The popular “emoji” smiley faces are banned as gTLD domain names for technical reasons, according to ICANN.
Emojis are a form of emoticon that originated on Japanese mobile networks but are now used by 12-year-old girls worldwide due to their support on Android and iPhone operating systems.
It emerged last week that Coca-Cola has registered a bunch of smiley-face domain names under .ws, the Samoan ccTLD, for use in an billboard advertising campaign in Puerto Rico.
.ws was selected because it’s one of only a few TLDs that allow emojis to be registered. Coke is spinning its choice of TLD as an abbreviation for “We Smile”.
This got me thinking: would emojis be something new gTLD registries could start to offer in order to differentiate themselves?
Coke’s emoji domains, it turns out, are just a form of internationalized domain name, like Chinese or Arabic or Greek.
Emoji symbols are in the Unicode standard and could therefore be converted to the ASCII-based, DNS-compatible Punycode under the hood in web browsers and other software.
One of Coke’s (smiley-face).ws domain names is represented as xn--h28h.ws in the DNS.
Unfortunately for gTLD registries, ICANN told DI last night that emojis are not permitted in gTLDs.
“Emoticons cannot be used as IDNs as these code points are DISALLOWED under IDNA2008 protocol,” ICANN said in a statement.
IDNA2008 is the latest version of the IETF standard used to define what Unicode characters can and cannot appear in IDNs.
RFC 5892 specifies what can be included in an IDNA2008 domain name, eliminating thousands of letters and symbols that were permissible under the old IDNA2003 standard.
These characters were ostensibly banned due to the possibility of IDN homograph attacks — when bad guys set up spoof web sites on IDNs that look almost indistinguishable from a domain used by, for example, a bank or e-commerce site.
But Unicode, citing Google data, reckons symbols could only ever be responsible for 0.000016% of such attacks. Most homograph attacks are much simpler, relying on for example the visual similarity of I and l.
Regardless, because IDNA2008 only allows Unicode characters that are actually used in spoken human languages, and because gTLD registries are contractually obliged to adhere to the IDNA2008 technical standards, emojis are not permitted in gTLDs.
All new gTLDs have to provide ICANN with a list of the Unicode code points they plan to support as IDNs when they undergo pre-delegation testing. Asking to support characters incompatible with IDNA2008 would result in a failed test, ICANN tells us.
ICANN does not regulate ccTLDs, of course, so the .ws registry is free to offer whatever domains it wants.
However, ICANN said that emoji domains are only currently supported by software that has not implemented the newer IDN protocol:
Emoticon domains only work in software that has not implemented the latest IDNA standard. Only the older, deprecated version of the IDNA standard allowed emoticons, more or less by accident. Over time, these domains will increasingly not work correctly as software vendors update their implementations.
So Coke, while winning brownie points for novelty, may have registered a bunch of damp squibs.
ICANN also told us that, regardless of what the technical standards say, you’d never be able to apply for an emoticon as a gTLD due to the “letters only” principle, which already bans numbers in top-level strings.
Here’s your daily WTF moment, courtesy of ICANN’s official YouTube account.
If you’ve ever wanted to see ICANN chair Steve Crocker without his trousers — and let’s face it, who hasn’t? — now’s your chance.
Don’t ask. I’m just as baffled as you.
Handbags at dawn!
Verisign, the $7.5 billion .com domain gorilla, has sued upstart XYZ.com and CEO Daniel Negari for disparaging .com and allegedly misrepresenting how well .xyz is doing.
It’s the biggest legacy gTLD versus the biggest (allegedly) new gTLD.
The lawsuit focuses on some registrars’ habit of giving .xyz names to registrants of .com and other domains without their consent, enabling XYZ.com and Negari to use inflated numbers as a marketing tool.
The Lanham Act false advertising lawsuit was filed in Virginia last December, but I don’t believe it’s been reported before now.
Verisign’s beef is first with this video, which is published on the front page of xyz.com:
Verisign said that the claim that it’s “impossible” to find a .com domain (which isn’t quite what the ad says) is false.
The complaint goes on to say that interviews Negari did with NPR and VentureBeat last year have been twisted to characterize .xyz as “the next .com”, whereas neither outlet made such an endorsement. It states:
XYZ’s promotional statements, when viewed together and in context, reflect a strategy to create a deceptive message to the public that companies and individuals cannot get the .COM domain names they want from Verisign, and that XYZ is quickly becoming the preferred alternative.
As regular readers will be aware, .xyz’s zone file, which had almost 785,000 names in it yesterday, has been massively inflated by a campaign last year by Network Solutions to push free .xyz domains into customers’ accounts without their consent.
It turns out Verisign became the unwilling recipient of gtld-servers.xyz, due to it owning the equivalent .com.
According to Verisign, Negari has used these inflated numbers to falsely make it look like .xyz is a viable and thriving alternative to .com. The company claims:
Verisign is being injured as a result of XYZ and Negari’s false and/or misleading statements of fact including because XYZ and Negari’s statements undermine the equity and good will Verisign has developed in the .COM registry.
XYZ and Negari should be ordered to disgorge their profits and other ill-gotten gains received as a result of this deception on the consuming public.
The complaint makes reference to typosquatting lawsuits Negari’s old company, Cyber2Media, settled with Facebook and Goodwill Industries a few years ago, presumably just in order to frame Negari as a bad guy.
Verisign wants not only for XYZ to pay up, but also for the court to force the company to disclose its robo-registration numbers whenever it makes a claim about how successful .xyz is.
XYZ denies everything. Answering Verisign’s complaint in January, it also makes nine affirmative defenses citing among other things its first amendment rights and Verisign’s “unclean hands”.
While many of Verisign’s allegations appear to be factually true, I of course cannot comment on whether its legal case holds water.
But I do think the lawsuit makes the company looks rather petty — a former monopolist running to the courts on trivial grounds as soon as it sees a little competition.
I also wonder how the company is going to demonstrate harm, given that by its own admission .com continues to sell millions of new domains every quarter.
But the lesson here is for all new gTLD registries — if you’re going to compare yourselves to .com, you might want to get your facts straight first if you want to keep your legal fees down.
And perhaps that’s the point.
ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade is heading to Washington DC this week to defend plans to decouple the organization from formal US oversight in front of a potentially hostile committee of Congresspeople.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will meet this Wednesday at 1000 local time to grill Chehade and others on the plan to remove the US government from the current triumvirate responsible for managing changes to the DNS root zone under the IANA arrangements.
He will be joined by Larry Strickling, who as head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration is the US government’s point person on the transition, and Ambassador David Gross, a top DC lawyer formerly with the Department of State.
All three men are pro-transition, while the Republican-tilted committee is likely to be much more skeptical.
The blurb for the Wednesday hearing reads:
As the U.S. government considers relinquishing control over certain aspects of Internet governance to the private sector, concerns remain that the loss of U.S. involvement over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) could empower foreign powers — acting through intergovernmental institutions or other surrogates — to gain increased control over critical Internet functions.
Republicans and right-leaning media commentators have warned that handing over IANA oversight to a multistakeholder body risks giving too much power to governments the US doesn’t like, such as Russia and China.
Several bills introduced in the House and Senate over the last year would have given Congress much more power to delay or deny the transition.
An amendment to an appropriations bill approved in December prevents the NTIA from spending any taxpayer money on relinquishing its DNS root oversight role until after September 30 this year, the same day that the current IANA contract expires.
This effectively prevents a transition during the current IANA contract’s run. Strickling recently said that the NTIA is complying with this legislation, but noted that it does not prevent the agency participating in the development of the transition proposal.
ICANN community working groups are currently working on plans for ICANN oversight post-NTIA and for addressing ICANN accountability.
These documents are hoped to be ready to sent to the NTIA by July, so the NTIA will have enough time to consider them before September 30.
Strickling recently addressed this date in a speech at the State of the Net conference in Washington, saying:
I want to reiterate again that there is no hard and fast deadline for this transition. September 2015 has been a target date because that is when the base period of our contract with ICANN expires. But this should not be seen as a deadline. If the community needs more time, we have the ability to extend the IANA functions contract for up to four years. It is up to the community to determine a timeline that works best for stakeholders as they develop a proposal that meets NTIA’s conditions, but also works.
Opponents of the transition say that because the NTIA is prevented from terminating the IANA contract before October 1, the NTIA will have no choice but to extend it until September 30, 2017.
Given that 2016 is a presidential election year in the US, Barack Obama would be a private citizen again by the time the next opportunity to transition comes around, they say.
Which presidential hopeful — from either party — would not buckle if asked whether he supports a plan to let Iran run the internet? That’s the political logic at work here.
Chehade himself told the AFP news agency earlier this month that the transition would have to happen before the 2016 elections, to avoid political distractions.
I’m not so sure I agree with the premise that, due to the restraints imposed by the appropriation bill, the transition now has to happen under the next president’s administration.
In my layman’s reading of the current IANA contract, the NTIA is able to terminate it for the “convenience of the government” pretty much whenever it wants.
There’s also an option to extend the contract by up to six months. The NTIA exercised this option in March 2012 when it did not approve of ICANN’s first renewal proposals.
After its well-received 2015 show in Las Vegas last month, NamesCon has confirmed a third annual domain name conference for 2016 and is offering deeply discounted tickets for “super early birds” until the end of the month.
Until February 28, conference passes can be bought for $199. That’s an 80% discount on the regular $999 fee. No other early-bird discounts have yet been announced, but NamesCon says this is the “lowest” price the tickets are going to get.
As the event is targeted largely at domainers, NamesCon notes that tickets are non-transferable. Touts are not welcome, in other words.
The show will run from January 10 to 13 next year, in Las Vegas. The venue will be the reasonably priced Tropicana hotel for the third year in a row.
Conference producer Richard Lau said that the 2016 show will have a new sponsorship opportunity in the form of a “Meetery” on the first day.
With space for about 30 companies on small tables, the six-hour window will be “ideal for companies who do not want to man a booth for the entire conference but still want to be able to meet with all of the attendees,” Lau said.
NamesCon is also expanding the number of small tables available for sponsors that want to exhibit for the whole four days from six to 15 to 20, he said.
Tickets can be obtained through the NamesCon web site.