ICANN has confirmed to new gTLD registries that governments now get to unilaterally block two-letter domains that match their home ccTLDs.
The organization has essentially given nations a veto — already enthusiastically exercised — over domains including il.army, it.pizza and fr.domains.
I’m not making this up. The Italian government has banned anyone from registering it.pizza.
Governments have already started invoking their new-found right, with dozens of domains already heading to the block-list.
The veto was revealed in a letter from Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s Global Domains Division, to the Registries Stakeholder Group yesterday.
It has not been published yet, but I’ve had its contents confirmed by a few registries and I understand the RySG mailing list is buzzing about it today.
In it, Atallah says that two-letter strings that do not receive objections from the government with the matching ccTLD will be released within seven to 10 days of comment periods closing.
However, strings that do receive objections will remain blocked.
For labels that receive objections from relevant governments, the labels will remain reserved. Should the registry operator and the objecting government reach an agreement regarding the release of the label, the registry operator shall notify ICANN that it has reached agreement, and ICANN will approve the release request and issue an authorization. The label will no longer be a reserved name.
until there is Consensus Policy or a Board Resolution on this matter, ICANN can only follow the process outlined above. ICANN encourages further community discussions to resolve this matter, and until then, negotiation between the objector and the registry operator as a means to release this class of labels from the reserved names list.
New gTLD registries believe, as they explained in a recent letter (pdf), that neither ccTLD operators nor their governments own these two-character strings. They believe ICANN is creating new rights.
So far, two-character domains have been banned by default in all new gTLDs. It was kind of a placeholder policy in order to get the new gTLD program launched a few years ago.
ICANN did enable the release of letter-number, number-letter and number-number strings in December, but made letter-letter combinations subject to government comments.
Following a GAC outcry last month, the comment periods were extended.
All comments were to be “fully considered”, but it wasn’t clear what that meant until the RySG asked and Atallah replied yesterday.
Some governments are already using the comment period to exercise their new veto.
The European Commission, for example, has objected to eu.credit, eu.creditcard, eu.auction, eu.casino, eu.bingo and eu.law.
The basis for the EU objections is in most of the cases: “The new TLD at hand corresponds to a regulated market in many EU countries. Its release might generate confusion and possible abuses at the end users level.”
It’s a wonder that the EU doesn’t seem to care about those strings in its own .eu ccTLD, where they’re all registered by people that I suspect may lack credentials.
Does credit.eu look to you like the registrant is a credentialed member of a regulated financial services industry? If he was, he may be able to afford a better web site.
The Commission also objects to eu.community, because:
the terms “EU Community” or “European Community” are widely used
That is true, which makes me wonder why the EU is allowing community.eu to languish parked at Sedo. You’d have to ask the Commission.
Israel, meanwhile, objects to il.casino, il.bingo, il.law, il.chat, il.bible, il.country, il.airforce, il.navy and il.army
The Vietnamese ccTLD registry has objected to several vn. domains, but it’s not clear to me whether it has veto authority.
Italy has objected to it.pizza, it.bingo and it.casino. Really, Italy? You’re objecting to “it.pizza”?
Côte d’Ivoire objects to all ci. domains.
Spain objects to es.casino, es.bingo and es.abogado.
Again, I invite you to check out bingo.es and casino.es and make a judgement as to whether the registrants are licensed gambling establishments.
Taiwan has vetoed the release of .tw in all city gTLDs (such as tw.london, tw.berlin etc) over a “concern that the release of above-mentioned domain names may cause the degradation of statehood”.
France has objected to “fr” in .archi, .army, .airforce, .bank, .bet, .bio, .casino, .cloud, .dentist, .doctor, .domains, .finance, .lawyer, .navy and .sarl.
Again again, several of these domains are just parked if you flip the words to the other side of the dot.
As a reminder, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade said recently:
Come on guys, do not apply rules that you’re not using today to these new folks simply because it’s easy, because you can come and raise flags here at ICANN. Let’s be fair.
Should governments have the right to force business-limiting restrictions on new gTLD operators, even though they don’t have the same rules in their own ccTLDs?
ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade evidently believes the answer to that question is “No”, but it’s what ICANN is controversially imposing on Donuts and two other .doctor applicants anyway.
Donuts recently filed a Request for Reconsideration appeal with ICANN over its decision to make the .doctor gTLD restricted to medical professionals only.
It was an unprecedented “Public Interest Commitment” demanded by ICANN staff in order to keep the Governmental Advisory Committee happy.
The GAC has been asking for almost two years for so-called “Category 1″ gTLD strings — which could be seen to represent highly regulated sectors such as law or medicine — to see a commensurate amount of regulation from ICANN.
Governments wanted, for example, registrants to show professional credentials before being able to register a name.
In the vast majority of instances, ICANN creatively reinterpreted this advice to require registrants to merely assert that they possess such credentials.
These rules were put in registries’ contracts via PICs.
But for some reason in February the organization told Donuts that .doctor domains must be “ascribed exclusively to legitimate medical practitioners.”
According to Donuts, this came out of the blue, is completely unnecessary, an example of ICANN staff making up policy on the spot.
Donuts wants to be able to to sell .doctor names to doctors of any discipline, not just medical doctors. It also wants people to be able to use the names creatively, such as “computer.doctor” or “skateboard.doctor”.
What makes ICANN’s decision especially confusing is that CEO Fadi Chehade had the previous day passionately leaped to the defense of new gTLD registries in their fight against unnecessary GAC-imposed red tape.
The following video, in which Chehade uses .dentist as an example of a string that should not be subject to even more oversight, was taken February 11 at a Q&A with the Domain Name Assocation.
The New gTLD Program Committee meeting that authorized ICANN staff to add the new PIC took place February 12, the very next day. Chehade did not attend.
It’s quite remarkable how in line with registries Chehade seems to be.
It cuts to the heart of what many believe is wrong with the GAC — that governments demand of ICANN policies that they haven’t even bothered to implement in their own countries, just because it’s much easier to lean on ICANN than to pass regulations at home.
Here’s the entire text of his answer. He’s describing conversations he’d had with GAC members earlier in the week.
They’re saying stop all the Category 1 TLDs. Stop them. Freeze them!
And we said: Why do we need to freeze them? What’s the issue?
They said: It’s going to harm consumers.
How will it harm consumers? We started having a debate.
It turns out that they’re worried that if somebody got fadi.casino or fadi.dentist, to pick one of Statton’s [Statton Hammock, VP at Rightside, who was present], that this person is not a dentist and will pluck your ear instead of your teeth. How do you make sure they’re a dentist?
So I asked the European Commission: How do you make sure dentist.eu is a dentist?
They said: We don’t. They just get it.
I said: Okay, so why do these guys [new gTLD registries] have to do anything different?
And they said: The new gTLD program should be better or a model…
I said: Come on guys, do not apply rules that you’re not using today to these new folks simply because it’s easy, because you can come and raise flags here at ICANN. Let’s be fair. How do you do it at EU?
“Well, if somebody reports that fadi.dentist.eu is not a dentist, we remove them.”
Statton said: We do the same thing. It’s in our PICs. If fadi.dentist is not, and somebody reports them…
They said: But we can’t call compliance.
You can call compliance. Anyone can call compliance. Call us and we’ll follow up. With Statton, with the registrar.
What we have here is Chehade making a passionate case for the domain name industry’s right to sell medical-themed domain names without undue regulation — using many of the same arguments that Donuts is using in its Reconsideration appeal — then failing to show up for a board meeting the next day when that specific issue was addressed.
It’s impossible to know whether the NGPC would have reached a different decision had Chehade been at the February 12 meeting, because no formal vote was taken.
Rather, the committee merely passed along its “sense” that ICANN staff should carrying on what it was doing with regards implementing GAC advice on Category 1 strings.
While Chehade is but one voice on the NGPC, as CEO he is in charge of the ICANN staff, so one would imagine the decision to add the unprecedented new PIC to the .doctor contract falls into his area of responsibility.
That makes it all the more baffling that Donuts, and the other .doctor new gTLD applicants, are faced with this unique demand to restrict their registrant base to one subset of potential customers.
ICANN has terminated the accreditation of defunct registrar Identify.com.
The company received its final compliance notice (pdf) last week and will lose its contractual ability to sell gTLD domains April 17.
Not that many will notice or care.
According to the notice, ICANN has been informed that the company is no longer in business.
Identify.com does not currently resolve to a web page, at least for me. According to registry reports, it had just six domain names under management in November.
Back in 2011, its DUM was measured in the low hundreds. Most transferred out or deleted in the meantime.
According to the notice, the registrar failed to provide information about its dealings with the owner of a specific domain name, patschool.com.
According to DomainTools, that domain has never been registered with Identify.com.
It’s ICANN’s third registrar termination in 2015.
The upcoming new gTLD .sucks is being run from the offices of Frank Schilling’s Uniregistry and it has a close business relationship with the registry, DI has discovered.
Vox Populi Registry, which runs .sucks and which I and many others have been assuming is completely controlled by Canadian registrar group Momentous, in fact seems to be tightly aligned with Uniregistry.
Schilling characterized it both as a “working relationship” and a “joint venture” today.
I heard through the rumor mill last year that Uniregistry may have a stake in Vox Pop.
But it wasn’t until I checked the IANA database record for .sucks today that the rumor seemed to be to an extent confirmed.
The address for Vox Populi, a Canadian company according to its ICANN contract, is listed as Uniregistry’s office in Grand Cayman in both Registry Sponsor and Administrative Contact records.
Momentous CEO Rob Hall is named as Technical Contact at a Barbados address.
“We have a joint venture agreement and are presently handling postage and handling for Vox Populi,” Schilling told DI today. “We are providing office space services to them as well.”
He characterized the deal as a “working relationship”.
I would not be at all surprised if it’s much closer than that.
Verisign has boosted its reportable .com domain count by almost 750,000 by starting to count expired and suspended names.
The change in methodology, which is a by-product of ICANN’s much more stringent Whois accuracy regime, happened on Friday afternoon.
Before the change, the company reported on its web site that there were 116,788,107 domains in the .com zone file, with another 167,788 names that were registered but not configured.
That’s a total of 116,955,895 domains.
But just a few hours later, the same web page said .com had a total of 117,704,800 names in its “Domain Name Base”.
That’s a leap of 748,905 pretty much instantly; the number of names in the zone file did not move.
.net jumped 111,110 names to 15,143,356.
The reason for the sudden spikes is that Verisign is now including two types of domain in its count that it did not previously. The web page states:
Beginning with the first quarter, 2015, the domain name base on this website and in subsequent filings found in the Investor Relations site includes domains that are in a client or server hold status.
I suspect that the bulk of the 750,000 newly reported names are on clientHold status, which I believe is used much more often than serverHold.
The clientHold EPP code is often applied by registrars to domains that have expired.
However, registrars signed up to the year-old 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement are obliged by ICANN to place domains on clientHold status if registrants fail to respond within 15 days to a Whois verification email.
The 2013 RAA reads (my emphasis):
Upon the occurrence of a Registered Name Holder’s willful provision of inaccurate or unreliable WHOIS information, its willful failure promptly to update information provided to Registrar, or its failure to respond for over fifteen (15) calendar days to inquiries by Registrar concerning the accuracy of contact details associated with the Registered Name Holder’s registration, Registrar shall either terminate or suspend the Registered Name Holder’s Registered Name or place such registration on clientHold and clientTransferProhibited, until such time as Registrar has validated the information provided by the Registered Name Holder.
Last June, registrars claimed that the new policy — which came after pressure from law enforcement — had resulted in over 800,000 domains being suspended.
It’s an ongoing point of contention between ICANN, its registrars, and cops.
Verisign changing its reporting methodology may well be a reaction to this increase in the number of clientHold domains.
While its top-line figure has taken a sharp one-off boost, it will still permit daily apples-to-apples comparisons on an ongoing basis.
My assumption about the link to the 2013 RAA was correct.
Verisign CFO George Kilguss told analysts on February 5.
Over the last several years, the average amount of names in the on-hold status category has been approximately 400,000 names and the net change year-over-year has been very small.
While still immaterial, during 2014, we saw an increase in the amount of names registrars have placed on hold status, which appears to be a result of these registrars complying with the new mandated compliance mechanisms in ICANN’s 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement or RAA.
In 2014, we saw an increase in domain names placed on hold status from roughly 394,000 names at the end of 2013 to about 870,000 at the end of 2014.