Snoring interrupts ICANN meeting (MP3)

Kevin Murphy, August 10, 2011, Domain Policy

An ICANN meeting was interrupted yesterday by loud snoring.

I suppose it was only a matter of time.

The incident happened during a teleconference of the Supporting Organization-Advisory Committee New gTLD Applicant Support Working Group chaired by Rafik Dammak and Carlton Samuels.

Dammak is the one who sounds baffled by the sudden interruption, Samuels is the one with the incredible laugh.

Apologies to the participants, but this two-minute MP3 snippet is too gigglesome not to post.

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ANA chief calls for new gTLDs to be suspended

Kevin Murphy, August 9, 2011, Domain Policy

The president of the Association of National Advertisers said the organization may sue ICANN unless it suspends its new top-level domains program.

Speaking to DomainIncite, ANA’s Bob Liodice said that American industry is “horrified” by the program, which he believes will cost his members a “quite humongous sum of money”.

Liodice wrote to ICANN president Rod Beckstrom a week ago, demanding the program be abandoned and dropping major hints that a lawsuit would be the alternative.

ANA’s board of directors, comprised of representatives of 36 of the largest companies in the US, is “unanimous” in its opposition to the program, he told me.

“We’ve had many conversations with our members, brand owners in the US, and nobody supports this to our knowledge,” Liodice said. “If American industry is not supporting the recommendation to do this, then who is? What is the benefit if brands owners are saying they’re horrified?”

ANA’s members simply do not understand why the program has been introduced, Liodice indicated.

“What’s the problem, what is ICANN trying to solve?” he said.

I put it to him that increasing competition in the registry space is in many ways ICANN’s raison d’etre, built into its founding principles.

“Just because this is something that was supposed to be done back in the Clinton days doesn’t mean it has to be done today,” he said. “The world has changed.”

“I think this is more for the benefit of ICANN than for the benefit of the [advertising] industry,” he said. “ICANN will secure substantial revenue for these changes and put incredible burdens on the industry to no benefit for the industry.”

ICANN, which is obviously a non-profit, says it has priced the program on a cost-recovery basis.

Not convinced by .brands

I asked Liodice if any of ANA’s members had expressed interest in “.brand” gTLDs, and put it to him that enjoy.coke or iwantmy.mtv might be innovative ways to advertise.

“That is not an issue right now,” he said. “The brand for the most part is in the URL anyway, what benefit does it get from moving to right of the dot?”

“The industry is in a period of stability and is very satisfied with status quo,” he added.

Liodice was not aware of the .brand announcements from Canon and Hitachi, but expressed skepticism about their reasons for applying.

“Are those companies saying this is important to me and will further my business interests?” he asked.

Canon USA does appear to be a member of ANA, although it does not have a seat on its board. Hitachi is not a member.

ANA’s plan

Last week’s letter gave Beckstrom an August 22 deadline to respond. The first thing ANA intends to do is wait for his reply, Liodice said.

Anything other than an undertaking to suspend the program for talks is likely to see an escalation.

“We first have to ensure this program is suspended,” Liodice said. “We’re trying to halt the introduction at this point in time and suspend it until we can have these conversations.”

ANA also hopes to speak to the US Department of Commerce, which has an oversight relationship with ICANN, as well as to members of Congress.

“We are lobbying members of Congress to make sure they’re aware of the detrimental characteristics of this, particularly at a time when the world is in great disorder with the financial crisis,” Liodice said.

There’s also the possibility of court action.

While stopping short of saying ANA will definitely sue, Liodice did say that the organization’s lawyers are looking into possible causes of action.

“If the reply is not consistent [with ANA's requests] we will explore that possibility,” he said.

ANA would be represented by the law firm Reed Smith, which has already published its own statement of support for Liodice’s letter on its web site.

It’s good to talk

My feeling is that some of ANA’s concerns are already dealt with by the program’s Applicant Guidebook, and that a conversation explaining this could help reduce tensions.

Liodice, for example, appears convinced that top-level cybersquatting will be possible – that .coke could be registered by somebody other than Coca-Cola.

My view is that such an obvious transgression would be easily (and relatively cheaply) dealt with using the Legal Rights Objection mechanism already in the Guidebook.

That’s assuming, of course, that the $185,000 application fee failed to be a deterrent, and that a registry back-end provider dumb enough to put its name to the bid could be found.

But even if ANA can be convinced that the risk of TLD-squatting is negligible, its concerns about the potential for problems at the second level will be harder to address.

Let’s face it, while estimates of the increased cost of trademark enforcement vary wildly, nobody has disputed that there will be a cost.

One ANA member has estimated that the per-brand cost to companies would be $2 million over 10 years, Liodice said.

ANA does not appear to have spent much time getting involved in the development of the new gTLD program lately — the most recent submission I could find dates from 2009 — but Liodice said its counsel Reed Smith has been representing it in the ICANN process.

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ICM makes $4m from .xxx Founders

Kevin Murphy, August 8, 2011, Domain Registries

ICM Registry made just shy of $4 million from its Founders Program, which allocated premium .xxx domain names to porn webmasters.

As Elliot’s Blog reported, uber-domainer Frank Schilling’s Name Administration has picked up 33 .xxx domains for a seven-figure sum.

Schilling got his hands on the likes of amateur.xxx, asian.xxx, hardcore.xxx, hot.xxx, porno.xxx and many other “super premiums” domains.

He said in a statement provided by ICM:

I believe that .XXX, unlike many other new TLDs, offers SLD registrants the opportunity for long term type-in traffic. Many people navigate in a way that suggests they believe .XXX existed all along. Few strings other than .XXX share this attribute.

ICM president Stuart Lawley said that .xxx was a popular type-in TLD long before it even existed on the internet. Apparently the non-existent .web is also pretty good for traffic.

While on the face of it selling these super-premiums to a domainer may look like ICM shirking its duties to its sponsored community, Schilling like all .xxx Founders has committed to develop web sites at all of his .xxx names – the domains are not for flipping.

ICM says it has allocated some 1,500 domains to 35 registrants under the Founders Program.

Beate-Uhse, Germany’s biggest adult retailer, has picked up kostenlos.xxx (“free”) among others.

Channel 1 Releasing, a Californian gay porn publisher, has grabbed several domains related to its niche, such as muscle.xxx and jock.xxx.

I understand one UK company has also decided to rebrand its entire stable around the .xxx extension.

While many domains sold for six figures, not all Founders paid big bucks – many got their names for the standard registration fee in exchange for their development commitments.

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New ICANN director appointed

Kevin Murphy, August 8, 2011, Domain Policy

Filipino businesswomen Judith Duavit Vazquez has been selected to join ICANN’s board of directors.

She will take the seat being vacated by Gambian development consultant Katim Touray at the end of the ICANN meeting in Dakar October 28.

Vazquez has a pretty impressive resume covering senior roles at major telecommunications, internet and media organizations in the Philippines.

Her corporate board experience includes 20 years at GMA Network, a major player in Filipino TV and radio, and time at a few non-profits.

Board work has included seats on compensation, audit and risk management committees – useful skills given ICANN’s ongoing accountability and transparency reform work.

In terms of involvement with internet addresses, Vasquez has worked with APNIC, the Asia-Pacific regional internet registry, according to her bio.

She’s also a woman, which will have counted in her favor.

ICANN’s Nominating Committee, which selects eight of ICANN’s directors, had made no secret of the fact that it wants the board to resemble less of a sausage-fest.

German politician Erika Mann is currently the only female voting director, following the departure of lawyer Rita Rodin Johnston in Singapore.

I speculated in June that NomCom’s selection “will almost certainly be a woman from a region currently under-represented on the board. My guess is Russia.”

I was obviously wrong about Russia, and while the Asia-Pac region has hardly been under-represented in the past, Vasquez is the first ICANN director to hail from South-East Asia.

NomCom also extended recently installed chairman Steve Crocker’s term on the board, which was due to expire in October, for another three years, as was expected.

For the full list of NomCom committee appointees, see the ICANN announcement.

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Your second chance to win a $1,000 conference pass

Kevin Murphy, August 8, 2011, Domain Services

Congratulations to “Michael”, you’ve just won a free conference pass for newdomains.org worth $1,000 just for leaving a comment on DomainIncite.

Random.org’s random number sequence generator selected the winning order of comments earlier today, and Michael came top of the list.

His winning answer to the question of “What new gTLD(s) do you think will be successful, and why?” was:

If success is defined by the value it offers the Internet community and not by the number of registrations then I think that a cause based TLD like .Eco or .HIV will be the most successful as they will revolutionize the way we interest with charities online and show our support, ushering in a new era.

I’ve hooked the winner up with conference organizer United-Domains.

And now on to…

Competition Day Two

To be in with a chance at winning the second Full Conference pass to newdomains.org, simply:

1) Follow me on Twitter (if you’re not already doing so).

2) Send a tweet mentioning @domainincite and including the hashtag #conferencecompo

Tweets must be sent by 2359 UTC, Tuesday August 9. I’ll announce the randomly-selected winner here on Wednesday.

Again, the prize does not include transportation or accommodation, but it does include a certain amount of food and drink, along with access to all the panels and exhibits.

The show runs September 26-27 in Munich, Germany.

These Full Conference passes are currently selling for €699 ($1,000) each, so if you’re currently wondering whether or not to attend, a free ticket may help make your mind up.

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