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Verisign Hashlinks – a bid to keep domains sexy?

Verisign has quietly announced a new URL shortening service with an interesting spin.

Domain Hashlinks, which The Domains noticed earlier today, is an effort to bring short vanity URLs, with all the associated benefits, to companies’ existing domain names.

A Hashlink looks like this:

Notice the absence of a slash.

Hashlinks, which will compete against services such as and, will allow companies to “remain faithful to your brand”, Verisign says.

The service, which is aimed at marketing departments, will have the usual metrics-tracking baggage that we’ve come to expect from URL shorteners.

It can also be plugged into Google Analytics, according to Verisign.

This is not a “registry service” in the sense that it’s running off of the .com registry. That kind of thing requires ICANN approval, but it’s not what Verisign is doing.

It seems that Domain Hashlinks is actually going to be Javascript-driven, meaning it will work regardless of which TLD your site uses. You don’t need to be Verisign to offer this kind of service.

But will anyone use it?

I had to spend a few minutes reading through the service’s web site to convince myself that it wasn’t simply an April Fools’ Day joke I’d missed.

The choice of stock muzak in the pitch vid seems to be comically evocative of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, which screams motifs of youth and change… if you’re in your late 30s or early 40s.

But then I got it.

I can see how Domain Hashlinks would appeal to marketing folks. At least, I can see why Verisign would think it would appeal to marketing folks.

There’s a worry in the domain name industry, which goes right to the top at Verisign, that domain names are becoming less relevant as social media navigation becomes more popular.

You’re now just as likely to see a Twitter hashtag on your TV screen as a domain name.

Domain Hashlinks are a blatant attempt to buy into that buzz and keep domain names relevant in marketing.

I haven’t seen the Javascript yet – it hasn’t been released – but as far as I can tell there’s absolutely no reason the same functionality couldn’t be achieved with the humble slash.

I think Verisign is using the # symbol quite simply because it’s far sexier, as punctuation goes, than /.

The concept is either utter genius (think Justin Bieber planking with a LOLcat) or hopelessly embarrassing (think Verisign veep Pat Kane moshing to Nirvana at a wedding reception).

But that’s for the kids to decide.

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YouPorn’s .xxx settlement talks extended

YouPorn owner Manwin, .xxx manager ICM Registry and ICANN have asked a California court for a few more weeks to settle Manwin’s antitrust lawsuit.

According to a court filing yesterday, the three want to extend ICANN and ICM’s window to respond to Manwin’s complaint extended from April 17. The submission reads:

The parties’ settlement discussions have not yet finished. In order to complete those discussions, the parties stipulate to extend, by an additional about three weeks until May 8, 2012, the deadline for Defendants to respond to Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint.

By May 8 the world is going to know whether ICM and/or Manwin have applied to ICANN for other adult-oriented gTLDs (.sex, .porn, etc), which could change the picture considerably.

Manwin sued ICANN and ICM in November, alleging that they colluded on .xxx to deliver “monopolistic conduct, price gouging, and anti-competitive and unfair practices”.

ICM and ICANN have denied the allegations.

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NAF loses UDRP market share again

Kevin Murphy, April 4, 2012, Domain Policy

If UDRP forum shopping is a real phenomenon, the market share statistics don’t bear it out.

The National Arbitration Forum today announced a sequential decrease in the number of cybersquatting cases it handled in 2011, widening the gap between itself and the World Intellectual Property Organization for at least the second year in a row.

NAF said it handled 2,082 complaints last year, down 4% from 2010. That’s over the same period WIPO saw a 2.5% increase to 2,764 cases.

NAF is occasionally accused of being the more complainant-friendly of the two major UDRP dispute resolution providers, which some say encourages “forum shopping”.

While that may or may not be true in certain fringe cases, it’s certainly not helping NAF win a flood of business. WIPO is still handling more cases, and growing its share while NAF’s shrinks.

As Mike Berkens observed over on The Domains, NAF’s press release attempted a bit of lame spinning, comparing 2011 to 2009 in order to lead with an 18% increase stat.

The release also includes the following quote from director of internet and IP services Kristine Dorrain, which seems to be designed to subtly address the “complainant-friendly” allegations.

Our experience tells us parties, particularly domain name registrants, prefer the National Arbitration Forum because documents are easily accessible in our online portal. Complaint or Response filing is accomplished in just a couple of minutes.

It’s a somewhat irrelevant statement, given that it’s the complainant who gets to choose the venue.

One of NAF’s 2011 highlights was being picked as exclusive provider of Rapid Evaluation Service cases by .xxx manager ICM Registry. It processed 10 RES complaints in 2011.

RES cases, as well as 73 .us cases, were counted in its headline statistics.

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Ombudsman reports on ICANN 43 “girls” scandal

Kevin Murphy, April 4, 2012, Gossip

ICANN Ombudsman Chris LaHatte has delivered his official report on the ICANN 43 sexism controversy.

As you may recall, during the ICANN 43 meeting in Costa Rica last month, domain name lawyer John Berryhill complained to LaHatte about a booth operated by Czech ccTLD operator CZ.nic.

Marketing ICANN 44, which CZ.nic is hosting in Prague this June, the booth offered cartoon postcards advertising “girls” as one of several reasons — alongside “beer”, “culture” etc — to attend the meeting.

Berryhill complained that the cards objectified women and were inappropriate for an ICANN meeting.

LaHatte writes:

The complainant says the use of the postcard was demeaning to women and an unnecessary objectification of them.

After some discussion, they [CZ.nic] understood the way in which this was seen, from another perspective, and quickly agreed to remove the postcards as an option in the kiosk display. What they saw as a light-hearted tribute to attractive woman in the Czech Republic, they then were able to see as offensive to others. Because they were so ready to perceive and accept the alternative view, it was not necessary to take any further action

A presentation by CZ.nic later in the week at the Costa Rica meeting eschewed any mention of the cards in question.

In the interests of disclosure, since first reporting this story I’ve discovered that Berryhill discovered the postcards via one of my own tweets, so I’m probably partly responsible for creating my own controversy here.

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It’s official: April 30 is the Big Reveal for new gTLDs

ICANN has just announced that it is targeting April 30 as the date it reveals which companies have applied for which new generic top-level domains.

“Our plan always has been to publish the list of applied-for strings approximately two weeks after the close of the April 12th application window,” CEO Rod Beckstrom said in a press release.

“Setting a target date gives people the opportunity to plan for this highly anticipated event,” he added.

It’s only a target date, the press release notes.

ICANN does have a fairly reliable track record of missing deadlines when it comes to the new gTLD program.

Many new gTLD applicants are planning to meet unofficially in Las Vegas for the Big Reveal. The French consulting company Starting Dot had also scheduled an gathering in Paris for May 2.

There are also rumors of an official ICANN event, but the organization has yet to confirm anything.

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