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Breaking: ICANN to name Atallah new COO

Kevin Murphy, September 13, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN has appointed technology industry executive Akram Atallah to the position of chief operating officer, according to a reliable source.

Atallah previously held the same position at CoreObjects for a year, and before that was a vice president at semiconductor firm Conexant, according to his LinkedIn profile.

His well-regarded predecessor, Doug Brent, stepped down in April citing family reasons.

More updates when I have them.

UPDATE: ICANN has now officially announced Atallah’s appointment.

The press release (pdf) contains this quote from CEO Rod Beckstrom:

This is a perfect fit, not only because Akram brings to ICANN an amazing understanding of the online and high tech worlds, but because he also brings an intuitive grasp of our unique global role in the Internet ecosystem. The fact that he is fluent in French and Arabic will add to our ability to reach out more effectively to the international community.

The release also notes that Atallah has a Masters degree in electrical engineering from the University of Colorado.

He will start his work at ICANN September 20.

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Muslim.co auction won by a Christian ministry?

Kevin Murphy, September 13, 2010, Domain Sales

Whois data for the domain muslim.co, which recently sold for $2,650 during the .co landrush auction, suggests it was won by a US-based Christian ministry.

The organization listed as the registrant and administrative contact is Theandric Ministry, the address a postbox at a strip-mall in Reno, Nevada.

While Google sheds no light on this purported organization, the term “theandric” refers to the notion that Christ was both god and man, not a theory you’d expect the typical Muslim to promote.

The domain is currently pointing to Go Daddy’s default parking page. I’ll be interested to see what content, if any, it eventually contains. The equivalent .com domain is also parked.

(UPDATE: the registrant tells me he’s not a ministry and that the Whois data is out of date. He plans to resell or develop the domain.)

The alternate English spelling, moslem.co, appears to have been registered on the first day of .co general availability by a Canadian with a Muslim-sounding name.

Islam.co is on .CO Internet’s reserved list, with the Whois suggesting it is considered a “premium” domain to be auctioned at a later date. Christian.co is also on this list.

That’s not the case for catholic.co and christianity.co, however. Those domains sold for $3,700 and $725 respectively during the landrush auctions.

Hindu.co, hinduism.co, buddhist.co and buddhism.co all appear to have been registered on or around July 20, the first day of general availability.

The three main English spellings of the name of the prophet Mohammed are registered to Dubai or Saudi-based individuals.

Jesus.co is on the premium list. Christ.co appears to have been won at auction last week, but the registry has not yet disclosed the sale price.

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.XXX registry goes on the counter-attack

Kevin Murphy, September 10, 2010, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has issued a strongly worded response to its critics at the Free Speech Coalition, questioning the porn trade group’s relevance.

As I blogged yesterday, the FSC has asked ICANN to release documents disclosing the level of support the .xxx domain, so it can more effectively argue against its approval.

ICM has responded with a letter to ICANN that paints the FSC as overly US-centric and says its arguments deal with issues that have long been resolved.

We understand that the FSC currently has approximately 1,000 members. We further understand that both its leadership and its members are almost exclusively U.S.-based.

The bottom line is that the FSC’s comments simply restate the arguments they have made in the past. Their claims were inaccurate, unsupportable, untimely, and irrelevant when first made, and remain so today.

The would-be registry claims that, contrary to the FSC’s claims, only a tiny portion of its 179,000 pre-registrations are defensive in nature, 6,435 in total.

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Porn group tries to delay .xxx bid

Kevin Murphy, September 9, 2010, Domain Registries

The Free Speech Coalition has asked ICANN to prove that the .xxx top-level domain application has the level of support that ICM Registry claims it has.

The FSC, which represents thousands of porn webmasters, has filed a request under ICANN’s Documentary Information Disclosure Policy for a list of the people who have already pre-registered .xxx domains, among other items.

The organization wants to prove that .xxx has no support among the adult community, and that most of ICM’s 179,000 pre-registrations are made by domainers or are defensive, made by pornographers who really don’t want .xxx.

FSC president Diane Duke wrote to ICANN general counsel John Jeffrey (pdf):

The adult entertainment community – the community which would be most impacted by the introduction of a .xxx sTLD – requires more information about the application in order to provide the appropriate level of feedback to the ICANN Board for it to make an informed decision.

The FSC also wants ICANN to add another 30 days to the current public comment period after the disclosure is made, to give it a chance to respond properly to the new data.

This would, of course, add further delay to the .xxx application.

The FSC also wants to know more about IFFOR, the International Foundation For Online Responsibility, the policy body that would oversee .xxx.

Specifically, the DIDP request covers the names of IFFOR’s board of directors, policy council members, business plans and financial projections.

ICM is opposed to the request and will be officially responding shortly. Its president, Stuart Lawley, told me the information the FSC has requested is known to ICANN, but that it’s confidential.

He also said that the issue of community support is already closed; ICANN made that decision five years ago, a decision that was reinforced earlier this year by an Independent Review Panel.

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Afilias adds DNSSEC to .info zone

Kevin Murphy, September 9, 2010, Domain Tech

The .info domain has become the latest gTLD to be signed with DNSSEC, the security standard for domain name lookups.

Afilias, which runs the .info registry, said today that it has signed its zone and added the necessary records to the DNS root.

DNSSEC is designed to prevent cache poisoning attacks, which can be used to hijack domain names and carry out phishing campaigns.

For registrants, DNSSEC in .info doesn’t mean much in practical terms yet. If you have a .info, you’ll have to wait for registrars to start to support the standard.

At the moment, only 19 second-level .info domains, including afilias.info and comcast.info, have been signed, as part of a “friends and family” testbed program.

The .org zone, which Afilias also provides the back-end for, was signed in June.

Neustar added full DNSSEC support for .biz in August, according to an announcement this week.

For .com and .net, VeriSign is currently planning to roll out the technology in the first quarter of 2011.

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Sex.com sale gets September 28 deadline

Kevin Murphy, September 9, 2010, Domain Sales

The private sale of sex.com will close by September 28, Sedo announced today.

I believe this is the first time the company has put a hard deadline for a deal to be made. It’s been handling the sale since May.

The company is still soliciting buyers, which makes me wonder whether it’s struggling to find a buyer with sufficiently deep pockets.

Sedo director of sales Kathy Nielsen said in a press release:

Sex.com has a proven revenue model that will enable its next owner to quickly build on past success. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own a domain that will instantly expand the visibility of a brand, position a company as a leader in its market, and generate tremendous natural traffic.

The company has previously told buyers that they need to stump up a $1 million deposit in order to enter negotiations.

The last time the storied domain changed hands, the price tag was a cool $14 million.

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dotFree to allow pre-registrations October 1

Kevin Murphy, September 8, 2010, Domain Registries

The dotFree Group, which plans to apply for the top-level domain .free, plans to start allowing pre-registrations from October 1, this year.

While .xxx has had an open pre-registration period for years, I believe .free is the first of the next round of new TLD applicants to offer a similar pre-launch phase.

It would be well over a year from now before .free would be able to actually start taking live registrations, assuming its application was even successful.

The Czech company has just relaunched its web site with a new look and new information. It appears to be closely modelled on the .CO Internet site, even copying big chunks of text in some cases.

It also includes a page targeting registrars, containing this text:

How much do I earn for every free registered .FREE domain?

We plan to pay each reseller $0.05 for every .FREE domain name which was referred to us. The definitive reseller commission is still under review.

Now there’s a way to get Go Daddy beating down your door.

It’s not much of an incentive, and it suggests that dotFree isn’t planning on targeting a traditional registrar channel, at least as far as the free .free domains go.

If you can make a recurring $10 mark-up (my estimate) on a .co domain, or a one-off $0.05 on a .free, which TLD would get your store-front real estate?

However, as I’ve previously reported, not all .free domains will be free, so there may yet be opportunities for the ICANN-accredited registrar market.

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RapidShare loses rapid.org case

Kevin Murphy, September 8, 2010, Domain Policy

RapidShare has failed to grab the domain name rapid.org with a UDRP complaint.

The WIPO decision, sent to me this morning by the current registrant, found both an absence of confusing similarity and a lack of bad faith.

Panelist Matthew Harris recently handed rapidpiracy.com to RapidShare on the grounds that the domain was conceptually similar to the RapidShare trademark.

He found no such similarity on this occasion.

Insofar as there is similarity, it resides in the common use of the word “rapid” alone. On the evidence before the Panel, this is insufficient. The Complainants have failed to satisfy the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.

Rapid.org, prior to the filing of the complaint, was a web forum devoted to sharing download links for pirated movies, music and so on. RapidShare used this fact to try to prove bad faith.

But the panelist focused instead on registration dates, observing that the domain was first registered in September 2003, years before RapidShare acquired its trademark rights.

The Complainants do not point to a trade mark registration that pre-dates September 2003. In the circumstances, the Complainants’ apparent assertion that its trade mark rights pre-date the Domain Name registration appears to be simply false.

RapidShare appears to have missed a trick here.

Harris wrote that there was no evidence before him that the domain was first registered in 2001, as the registrant had claimed, and that there was no evidence that the domain had changed hands since then.

A quick search on DomainTools shows that rapid.org was indeed first registered in 2001, and that the current registrant probably only acquired it some time in 2009.

Why Harris was not given this information is probably due to RapidShare’s oversight, but it could have led to a finding of bad faith (not that this would have changed the ultimate outcome).

Amusingly, the decision also refers to the Russian registrant, Ilya Efimov, as a woman throughout. He assures me that, like all Ilya’s, he’s male.

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.CO landrush auctions top $1 million

Kevin Murphy, September 8, 2010, Domain Sales

According to my calculations, the total value of announced .co landrush auction sales has now topped $1 million, helped in part by the recent sale of Aspen.co for $22,500.

I’m currently aware of over 250 reported sales from the official registry auction, which is only about 10% of the total number of contested landrush applications.

These domains fetched a total of $1,125,932. The average sales price is over $4,400.

Here’s a list of the 30-odd most recently reported sales.

aspen.co – $22,500
myhealth.co – $18,500
allergy.co – $16,286
jackpot.co – $12,500
locksmith.co – $10,000
zoom.co – $10,000
breckenridge.co – $8,499
mall.co – $8,350
see.co – $8,300
pens.co – $8,200
fairfield.co – $7,210
groceries.co – $6,600
assessment.co – $6,437
backup.co – $6,310
llc.co – $5,200
mylawyer.co – $5,100
apparel.co – $4,782
america.co – $4,050
continental.co – $3,972
mark.co – $3,900
cheapinsurance.co – $3,600
steamboat.co – $3,600
motivate.co – $3,500
rooms.co – $3,175
jewellery.co – $3,162
honey.co – $3,150
handbag.co – $3,100
cooks.co – $3,090
cola.co – $2,900
travels.co – $2,830
neem.co – $2,800
rafting.co – $2,600

.CO Internet does not disclose the sales of domains with “adult” themes, but its possible to infer from Whois data some of the domains that it probably auctioned.

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ICANN replaces three directors

Kevin Murphy, September 8, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN has named Cherine Chalaby, Bertrand de La Chapelle and Erika Mann as the new members of its board of directors.

The three will replace current vice-chair Dennis Jennings, along with Harald Tveit Alvestrand and Jean-Jacques Subrenat, whose terms expire next month.

Under ICANN bylaws, Jennings, Alvestrand and Subrenat could have served two additional three-year terms, but I do not know whether any of them applied to do so.

The ICANN Nominating Committee, which was responsible for selecting the new directors, highlighted the fact that the board is getting its first Arabic-speaking member.

That’s Egyptian Cherine Chalaby. I must confess I’d never heard of him either. Google tells me he has a tech/consulting background, and works for a UK-based investment bank.

ICANN has had a couple of minor run-ins with Arabic members of the community recently, such as over the the delegation of Arabic-script ccTLDs, which came in for criticism.

There was also a small flare-up over the random inclusion of an anti-terrorism clause in the new gTLD application process, which led to (in my view overblown) accusations of insensitivity.

NomCom chair Wolfgang Kleinwaechter said the appointment of Chalaby “underlines the importance of further internationalization of ICANN.”

The appointment of Bertrand de La Chapelle, who becomes the first second person to leave the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee to join the board, is also particularly interesting.

De La Chapelle is France’s GAC representative, and one of the most vocal members of the committee.

In my view, he’s currently the GAC rep doing the most to build bridges with the rest of the community over the tricky “morality and public order” policy process. The board’s gain is the GAC’s loss.

Clearly serious about his new role, de La Chapelle said he will quit his job as “Thematic Ambassador and Special Envoy for the Information Society in the French Foreign and European Affairs Ministry” and look for other sources of funding.

German Erika Mann joins the board after a 15-year stint as a Member of the European Parliament, sitting in the Socialist group. She speaks four languages and once ran her own IT consultancy.

According to her CV, she was an expert in ICANN matters between 1985 and 1994, which is almost supernaturally impressive.

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