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Dudu buys dudu.com for $1 million

Kevin Murphy, January 5, 2012, Domain Sales

The first big-figure domain name sale announcement of the year has me cackling.

A Dubai-based social networking site, Dudu, has paid $1 million for dudu.com, making one Chinese domainer a very happy man indeed.

Sedo brokered the deal over three months and announced the sale today.

Dudu was previously located at godudu.com.

The lesson to be learned here is so painfully obvious it’s barely worth mentioning: if you’re going to launch a brand and try to make it successful, first make sure you have a domain to match.

Before Dudu built up the brand, dudu.com was probably a five-figure sale.

To Dudu’s credit, it does not appear to have ever attempted a reverse domain name hijacking using the UDRP.

Alibek Issaev, chairman of Dudu, said in Sedo’s press release:

With the purchase of dudu.com, we will be able to match our platform’s brand with the exact domain name we need, and migrate from using godudu.com to this shorter version. This purchase means we don’t lose important traffic, and at the same time we ensure that visitors from around the globe will remember our brand’s name.

No dudu, Sherlock.

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High-security .bank spec published

Kevin Murphy, January 5, 2012, Domain Policy

BITS, the technology arm of the Financial Services Roundtable, has published a set of specifications for new “high-security” generic top-level domains such as .bank and .pay.

The wide-ranging spec covers 31 items such as registration and acceptable use policies, abusive conduct, law enforcement compliance, registrar relations and data security.

It would also ban Whois proxy/privacy services from financial gTLDs and oblige those registries to verify that all Whois records were fully accurate at least once every six months.

The measures could be voluntarily adopted by any new gTLD applicant, but BITS wants them made mandatory for gTLDs related to financial services, which it calls “fTLDs”.

A letter sent by BITS and the American Bankers Association to ICANN management in late December (pdf) is even a bit threatening on this point:

We strongly urge that ICANN accept the [Security Standards Working Group's] proposed standards and require their use in the evaluation process. We request notification by 31 January 2012 that ICANN commits to use these fTLD standards in the evaluation of the appropriate gTLD applications. BITS, the American Bankers Association (ABA), and the organizations involved in this effort are firmly committed to ensuring fTLDs are operated in a responsible and secure manner and will take all necessary steps to ensure that occurs.

BITS, it should be pointed out, is preparing its own .bank bid (possibly also .invest and .insure) so the new specs give a pretty good indication of what its own gTLD applications will look like.

ICANN’s Applicant Guidebook does not currently mandate any security standard, but it does say that security practices should be commensurate with the level of trust expected from the gTLD string.

Efforts within ICANN to create a formal High Security Zone Top Level Domain (HSTLD) standard basically fizzled out in late 2010 after ICANN’s board said it would not endorse its results.

That said, any applicant that chooses to adopt the new spec and can demonstrate it has the wherewithal to live up to its very strict requirements stands a pretty good chance of scoring maximum points in the security section of the gTLD application.

Declining to implement these new standards, or something very similar, is likely to be a deal-breaker for any company currently thinking about applying for a financial services gTLD.

Even if ICANN does not formally endorse the BITS-led effort, it is virtually guaranteed that the Governmental Advisory Committee will be going through every financial gTLD with a fine-toothed comb when the applications are published May 1.

The US government, via NTIA chief Larry Strickling, said this week that the GAC plans to reopen the new gTLD trademark protection debate after the applications are published.

It’s very likely that any dodgy-looking gTLDs purporting to represent regulated industries will find themselves under the microscope at that time.

The new spec was published by BITS December 20. It is endorsed by 17 companies, mostly banks. Read it in PDF format here.

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MasterCard files UDRP on “priceless” geo domains

Kevin Murphy, January 5, 2012, Domain Policy

MasterCard recently registered several “priceless” domain names including the names of major cities and has filed cybersquatting complaints on seven more belonging to third parties.

The credit card company has this week entered UDRP complaints on pricelessistanbul.com, pricelessamsterdam.com, pricelessnewyork.com, pricelessmexico.com, pricelesslosangeles.com, pricelessparis.com and pricelesslondon.com.

The domains were registered separately by four different registrants over the last couple of years and are all parked, mostly with Go Daddy’s default parking page.

Interestingly, MasterCard also hand-registered several “priceless+city” domains at the end of November, including pricelessberlin.com, pricelesssydney.com pricelessmoscow.com, pricelessshanghai.com, pricelessmadrid.com and pricelessbangkok.com.

The company has not filed UDRP complaints about domains such as pricelessrome.com or pricelesssanfrancisco.com, which appear to belong to some of the same registrants.

It has also left the names of other popular city-break destinations unregistered. Domains such as pricelessprague.com, pricelessathens.com and pricelessdublin.com are currently available.

Could the company be working on a marketing campaign targeted only to specific cities?

The company has form when it comes to enforcing its long-held “priceless” trademark. It notably won control of priceless.org in an uncontested UDRP in 2007.

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ICANN confirms possible new Applicant Guidebook

Kevin Murphy, January 4, 2012, Domain Policy

With just a week left before ICANN begins to accept new generic top-level domain applications, the organization has confirmed that it might release a new draft of the Applicant Guidebook.

As you probably know by now, the Guidebook is the Bible for new gTLD applicants. The most-recent version, published back in September last year, was the eighth.

But ICANN has not ruled out a ninth version, presumably the final draft before applications start rolling into Marina del Rey on January 12.

Senior vice president Kurt Pritz said in an emailed statement:

Since its opening, our customer service center has received a number of questions requesting clarifications on some Guidebook points. These clarifications have been made through the responses by the customer service.

We will summarize those clarifications in one document – that might be an Advisory or in the form of an updated Guidebook. In either case, the positions of applicants will not be affected as the information will repeat that in previously answered questions.

Pritz also added that a new draft of the separate guidebook for the recently developed Applicant Support program may be released after public comments close later this month.

It’s unlikely that a revised Guidebook will contain any big surprises, if it only contains clarifications of text already found in the current version.

I’ve been trawling ICANN’s new gTLD customer service center knowledge base for interesting facts for weeks and come up pretty much empty — most answers to applicants’ questions merely refer back to the Guidebook.

(Hat tip to new gTLD consultancy Fairwinds, which first noticed the possibility of a new Guidebook.)

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Strickling drops last-minute bombshell on new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, January 4, 2012, Domain Policy

Larry Strickling, the man most responsible for overseeing ICANN in the US administration, has given an unexpected last-minute boost to opponents of the new generic top-level domains program.

In a letter to ICANN chair Steve Crocker tonight, Strickling says governments may intervene this May to impose new trademark protection mechanisms on the new gTLD program

Echoing the words of several Congressmen, Strickling, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said that after the first-round applications have been filed, ICANN might want to consider a “phased-in” approach.

Once the list of strings is made public, NTIA, soliciting input from stakeholders and working with colleagues in the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), will evaluate whether additional protections are warranted at the second level. Having the ability to evaluate the actual situations or conflicts presented by the applied for strings, rather than merely theoretical ones, will certainly assist and focus everyone’s efforts to respond to problems should they arise.

The letter could be seen as a win for the trademark lobby, which has been pressing the NTIA, Department of Commerce and Congress for months to delay or block the program.

However, reading between the lines it appears that Strickling believes the trademark protections already in the program are probably adequate, just woefully misunderstood.

The letter spends more time politely tearing into ICANN’s atrocious outreach campaign, observing that many trademark owners still “are not clear about the new gTLD program”.

Strickling pleads with ICANN’s leadership to raise awareness of the protections that already exist, to calm the nerves of companies apparently convinced by industry scaremongering that they’re being forced to apply for “dot-brand” gTLDs defensively.

…in our recent discussions with stakeholders, it has become clear that many organizations, particularly trademark owners, believe they need to file defensive applications at the top level.

We think, and I am sure ICANN and its stakeholders would agree, that it would not be healthy for the expansion program if a large number of companies file defensive top-level applications when they have no interest in operating a registry. I suggest that ICANN consider taking some measures well before the application window closes to mitigate against this possibility.

The themes are repeated throughout the letter: ICANN has not done enough to educate potential applicants about the new gTLD program, and brand owners think they’ve got a gun to their head.

…it has become apparent that some stakeholders in the United States are not clear about the new gTLD program. I urge you to engage immediately and directly with these and other stakeholders to better educate them on the purpose and scope of the program as well as the mechanisms to address their concerns.

I’m sure this is a letter Strickling didn’t want to send.

Recently, he talked openly about how trademark owners pressuring the US government to overrule ICANN’s decision-making risked raising the hackles of repressive regimes around the world and leading to an internet governed by the UN

Letters like this certainly don’t help his cause, but the political pressure in Washington DC has evidently forced his hand.

Will this derail next week’s launch of the program? Probably not.

Does it raise a whole bunch of questions the ICANN community had thought it had put to bed? You bet it does.

Read the letter here (pdf).

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