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Unbelievably, .africa will be contested

The .africa top-level domain may well be unique — the only geographic gTLD to be contested.

DotConnectAfrica, which has been campaigning for .africa for years, has confirmed that it has applied for the string, despite the fact that another bidder has support of the African Union.

DCA chief Sophia Bekele blogged:

because of the history of the DotAfrica gTLD and our experience during the ‘Yes2DotAfrica’ promotional campaign, we anticipate a prolonged process

The AU in February announced that it was providing its support to a .africa application from UniForum, the South African ccTLD registry.

DCA had previously secured what appeared to be a letter of support from an AU official, but it has since been withdrawn.

According to ICANN’s Applicant Guidebook, if you want to run a geographic gTLD representing multiple countries, you need the express support or non-objection of 60% of those countries.

I’m pretty certain DCA doesn’t have this support, but the AU’s membership does include more than 60% of the nations in Africa.

Is DCA applying in order to get a pay-off from the Uniforum bid? It’s possible, but without the required government support its negotiating position appears to be pretty weak.

Expect objections.

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Venue has “more reservations than bedrooms” for ICANN Prague

Kevin Murphy, June 9, 2012, Gossip

Anyone fancy a twos-up with another ICANN attendee in Prague?

The Hilton Prague Hotel has apologized for screwing up delegates’ reservations for the June 23-28 public ICANN meeting, and has reconfirmed the reservations of those affected.

But it’s told ICANN that it still doesn’t have enough rooms for that week. In a letter to ICANN meeting organizers, dated June 6, the hotel wrote:

The Hilton Prague still has more reservations than bedrooms for the period of the ICANN meeting, but both the Hilton Prague and ICANN event organizers are together working on minimizing the overbooking situation in order to be able to accommodate as many ICANN attendees as possible.

Not exactly encouraging, is it?

The overbooking problem seems to have been caused by the hotel running a special ICANN reservation system in parallel with its regular system, but not correctly linking the two.

Speculating, this might mean that only those who booked through official channels were affected.

Speculating further, it might also mean that those who booked independently are at risk of losing their reservations, should the Hilton decide to prioritize known ICANN delegates.

Even if I’m wrong on both counts, it does appear that not everyone who booked at the Hilton for the meeting will be staying where they hoped.

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Neustar adds voice to anti-batching chorus

Kevin Murphy, June 9, 2012, Domain Policy

Neustar and MarkMonitor have come out in opposition to digital archery and new gTLD batching.

In letters to ICANN this week, both companies have asked for delays in the digital archery process to give the community time to come up with better solutions.

Neustar’s new deputy general counsel Becky Burr wrote:

A modest delay would permit both ICANN and the community of affected stakeholders to consider the validity of those assumptions in light of actual applications.

Informed reflection by the community could result in greater efficiencies and fewer disputes down the road.

On the other hand, launching the Digital Archery process prior to publication of the list of applications is going to create winners and losers that will unnecessarily complicate, and perhaps prevent, thoughtful adjustments to the approach.

MarkMonitor’s Elisa Cooper simply wants to know “Why should some TLDs receive the benefit of being delegated before others?” She asked ICANN to reconsider whether batching is necessary.

While it is understandable that not all 1900+ applications cannot be simultaneously processed, why not just wait until all applications have completed the Initial Evaluation before announcing results. Why should some TLDs receive the benefit of being delegated before others?

If batching is even required, allow the Community to see the entire list of applications so that they can provide meaningful feedback. It may become apparent that certain types of strings should be processed together.

MarkMonitor also expressed concern that ICANN’s TLD Application System terms of use may prohibit applicants from using third-party archery services, such as those offered by Pool.com and Digital Archery Experts.

Sharing TAS passwords seems to be against the rules, but would be necessary to let a third party into your TAS account.

(I reported earlier in the week that it would also let the third-party view the confidential portions of your application, but that appears not to be the case after all.)

By officially coming out against batching and archery, Neustar and MarkMonitor join Melbourne IT, Group NBT, ARI Registry Service and the Intellectual Property Constituency.

Digital archery nevertheless is already underway, ICANN having launched the system on schedule yesterday.

All the applicants I’ve spoken to about this seem to be planning to wait until after the Big Reveal next Wednesday before taking their shots.

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ICANN going ahead with digital archery

Kevin Murphy, June 7, 2012, Domain Policy

Despite recent calls for it to slam on the brakes, ICANN is going ahead with its plans for the controversial “digital archery” method of batching new gTLD applications.

This morning it published a batch of information about the process, which — let’s face it — is likely to decide whether some new gTLDs live or die.

ICANN has put some outstanding issues to bed. Here are the six most interesting facts about today’s developments:

First and foremost, while applicants in contention sets will find themselves promoted to the same batch as the highest-scoring applicant in that set, no applicant will be demoted out of a batch as a result.

The way ICANN had been talking about batching recently, it looked rather like the first batch would be stuffed with contention sets at the expense of dot-brand and genuine community applicants.

That appears to be no longer the case. The first batch will still be stuffed with contention sets, but with no apparent disadvantage to solo applicants.

It does mean that the first batch is likely to be substantially larger than 500 applications, however.

Second, there will be no proportionality in how geographical regions are assigned to batches. ICANN said the system will use instead the originally devised round-robin method.

This basically means that if there are any fewer than 100 applications from any of ICANN’s five regions, they’ll all be in the first batch. This is pretty good news for African applicants.

Third, archery will indeed run through the wobbly TLD Application System and its reportedly sluggish Citrix remote terminal interface, adding a layer of uncertainty and latency.

This means that if you’re using a third-party archery service, you’re going to have to give it your TAS password, giving that third-party access to the confidential portions of your applications. NDAs may be in order.

Fourth, you’ll get as many practice runs as you want before firing your official arrow. There had been some talk about limiting it to just a handful of tries, but that’s no longer the case.

Fifth, ICANN won’t tell you what your score was until July 11, when the order of the batching is revealed. I can see this policy causing sleepless nights all over the world.

Sixth, there’s no CAPTCHA or Turing test, so automated archery solutions will presumably have one less obstacle to overcome.

It’s still a ropey solution, and I don’t expect calls for it to be abandoned to let up, but for now at least it looks like ICANN is proceeding according to its schedule.

Digital archery starts tomorrow. Here’s a how-to video from ICANN.

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Big Reveal confirmed for London

Kevin Murphy, June 6, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN will reveal details of the over 1,900 new top-level domain applications it has received during a press conference starting at 11am UTC next Wednesday.

The event will be held at Kings Place, a venue in the King’s Cross area of London, at noon local time, June 13.

CEO Rod Beckstrom and senior vice president Kurt Pritz will speak at the event, which will be webcast live.

An ICANN spokesperson said that the Big Reveal itself will happen during the press conference — there’ll be a break for journalists to attempt to absorb as much information as they can before the Q&A begins.

I’m waiting for confirmation on whether the full public portions of the applications will be published at that time, or whether it will just be a list.

ICANN said it “will reveal which companies, organizations, start-ups, geographical regions and others have applied for gTLDs and which domain names they are seeking”.

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