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.london predicts 50,000 landrush names

Two months into its combined sunrise/landrush period Dot London Domains estimates it will end July with 50,000 applied-for names.

A “projection based on current applications”, the number doesn’t say a heck of a lot about how many names have actually been applied for since the TLD opened for applications on April 29.

It could mean that 33,000 names, given that we’re two-thirds of the way through the launch phase. Alternatively, the registry could be predicting the kind of last-minute rush common to sunrise periods before 2014.

The number doesn’t say much about .london’s eventual number of names under management, given that there’s likely to be multiple applications for the same names.

If it were to sell 50,000 names, that would make it the fifth-largest new gTLD, based on today’s numbers.

The three-month launch phase combines the sunrise and landrush, with trademark owners listed in the Trademark Clearinghouse getting first priority.

Registrants based in London applying for a non-TMCH business name get second dibs, followed by Londoners generally and then anyone anywhere in the world.

Clashing applications will see the names going to auction. Sunrise applicants will not have to compete at auction with non-sunrise applicants, of course.

Back-end registry provider Minds + Machines is being promoted heavily as the primary registrar. It’s selling the names for £30 ($51) per year and pushing sunrise applicants to Com Laude.

1&1, 123-reg, GoDaddy, Fasthosts and CentralNic, which all have dedicated .london pages or sites, are also being promoted by M+M as partner registrars.

The cheapest deal of those registrars appears to be at FastHosts, which is selling at £24.99 ($42.85).

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The price of .bar was $100,000 to a school

Wondering how the new gTLD registry Punto 2012 managed to get government approval for .bar, even though it’s a protected geographic term in Montenegro under ICANN rules?

At least part of the deal seems to involve a 10-year, $100,000 commitment to fund a school in the tiny Montenegrin city of Bar, judging by a press release today.

The registry will pay $10,000 a year to the school for the duration of its 10-year registry agreement.

It’s a stroke of good fortune for the city. Whilst not a capital city, it’s also a ISO-designated administrative region of the country and therefore protected by the ICANN Applicant Guidebook.

Punto 2012 intends to reserve a few names for the city, and said it hopes residents will use .bar — intended to represent drinking establishments — as a city TLD also.

With a little over 17,000 inhabitants, Bar is likely going to be have one of the smaller city TLDs, and I expect most registrations will in fact come from bars elsewhere in the world.

In related news, as of last Friday there’s only one new gTLD application of the original 1,930 still under ICANN evaluation and it’s .tata, the dot-brand for a massive Indian conglomerate that is also the name of a province in Morocco. Coincidence? Probably not.

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Bieber plug has no impact on .tattoo sales

Justin Bieber used his extensive social media channels to plug a .tattoo domain name to his bazillions of “beliebers” last week, but so far the plug has had no impact on sales of the gTLD.

The pop singer, beloved of 11-year-old girls worldwide, tweeted and Facebooked about the domain joker.tattoo, which leads visitors to his Tumblr blog.

A Facebook update reading simply “My Tumblr is http://joker.tattoo” has been “liked” over 230,000 times and shared almost 2,500 times by the over 70 million people following him on the platform.

Justin Bieber

On Twitter, where Bieber has 52.6 million followers, his identical tweet was retweeted over 50,000 times and favorited close to 60,000 times.

The “news” was even picked up by MTV, which gently ribbed the musician for apparently (don’t ask me, I’m 37) not understanding that Tumblr isn’t just for “selfies”.

But the widespread publicity for a .tattoo name had no impact whatsoever on .tattoo sales, judging by zone files.

The Uniregistry TLD hasn’t grown by more than one name per day since Bieber’s tweet.

One June 27 the .tattoo zone file had 6,312 names in it, today it has 6,316.

The joker.tattoo domain — apparently chosen because Bieber has a tattoo of a joker — is registered to one of the founders of RockLive, a San Francisco selfie-oriented app start-up funded in part by Bieber.

The domain redirects to a Tumblr third-level subdomain, so there’s no visibility for the new gTLD in browser address bars.

There’s also the issue that most of Bieber’s fans are probably too young to own a credit card, which is a prerequisite for buying a domain name.

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Unanimous support for new ICANN appeals process

Kevin Murphy, June 30, 2014, Domain Policy

The Generic Names Supporting Organization has issued an “unprecedented” statement of “unanimous” support for a new way for ICANN community members to appeal ICANN decisions.

All seven constituency groups signed onto a statement that was read by representatives of registries, non-commercial users and intellectual property interests at the ICANN 50 public forum last week.

“It only took us 50 meetings, but I think the rarity of what you’re witnessing this afternoon sends a very strong message about our views,” the Registries Stakeholder Group’s Keith Drazek said.

This is the meat of the demand:

The entire GNSO joins together today calling for the Board to support community creation of an independent accountability mechanism that provides meaningful review and adequate redress for those harmed by ICANN action or inaction in contravention of an agreed upon compact with the community.

Rafik Dammak of the Non-Commercial Users Constituency added that the creation of such a mechanism is “a necessary and integral element of the IANA stewardship transition.”

“The Board’s decisions must be open to challenge and the Board cannot be in a position of reviewing and certifying its own decisions,” he said.

“We need an independent accountability structure that holds the ICANN Board, Staff, and various stakeholder groups accountable under ICANN’s governing documents, serves as an ultimate review of Board/Staff decisions,” said Kristina Rosette of the Intellectual Property Constituency.

What they’re basically looking for is a third way to appeal ICANN decisions beyond the existing Independent Review Process and Request for Reconsideration mechanisms.

IRP is considered too time-consuming and expensive for anyone other than well-funded commercial stakeholders. It cost ICM Registry millions in legal fees to win its IRP in 2010.

RfR, meanwhile, sees the ICANN board review its own decisions, and is only successful (in 15 years it’s only happened once, a week ago) when a requester can bring new evidence to the table.

What the GNSO seems to be looking for is a third way — independent review of ICANN decisions that doesn’t cost a bomb and can be used to reexamine decisions on the merits.

In many ways the demand represents the low-hanging fruit of the amorphous “accountability” discussion that took place at length at the London meeting last week.

ICANN accountability is being examined simultaneously with the proposed transition of the IANA stewardship functions from the US Department of Commerce to a yet-undefined mechanism.

There seems to be broad community consensus that the transition should be linked to improvements in accountability.

During the “constituency day” sessions on Tuesday, during which the ICANN board visits in turn with each GNSO constituency, accountability was the theme common to each and every session.

Time and again, CEO Fadi Chehade pushed the constituency he was addressing to provide some specifics.

“What is accountability and how accountable are we today?” he asked the RySG. “Who are we accountable to for what? We need to get precise before you ask us to answer a question that says when you finish accountability, then you can move to the transition.”

The GNSO statement two days later, which still needs fleshing out with details, appears to be the first step toward providing the precision Chehade wants.

Chehade said multiple times that the accountability review and the IANA transition discussions are “interrelated” but not “interdependent.”

If one were dependent on the other, it would be easier for opponents to stonewall the IANA transition by delaying the accountability review, he said.

“There are people in this community would like the transition from the US government to never happen,” he told the RySG. “They won’t admit it, but there are several, in this room even, who want this to never happen.”

He later told the NCUC that these bogeymen were “not in this room”, highlighting perhaps his belief that one or more gTLD registries is preparing to throw a spanner in the works.

Suspicion immediately fell on Verisign, forcing Drazek to issue a separate statement at the public forum on Thursday denying that the company (his employer) opposes the transition:

VeriSign supports NTIA’s March 14th, 2014 announcement. VeriSign supports NTIA’s four key principles. VeriSign Supports the bottom-up multistakeholder process that is now under way and that we have already been very much engaged. VeriSign supports the target date of September 2015 for transition. We support these things provided the multistakeholder community recommendations for ICANN’s accountability reforms are accepted by NTIA before the final transition, and sufficiently implemented by ICANN subject to measurable deliverables.

It’s not much of a denial, really, more of a clarification of where Verisign stands and confirmation that it wants, as Chehade alluded to, accountability reform prior to the IANA transition.

In my view, accountability is the more important of these two threads.

The Department of Commerce doesn’t actually do much in terms of its hands-on role as steward of the IANA functions as they related to domain names. It merely checks that ICANN’s proper procedures have been followed before signing off on DNS root zone changes.

If sanity prevails in the ICANN community’s transition discussions (and I have no reason to believe it will) whatever replaces the US should be similarly mute and invisible.

However, Commerce’s arguably more important role has been to act as a constant Sword of Damocles, a threat that ICANN could lose its IANA powers if it goes rogue and starts acting (in the US government’s view) against the best interests of the internet community.

That’s a very crude accountability mechanism.

What ICANN needs in future is not a direct replacement of that existential threat, but a mechanism of accessible, independent third-party review that will give the ICANN community and internet users everywhere confidence that ICANN isn’t a loose cannon with its hand on the internet’s tiller.

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France slams ICANN after GAC rejects special treatment for .wine

Kevin Murphy, June 26, 2014, Domain Policy

France says that “ICANN is no longer the appropriate forum to discuss Internet governance” after it failed to win support from other governments for special protections in .wine and .vin gTLDs.

The government came to ICANN 50 in London this week apparently determined to secure a Governmental Advisory Committee consensus that .wine should have protection for geographic indicators.

GIs are protected geographic terms such as “Champagne”, “Parma” and “Cheddar” that link a product to the region in which it is traditionally produced. France has a lot of wine-related GIs.

But the GAC — as I think everyone, including France, expected — failed to come to an agreement.

The GAC’s London communique (pdf) reads:

There was further discussion on the issue of .wine/.vin, but no agreement was reached because of the sensitive nature of the matter.

The matter of .wine and .vin was raised at the High Level Governmental Meeting, where some members expressed concerns in terms of ICANN’s accountability and public policy. These concerns are not shared by all members.

In the absence of a consensus GAC objection, the most likely outcome is ICANN pushing the competing .vin/.wine applicants along the contention resolution process to auction.

France has won a lot of media coverage this week, throwing out allegations such as the idea that ICANN is “opaque”, and questioning ICANN’s ability to do its job properly.

Quizzed about France’s statements at a press conference on Monday, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade pointed out that studies have show ICANN is extremely transparent and wondered aloud whether France’s position is the one where you “scream that everything’s broken when you don’t get what you want”.

Today’s French statement is a little, but not much, more relaxed. Translated, it partially reads:

Current procedures at ICANN highlight its inability to take into account the legitimate concerns of States and to ensure common resource management in the direction of respect for cultural diversity and balance of interests in economic sectors that its decisions affect.

Accordingly, it will propose to its European partners and all other stakeholders to reflect on the future of Internet governance based on transparency, accountability, and equal stakeholders. Commission also believes that ICANN is no longer the appropriate forum to discuss Internet governance.

The government did, however, reiterate its support for the notion of multi-stakeholder internet governance.

French wine producers were less diplomatic. We received a statement from ANEV, the Association Nationale des Elus de la Vigne et du vin, this afternoon that called upon the French government and European Union to block all domain names that use GIs in violation of local law.

Personally, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

During an ICANN session on Monday, the French GAC rep used the .wine controversy to call for the creation of a “General Assembly” at ICANN.

I’m working from the transcript, which has been translated by ICANN into English, and some media reports, but it seems that France is thinking along the lines of an ITU-style, voting-based rather than consensus-based, approach to generating GAC advice. I may be wrong.

During Monday’s press conference, Chehade did not oppose France’s suggestions, though he was careful to point out that it would have to be approved by the whole ICANN community first (implicitly a tall order).

A vote-based GAC could well favor European Union countries, given the make-up of the GAC right now.

On the .wine issue, it’s mainly a few Anglophone nations such as the US, Canada and Australia that oppose extra GI protections.

These nations point out that the GI issue is not settled international law and is best dealt with in venues such as the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

France actually says the same thing.

But while France says that ICANN’s refusal to act on .wine jeopardizes GI talks in other fora, its opponents claim that if ICANN were to act it would jeopardize the same talks.

Chehade said during the Monday press conference that France had not yet run out of ways to challenge ICANN’s position on this, so the story probably isn’t over yet.

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