ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee has given four new gTLD applicants cause to breath a sigh of relief with its official advice following last week’s meeting in Toronto.
The last-minute reprieve comes in the form of a list of specially protected strings matching the names of intergovernmental organizations that is much shorter than previously demanded.
Led by a US proposal, the GAC has told ICANN to protect the name of any IGO that qualifies for a .int domain name.
As .int is the smallest, most restricted gTLD out there, it only has about 166 registrations currently. More IGOs are believed to qualify for the names but have not claimed them.
If ICANN eventually implements the GAC advice — which seems likely — these 166-plus strings could be placed on a second-level reserved list that all new gTLD registries would have to honor.
While some may object to such a move, it’s a much shorter list than requested by the United Nations and other agencies earlier this year.
In July, the UN and 38 other IGOs said that any name found on the so-called “6ter” list of Paris Convention organizations maintained by WIPO should be protected — over 1,100 strings in total.
The UN had also asked for protection at both top and second levels immediately, which would have killed off four paid-up applications.
Corporate Executive Board Company (.ceb), Platinum Registry Limited (.fit) Top Level Domain Holdings (.fit) and Dot Latin (.uno), all have applications for strings on the 6ter list.
Crucially, the Toronto GAC advice only asks for the names to be protected at the top level from the second round of new gTLD applications.
The Toronto communique states:
in the public interest, implementation of such protection at the second level must be accomplished prior to the delegation of any new gTLDs, and in future rounds of gTLDs, at the second and top level.
This means that applications for strings on the .int list are probably safe.
We ran a recent .int zone file against the DI PRO database of new gTLD applications and found three applications that would have been affected by a first-round prohibition on .int strings.
The two applications for .gdn (Guardian Media and Navigation Information Systems) and the one for .iwc (Richemont DNS) appear to be safe under the rules proposed by the GAC.
ARI Registry Services officially announced its aggressive targeting of the DNS services market at an event in Toronto last week.
The company says it is the named DNS provider in over 450 new gTLD applications, giving it a substantial foot in the door should they be approved by ICANN.
That’s almost three times as many applications as ARI is involved with as registry provider.
“To our competitors, we are coming for you,” a tired and emotional ARI CEO Adrian Kinderis said during the launch event at a club in Toronto last Tuesday, which DI attended.
“Bring it on,” equally tired and emotional executives from larger competitors were heard to mutter in the audience.
ARI seems to be targeting just TLD operators to begin with, while competitors such as Verisign, Neustar and Afilias also offer managed DNS to enterprises.
ARI already runs the DNS for Australia’s .au.
With little fanfare, ICANN last week formally approved new rules that could allow incumbent registry operators to own registrars that sell domains in their own gTLDs.
The policy would give the likes of Verisign, Neustar and Afilias the right to become affiliated with registrars that sell .com, .biz and .info names respectively.
These registries would have to sign up to the standard new gTLD registry agreement first, or submit to contract renegotiation in order to drop their current cross-ownership bans.
In either case, they would become bound by the new registry Code of Conduct, preventing them from offering preferential terms to their affiliated registrars.
The new rule came into effect following the ICANN board meeting on Thursday, at which this resolution was passed.
ICANN had already dropped cross-ownership restrictions for new gTLD registry operators, but held back from bringing in the same rules for incumbents due to concerns from competition authorities.
After exchanges of letters with the European Commission and US Department of Commerce, these concerns appear to have dried up, however. ICANN said in its resolution:
it appears that there is no longer any reason against extending the approved process to existing registry operators for their own TLDs.
This action will be an advantage for the ICANN community, as it will provide the opportunity for treating all registry operators equally with respect to cross-ownership restrictions.
Registries would have their requests for contract changes referred to competition authorities for comment before ICANN would approve them.
Based on previous comments, Verisign might have a struggle with respect to .com but the other incumbents might have an easier time renegotiating their deals.
Neustar has been particularly outspoken in its desire to get rid of the contractual language preventing it owning a .biz registrar, so we might see that company first to get into talks.
Both .biz and .info contracts are up for renewal before the end of the year.
Peter Dengate Thrush, executive chairman of new gTLD portfolio applicant Top Level Domain Holdings, has decided to quit not much more than a year into the job.
According to a press release, Dengate Thrush will leave the company in January 2013, to be replaced by original chair Fred Krueger.
No reason for the departure was given.
When he joined TLDH, his share option package envisaged him sticking around until at least July 2014.
Dengate Thrush will continue to advise some of TLDH’s new gTLD applicant clients after he leaves, according to the press release.
His decision to join TLDH in July 2011, just a few weeks after helping to push through approval of the new gTLD program as ICANN’s chairman, was a nodal point in ICANN’s recent evolution.
It led directly to strict conflict of interest rules being put in place on ICANN’s board, which are now being criticized by some contracted parties for removing vital expertise from the board.
It also gave plenty of ammunition to those who criticize ICANN for being too focused on enriching its insiders.
TLDH has applied for 70 gTLDs, and its Minds + Machines subsidiary is the named back-end provider for several more.
Image Online Design, which unsuccessfully applied for the .web gTLD all the way back in 2000, has sued ICANN, alleging trademark infringement and breach of contract.
IOD, which says it has over 20,000 .web domains under management in an alternate root, says ICANN never officially rejected its .web bid, and that it should not have allowed other companies to apply for it.
It’s looking for an injunction preventing ICANN awarding .web to any other company, as well as seeking ICANN’s “profits” resulting from the alleged infringement of its mark.
There are seven .web applicants in the current round, but IOD is not among them.
The company paid $50,000 for its application in 2000, but it’s not happy with the $86,000 discount ICANN offered 2000-round applicants on their $185,000 fees if they wanted to resubmit their applications.
The IOD complaint claims:
Allowing other entities to file applications for a .web TLD while IOD’s .WEB TLD application was still pending is improper, unlawful and inequitable.
The complaint cites the November 2000 ICANN meeting in Marina Del Rey, during which the first proof-of-concept gTLDs were approved by ICANN’s board of directors.
It notes that then-chair Vint Cerf steered the board away from approving .web applications filed by Afilias and others because IOD was already operating .web in an alternate root at the time.
You can watch a video of that meeting here.
The complaint also alleges tenuous conflicts of interest between two .web applicants (Afilias and Google) and members of ICANN’s board of directors (current chair and vice-chair Steve Crocker and Bruce Tonkin in the case of Afilias, and long-gone chair Vint Cerf in the case of Google).
The suit comes just a few days after IOD’s fellow 2000 applicant and alternate root player, Name.Space, sued ICANN on similar grounds, trying to prevent 189 gTLDs being approved.