS service.

According to a blog post from the company, while the free-to-use DNS resolution service has always passed on DNSSEC requests, now its resolvers will also validate DNSSEC signatures.

What does this mean?

Well, users of Public DNS will get protected from DNS cache poisoning attacks, but only for the small number of domains (such as domainincite.com) that are DNSSEC-signed.

It also means that if a company borks its DNSSEC implementation or key rollover, it’s likely to cause problems for Public DNS users. Comcast, an even earlier adopter, sees such problems pretty regularly.

But the big-picture story is that a whole bunch of new validating resolvers have been added to the internet, providing a boost to DNSSEC’s protracted global roll-out.

Google said:

Currently Google Public DNS is serving more than 130 billion DNS queries on average (peaking at 150 billion) from more than 70 million unique IP addresses each day. However, only 7% of queries from the client side are DNSSEC-enabled (about 3% requesting validation and 4% requesting DNSSEC data but no validation) and about 1% of DNS responses from the name server side are signed. Overall, DNSSEC is still at an early stage and we hope that our support will help expedite its deployment.

One has to wonder whether Google’s participation in the ICANN new gTLD program — with its mandatory DNSSEC at the registry level — encouraged the company to adopt the technology.

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Trademark Clearinghouse lowers prices

Kevin Murphy, March 21, 2013, Domain Services

The Deloitte-managed Trademark Clearinghouse has slashed its bulk submission prices in response to feedback from registrars.

A newly revised TMCH price list leaves the basic fees of $145 to $95 per mark per year untouched, but makes it much easier for large trademark owners and brand protection companies to qualify for discounts.

The system for securing bulk discounts is based on “Status Points” that accumulate as trademarks are submitted, with five pricing tiers available.

The changes mean submission agents need to rack up 1,000 points in order to become eligible for the first discount tier, instead of 3,000. The cheapest tier is accessible at 90,000 points instead of 100,000.

The TMCH has also doubled the number of bonus points awarded for submitting trademarks during the “early bird” phase, which runs until the first new gTLD sunrise period begins, making it easier to hit discount milestones.

TMCH Cost CalculatorAccording to the Trademark Clearinghouse Cost Calculator, which has been updated with the new numbers, savings could be substantial.

For example, a submission agent that submits 10,000 marks for five-year registrations during the early bird period will pay $5,232,125, which is $742,950 cheaper than under the old pricing scheme.

That would be an average cost of $104.64 per mark per year, compared to $119.50 under the old regime.

A listing in the TMCH is a prerequisite if a trademark owner wants to participate in new gTLD sunrise periods or take advantage of the Trademark Claims cybersquatting alert service.

We gather that the price reductions came largely as a result of feedback from registrars that plan to act as submission agents, rather than from trademark owners themselves.

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