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Fly9 offers services to simplify new gTLD sales

Kevin Murphy, May 20, 2013, Domain Services

Portland-based developer Fly9 launched last week, offering new gTLD registries a broad range of software designed to make it easier to sell domain names.

The company, founded by SnapNames and Afilias alum Ravi Surya, hopes its platform will help new gTLD operators tap into registrars’ customer bases in a soon-to-be-flooded market.

“The problem with new TLDs is they’ll all depend on registrars, but the registrars are all busy selling other things, like hosting, they’re not interested in selling your TLD,” Surya said.

For a start-up, only just coming out of stealth mode, three-year-old Fly9 seems to have an awful lot of products with an awful lot of features, judging by a quick demo we saw last week.

Perhaps most interesting is the core TLD Distribution Platform. It’s a software service designed to plug the gap between the registry back-end and the registrar/reseller and simplify channel management.

The idea is to make it easier for newbie registry operators to leverage registrars’ marketing clout, but without asking the registrar to do a lot of technical integration work.

Say you’ve been awarded .pumpkins by ICANN. It’s a niche TLD and registrars — spoiled for choice in a world of 500 new gTLDs — aren’t exactly clamoring to sign up to offer it.

Fly9’s service would enable you to give these registrars a way to very quickly start selling .pumpkin domains, using their own registrar accreditation and payment systems but using Fly9’s hosted, white-label microsite.

According to Surya, registry managers can use the service to sign up registrars as little as five minutes. Adding branding and customizing the site for the registrar would obviously take longer.

Registries can also elect to use Fly9’s partner registrar, NameSystem, and create a channel of resellers instead.

The Fly9 suite also includes services for handling pre-registrations, sunrise periods, and premium domain auctions and Surya said the service can also handle EPP extensions for restricted gTLDs.

Pricing is based on transaction volume, but the software has already been licensed to two major back-end registry technical providers, which Surya said he could not yet name.

LogicBoxes and Architelos are among those offering software services for new gTLD management, but I’d be hard pressed to think of another company doing precisely what Fly9 is right now.

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Two failures among latest 44 new gTLD results

ICANN has released its weekly batch of new gTLD Initial Evaluation results and it includes the program’s second and third failures.

Two dot-brand applications — .olayangroup and .mckinsey, filed by Olayan Investments and McKinsey Holdings — didn’t get passing scores and are now categorized as “Eligible for Extended Evaluation”.

Both — like the only other failure to date, also filed by Olayan — passed the technical evaluation but failed on question 45, which asks the applicant to provide financial statements.

The strings that have passed IE this week are:

.dog, .pharmacy, .sener, .skydrive, .soy, .sport, .grocery, .rightathome, .scjohnson, .jll, .hosting, .americanexpress, .yamaxun, .analytics, .construction, .land, .management, .systems, .surgery, .news, .data, .reisen, .rugby, .theater, .university, .cba, .ads, .how, .chrome, .vanguard, .meo, .lotte, .hughes, .praxi, .uno, .versicherung, .blog, .bmw, .shangrila, .yandex and .bbc

There are now 341 passing applications and three failures.

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Donuts puts 63 new gTLDs to private auction, but at least 17 are dead on arrival

Donuts has committed 63 of its 307 new gTLD applications to a private auction next month, but at least 17 of them are doomed already because rival Uniregistry won’t take part.

Donuts, which does not want to enter into joint ventures with competing gTLD applicants, has decided to use a private auction managed by Cramton Associates instead of an ICANN auction.

The first round of auctions are due to kick off June 3, but Cramton has set a deadline of next week for applicants to commit the strings they want to bid on.

Donuts has put forward these ones (note that they’re different to those reported elsewhere earlier due to a couple of typos in the original press release):

.apartments, .auction, .audio, .baseball, .boats, .cafe, .church, .college, .construction, .direct, .discount, .fish, .football, .forsale, .furniture, .fyi, .global, .gratis, .guide, .juegos, .jewelry, .legal, .living, .luxury, .phone, .photography, .plus, .red, .run, .storage, .theater, .trading, .vote, .beauty, .broadway, .city, .club, .forum, .garden, .help, .hosting, .hot, .marketing, .media, .memorial, .wedding, .chat, .online, .pizza, .sale, .salon, .school, .search, .show, .soccer, .team, .group, .site, .style, .law, .store, .blog, and .art.

Running the list through the DI PRO database, we quickly discover that 33 of these strings are in two-horse races, 13 have three applicants, nine have four and three have five.

The remaining four contention sets have six, seven, nine and 10 applicants respectively.

Uniregistry, the portfolio applicant run by domainer Frank Schilling, is involved in 17 of the contention sets, and Schilling confirmed to DI today that the company does not intend to participate.

As we’ve previously reported, Uniregistry says it has concerns that private auctions may be illegal under US antitrust law, though substantial doubt has been cast over that assertion since.

Because all applicants in a contention set need to commit for the auction to be meaningful, we can assume that at least 17 of Donuts’ proposed auctions will not go ahead, unless Uniregistry changes its mind.

Top Level Domain Holdings has applied for 13 of the strings Donuts wants to take to auction. TLDH has also expressed concern in the past about the private auction concept.

Directi, Famous Four Media and Google are each involved in eight of the contention sets, while Amazon is involved in five.

According to Cramton, each auction will take place in bidding rounds, with the first round having a maximum bid of $50,000 multiplied by the number of applicants and subsequent rounds increasing that by 10% multiplied by the number of bidders.

If any applicant in a given auction requests privacy, then the winning amount will not be disclosed.

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‘Whistleblower’ claims cronyism and fear at ICANN

Kevin Murphy, May 17, 2013, Domain Policy

An anonymous individual claiming to be an ICANN staffer has warned the organization’s board of directors about senior-level cronyism and a “climate of fear” among employees.

However, DI’s private conversations with other ICANN staffers suggest that the concerns may not be widely shared, at least not to the same extreme.

DI received a lengthy email yesterday in which it is claimed that hiring practices since last year have seen “incompetent” friends of CEO Fadi Chehade and COO Akram Atallah appointed to senior positions, which has hurt morale and proved divisive among employees.

Here are some extracts:

While it is natural for a new CEO or COO to bring in their own team, many senior hires to ICANN have been selected without going through an interviewing process, hired despite recommendation by staff to the contrary, in some cases with lack of relevant experience and not following basic business practices on the selection on the basis of merit. It in many cases has been replaced by hiring friends, family and neighbors.

In some cases these hires have turned out to be quite competent but in other cases they are flat-out incompetent. They not only will remain on staff because Akram views them as loyal but they have enjoyed additional responsibilities and promotions unfairly based on their relationship with Akram or Fadi.

Because of these hiring practices, staff morale is at a low point. Staff now falls into two camps: (1) those hired before Fadi (2) those hired after Fadi. There are a record number of employees looking for other jobs. Some have already left and if a significant number leave in the future, ICANNs qualified talent pool will suffer.

The email was unsigned and sent from an anonymized account, but includes sufficient detail that nobody who has seen it doubts that it came from an ICANN employee.

The author refers to an intern, briefly employed, who would have had little to no interaction with the rest of the community and was even unknown to some staff, for example.

I’ve confirmed that the email was sent to at least some members of the board of directors — currently holed up at a retreat in Amsterdam — at about the same time it was sent to DI.

The email lists about 10 current or former ICANN executives who, it is claimed, were hired because they are friends with either Atallah or Chehade or worked with them at other companies.

To the extent that the relationships detailed are professional, they’re easily confirmed by online resumes. Others have been confirmed privately by ICANN staffers.

While the email names names, I’m not going to.

Having spent the last day running the email author’s concerns privately by a handful of ICANN employees, I was unable to find the same degree of concern expressed by anyone.

Some I spoke to recognized the scenario outlined in the email — a new batch of senior staff aligned to the new boss and perhaps not yet fully integrated with the old guard — but said that this is to be expected whenever a new CEO takes over.

“I’m really surprised that someone feels so strongly,” said one staffer. “It’s not that horrendous, new CEOs bring in their people and we’re not going to appreciate them all.”

The phrase “climate of fear”, used in the email, invokes (possibly deliberately) the words of Maria Farrell, the former ICANN staffer who humiliated then-CEO Rod Beckstrom with a scathing public assessment of staff morale during the meeting in San Francisco two years ago.

But another message that also came through loud and clear talking to staff is that while morale might remain low, things at ICANN are a lot better than they were before Chehade took over.

“At least Fadi and his people seem competent,” one person said.

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Donuts hires the face of the new gTLD program

Portfolio gTLD applicant Donuts has hired Michele Jourdan, who until last week was head of new gTLD communications at ICANN.

Michele JourdanShe has joined the company as director of sales and marketing, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Applicants and others following the program closely will remember her from the regular update videos published by ICANN.

She worked for ICANN for almost five years, but only in the last year or so started to take a visible front seat role in interactions with community members. I understand she left ICANN a week ago.

Jourdan is not the first ICANN alum Donuts has taken on.

Its CFO is former ICANN CFO Kevin Wilson, and we recently learned that former new gTLD program manager Kurt Pritz has been recruited, non-exclusively, as a consultant.

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