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First ICANN CEO candidate revealed

Kevin Murphy, February 8, 2012, Domain Policy

Former ICANN director Njeri Rionge has emerged as a possible candidate for the soon-to-be-vacated CEO’s job.

Rionge is a Kenyan national, described last year by Forbes.com as “one of Kenya’s most successful and revered serial entrepreneurs”.

She founded Wananchi Online, a successful ISP in East Africa, and the business consultancy Ignite Consulting.

Her candidature was revealed in an open letter posted today by Sophia Bekele, CEO of DotConnectAfrica, a likely applicant for the .africa generic top-level domain.

DCA and Rionge have severed ties due to her new CEO aspirations, according to Bekele:

At the end of 2011, Ms. Njeri Rionge had expressed to DCA Executive Director, a direct interest in competing for the soon to be vacant ICANN CEO position, and for this reason, was kindly requested by DCA to submit her resignation from the DCA Strategic Advisory Board for ethical/conflict of interest reasons.

This was done after due internal consultations with concerned parties. Accordingly, Njeri Rionge is no longer involved in DCA and DCA Registry Ltd either as a Board Member or shareholder and will not represent neither would she be affiliated with DCA in any capacity, now or in the near future.

Rionge served on the ICANN board of directors as a Nominating Committee appointee for two terms between 2003 and 2008.

While there’s a ban on current directors applying for the CEO position, I don’t believe there’s any such prohibition on former directors.

ICANN is currently interviewing would-be replacements for Rod Beckstrom, who intends to leave the organization in July after a three-year term.

No other candidates have been revealed to date.

The only other name being circulated in the rumor mill is Lesley Cowley, CEO of .uk registry Nominet and current chair of ICANN’s ccNSO, but I’ve no idea if she’s even interested.

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Dirty tricks claimed over .wine gTLD project

Kevin Murphy, February 7, 2012, Domain Registries

Jean Guillon, who has been openly working on an idea for a .wine generic top-level domain for the last few years, claims his erstwhile partner in the project has sold him out.

According to Guillon, he worked with an unnamed partner – apparently a big player which had committed to fund the application – for five months.

Guillon says he worked on critical strategic elements of his .wine plan, such as recruiting registrars and finding potential buyers for premium .wine domains worth “hundreds of thousand Euros”.

But because he never signed a contract, Guillon says this partner has now cut him loose and plans to apply for .wine without him, using the knowledge he provided.

He does not reveal the identity of the partner (I have my suspicions) other than to say “there is a very rich organization coming out on the market, with a lot of money to hammer down any competing applicant.”

In a blog post discussing his predicament, he also threatens to reveal his former partner’s strategy to apply for “dozens” of gTLDs.

Guillon says he didn’t sign anything. Presumably that includes an NDA.

Dirty tricks? Sour grapes?

With only one side of the story it’s difficult to say right now.

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Dyson says new gTLDs will kill the DNS

Kevin Murphy, February 7, 2012, Domain Tech

Former ICANN chair Esther Dyson thinks apps and new gTLDs will cause internet users to abandon domain names.

In an article for TechPresident entitled “Is the Open Web Doomed? Open Your Eyes and Relax“, Dyson writes:

Right now, we’re moving slowly from open data and APIs and standards, to a world of Facebook and apps. We’re likely to see abandonment of the DNS by consumers both because of those apps, and a tragedy of the commons where new Top-Level Domain names (.whatevers and .brands) confuse users and lead to more use of the search box or links within apps.

The point seems to run counter to the rest of her argument, which is that the open web will continue to be used even while Facebook carves away its own little corner of it and that the whole “walled garden vs open web” war is fought in cycles.

(At least, I think that’s what she’s saying, it’s not an easy read.)

I always find these arguments confusing.

If consumers are not using the DNS, where are these “search boxes” and “links within apps” sending them? IP addresses? How do the consumers know they got to where they wanted to go?

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ICANN worried about defensive gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, February 7, 2012, Domain Policy

Why is ICANN so misunderstood?

That’s the question at the heart of a public comment period into concerns about “defensive” new generic top-level domain applications that the organization opened up last night.

ICANN wants to know why so many companies seem to think they’ll need to apply for a dot-brand gTLD even though they don’t want one.

there are reports that parties believe that they will need to submit defensive gTLD applications to protect their trademarks, regardless of whether they are interested in using or developing a gTLD.

ICANN seeks public comment on the sources of this perception and how it can be addressed.

The comment period serves three purposes — it’s designed to raise awareness about rights protection mechanisms as well as soliciting input about defensive applications.

It will also let ICANN show the US Congress, which is worried about this kind of thing, that it’s doing something to address the problem.

So why are so many people worried about the perceived need to defensively apply for dot-brands?

The main answer, I think, is pretty straightforward:

The Applicant Guidebook is 349 pages long.

Hardly anybody has read the damn thing, not even some of the “experts” that persist on appearing in the media to complain about numeric gTLDs or to confidently predict GE and LG will apply for dot-brands.

So what do people do? They get somebody else who has read it to explain what it means.

These somebody elses are either consultants and registry providers, which are financially incentivized to get companies to apply, or they’re organizations that want the whole program stopped, which are not above deliberately misrepresenting the rules in order to whip up outrage.

I’m not casting every consultant in the same light here, of course. Many will turn away business if it’s not a good fit, but let’s not pretend that there hasn’t been scaremongering.

And let’s remember that for most regular companies registering a domain name is not an opportunity, it’s a headache. It’s at best a minor irritation and at worst a costly shakedown.

That thinking has clearly translated into the new gTLD space.

Poorly informed people think they’re being asked to register a very expensive domain name, and in their experience registering a domain name is a defensive measure 99% of the time.

Because ICANN has spent the last six months painstakingly avoiding saying anything positive about new gTLDs, it’s been left to the consultants and registries to try to explain the opportunities.

They’re understandably looked on with suspicion, and not only because of the aforementioned distrust of the industry – this new gTLD thing is unproven and there’s a perception that previous gTLDs have “failed” because you don’t see a .biz every time you turn on the TV.

Anyway, speaking of shakedowns, DomainIncite PRO subscribers have access to an in-depth analysis of scenarios in which “defensive” applications may and may not be appropriate. Read it here.

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RIAA backs .music new gTLD bid

Kevin Murphy, February 7, 2012, Domain Registries

The Recording Industry Association of America has picked a side. It’s supporting Far Further’s application for the .music generic top-level domain, according to the company.

The RIAA is one of over a dozen music industry groups that are currently listed as supporters of the Far Further bid.

Among them is the influential International Federation of Phonographic Industries and The Recording Academy, which hands out the Grammys.

The support was hard won, according to Far Further president John Styll.

“The RIAA put together a loose coalition of organizations from sectors from around the world and ran a pretty intensive RFI process,” he said.

The company beat off competition from several other respondents and received word that the RIAA would support its .music application a few months ago, he said.

It’s been clear for some time that any .music applicant that does not have the backing of the RIAA will very likely get beaten up by the notoriously protective organization instead.

The RIAA wrote to the US Department of Commerce last August to demand that any music-themed gTLD should implement “heightened security measures” to prevent copyright infringement.

And that’s pretty much what Far Further has promised.

Its .music would be restricted, along the same lines as gTLDs such a .pro, to card-carrying members of what the company calls “accredited Global Music Community Members”.

“It’s not open to everyone,” Styll said. “You’d have to join an organization.”

Amateur bands would have to be members of an accredited songwriters association to get a .music address, for example.

In addition, the content of .music web sites would be policed in a similar way to .xxx or .cat, with regular spidering to ensure the content does not break the rules.

“We’re definitely looking at content, and besides the vetting process, in the registrant agreement there’ll be a warrant you’re not going to violate anyone’s intellectual property rights,” said Styll.

“We’re retaining the right to conduct searches,” he said. “If we find evidence of infringing activity we’ll give you the opportunity to correct that, or we can take down the site.”

Far Further is not the only known .music applicant, of course.

Constantine Roussos of Music.us and MyTLD has been passionately campaigning for the gTLD for years, and his enthusiasm has not waned even if his chances have.

“We’re still going after .music,” he confirmed yesterday. He added that he expects it to be a two-horse race, given these recent developments.

Make no mistake, with backing from the RIAA and other influential industry groups Far Further is now the runaway favorite in the battle for .music. Roussos has quite a fight on his hands.

DomainIncite PRO subscribers can read more about it here.

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