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ICANN drops .jobs shut-down threat

Kevin Murphy, December 14, 2012, Domain Registries

ICANN has withdrawn its breach notice against .jobs registry Employ Media, opening the floodgates for third-party job listings services in the gTLD.

In a letter sent to the company earlier this week, ICANN seems to imply that it was wrong when it threatened in February 2011 to shut down .jobs for breaking the terms of its registry agreement:

ICANN has concluded that Employ Media is not currently in breach, but is instead in good standing under the Registry Agreement, with respect to the issues raised in the 27 February 2011 Notice of Breach letter.

ICANN will not seek to impose restrictions on new or existing policy initiatives within .JOBS as long as such conduct is consistent with the .JOBS Charter and the terms of the Registry Agreement.

The surprising move presumably means that Employ Media will be dropping its Independent Review Panel proceeding against ICANN, which was due to start in-person hearings next month.

The original breach notice alleged that the registry had gone too far when it sold thousands of generic domain names to the DirectEmployers Association to use for jobs listings sites.

This .Jobs Universe project saw DirectEmployers launch sites such as newyork.jobs and nursing.jobs.

The project was criticized harshly by the .JOBS Charter Compliance Coalition, an ad hoc group of jobs sites including Monster.com, which lobbied ICANN to enforce the .jobs contract.

The .jobs gTLD was originally supposed to be for companies to advertise only their own job openings.

The reasoning behind ICANN’s change of heart now is a little fuzzy.

Ostensibly, it’s because it received a letter December 3 from the Society for Human Resources Management, Employ Media’s policy-setting “sponsoring organization”.

The letter states that all of DirectEmployers’ domain names are perfectly okay registrations — “being used consistently with the terms of the .JOBS Charter” — and have been since the .Jobs Universe project started.

The domain names were all registered by DirectEmployers executive William Warren, who is a SHRM member as required by .jobs policy, the letter states.

Nothing seems to have changed here — it’s been Employ Media and SHRM’s position all along that the registrations were legit.

So did ICANN merely sense defeat in the IRP case and get cold feet?

Read the letters here.

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Chehade kicks off massive Whois review

Kevin Murphy, December 14, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has started the ball rolling on its potentially radical rethink of how Whois works with formation of a new “Expert Working Group” tasked with examining the issue.

As ICANN chair Steve Crocker told DI last month, this is the first stage of a root-and-branch reexamination of Whois databases, what they’re for, and how they’re accessed.

According to ICANN, which is referring to Whois as “gTLD registration data” presumably to avoid confusion with the Whois technical standard, the group will:

1) define the purpose of collecting and maintaining gTLD registration data, and consider how to safeguard the data, and

2) provide a proposed model for managing gTLD directory services that addresses related data accuracy and access issues, while taking into account safeguards for protecting data.

Whatever the new Expert Working Group on gTLD Directory Services comes up with between January and April next year will be punted to the Generic Names Supporting Organization for an ICANN board-mandated Policy Development Process.

The PDP could create policies binding on gTLD registries and registrars.

Jean-Francois Baril has been hand-picked to chair the group. He has no connection to the domain name industry but appears to have worked with ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade on the RosettaNet standards-setting project.

Crocker and fellow ICANN director Chris Disspain will also join the group.

ICANN wants volunteers to fill the other positions and it seems to be eager to find outsiders who do not already represent entrenched ICANN constituency positions, saying:

Volunteer working group members should: have significant operational knowledge and experience with WHOIS, registrant data, or directory services; be open to new ideas and willing to forge consensus; be able to think strategically and navigate conflicting views; have a record of fostering improvements and delivering results; have a desire to create a new model for gTLD directory services; and be able to volunteer approximately 12-20 hours a month during January – April 2013 to the working group.

Individuals who have worked extensively in the areas of registration data collection, access, accuracy, use, privacy, security, law enforcement, and standards and protocols are also encouraged to consider working group membership. As the working group will be a collection of experts, it is not expected to be comprised solely of representatives of current ICANN community interests. Although members may not come directly from ICANN structures, the working group will have a deep understanding of, and concern for, the ICANN communities’ interests.

Obviously law enforcement and intellectual property interests will be keen to make sure they’re amply represented in the group, as will registries/registrars and privacy advocates.

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ICM seizes on Google’s porn algorithm change

Kevin Murphy, December 14, 2012, Domain Registries

Grasping the opportunity for a bit of easy publicity, ICM Registry has seized upon a recent Google algorithm change to promote its .xxx gTLD’s brand.

It was reported earlier this week that Google has made it harder to accidentally stumble across sexually explicit imagery in Google Images by making its Safe Search filtering mandatory in the US.

The company defended itself from cries of censorship by pointing out that porn could still be found, as long as you are a bit more “explicit” about what it is you’re looking for, telling CNet:

If you’re looking for adult content, you can find it without having to change the default setting — you just may need to be more explicit in your query if your search terms are potentially ambiguous.

Now ICM is plugging .xxx as a “workaround” to this problem, saying in a press release today:

one can simply type a description of whatever porn one wants into any search bar followed by the letters “XXX.” Results are instant and on target. For example, if one is looking for adult content that includes a mainstream generic word like “Toys,” simply enter the search term “Toys XXX” and problem solved.

ZDNet gave similar advice in an article this week, and ICM says that traffic to its own search engine, search.xxx, saw a 50% spike in the last 24 hours as a result.

Could this be a portent for changes in user search behavior in the age of niche new gTLDs?

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Seven new gTLD applications withdrawn, two after GAC Early Warnings

Kevin Murphy, December 14, 2012, Domain Registries

Seven more new gTLD applications have been officially withdrawn from the ICANN evaluation process, two of which were recently hit with governmental warnings, bringing the total to 13.

The applications yanked since DI’s last update are:

.ansons (CBM Creative Brands Marken GmbH)
.caremore (WellPoint, Inc)
.glean (Lifestyle Domain Holdings, Inc)
.gmbh (GMBH Registry, LLC)
.hilton (HLT Stakis IP Limited)
.skolkovo (Fund for Development of the Center for Elaboration and Commercialization of New Technologies)
.swiss (Swiss International Air Lines Ltd)

The withdrawal of .swiss means that a contention set is now no longer a contention set.

The other .swiss applicant is the Swiss government itself, which filed a Governmental Advisory Committee Early Warning against its rival last month and is now pretty much guaranteed a win.

The latest withdrawals also thin the field for .gmbh, reducing the number of applicants from six to five.

All of the .gmbh applications received GAC Early Warnings from Germany. The country is concerned that only legal GmbH entities — equivalent to “Ltd” or “LLC” companies — should be able to own these domains.

The .hilton, .glean, .ansons, and .caremore applications were all dot-brands.

So, to an extent, was .skolkovo. Skolkovo is an emerging high-technology campus outside of Moscow with big intentions to become the Russian Silicon Valley. It’s not known why its bid was pulled.

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Deloitte confirmed as first Trademark Clearinghouse provider

Kevin Murphy, December 14, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has signed a contract with Deloitte, making the company the first official trademark validation agent for the forthcoming new gTLDs Trademark Clearinghouse.

The news emerged in a blog post from ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade today.

The TMCH is going to use the registry-registrar model, with IBM acting as the centralized, sole-source database operator, and Deloitte acting as the first “registrar”.

Marks entered into the TMCH will be eligible for Trademark Claims notifications and, in cases where proof of use has been provided, Sunrise registrations.

Chehade confirmed that Deloitte can charge a maximum of $150 per trademark per year, with discounts available for multiple marks and multiple years.

IBM’s contract and associated fees have not yet been set, due largely to the fact that the TMCH implementation model is still the subject of debate and controversy.

ICANN has confirmed, however, that it will retain “all intellectual property rights” to data stored in the Clearinghouse, meaning it may be able to migrate the database to a different provider in future.

Chehade also confirmed that ICANN has received “multiple” responses to its Request For Information for a Uniform Rapid Suspension service provider that come in under its $500-per-case price target.

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