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ICANN director withdrew gTLD application

Kevin Murphy, August 6, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN director Judith Vasquez applied for a new gTLD but then withdrew the bid at the last minute.

That’s among a tapestry of factoids relating to conflicts of interest to emerge from the minutes of recent meetings of ICANN’s board of directors that were published this week.

It’s also emerged that the New gTLD Program Committee — established as a subset of the board “without conflicted members” — actually now has four “directors with conflicts that have been mitigated”.

Vasquez, a businessperson heavily involved in media and telecoms in the Philippines, according to the minutes of the May 6 meeting:

disclosed that she withdrew her new gTLD application through the customer service center, though the withdrawal cannot be completed through the TAS due to the system being offline.

As you may recall, the TLD Application System (TAS) went down April 12, suggesting that Vasquez’s bid was withdrawn close to or after that date — the original deadline for filing new gTLD applications.

It’s not know what gTLD she (or a company she works for) was applying for, or why the application was withdrawn.

The potential for a conflict in her case was first noted in her published statement of interest when she joined the board in October last year.

But as I’ve noted before, Vasquez continued to vote on matters relating to the new gTLD program up until February 7.

She’s since joined the New gTLD Program Committee.

From the same May 6 minutes, it has emerged that directors Bill Graham and Kuo-Wei Wu were both probed for conflicts by a board subcommittee — set up a year ago in the wake of Peter Dengate Thrush’s move from the ICANN chair to Top Level Domain Holdings — which:

found that both of them had conflicts, but they had been already mitigated to the satisfaction of the subcommittee. And, therefore, the subcommittee determined that those two individuals, though conflicts were identified, had mitigated those conflicts with regard to the New gTLD Program.

Details of these conflicts have not been published. Both men have sat on the committee since its inception April 10.

A non-voting board liaison, Thomas Narten, was also considered conflicted but sufficiently “mitigated” to join the committee. He works as a software engineer for IBM, which has applied for a dot-brand.

Two other directors — Sebastien Bachollet and Bertrand de La Chapelle — were identified as having conflicts which they tried and apparently failed to mitigate to the satisfaction of the board.

Bachollet was unhappy with that classification, according to a statement he entered into the minutes several weeks later, which partly reads:

I still disagree with the conclusion of the Subcommittee and on the proposed mitigating measures. I will not enter into detail here, but now I have to accept this decision and I do.

I take this opportunity to underline that there is no appeal procedure in place allowing a second view on the matter.

Bachollet is a director of the International Foundation For Online Responsibility, .xxx’s nominal sponsoring organization, which is funded by ICM Registry, an applicant for three porn-related gTLDs.

The policy think-tank founded by De La Chapelle is or was funded by companies that applied for new gTLDs or offered services to applicants, according to his latest statement of interest.

The New gTLD Program Committee has 12 voting directors at present, three of which have been previously identified as conflicted but with their conflicts mitigated.

According to the May 6 minutes, ICANN’s chief lawyer John Jeffrey explained, in response to a query from de La Chapelle, why this is not a problem:

The General Counsel and Secretary explained that there are situations where a conflict may still exist, but mitigation can be completed that will remove that conflict from having an impact on the fiduciary responsibilities to ICANN or the other entity with whom the conflict may have arisen. Those directors or liaisons may then participate as if they were nonconflicted, acting without conflict in the decisions they make for the Board. He also noted that there could be situations where, upon mitigation, there may not be a conflict at all.

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Verisign demands 24/7 domain hijacking support

Kevin Murphy, August 6, 2012, Domain Registrars

Verisign is causing a bit of a commotion among its registrar channel by demanding 24/7 support for customers whose .com domains have been hijacked.

The changes, we understand, are among a few being introduced into Verisign’s new registry-registrar agreement for .com, which coincides with the renewal of its registry agreement with ICANN.

New text in the RRA states that: “Registrar shall, consistent with ICANN policy, provide to Registered Name Holders emergency contact or 24/7 support information for critical situations such as domain name hijacking.”

From the perspective of registrants, this sounds like a pretty welcome move: who wouldn’t want 24/7 support?

While providing around the clock support might not be a problem for the Go Daddies of the world, some smaller registrars are annoyed.

For a registrar with a small headcount, perhaps servicing a single time zone, 24/7 support would probably mean needing to hire more staff.

Their annoyance has been magnified by the fact that Verisign seems to be asking for these new support commitments without a firm basis in ICANN policy, we hear.

The recently updated transfers policy calls for a 24/7 Transfer Emergency Action Contact — in many cases just a staff member who doesn’t mind being hassled about work at 2am — but that’s meant to be reserved for use by registrars, registries and ICANN.

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New gTLD timetable expected this week

Kevin Murphy, August 6, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN plans to publish a new timetable for its new gTLD program later this week, according to its latest update.

Its board of directors’ New gTLD Program Committee said in a report (pdf) published this morning:

The roadmap will show how the separate schedules for evaluation applications, possible dates for GAC [Governmental Advisory Committee] input, comment & objection periods, and other program elements fit together. The plan will demonstrate interdependencies, indicate risk areas, describe schedule uncertainty, and indicate how applicants might be affected by changes to the plan.

The roadmap will be released by the week of August 6, 2012.

New gTLD applicants have been waiting for this report since the Prague meeting in late June, when it became clear that the original timetable, based on application batching and “digital archery”, was dead.

Potential objectors will also be sharply impacted by the timetable; decisions could hit their wallets.

If the window for filing private sector objections closes before the GAC deadline to object, for example, the cheaper wait-for-the-GAC strategy for objecting becomes a non-starter.

Today’s report from ICANN also discloses a little more about how the 1,930 new gTLD applications are being processed: they’re being grouped by applicant and/or by back-end registry provider, in an attempt to create efficiencies.

According to ICANN, this will enable the evaluators to ramp up to a maximum capacity of 300 applications per month, but that it will take a few months to fully ramp up to that speed.

The Initial Evaluation phase of the process began about a month ago, in line with its July 12 target date, ICANN said.

Adding some time for ICANN to organize and publish results, this means that initial evaluation results will be published in 11-12 months after the July 12 start date, i.e., May or June 2013.

With the timetable set to be published this week, the ongoing public comment process about application metering will presumably not have an impact on what is published.

With that in mind, any timetable released this week is unlikely to answer every outstanding question about the timing of go-live dates for successful new gTLD applicants.

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DotGreen lobbies the GAC for support in .green fight

Kevin Murphy, August 3, 2012, Domain Registries

The DotGreen Community has asked ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee for backing in the four-way fight for the .green generic top-level domain.

In a letter to the GAC, copied to ICANN’s board and published today, DotGreen does everything but ask outright for the GAC to object to its three competitors’ .green applications.

In it, Annalisa Roger, CEO of the not-for-profit company, makes a passionate case that .green should be operated by a company that has a genuine connection to and affinity with the environmental movement.

She heavily implies that the GAC should object to the other applicants.

Without deliberate decision or intervention, the .green TLD may be won at ICANN Auction to join enmass with a slew of portfolio TLDs, blending into one of the many industry portfolios, a common business model ICANN’s new gTLD program has spawned.

Those like you who are in a position to object, evaluate, or delegate should consider the obvious relationship of .GREEN with the Green Community, and the global Green Movement which represents net social benefits to include all people, their natural and synthetic environments, the economic systems they construct (such as Green Business Models), and conditions for future generations of life who stand to be affected by the choices we make, the policies we implement, and the projects we fund and allow to be born today.

The other .green applicants are Top Level Domain Holdings, Afilias, and a Demand Media subsidiary. Unlike DotGreen, they’re all portfolio gTLD applicants.

Roger says these companies are basically out to sell as many domains as possible and don’t have the same commitment to the environmental movement as DotGreen.

Despite the name and a great deal of support from green organizations, DotGreen did not file a “community” application, so the only way it can avoid auction is by persuading the other applicants to drop their bids, or by having them all eliminated by objections.

Asking the GAC to object is probably the cheapest way to do this.

While the GAC has made its interest in gTLDs with obvious regulatory implications — such as .bank — abundantly clear, I understand conversations have also started about strings with more tangential relationships to public policy, such as .food.

It’s not inconceivable that .green could fall into that category, though I don’t think it’s an easy sell.

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Aussies get new gTLD conference

Kevin Murphy, August 3, 2012, Domain Policy

A conference dedicated to new generic top-level domains is set to run in Australia this November.

The New TLD Summit, organized by a new company called Brand Huddle, will feature local speakers including ICANN director Chris Disspain (of auDA) and vice-chair Bruce Tonkin (of Melbourne IT).

The three-day event is “aimed and assisting trademark and brand owners navigate through the new ICANN TLD Program.”

The conference appears to have a general upbeat take on the topic, with speakers from some antipodean gTLD applicants, but with sessions on brand infringement and risk management to balance it out.

Ticket prices for the workshops do not yet seem to be available, and some of the agenda is still TBC, but the expo part of the show is said to be free.

The New TLD Summit will run from November 21 to 23 this year at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Center.

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