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.pw sees strongest growth in China

The recently launched .pw domain, managed by Directi, is doing particularly well in China, according to an early analysis from DomainTools.

The survey of data from name servers supporting 63,736 .pw domains found that well over half — 38,356 — were on Chinese IP addresses.

The Chinese registrar XinNet, which promotes low-cost .pw heavily on its home page, runs the second-largest number of name servers for the ccTLD’s registrants, DomainTools said.

According to the data, Directi’s own PrivacyProtect.org service is the third-largest name server host for .pw, followed by NameCheap and Sedo.

While Directi said from the outset that it expected to see growth from less-developed regions of the world, it has also come under fire recently for a massive spam outbreak from .pw addresses.

The ccTLD already has over 100,000 domains, according to the company.

After eight months, similarity review creates only TWO new gTLD contention sets

Kevin Murphy, February 27, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN has finally delivered its String Similarity Panel’s review of all 1,930 original new gTLD applications, finding that only four applied-for strings are confusingly similar to others.

Two new contention sets have been created:

  • .hotels (Booking.com B.V.) and .hoteis (Despegar Online SRL)
  • .unicorn (Unicorn a.s.) and .unicom (China United Network Communications Corporation Limited)

Only one applicant in each contention set will survive; the strings may go to auction.

The list is bafflingly short given that the panel’s review was originally due in October and has been delayed several times since.

ICANN last month said it was forcing the panel to address “process” issues and heavily suggested that it was trying to make sure the review process was legally defensible, leading to speculation that the list was going to be much longer than expected.

But the panel and ICANN appear to have taken a super-strict approach to finding similarity instead.

The string similarity panel was tasked with deciding whether each applied-for string “so nearly resembles another visually that it is likely to deceive or cause confusion”.

I think the four strings included in its final report pretty conclusively pass that test.

Even the controversial Sword tool – the software algorithm ICANN commissioned to compare string similarity on objective grounds — agrees, scoring them very highly.

According to Sword, .unicorn and .unicom are 94% similar and .hotels. v .hoteis have a score of 99%. For comparison, .hotel versus .hotels produces a score of 81%.

It all seems nice and logical and uncontroversial. But.

All four affected applicants are applying for single-registrant gTLDs, in which the registry owns all of the second-level domains, drastically reducing the chance of abuse.

One of the reasons ICANN doesn’t want to create too-similar TLDs is that they could be exploited by phishers and other bad guys to rip off internet users, or worse.

But with single-registrant TLDs, that’s not really as big of an issue.

It will be interesting to see the affected applicants’ response to these latest findings. Expect complaints.

The results of the review will be a huge relief to most other applicants, which have been wondering since the list of gTLD applications was released last June what the final contention sets would look like.

The high standard that appears to have been used to find similarity may set some interesting precedents.

For example, we now know that plurals are fair game: if Donuts’ application for .dentist is approved in this round, there’s nothing stopping somebody else applying for .dentists in a future application round.

Also, brands with very short acronyms have little to fear from from being found too similar to other existing acronym dot-brands. The applicants for .ged and .gea were among those to express concern about this.

But the question of confusing similarity is not yet completely settled. There’s a second phase.

Applicants and existing TLD registries now have about a week to prepare and submit formal String Confusion Objections, kicking off an arbitration process that could create more precedent for future rounds.

Unlike the just-published visual similarity review, SCOs can take issue with similar meanings and sounds too.

Losing an SCO means your application is dumped into a contention set with the winner; if you lose against an existing TLD operator, your bid is scrapped entirely.

ALAC likely to object to five .health gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, February 18, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN’s At-Large Advisory Committee is planning to formally object to four applications for the .health gTLD and one for .健康, which means “.healthy” in Chinese.

Bids backed by Afilias, Donuts, Famous Four Media and Straat Investments (the investment vehicle of .CO Internet CEO Juan Diego Calle), as well as China’s StableTone, are affected.

Dev Anand Teelucksingh, chair of the ALAC’s new gTLD review group, posted the following to an ALAC mailing list this weekend:

Objection statements on community grounds will be drafted for the applications for .health given that the four tests for community objection grounds were passed. The gTLD RG will attempt to put together the objection statements to the applications for .health in time for RALO [Regional At-Large Organization] review around 22 February 2013.

The ALAC is able to file objections to new gTLD bids, using funds provided by ICANN, on only the Community or Limited Public Interest grounds.

Of the four strings before it (.health, .nyc, .patagonia and .amazon) the ALAC review group decided that only a Community objection against .health met its criteria.

These are the only confirmed ALAC objections to date.

The ALAC had received a request to object from the International Medical Informatics Association, which said:

These five proposals are seen as problematic by the global health community for the following reasons:

  • None of the applicants demonstrates that the name will be operated in the public interest.
  • None of the applicants demonstrates adequate consumer protection mechanisms.
  • All of the applicants are commercial in nature and none represent the health community.

Two governments — France and Mali — both expressed concerns about .health on similar grounds by filing Early Warnings last November.

ICANN’s deadline for filing objections is March 13.

Nominet sues domainer gripe site for defamation

Kevin Murphy, January 21, 2013, Domain Registries

Nominet has sued a fierce critic of the organization after apparently trying and failing to have his web site shut down.

The company, which runs .uk, said is has filed High Court defamation proceedings against Graeme Wingate and his company That Internet Limited, seeking an injunction against that.co.uk and avoid.co.uk.

The two sites have since last October last year carried a number of rambling allegations against Nominet and, more specifically, its CEO, Lesley Cowley.

Wingate, like many .uk domainers, is furious that Nominet plans to launch direct second-level registrations under .uk, giving trademark owners sunrise priority over owners of matching .co.uk domains.

While that.co.uk focuses mainly on this Direct.uk initiative, avoid.co.uk takes broader swipes at Cowley specifically, stating:

the idea behind Avoid.co.uk is to focus solely on the leadership of Ms Lesley Cowley, Chief Executive of Nominet and her immediate removal as CEO on the grounds of dishonestly, transparency and incompetence.

While not spelling out exactly what content it considers defamatory, Nominet said:

While we are entirely comfortable with legitimate protest about Nominet’s actions or proposals, there are assertions about Nominet and our CEO published on the avoid.co.uk and that.co.uk sites that are untrue and defamatory.

The Board is united in its view that harassment and victimisation of our staff is unacceptable, and that Nominet should take appropriate action to support staff and protect our reputation.

According to avoid.co.uk, Nominet tried to get the sites taken down by their web hosts on at least two separate occasions since November. It’s moved to a Chinese host in an attempt to avoid these takedown attempts.

The antagonism between some domainers and Cowley is long-running, rooted in a clash between domainer members of its board of directors and senior executives in 2008.

As I reported for The Register last August, evidence emerged during an employment tribunal case with a “whistleblower”, former policy chief Emily Taylor, that Nominet may have secret colluded with the UK government in order to architect a reform process that would give domainers substantially less power over the company.

It later emerged that Nominet and UK civil servants communicated via private email addresses during this process, apparently in order to dodge Freedom Of Information Act requests.

A subsequent internal investigation by Nominent chair Baroness Rennie Fritchie last November concluded that “Nominet did not manufacture Government concern” and that the private emails were a “misguided attempt to ensure that open and honest conversations… could take place” rather than attempts to avoid FOI.

Amazon, Uniregistry, Verisign… here’s who won the new gTLDs lottery

Kevin Murphy, December 18, 2012, Domain Services

Amazon, Uniregistry and Verisign were among the luckiest companies competing in yesterday’s New gTLD Prioritization Draw, our preliminary analysis indicates.

ICANN spent nine and a half hours last night pulling lottery tickets from a drum in order to determine the order in which it will evaluate, negotiate and delegate new gTLD bids.

Applicants representing 1,766 applications bought tickets, a 92% turnout. Internationalized domain names were given special priority, but all other participants were treated equally.

A few hundred people — including Santa Claus, there to represent Uniregistry’s .christmas bid — showed up, with many more participating remotely.

Not many people stayed the course, however. In introductory remarks, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade promised that the Draw would be “as boring as possible”, and it kept to his promise.

“I think it went really well,” ICANN’s new new gTLD program manager, Christine Willett, told DI today.

“I think people were really pleased and pleasantly surprised with how transparent it was,” she said. “We could have done it much faster electronically, but it wouldn’t have been as transparent.”

I’ve spent much of today drilling into the results of The Draw, using the DI PRO New gTLD Application Tracker, and here are some of my findings.

Uniregistry won the most contention sets.

Uniregistry, the portfolio applicant owned by domainer Frank Schilling, won more contention sets, in percentage terms, than other volume applicants.

This table shows the performance of the top 10 applicants (as measured by the number of contention sets they’re in).

ApplicantSetsWon%TLDs Won
Donuts1585736.08.college .tires .memorial .trading .doctor .mobile .phone .data .city .casino .school .realty .auto .coach .theater .broadway .realestate .film .eco .fyi .site .help .coupons .ski .search .salon .studio .rent .red .racing .radio .plus .photography .money .team .loans .gifts .flowers .vote .juegos .jewelry .wine .娱乐 .guide .garden .free .football .energy .discount .construction .church .charity .boats .beauty .baseball .band .audio
Google581220.69.diy .family .docs .lol .fun .pet .show .vip .talk .drive .mom .moto
Top Level Domain Holdings561628.57.style .book .home .llc .store .love .lawyer .law .dog .deals .casa .science .review .网址 .dds .country
Famous Four Media501530.00.tennis .golf .basketball .poker .run .taxi .hockey .diet .delivery .cricket .chat .bingo .cam .fit .sport
Uniregistry451737.78.inc .sale .art .tech .shopping .restaurant .property .hosting .yoga .gratis .video .furniture .fashion .cars .auction .save .gift
Amazon351028.57.buy .cloud .play .you .group .yun .wow .dev .deal .coupon
Directi28828.57.online .movie .hotel .blog .ping .website .world .click
Afilias Limited16212.50.app .mls
NU DOT CO LLC13215.38.design .web
Demand Media10330.00.rip .map .fishing

Getting the best draw number in a contention set is of course not indicative of any skill or of the quality of the applications, it just means the applicant got lucky.

Neither is it an indication of whether the applicant is likely to ultimately win their contention set; myriad other factors are in play.

There may even be some advantages to poorer draw numbers. We’ll get to that later.

Amazon is the luckiest portfolio applicant.

Amazon was the most successful applicant in the Draw of any company applying for 20 or more gTLDs, as measured by average prioritization numbers.

ApplicantAverage Priority
Amazon777
Afilias878
TLDH909
United TLD (Demand Media)910
Donuts946
Uniregistry961
Directi (Radix)994
Google (Charleston Road Registry)1,050
Famous Four Media1,222

The average for each applicant is of course affected positively by the number of IDN applications it filed, and negatively by the number of applications for which it opted out by not buying a ticket.

Amazon applied for 11 IDNs, increasing its average score, while Google did not buy tickets for 24 of its applications, substantially reducing its portfolio’s mean priority.

Likewise, Famous Four Media did not buy tickets for 12 of its applications.

Dot-brands fared less well, on average, than open gTLDs.

Single-registrant TLDs (which includes dot-brands and generic strings with single-registrant models, such as Google’s .blog application) had an average priority of 983, compared to 921 for TLDs we’ve identified as having “open” registration policies.

Verisign’s clients did better than most other registry back-ends.

Of the registry back-end providers named in more than 20 applications, China’s KNET fared best, with an average draw number of 328, according to our data. That’s to be expected of course, due to the inherent bias in the process towards IDN applications.

Of the rest, Verisign topped the list at 913 (to be expected again, given its own dozen IDN gTLD applications), followed closely by KSRegistry at 915. Minds + Machines got 930, Demand Media 942, Internet Systems Consortium 947 and Neustar 953.

OpenRegistry was unluckiest, with an average of 1,207, preceded by Google with 1,050 and GMO Registry with 1,027. CORE scored 1,000, ARI Registry Services 1,007, CentralNic 983 and Afilias 994.