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ICANN shutters Australian office, cans staff

Kevin Murphy, January 1, 2013, Gossip

ICANN has closed its office in Australia, according to a few (so far officially unconfirmed) reports we’ve received today.

Multiple sources also tell DI that all ICANN staff working at the Sydney office were let go over the Christmas period.

Sydney is/was a relatively small branch, with only a handful of staff based there, including some in legal and compliance departments.

According to ICANN’s last budget, its lease on the office was due to expire in February. Rent was pegged at $155,000 (US).

I believe the closure may be due to a rationalization of ICANN’s facilities costs under the new executive team.

The Sydney office was set up while Paul Twomey was ICANN’s CEO and spent a lot of his time in his native Australia.

I’ve not heard anything yet about whether the same fate has befallen the Palo Alto, California office, which was opened during Rod Beckstrom’s tenure as CEO for similar reasons.

ICANN is headquartered in Los Angeles, having recently relocated from neighboring suburb Marina Del Rey.

It also has a European office in Brussels, which last year moved from temporary facilities to a more permanent set-up.

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.cat wants to ditch registrar ban

Kevin Murphy, December 27, 2012, Domain Registries

PuntCAT, the .cat registry, has become the first gTLD operator to apply to ICANN for the right to dump the registrar ownership ban in its contract.

If the request is approved by ICANN, the company will be able to own an ICANN-accredited registrar and start selling .cat domain names more or less directly to registrants.

The company has proposed several amendments to its existing contract that would allow it to become an “affiliate” of — ie own — a registrar with respect to its own gTLD.

ICANN believes the request, which is open for public comment until February 13, will not create any competition problems.

ICANN approved the rules for enabling cross-ownership in October, after competition concerns from the European Commission and US Department of Commerce appeared to disappear.

The .cat request was handled via the Process for Handling Requests for Removal of Cross-Ownership Restrictions on Operators of Existing gTLDs, which absolutely nobody is calling PFHRFROCOROOOEG.

Under the rules, the alternative to amending an existing contract is adopting the standard new gTLDs registry agreement wholesale, but I’m not expecting any incumbent registries to do that.

PuntCAT is pretty much unique among “sponsored” gTLD operators in that it’s experienced steady growth, not subject to the same degree of speculation-related spikes as others, since launching in 2006.

It currently has roughly 60,000 domains under management, growing at about 10,000 names a year. Three Spanish registrars hold over half of the market between them, led by Nominalia.

But the gTLD faces an uncertain future.

The Catalonia region of Spain, which .cat represents, is set for an independence referendum in 2014. If it were to split off into a new country, it would get its own potentially competing ccTLD.

Sales could benefit from the imminent delegation of .dog, which three companies have applied for as a gTLD, but PuntCAT’s rules state that all .cat sites must have Catalan-language content.

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ICANN finally coming to London

Kevin Murphy, December 27, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN is to visit the UK for the first time in its 15-year history, with one of its 2014 public meetings now confirmed for London.

The organization is also planning to host its third meeting in Singapore, the city where its first meeting was held, just three years after its last visit, according to recently passed board resolutions.

Buenes Aires, Argentina has been selected for the third meeting in 2013, following Beijing and Durban, ICANN’s second visit to Argentina after the 2005 Mar Del Plata event.

The final meeting in 2014 will be held somewhere in North America, but the city has yet to be decided.

Fingers crossed for Vegas.

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Vietnamese registrar on the ICANN naughty step

Kevin Murphy, December 26, 2012, Domain Registrars

ICANN has issued a broad breach notice against Vietnamese domain name registrar Mat Bao.

The company hasn’t escrowed its registrant data as required since February, according to ICANN, and it owes over $4,500 in accreditation fees.

It also hasn’t given ICANN a URL for its registrar web site, nor is it providing Whois service, according to the breach notice.

The registrar has fewer than 1,000 gTLD domain names under management, according to the latest registry reports.

ICANN has given it until January 17 to resolve its problems or risk losing its accreditation.

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.co sees DUM grow by a quarter, renewals dip to 63%

Kevin Murphy, December 26, 2012, Domain Registries

.CO Internet said that domains under management in its .co TLD has grown by 24.39% so far in 2012, standing at about 1.4 million at the end of November.

In a blog post last week, the repurposed Colombian ccTLD registry also said that its “blended renewal rate” for the last few months is roughly 63%.

That’s down slightly from the 66% that .CO reported on its first general availability anniversary in July 2011.

Second-year renewals are higher, in the mid-70s, according to the company.

About 93% of its DUM are second-level .co domains, the rest are mostly Colombia-targeted names.

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