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ICANN revolving door: invisible whiteboard lady jumps to Afilias

Kevin Murphy, September 21, 2011, Gossip

In yet another shocking example of the unregulated “revolving door” between ICANN and powerful companies in the domain name industry, a blurry lady using an invisible whiteboard appears to be working for ICANN and Afilias at the same time.

Proof can be found in these screenshots, taken today from afilias.info and newgtlds.icann.org.

The photographs appear to have been digitally altered to disguise the mystery double-agent’s appearance, but it’s clearly the same woman.

ICANN:

ICANN clip art

Afilias:

Afilias clipart

Call your lawyers! Write to the Department of Commerce! We have ourselves a scandal!

UPDATE: She works for CentralNic too!!!

CentralNic Clip Art

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M+M offers .brand gTLDs from $25k

Kevin Murphy, September 21, 2011, Domain Registries

Minds + Machines is promoting its gTLD registry services to brand owners at the International Trademark Association meeting in Washington DC, revealing prices as low as $25,000 a year.

Its .brand package covers preparing and filing the application with ICANN and then running the technical back-end.

The company also appears to have introduced a price ceiling of $100,000 a year for .brand clients, according to a press release.

M+M is even offering to throw in a private, ICANN-accredited registrar. I believe the company may be the first registry to publicize this kind of bundled service.

The company is targeting brand owners that may not be convinced by the attractiveness of a .brand, and may have no clue what to do with one, but which nevertheless do not want to be left behind in the event that the second round of new gTLD applications is delayed for many years.

M+M CEO Antony Van Couvering is quoted as saying:

There are a lot of innovative ways for brands to use new gTLDs, but most brands want to first secure their gTLD for a reasonable price, and maybe use it internally, before deciding on the next step.

M+M, which hired former ICANN chair Peter Dengate Thrush as chairman in June, has been among the most aggressive marketers of new gTLDs (which are, after all, it’s entire raison d’etre).

Its enthusiasm has already caused a couple of raised eyebrows.

A teaser announcement from M+M earlier this week, which mentioned how its “registry platform is connected with all major registrars, including MarkMonitor” caused MarkMonitor to issue a clarification stating that it has “no business relationship” with the company.

While MarkMonitor is plugged into CoCCA, the registry platform that handles dozens of ccTLDs, it is not plugged into Espresso, which is M+M’s in-house version of the open-source CoCCA software, the company said in a blog post.

(UPDATE: M+M’s Antony Van Couvering notes in the comments below that MarkMonitor accepts .fm registrations, and that the .fm registry uses Espresso)

CoCCA itself felt compelled to issue a statement in July, clarifying that CoCCA and M+M are not working together on Espresso, as some had inferred from an M+M interview.

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As new gTLDs loom, ICANN expands

Kevin Murphy, September 21, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN plans to upgrade its offices in California and Brussels to deal with anticipated staff growth as the new top-level domains program kicks off.

In a resolution passed late last week, the board of directors said that ICANN should start negotiating for more space at its current location, or to find a new location in Marina Del Rey.

It also resolved to lease a permanent office in Brussels, where it’s currently paying month-to-month at a Regus managed office facility.

Both resolutions are redacted of the specifics of price and locations of interest, presumably in order to not jinx ICANN’s negotiating position with its landlords.

ICANN employs 124 staff, and has job openings for 21 more, according to its latest CEO’s report. Many of its open positions are intended to support the new gTLD program.

Its fiscal 2012 budget includes $2.1 million to pay for its offices in Marina Del Rey, Brussels, Washington DC, Palo Alto and Sydney.

Also in Friday’s board meeting, ICANN approved the formation of a search committee to find itself a new CEO, following the announcement of Rod Beckstrom’s July 2012 departure.

The committee isn’t likely to be formed until the next meeting, in Dakar, October 28, so don’t all start typing up your resumes just yet.

The board also approved the appointment of new chief financial officer Xavier Calvez, who was named to the post on an interim basis earlier this month.

He will receive a salary of $250,000, with a 30% ($75,000) performance-based bonus. That’s compared to his predecessor’s $170,000 base and 20% bonus.

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There’s a new new gTLDs Applicant Guidebook and it’s quite boring

Kevin Murphy, September 19, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN has released the eighth version of the Applicant Guidebook for the new generic top-level domains program as promised, and as expected it’s rather dull.

Here it is.

By far the most important change appears to be the firm inclusion of a new deadline: March 29, 2012.

If you’re a new gTLD applicant, and you have not registered with ICANN’s TLD Application System by 2359 UTC, March 29, 2012, you’re done – your application fails at the starting blocks.

Apart from that, there does not appear to be much to get excited about.

The long gap since the program was approved by the ICANN board on June 20 had some people scratching their heads, wondering whether major changes were in store.

But what’s been published tonight appears to differ very little from the draft published in May, and most of the edits are those specifically envisaged by the June resolution.

It has, for example, been updated to reflect some of the Governmental Advisory Committee’s requests that ICANN’s board of directors acceded to in Singapore.

There’s no longer a requirement for the GAC to reach consensus in a transparent way when it deliberates about new gTLD objections.

There’s also almost 40 new strings – variants of the Olympic, Olympiad, Red Cross and Red Crescent trademarks – that are now explicitly banned from the first round of gTLD applications. These are being called “Strings Ineligible for Delegation”, rather than “Reserved” strings.

(As an aside, while it’s easy to understand the GAC’s rationale for this, does it strike anyone else as a completely pointless move? The gTLD .olympic may be now banned, but the far better and more obvious squat, .olympics, is not.)

No redline version of the Guidebook – in which all the edits are highlighted – has yet been published, but ICANN has released a non-exhaustive document summarizing the changes here.

Not included in that summary is ICANN president Rod Beckstrom’s new introduction, which addresses the latest batch of criticisms leveled at the program (such as the perceived lack of publicity since June and the unfinished applicant support policy).

It also drops the “Dear Prospective Applicant” salutation found in previous versions of the Guidebook, which probably doesn’t mean anything.

The disclaimer that the Guidebook has not been approved has also disappeared. While the document could be considered a production copy, it by no means presents a full picture of the program

Some of the items of unfinished business I outlined in this article last month remain unfinished.

The aforementioned applicant support program, for example, is not likely to be approved until the ICANN board’s meeting in Dakar, October 28.

The new Guidebook explicitly punts this, now saying it will be handled “through a process independent of this Guidebook”.

The Singapore promise that ICANN would continue discussing the US and EU government concerns about cross ownership between registrars and registries does not appear to have led to any edits either, but that does not necessarily mean it’s settled law.

Also, the process the GAC will use internally to decide whether to raise objections to gTLD applications is still not known.

In summary, it appears that we have an Applicant Guidebook that is “approved”, but is unlikely to be the “final” version.

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New gTLD events in London this week

Kevin Murphy, September 19, 2011, Domain Policy

If you’re in London, UK today or tomorrow, there are a couple of events relating to the new top-level domains program you may wish to attend.

Tonight, ICANN president Rod Beckstrom is hosting an informal gathering for UK domain name geeks and internet governance wonks from 5.30pm at the POP Bar of the Hilton Park Lane Hotel.

It’s an open-invitation event so, despite rumors I’ve seen on Twitter, I’m 99% certain it will not be a free bar.

I’m going anyway.

Tomorrow morning, there’s going to be a panel discussion and Q&A session on new gTLDs at the offices of the PR company Edelman.

Panelists include Beckstrom, Nominet chief executive Lesley Cowley, Com Laude director Lorna Gradden, and me. It’s being chaired by Edelman’s Jonathan Hargreaves.

Breakfast is served at 8am, and the panel runs from 8.30am until 10am. It’s an RSVP event, but I believe the venue holds 150, so there’s bound to be still plenty of available seats.

RSVP details can be found here.

Hopefully it will be an interesting discussion. If you’re attending and would like to introduce yourself, at these kinds of things I’m usually the guy looking vaguely out of place.

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