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Right Of The Dot to offer new gTLD contention auctions with Escrow.com

Kevin Murphy, November 2, 2012, Domain Services

New gTLD consultancy Right Of The Dot has partnered with Escrow.com on a new auction offering designed for new gTLD applicants in contention sets.

The deal, which ROTD said is exclusive, will enable the company to offer trustworthy escrow of funds as part of its auction service.

ROTD is planning three standard types of auction design — sealed-bid, ascending bid and live oral — for when mediation between gTLD applicants fails or is not wanted.

Its fees start at 4% of the winning bid, with the remainder being distributed to losing bidders.

Private auctions are expected in many cases to be the contention resolution method of choice for new gTLD applicants, because the losing bidders get paid when they drop out.

The alternative method laid out in the ICANN Applicant Guidebook would see funds flow instead to ICANN.

ROTD is the consultancy formed last year by well-known domain investors Monte Cahn (formerly of Moniker) and Michael Berkens (author of TheDomains.com).

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ICM to intro sponsored search results with $75 credit for registrants

Kevin Murphy, November 2, 2012, Domain Registries

Tearing several chapters out of the Google playbook, ICM Registry is to introduce a sponsored search placement service for .xxx registrants, along with a substantial introductory credit.

The company will give each registrant a $75-per-domain credit against its forthcoming search platform, which in many cases will completely offset the cost of their .xxx domain.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, it’s the AdWords model for porn, following on from the recent launch of search.xxx, which ICM says has already had more than 12 million page views.

The ad system is expected to roll out in “early 2013”, but ICM has launched the credits incentive now in order to get early registrants to renew their domain names.

The vast majority of .xxx’s roughly 140,000 registrations occurred during its first two months of general availability and will be coming up for renewal in December and January.

That said, ICM had said even prior to this announcement that its early renewals were looking promising.

The ad credit will apply to all .xxx domains renewed or registered before January 31, 2013, ICM said in a press release.

The company has long talked about its plans for generating advertising and micropayment-based revenue. Over the long term, selling domains may prove to be a small part of its business.

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ICANN looking for new gTLD testing provider on very tight deadline

Kevin Murphy, October 31, 2012, Domain Tech

ICANN is seeking one or more pre-delegation testing providers for its new gTLD program on a very ambitious timetable.

An RFP issued yesterday calls for a company that can scratch-build a testing suite to put new gTLD applicants through the ringer before they go live, and have it up and running by March 25, 2013.

Pre-delegation testing is the last stage of the new gTLD program’s approval process.

Some new gTLD applicants have recently called on ICANN to begin testing as soon as possible — before even Initial Evaluation has finished — in order to speed up time to market.

The Applicant Guidebook suggests that ICANN itself would be doing the testing, and some applicants had made that assumption, but that’s clearly not the case.

The RFP spells out exactly what is required of the testing providers.

First, they’re expected to build bespoke software to run the tests.

In addition to load-testing and verifying the registry’s compliance with standards such as EPP, DNSSEC and Whois, it also needs a custom-made user interface for applicants and back-end integration with ICANN’s wobbly TLD Application System.

ICANN also wants to be able to open-source the software, which seems to rule out any off-the-shelf testing suites.

RFP respondents also need to be able test 20 applicants’ back-ends per week — potentially scaling up to 100 per week — as soon as ICANN starts signing registry agreements next year.

ICANN does not expect to announce the winning provider(s) until December 5. The deadline for responses is November 20.

In short, it looks like a challenging project on a very tight deadline.

I wonder how much institutional knowledge there is out there of, say, DNSSEC, in companies that are not also involved in new gTLD applications as either applicant or back-end.

The pool of possible RFP respondents is likely very small indeed.

The ability to run tests on the testing suite itself may also be limited by the timetable and the possible shortage of guinea-pig registry back-ends.

Why ICANN has waited until this very late date to issue the RFP is a real head-scratcher.

ICANN is offering a 24-month contract with a possible 12-month extension. The RFP can be downloaded here.

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Indian domain conference attracts 4,000

Kevin Murphy, October 31, 2012, Domain Services

While US domain conferences are reportedly becoming sedate affairs, a domain-heavy summit that kicks off tomorrow in Mumbai has more than 4,000 signed-up attendees, according to organizers.

The two-day ResellerClub Hosting Summit, organized by Directi, may have “hosting” in the title, but its sponsors and agenda reveal a strong presence from the domain name industry.

Verisign is the major sponsor, plugging its .com and .net TLDs. Other sponsors include .org, .biz, .co, .asia and .pw.

The agenda features speakers from Public Interest Registry, ICANN, NameMedia and Directi new gTLD applicant Radix.

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Demand Media: ignore our Republican gTLD rivals

Kevin Murphy, October 31, 2012, Domain Registries

Demand Media has asked ICANN to “ignore” complaints from the US Republican party about its application for the .republican gTLD.

Last month, the Republican National Committee and the Republican State Leadership Committee submitted comments to ICANN arguing that Demand would be an unsuitable custodian for the gTLD.

Demand is best known for its “unofficial, mediocre and sometimes incorrect” content farms, such as eHow, the letter (pdf) said.

The company should not be allowed to run .republican because it implies endorsement by the Republican party, or some kind of community backing for a non-Community application, the letter said.

This week, Demand has responded, saying it’s nothing but competitive posturing, given that the RSLC has applied for .gop (for “Grand Old Party”, a nickname for the Republicans):

A letter to ICANN from Demand subsidiary and .republican applicant United TLD Holdco, says:

Because the RSLC and RNC have applied for .GOP, an arguably competing string, it is easy to see through these arguments and ignore them as nothing more than an attempt to undermine the credibility of United TLD in order to gain a competitive advantage.

By their own admission, RSCL and RNC agree that “.REPUBLICAN has the potential to be a very powerful gTLD.” It is natural then, that they would attempt to discredit United TLD in the hope of eliminating competition for their own string.

The thrust of Demand’s rebuttal is that Republicanism is not an exclusively American movement — other parties around the world use the name — and that it also has generic meaning.

It further argues that the quality of the content Demand provides elsewhere is irrelevant, because the company plans to sell .republican domain names, not produce content there.

Demand has also applied for .democrat, the other major US political party, but did not receive any complaints from the Democratic party during the designated ICANN comment period.

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