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Watch ICANN approve some new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, February 20, 2012, Domain Policy

In ICANN’s world, the current new top-level domains application period is actually the fourth, not the first.

As well as the 2000 “proof of concept” round, there was the sponsored gTLD round that kicked off at the end of 2003, and the ongoing IDN ccTLD Fast Track round from 2009.

I’ve finally got around to uploading to YouTube the video of the November 16, 2000 ICANN board meeting at which .info, .biz, .name, .pro, .museum, .coop and .aero were approved.

It was a pivotal moment in the history of the domain name system, particularly starting at the 5:46 mark, when the tide turned against Afilias’ application for .web, in favor of the less attractive four-character .info.

The main reason for the switch was Image Online Design’s competing application. IOD had been running .web in an alternate root for a few years before applying to ICANN.

If the internet had had a .web for the last decade, I believe conversations we’re having about new gTLDs would be very different today.

With .web expected to be a contested gTLD this time around — perhaps by some of the same companies that applied last time — expect this 11-year-old ICANN board meeting to be cited regularly in the near future.

The video was recorded by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard and encoded in RealPlayer format, which in 2000 meant pretty poor-quality audio and video.

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Tucows co-founder takes hard line on .club gTLD

Kevin Murphy, February 20, 2012, Domain Registries

.CLUB Domains LLC says it has secured funding for its .club generic top-level domain application, and says it is ready to go to an ICANN auction if necessary.

CEO Colin Campbell, a Tucows co-founder, blogged today that the funding deal comes along with “contingent financing… to ensure the company wins the top level domain in an auction.”

Apparently a few other companies have privately revealed that they are also applying for .club, but .CLUB Domains claims that it has no intention of negotiating with them. Campbell wrote:

Unfortunately ICANN’s process has encouraged some speculators to apply for the gTLD with no intention of actually running the top level domain but simply negotiating with legitimate operators. We have been approached by a number of companies who are applying for .Club. Our belief is that is best not to negotiate with these companies or individuals but win the name through an open and fair auction process.

This is a prime example of why revealing new gTLD plans before April 12 may not be the best business strategy — they invite competition from insiders who want a piece of your action.

Whether .CLUB Domains’s hard-line stance on competing applications will help reduce the field for .club — or whether rivals will try to call its bluff — remains to be seen.

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CentralNic working with .mls new gTLD bidder

Kevin Murphy, February 20, 2012, Domain Registries

MLS Domains has contracted with CentralNic to provide the back-end registry for its .mls new top-level domain application, which it expects to be contested.

MLS in this context stands for Multiple Listing Service, a form of real estate listing aggregation service common in the US.

MLS Domains is already selling .mls preregistrations, at $800 a pop, to qualifying MLS companies, which will partially fund its application.

Company president Bob Bemis said in a press release that CentralNic was selected due to its experience with “novel TLDs”:

we expect no more than two or three thousand second-level domains ever to be registered on .MLS, so we need a registry partner who can provide a high level of service for a relatively small market of customers.

CentralNic sells sub-domains in alternative suffixes such as uk.com, gb.com and us.org. It manages these domains as if they were regular gTLDs, offering a Whois service, UDRP, etc.

The registry will also provide an integrated, affiliated registrar for the .mls project, MLS Domains said.

That’s if the company’s application is successful, of course.

.mls is expected to be contested by the Chinese owner of mls.com – Nanning Billin Network Ltd has applied for a US trademark on the gTLD.

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Details of new gTLD batching process revealed

Kevin Murphy, February 17, 2012, Domain Policy

Some details about how ICANN will prioritize new generic top-level domain applications into batches have emerged.

The Applicant Guidebook states that gTLD applications will be processed in batches of 500, but all it says about the batching process is that it will not be random. Rather, some form of “secondary timestamp” is proposed.

The batching process is important mainly to commercial, open registries, which stand to make much more money by hitting the market early, before new gTLD fatigue sets in.

Some tantalizing hints about how batches will be created can be found in the minutes of the ICANN board of directors December 8 meeting, which were recently published.

From the minutes we learn the following:

  • Applicants are not going to find out how batching will work until after April 12, when all the applications have already been received.
  • The timestamp could be created by an email sent by the applicant to a specific address at a specific time, or some function within the TLD Application System.
  • The system will not be biased towards specific geographic regions – ICANN will cycle through the fastest responses from each region when it creates the batches.
  • There will be an opt-out for applicants for whom time is not a factor.
  • Contested gTLDs will be batched with the fastest applicant.

The minutes represent ICANN’s staff’s thinking two months ago – and the conversation confused several directors – so the batching method finally selected could obviously differ.

However, if time-to-market is important for your gTLD, it might be a good idea to think about renting a server as few hops from ICANN as possible.

This is what the minutes say:

The third, and remaining option, is a secondary timestamp. This would occur after the time of the application window closing in order to provide privacy. Applicants will not be advised of the exact method until after the applications are received, which will ensure further fairness. It could be an email response to a mailbox, or the re-registration of an application, or another method. The method used will be decentralized, so that the region rom which the secondary timestamp is submitted is irrelevant. The timestamp will cycle through the regions of the world, awarding a batching preference to the top-rated application from one region, then the succeeding four regions, and continue the cycle again. In the case of contending applications, the applications will be grouped in the earliest batch where any of the contending applications are placed. There will also be an opt-out mechanism, included at the community’s request. Applicants may request to be evaluated at the end, if they prefer to be evaluated and delegated later.

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Seven ICANN directors have new gTLD conflicts

Kevin Murphy, February 17, 2012, Domain Policy

Seven members of ICANN’s board of directors have self-identified conflicts of interest when it comes to the new generic top-level domains program, according to a report from its last meeting.

Chair Steve Crocker, CEO of the consulting firm Shinkuro, appears to be newly conflicted.

He was among the directors to excuse themselves before the board discussed a resolution on new gTLDs last week, but he did vote on a new gTLD resolution at its December meeting.

Crocker has previously revealed that new gTLD applicant and registry services provider Afilias has an investment in Shinkuro.

Vice-chair Bruce Tonkin is chief strategy officer at Melbourne IT, which is a registrar as well as a new gTLD consultancy, and he also excused himself.

Ram Mohan and Suzanne Woolf, both non-voting directors, excused themselves because they work for registry service providers (Afilias and Internet Systems Consortium respectively).

Non-voting liaison Thomas Narten also declared a conflict, which is a heavy hint that his employer, IBM, is poised to apply for a dot-brand gTLD.

The other conflicted directors were Sébastien Bachollet, CEO of BBS International Consulting, and Bertrand de La Chapelle of the International Diplomatic Academy.

Two directors appear to be newly unconflicted.

Kuo-Wei Wu and Thomas Roessler declared new gTLD program conflicts at the board’s December meeting but did not excuse themselves last week.

Erika Mann of Facebook missed the meeting (she also missed the December meeting) so it’s not clear whether there’s a “.facebook” conflict of interest yet.

The board of directors has 16 voting members. Nine need to be present for its meetings to be quorate.

ICANN introduced new conflict rules after former chair Peter Dengate Thrush took a job with new gTLD applicant/consultant Minds + Machines shortly after voting to approve the program last June.

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