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TLDH and others sign first gTLD registry contracts

Kevin Murphy, November 23, 2013, Domain Registries

Top Level Domain Holdings and a few other new gTLD registries signed their first Registry Agreements with ICANN this week.

Its six new RAs were among 15 registry contracts ICANN signed this week. TLDH and its subsidiaries signed for: .horse, .cooking, .nrw (as Minds + Machine GmbH), .casa, .fishing and .budapest.

I’d heard some concerns at ICANN 48 this week about TLDH’s lack of signed contracts to date, but the concerns seem to have been misplaced.

Monolith Registry, partly owned by Afilias, has also signed RAs for .voto and .vote, the latter of which was won at auction.

Small Chinese portfolio applicant Zodiac Holdings got its second and third gTLD contracts: .商城 (“.mall”) and .八卦 (“.gossip”).

German registry I-Registry got .rich and Russian registry The Foundation for Network Initiatives got .дети (“.kids/children”).

Previously contracted parties Donuts and Uniregistry added .tools and .expert (Donuts) and .christmas (Uniregistry) to their portfolios on Friday.

The total number of new gTLDs with RAs is now about 130.

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GAC gives ICANN a way out on IGO acronyms

Kevin Murphy, November 22, 2013, Domain Policy

The ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee has reiterated its call for the protection of intergovernmental organization acronyms in the new gTLD program, but seems to have given ICANN a way to avoid a nasty confrontation.

In its official Communique from the just-concluded meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the GAC provided the following advice concerning IGOs:

The GAC, together with IGOs, remains committed to continuing the dialogue with NGPC [ICANN’s New gTLD Program Committee] on finalising the modalities for permanent protection of IGO acronyms at the second level, by putting in place a mechanism which would:

1. provide for a permanent system of notifications to both the potential registrant and the relevant IGO as to a possible conflict if a potential registrant seeks to register a domain name matching the acronym of that IGO;

2. allow the IGO a timely opportunity to effectively prevent potential misuse and confusion;

3. allow for a final and binding determination by an independent third party in order to resolve any disagreement between an IGO and a potential registrant; and

4. be at no cost or of a nominal cost only to the IGO.

This seems to be a departure from the GAC’s its Durban Communique, in which it had demanded “preventative” measures be put in place to stop third parties registering IGO acronyms.

As we reported earlier this week, the GNSO Council unanimously approved a resolution telling ICANN to remove IGO acronyms from existing block-lists, something the GAC had been demanding.

Now, it seems that ICANN has been given a relatively simple and less confrontational way of accepting the GAC’s watered-down advice.

The Trademark Claims alerts service and Uniform Rapid Suspension dispute resolution process combined would, by my reading, tick all four of the GAC’s boxes.

IGO acronyms do not currently qualify for either, because they’re not trademarks, but if ICANN can figure out a way to allow these strings into the Trademark Clearinghouse, it can probably give the GAC what it wants.

In my view, such a move wouldn’t trample on anyone else’s rights, it would not represent the kind of overkill the GAC originally wanted, nor would it be in conflict with the GNSO’s consensus resolution (which seems to envisage a future in which these acronyms get TMCH protection).

ICANN may have avoided the sticky situation I pondered earlier this week.

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ICANN in a sticky spot as GNSO overrules GAC on block-lists

Kevin Murphy, November 20, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN may have to decide which of its babies it loves the most — the GNSO or the GAC — after receiving conflicting marching orders on a controversial rights protection issue.

Essentially, the GAC has previously told ICANN to protect a bunch of acronyms representing international organizations — and ICANN did — but the GNSO today told ICANN to un-protect them.

The GNSO Council this afternoon passed a resolution to the effect that the acronyms of IGOs and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) should not be blocked in new gTLDs.

This conflicts directly with the Governmental Advisory Committee’s longstanding advice, which states that IGOs should have their names and acronyms reserved in all new gTLDs.

The Council’s resolution was passed unanimously, enjoying the support of registries, registrars, non-commercial users, intellectual property interests… everyone.

It came at the end of a Policy Development Process that kicked off in 2011 after the GAC demanded that the International Olympic Committee and Red Cross/Red Crescent should have their names protected.

The PDP working group’s remit was later expanded to address new demands from the GAC, along with a UN-led coalition of IGOs, to also protect IGO and INGO names and acronyms.

The outcome of the PDP, which had most of its recommendations approved by the GNSO Council today, was to give the GAC most of what it wanted — but not everything.

The exact matches of the full IOC, RC/RC, IGO and INGO names should now become permanently ineligible for delegation as gTLDs. The same strings will also be eligible for the Trademark Claims service at the second level.

But, crucially, the GNSO Council has voted to not protect the acronyms of these organizations. Part of the lengthy resolution — apparently the longest the Council ever voted on — reads:

At the Top Level, Acronyms of the RCRC, IOC, IGOs and INGOs under consideration in this PDP shall not be considered as “Strings Ineligible for Delegation”; and

At the Second level, Acronyms of the RCRC, IOC, IGOs and INGO under consideration in this PDP shall not be withheld from registration. For the current round of New gTLDs, the temporary protections extended to the acronyms subject to this recommendation shall be removed from the Reserved Names List in Specification 5 of the New gTLD Registry Agreement.

The list of reserved names in Spec 5, which all new gTLD registries must block from launch, can be found here. The GNSO has basically told ICANN to remove the acronyms from it.

This means hundreds of strings like “who” and “idea” (which would have been reserved for the World Health Organization and the Institute for Development and Electoral Assistance respectively) should now become available to new gTLD registries to sell or otherwise allocate.

I say “should”, because the Council’s resolution still needs to be approved by the ICANN board before it becomes a full Consensus Policy, and to do so the board will have to reject (or reinterpret) the GAC’s advice.

The GAC, as of its last formal Communique, seemed to be of the opinion that it was going to receive all the protections that it asked for.

It has told ICANN for the last year that “IGOs are in an objectively different category to other rights holders” and that “their identifiers (both their names and their acronyms) need preventative protection”

It said in its advice from the Durban meeting (pdf) three months ago:

The GAC understands that the ICANN Board, further to its previous assurances, is prepared to fully implement GAC advice; an outstanding matter to be finalized is the practical and effective implementation of the permanent preventative protection of IGO acronyms at the second level.

The key word here seems to be “preventative”. Under the resolution passed by the GNSO Council today, IGO acronyms would be allowed to enter the Trademark Clearinghouse and participate in the Trademark Claims service, but Claims does not prevent anyone from registering a matching domain.

It’s looking like the ICANN board is going to have to make a call — does it accept the GAC advice, or does it accept the unanimous consensus position of the GNSO?

Given that much of ICANN 48 here in Buenos Aires this week has been a saccharine love-in for the “multistakeholder process”, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which the GNSO Council does not win out.

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Nominet approves direct second-level .uk domains

Kevin Murphy, November 20, 2013, Domain Registries

Get ready for a backlash — Nominet has committed to start offering second-level domain names under .uk for the first time.

Starting next year, you’ll be able to register example.uk, rather than only third-level names such as example.co.uk and example.org.uk.

The announcement today comes after at least two consultation periods over the last year or so, which provoked a strong negative reaction from many in the .uk domain investor community.

Concerns were raised that allowing .uk would allow names to fall into the hands of the wrong people, and that the cost to UK business would be prohibitively high.

“We all want shorter, snappier names,” CEO Lesley Cowley said. “But we appreciate that not everyone shares that view so as a board we had to very carefully consider what’s in the best interest of the public.”

Nominet has introduced a few new ideas that seem to be designed to address these criticisms.

First, every owner of a .co.uk domain name will be given a free five-year reservation on the matching .uk SLD. If you own example.co.uk, you’ll have five years to decide whether to pay for the .uk version.

Cowley told DI that Nominet’s market research suggested that UK businesses repaint their trucks and get new stationery every five years anyway, so the pressure to rebrand around a new domain would be alleviated.

“There was some concern that businesses would feel forced to register a .uk,” she said. “We would not want that to be the case. We want people to consider in their own time whether they want to move.”

In cases where matching .co.uk and .org.uk (or .me.uk etc) domains are owned by different people, the .co.uk gets the free reservation and the .org.uk is locked out for five years.

Where there’s a .org.uk with no matching .co.uk, the .org.uk registrant gets the free reservation, Cowley said.

Domains registered prior to October 28 2013 — when the Nominet board voted on the proposal — will qualify for the free reservation, as will domains registered after that date when there are no colliding third-level domains.

The price for a .uk SLD is to be set at £3.50 for a one-year reg and £2.50 for one year of a multi-year registration. That’s the same as .uk wholesale prices today.

Why do it at all?

While Cowley admitted that .uk registration growth has been slowing recently, something being experienced by many ccTLDs and gTLDs, she said the main reason for the SLD change was demand.

Nominet has done some market research showing only 2% of UK businesses do not want the SLD option in .uk, compared to 72% that do, according to the company.

“People have been saying for some years that it would be good to drop the ‘co’ in .uk,” said Cowley. “It’s clunky. The French and Germans manage to have direct in .fr and .de, so why can’t we do that as well?”

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These are the top 50 name collisions

Kevin Murphy, November 19, 2013, Domain Tech

Having spent the last 36 hours crunching ICANN’s lists of almost 10 million new gTLD name collisions, the DI PRO collisions database is back online, and we can start reporting some interesting facts.

First, while we reported yesterday that 1,318 new gTLD applicants will be asked to block a total of 9.8 million unique domain names, the number of distinct second-level strings involved is somewhat smaller.

It’s 6,806,050, according to our calculations, still a bewilderingly high number.

The most commonly blocked string, as expected, is “www”. It’s on the block-lists for 1,195 gTLDs, over 90% of the total.

Second is “2010”. I currently have no explanation for this, but I’m wondering if it’s an artifact of the years of Day In The Life data upon which ICANN based its lists.

Protocol-related strings such as “wpad” and “isatap” also rank highly, as do strings matching popular TLDs such as “com”, “org”, “uk” and “de”. Single-character strings are also very popular.

The brand with the most blocks (free trademark protection?) is unsurprisingly Google.

The string “google” appears as an exact match on 930 gTLDs’ lists. It appears as a substring of 1,235 additional blocked strings, such as “google-toolbar” and “googlemaps”.

Facebook, Yahoo, Gmail, YouTube and Hotmail also feature in the top 100 blocked brands.

DI PRO subscribers can search for strings that interest them, discovering how many and which gTLDs they’re blocked in, using the database.

Here’s a table of the top 50 blocked strings.

StringgTLD Count
www1195
20101187
com1124
wpad1048
net1032
isatap1030
org1008
mail964
google930
ww911
uk908
info905
http901
de900
us897
co881
local872
edu865
cn839
a839
e837
ru836
m833
ca831
c826
it821
tv817
server817
in814
gov814
wwww810
f804
facebook803
br803
fr799
ftp796
au796
yahoo794
1784
w780
biz778
g776
forum776
my764
cc762
jp761
s758
images754
webmail753
p749

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