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Thick .com Whois policy delayed

Kevin Murphy, February 16, 2012, Domain Registries

ICANN’s GNSO Council has deferred a decision on whether Verisign should have to thicken up the Whois database for .com and its other gTLDs.

A motion to begin an official Policy Development Process on thick Whois was kicked down the road by councilors this afternoon at the request of the Non-Commercial Users Constituency.

It will now be discussed at the Council’s face-to-face meeting in Costa Rica in March. But there were also calls from registries to delay a decision for up to a year, calling the PDP a “distraction”.

Verisign’s .com registry contract and the standard Registrar Accreditation Agreement are currently being renegotiated by ICANN, both of which could address Whois in some way.

Today, all contracted gTLD registries have to operate a thick Whois, except Verisign with its .com, .net, .jobs, etc, where the registrars manage the bulk of the Whois data.

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Twitter typosquatters fined £100,000

Kevin Murphy, February 16, 2012, Domain Policy

Two typosquatters have been fined £100,000 ($156,000) by the UK premium rate phone services regulator.

PhonepayPlus said today that the owners of the typos wikapedia.com and twtter.com, both Dutch companies, were issued the fines for violating its Code of Practice.

R&D Media Europe and Unavalley use the now depressingly commonplace practice of tricking visitors with the promise of iPad prizes into signing up for bogus SMS services at ridiculous fees.

They’ve both been ordered to refund disgruntled customers’ fees.

PhonepayPlus has no powers to take away domain names, of course, so both typos are still active, albeit not no longer mimicking the Wikipedia or Twitter look-and-feel.

The regulator did however issue clear guidance that typosquatting is against its rules, stating:

This guidance reminds PRS [premium rate service] providers that they are responsible for all their digital promotions and, if they use marketing firms that mislead consumers through typosquatting, they will be in breach of the Code of Practice.

A Facebook attorney said last year that typos of high-traffic sites, such as facebok.com, could expect to get 250 million visits a year.

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AFL to apply for dot-brand gTLD

Kevin Murphy, February 16, 2012, Domain Registries

The Australian Football League has just added its name to the short but growing list of companies announcing plans to apply to ICANN for a new “dot-brand” top-level domain.

The AFL is the governing body of Aussie rules football, a bastardization of the original sport even more violent and less internationally popular than the unwatchable American version.

Like recently revealed dot-brand applicant StarHub, the league has hired Melbourne IT to handle its application and registry back-end provider ARI Registry Services to run the infrastructure.

The Aussie AFL explained its decision to apply for .afl in a press release:

A dot AFL domain has the potential to:

— Make it easier for fans to find relevant online content
— Improve the protection of AFL, club and player environments online
— Support the growth of club and AFL media channels
— Better support the promotion and education for grass roots and community football
— Simplify marketing call to actions
— Provide opportunities for sponsors to promote their association with the AFL and clubs

The AFL may have a clear shot at goal here.

While several other organizations currently use the same acronym, none of them jump out as obvious dot-brand applicants, though some may of course choose to file objections.

The announcement is pretty good news for Melbourne IT and ARI — given Aussie rules’ popularity in their native Australia, I can see this deal getting a lot of local press today.

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ICM and YouPorn in antitrust settlement talks

Kevin Murphy, February 14, 2012, Domain Registries

It’s Valentine’s Day, so perhaps it’s appropriate that ICM Registry has just revealed that it’s in talks to settle the .xxx antitrust lawsuit filed by one of the world’s biggest porn networks.

ICM and Manwin Licensing may soon resolve the case, which Manwin filed in November over the “extortion” it saw in the launch of the .xxx top-level domain, according to court documents.

In a joint filing, Manwin and ICM, along with ICANN and Digital Playground – the fellow plaintiff that Manwin has since acquired – said:

in recent days, Plaintiffs and ICM have engaged in discussions aimed at resolving the disputes that are the subject of this litigation.

The parties believe that additional time would potentially allow the parties to resolve all or some portion of their disputes.

The filing stipulates that Manwin has until this Friday to file an amended complaint and that ICANN and ICM should have 60 days after that to file their responses to the complaint.

That’s assuming that the suit isn’t completely settled in the meantime, of course.

The ICANN and ICM motions to dismiss filed in January have been taken off-calendar until Manwin amends its complaint.

I understand that ICANN also has secured a 60-day extension to its deadline to respond to the separate Manwin Independent Review Panel proceeding.

Manwin, which runs Brazzers, YouPorn and the Playboy-branded web sites, claimed in its complaint that the approval of .xxx in the absence of a competitive tender and its subsequent launch policies and pricing violated US antitrust laws.

ICANN and ICM claimed in their responses last month that the company was just scared of a little competition.

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ICANN has 100 new gTLD applicants

Kevin Murphy, February 13, 2012, Domain Policy

One hundred companies have registered to apply for generic top-level domains, according to ICANN senior vice president Kurt Pritz.

ICANN has decided not to provide a running commentary about how many applications have been received, but it did say that 25 companies registered in the first week the program was open.

“That number is now up to 100,” Pritz said today at the The Top Level conference in London.

He was referring to companies paying their $5,000 to sign up for ICANN’s TLD Application System, which is likely to be much smaller than the actual number of gTLD applications. Each TAS account can store up to 50 applications, Pritz said.

There are only 45 days left on the clock to register for a TAS account. After March 29, you’re in for a wait of at least three years (my estimate) before the opportunity comes around again.

Pritz’s revelation was one of the more interesting things to emerge during today’s half-day gathering at the offices of the PR firm Burson-Marsteller, which attracted about 40 attendees.

The other big surprise was that Scandinavian Airlines System Group, the dot-brand applicant that was due to give a presentation on its plans for .sas, was a no-show.

I gather that somebody more senior at SAS found out about the conference and decided that revealing all was not such a great business strategy after all.

Most dot-brand applicants are playing their hands close to their chest, even if they’re not heading into a contested gTLD scenario (which SAS may well be if the software firm SAS Institute also applies for .sas).

I also found it notable that there’s still substantial confusion about the program among some potential dot-brand applicants, several of which did show up as general attendees.

I talked to one poor soul who had read the latest revision of the 349-page Applicant Guidebook back-to-back after it was published January 11, trying to figure out what had changed.

He was apparently unaware that ICANN had simultaneously published a summary of the changes, which were very minimal anyway, in a separate document.

These are the types of applicant – people unfamiliar not only with ICANN’s processes but also even with its web site – that are being asked to hack the Guidebook to make the rules compatible with a dot-brand business model, remember.

One potential applicant used a Q&A session during the conference to bemoan the fact that ICANN seems intent to continue to move the goal-posts, even as it solicits applications (and fees).

Pritz and Olof Nordling, manager of ICANN’s Brussels office, reiterated briefly during their presentation today that the current public comment period on “defensive” applications could lead to changes to the program’s trademark protection mechanisms.

But this comment period ends March 20, just nine days before the TAS registration deadline. That’s simply not enough time for ICANN to do anything concrete to deter defensive applications.

If any big changes are coming down the pipe, ICANN is going to need to extend the application window. Material changes made after the applications are already in are going to cause a world of hurt.

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