Three applicants for the .online gTLD appear to have settled their differences in what I believe is the first public example of new gTLD contention set consolidation.
Tucows, Directi and Namecheap said today that that they plan to “work together to manage the .online registry.” From the press release:
applicants for the same TLDs have begun to compete, negotiate, and, in some cases, join forces to ultimately produce one winning bid.
The first such alliance was revealed today, when domain industry veterans Directi, Tucows and Namecheap announced that they would work together to manage the .online registry.
The companies are of course three of the most successful domain name registrars out there.
The press release does not specify how the combination will be carried out. Under ICANN rules, two of the applicants would have to drop their applications. It’s not possible to resubmit as a joint venture.
It also does not acknowledge that there are three other applicants for .online — Donuts and smaller portfolio applicants Dot Online LLC and I-REGISTRY Ltd — which are not party to the agreement.
Remember the “mystery gTLD applicant” that had promised to campaign against Google’s closed generic gTLD applications?
It turns out the company behind the campaign is actually Latin American Telecom, one of the three applicants for .tube, and that part of its strategy is a Legal Rights Objection.
According to a copy of the LRO kindly provided to DI this week, LAT claims that if Google gets to run .tube it would harm its Tube brand, for which it has a US trademark.
If you haven’t heard of Latin American Telecom, it, despite the name, appears to be primarily a domainer play. Founded in Mexico and based in Pittsburgh, its main claim to fame seems to be owning Mexico.com.
The company says it has also been building a network of roughly 1,500 video sites, all of which have a generic word or phrase followed by “tube.com” in their domains, since 2008.
It owns, for example, the domains IsraelTube.com, MozartTube.com, LabradorTube.com, AmericanWaterSpanielTube.com, DeepSeaFishingTube.com… you get the idea.
They’re all cookie-cutter microsites that pull their video content from Vimeo. Most or all of them appear to be hosted on the same server.
I’d be surprised if some of LAT’s domains, such as BlockbusterTube.com, PlaymateTube.com, FortyNinersTube.com and NascarTube.com, didn’t have trademark issues of their own.
But LAT was also granted a US trademark for the word TUBE almost a year ago, following a 2008 application, which gives it a basis to bring an LRO against Google.
According to its LRO:
The proposed purposes of and registrant limitations proposed for .TUBE by Google demonstrate that the intended purpose of Google’s .TUBE acquisition is to deprive other potential registry operators of an opportunity to build gTLD platforms for competition and innovation that challenge YouTube’s Internet video dominance. It is clear that Google’s intended use for .TUBE is identical to Objector’s TUBE Domain Channels and directly competes with Objector’s pre-existing trademark rights
There’s quite a lot of chutzpah being deployed here.
Would LAT’s ramschackle collection of –tube domains have any meaning at all were YouTube not so phenomenally successful? Who’s leveraging whose brand here, really?
For LAT to win its objection it has to show, among other things, that its TUBE trademark is famous and that Google being awarded .tube would impair its brand in some way.
But the company’s LRO is vague when it come to answering “Whether and to what extent there is recognition in the relevant sector of the public of the sign corresponding to the gTLD”.
It relies surprisingly heavily on its Twitter accounts — which have fewer followers than, for example, DI — rather than usage of its web sites, to demonstrate the success of the TUBE brand.
I don’t think its objection to Google’s .tube application is a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination.
There is a third .tube gTLD applicant, Donuts, but it has not yet received any LROs, according to WIPO’s web site.
New gTLD applications backed by registry service provider Neustar scored the highest results in the first batch of Initial Evaluation results.
All 27 of the applications that have had their IE results revealed by ICANN so far have easily passed the 22 out of 30 points threshold required for a passing score on the technical evaluation.
In most cases, each application had its technical questions answered by the applicant’s chosen back-end provider.
Eight different back-ends are involved in the first 27 bids, some with more applications than others.
Here’s the average score out of 30 for each company.
|Back-End||Number of Apps||Average Score|
|Demand Media Europe||1||29|
|ARI Registry Services||5||27.6|
Only Neustar and Verisign scored the full 30 points in an application with their name on it, but their averages were reduced by applications in which they fared less well.
It’s very early days, of course, with the full set of IE results not due to be completely published until August.
We’ll be tracking these scores as more results are released on DI PRO.
PW Registry, the Direci unit looking after the .pw registry, said it received orders for 4,000 domain names in its first 30 minutes of general availability today.
Disappointing? It’s certainly not up to the standard of, say, .co, which was well into six figures in the same period when it launched a few years ago.
But .pw’s ambitions weren’t quite as lofty as .co’s. It’s the ccTLD for Palau, and its chosen meaning of “professional web” isn’t nearly as intuitive or valuable as .co’s “company”.
Still, it’s early days, and Directi says it saw a reasonable amount of domainer action during its landrush phase.
Landrush and sunrise period numbers have not been disclosed, but the company said that Apple, Pfizer, Volkswagen and Nokia obtained their trademarks during sunrise.
PW Registry has 110 registrars, including many of the big ones, selling its names.
ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade has reportedly indicated that the unilateral right to amend powers ICANN wants to put in its registry and registrar contracts are non-negotiable.
Speaking at a meeting of the Association of National Advertisers last week, Chehade is reported to have said: “I’m not going to back off this one.”
He is understood to have been referring to the changes ICANN wants to impose on the base new gTLD Registry Agreement and the Registrar Accreditation Agreement.
Amy Bivins of Bloomberg BNA’s Electronic Commerce & Law Report caught the speech live and tweeted the following:
Chehade quotes on RAA: “I cannot live with a perpetual agreement,” and “I’m not going to back off this one.”
— Amy E. Bivins (@AmyEBivins) March 20, 2013
Bivins’ full report is available behind BNA’s paywall.
The unilateral right to amend is just about the most controversial thing ICANN has proposed in a while.
It would give ICANN’s board of directors the power to make changes to both agreements in situations where registrars or registries cannot agree among themselves to a “special amendment” but there’s agreement by other community members that the change is required.
Registries and registrars argue that a contract in which one party has the power to change the agreement without the consent of the other is not really a contract at all.
But ICANN says the powers are needed, partly to redress existing imbalances: the fact that the RAA and RA both last for 10 years and that the RA has a presumptive right of renewal.
Without the right to change the RA over the protests of the registries, it’s possible that in future proposed changes could be vetoed by registries whose interests are not aligned with the “public interest”, ICANN argues.
ICANN says that it’s impossible to know how consolidation, future new gTLD rounds and power shifts in the ICANN community will affect the balance of power, meaning it needs a way to resist a registry choke-hold should the situation arise.
I suspect the fact that it’s taken about three years to get close to adding the recommendations of law enforcement relating to registrar conduct to the RAA may also have something to do with it.