It’s open season on ICANN at the moment, and as the number of letters opposing the new gTLD program flittering between Washington DC and Marina del Rey becomes confusingly voluminous many groups think they’ve found another opportunity to demand last-minute changes.
ICANN’s Business Constituency is now considering making several recommendations for “critical improvements” to protect trademark holders in the new gTLD universe.
While the recommendations are still under discussion, they could include adding the option to transfer a domain name to a brand owner after a successful Uniform Rapid Suspension complaint.
This would prove unpopular among domain investors and others as it would increase the likelihood of the untested URS being used as a replacement for the already controversial UDRP, potentially increasing the risk of reverse domain name hijacking.
The BC is also discussing whether to ask for a “permanent registry block” feature to be added the forthcoming Trademark Clearinghouse, enabling brand owners to block their trademarks from all new gTLDs for a one-time fee in much the same way as ICM Registry enabled in the .xxx sunrise.
The Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse made a similar request to ICANN last week.
The idea is unlikely to find favor because it would essentially grant trademark owners exclusivity over strings, a right not usually given to them by trademark law.
Other BC discussion topics include making the Trademark Clearinghouse permanent (instead of just running for the first 60 days of each new gTLD) and putting a firm date on the opening of the second-round application window, a popular request from brand owners.
Much like 13th-hour requests originating in the At-Large Advisory Committee, the BC’s position is likely to be substantially revised before it is submitted to ICANN officially.
While ICANN chairman Steve Crocker told .nxt this week that there are no plans to delay or rate-limit the new gTLD program, it’s less clear whether the Applicant Guidebook is still open for the kinds of substantial amendments now being discussed by the business community.
But my hunch is that, regardless of the political pressure being brought to bear on ICANN in the US, the new gTLD program is going to launch on January 12 in more or less its current form.
Go Daddy lost tens of thousands of domain name registrations totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost recurring revenue due to yesterday’s SOPA-related boycott.
NameCheap, the eNom reseller that spearheaded the campaign against Go Daddy, said on Twitter that it had raised over $25,000 for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, suggesting that it saw over 25,000 inbound transfers using its SOPASUCKS discount code.
Twitter noise also suggests that several other registrars, such as Name.com and Gandi, gained from the protest.
The boycott went ahead due to Go Daddy’s former support of the Stop Online Piracy Act, which many Americans believe will infringe civil liberties by erecting a great big DNS firewall around the country.
The company withdrew its support for the bill before Christmas, but many customers either chose to ignore its new stance or to point out that “not supporting” did not necessarily mean “opposing”.
Frankly, I think many people just wanted to lash out, and withdrawing business from a company with an established reputation for being a bit downmarket is a lot easier than, say, turning off SOPA-supporting ESPN or cutting up your SOPA-supporting Visa card.
Warren Adelman, Go Daddy’s new CEO, issued this statement last night, clarifying the company’s position:
We have observed a spike in domain name transfers, which are running above normal rates and which we attribute to Go Daddy’s prior support for SOPA, which was reversed.
Go Daddy opposes SOPA because the legislation has not fulfilled its basic requirement to build a consensus among stake-holders in the technology and Internet communities. Our company regrets the loss of any of our customers, who remain our highest priority, and we hope to repair those relationships and win back their business over time.
The company has over 50 million domains under management. Even if 50,000 were transferred to other registrars, that’s still only 0.1% of Go Daddy’s installed base.
Name server records compiled by DailyChanges also heavily suggest that the company sold over 43,000 new domain registrations yesterday.
The fact that Adelman chose to eat humble pie rather than pointing this out was probably a wise PR decision.
Also, NameCheap deserves some kudos for running a very effective social media campaign.
It’s been an eventful year in the domain name industry, and also for DomainIncite.
Pages views and unique visitors to DI more than tripled in 2011. We welcomed on board several new advertisers and will post our 1,000th article at some point over the next few days.
The year’s biggest rolling stories have been the slow creep towards the launch of ICANN’s new gTLD program, the depletion of the free IPv4 pool, the launch of the controversial .xxx gTLD, and the ongoing tensions between civil liberties advocates and intellectual property interests.
These trends are reflected in the top ten DI posts, by traffic, for 2011.
This curious security twist on the well-known typosquatting problem came to light during the Black Hat security conference in July. While the risk posed by bit-squatting is tiny, it was still the most-read story of the year.
This year saw the final approval and delegation of the long-anticipated .xxx top-level domain. Casting.xxx was the first .xxx domain not owned by ICM Registry to start resolving, and we scooped the story in August.
The fact that this story about a dispute over the domain facebok.com receives so much search traffic is a testament to the fact that many people continue to a) type domain names into search boxes and b) misspell them.
The headline is self-explanatory. I’d like to think its position in the year’s most-popular posts says a lot more about you than it does about me, but frankly I think we both should hang our heads in shame.
ICANN finally ran out of IPv4 this year, leading to the emergence of a secondary market in IP addresses. Microsoft’s purchase of a big batch from Nortel in March kicked off this continuing story.
For a brief period in August, Google was ranking ifriends.xxx, newly purchased by the adults-only dating site iFriends, higher than its usual .net and .com addresses, under certain circumstances.
While that may no longer be the case, it was an interesting indication of how search engines may experiment with ranking new gTLDs in future.
In October, YouPorn operator Manwin became only the second company ever to file an Independent Review request with ICANN. While its focus was .xxx, its arguments were broad enough to encompass the entire new gTLD concept. One to watch in 2012.
The SOPA and PIPA bills in the US were hot topics in the second half of 2011. In October, we broke the story of how pirate-operated DNS services were already springing up to help internet users circumnavigate domain seizures and DNS interception.
Again, it’s a sad fact that when you write about typo domains, you sometimes inherit traffic for those typos. That’s at least partially responsible for another Facebok.com story in our top ten.
Back in April, icmregistry.xxx became the first .xxx domain name to start resolving on the internet. DI broke the story, and it got a bunch of traffic.
The Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse has asked ICANN to make one-time trademark blocks, much like those offered by .xxx operator ICM Registry, mandatory in most new top-level domains.
In a letter to ICANN bosses (pdf) sent last week, CADNA president Josh Bourne wrote:
ICANN should consider including a requirement in the Applicant Guidebook that all new gTLD registries that choose to sell second-level domains to registrants adopt a low-cost, one-time block for trademark owners to protect their marks in perpetuity.
ICANN should require registries to give brand owners the option to buy low-cost blocks on their trademarks before any registration period (Sunrise or Landrush) opens. This can be offered at a lower cost than sunrise registrations have been priced at in the past – this precedent has been set with the blocks offered in .XXX, where the blocks are made in perpetuity for a single, nonrecurring fee.
The recommendation is one of several. CADNA also reckons ICANN needs to name the date for its second round of new gTLD applications, and that “.brand” applicants should get discounts for multiple gTLD applications.
The letter comes as opposition to the new gTLD program in the US becomes deafening and ICANN’s board of directors have reportedly scheduled an impromptu meeting next week to determine whether the January 12 launch is still a good idea.
CADNA is no longer opposed to the program itself. Fairwinds Partners, the company that runs the lobbyist, recently restyled itself as a new gTLD consultancy.
But there’s a virtually zero chance the letter will come to anything, unless ICANN were to decide to open up the Applicant Guidebook for public comments again.
I also doubt the call for a mandatory ICM-style “block” service would be well-received by anyone other than ICANN’s intellectual property constituency.
The problem with such systems is that trademarks do not grant exclusive rights to strings, despite what some organizations would like to think.
It’s quite possible for ABC the taxi company to live alongside ABC television in the trademark world. Is it a good idea to allow the TV station to perpetually block abc.taxi from registration?
Some would say yes. The Better Business Bureau and Meetup.com, to name two examples, both recently went before Congress to bemoan the fact that they could not block bbb.xxx and meetup.xxx – both of which have meaning in the adult entertainment context and were reserved as premium names – using ICM’s Sunrise B.
With that all said, there’s nothing stopping new gTLD applicants from voluntarily offering .xxx-style blocking services, or indeed any form of novel IP rights protection mechanisms.
Some applicants may have even looked at the recent .xxx sunrise with envious eyes – with something like 80,000 defensive registrations at about $160 a pop, ICM made over $12 million in revenue and profit well into seven figures.
I think it’s fair to say that Go Daddy is ending 2011 on a bum note.
A handful of competitors, notably Namecheap, are exploiting the recent outrage about the company’s support for the Stop Online Piracy Act (since recanted) to really stick the boot in.
NameCheap today called for December 29 to be marked as Move Your Domain Day and is currently sponsoring the hashtag #BoycottGoDaddy on Twitter.
It also said it will donate $1 to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for every domain transferred to it that day using the coupon code SOPASUCKS.
Other registrars are joining in with somewhat less gusto.
Dotster, for example, is offering cheap transfers with the discount code NOFLIPFLOP, a reference to Go Daddy’s changed position on SOPA.
So what’s the net effect of all this on Go Daddy’s business? It’s difficult to tell with much accuracy at this point.
NameCheap claims to have seen 40,000 inbound transfers in the last week, most of them presumably coming from former Go Daddy customers.
That’s going to be a difficult claim to verify however, even when December’s official gTLD registry reports are published a few months from now.
Unlike most ICANN-accredited registrars, NameCheap does not register domains directly — it has fewer than 200 .com domains under management, according to the most recent registry report.
The company started off life as an eNom reseller and appears to have never gotten around to migrating its customers.
(I wonder how many people transferring their domains this week are aware that some of their fees are probably flowing into the coffers of Demand Media, another popular internet hate figure.)
Several media articles have sourced DomainTool’s DailyChanges service for numbers of transfers out of domaincontrol.com, Go Daddy’s default name server constellation.
Here’s a graph showing the transfers in and out of domaincontrol.com since the start of the month.
Transfers out briefly overtook transfers in this week, but by a negligible number.
The two big spikes you can see – both of which occur before the boycott began on December 22 – can be attributed to domainers (possibly a single domainer) moving thousands of domains from domaincontrol.com to internettraffic.com, a parking service, and back again.
Those movements had nothing to do with SOPA or the boycott, nor do they indicate that the domains were transferred away from Go Daddy. Name server changes != transfers.
Facts shouldn’t get in the way of a good story, however.
That’s probably why NameCheap seems to have got away with its insinuations about Go Daddy “blocking” transfers yesterday, which turned out to be highly questionable.
It transpires that transfers into NameCheap were failing not because of any nefarious activity by Go Daddy, but because NameCheap’s Whois queries were being automatically rate limited.
This was likely because NameCheap failed to white-list the IP addresses it uses for port 43 Whois look-ups either using ICANN’s RADAR tool or by notifying Go Daddy directly.
Go Daddy senior direct of product development Rich Merdinger suggested in a statement last night that NameCheap looked for the PR opportunity before picking up the phone:
Namecheap posted their accusations in a blog, but to the best our of knowledge, has yet to contact Go Daddy directly, which would be common practice for situations like this. Normally, the fellow registrar would make a request for us to remove the normal rate limiting block which is a standard practice used by Go Daddy, and many other registrars, to rate limit Whois queries to combat WhoIs abuse.
NameCheap has naturally disputed this interpretation of events, saying it had tried to get in touch with Go Daddy but received no response for 24 hours (Christmas Day, presumably).
Regardless of the he said/she said, the narrative in the media and on Twitter for the last couple of days has been pretty clear — Go Daddy: Bad, NameCheap: Good.
The SOPA story seems to have hit a nerve, and there are no shortage of pissed-off Go Daddy customers with horror stories to recount or just general criticisms of the company’s fairly brash image.
Warren Adelman picked a hell of a time to take over as CEO.