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Isn’t it about time for ICANN Las Vegas?

Kevin Murphy, July 23, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN is now almost 12 years old, it’s held almost 40 public meetings in diverse cities all over the planet, and it’s never been to Vegas. Not once.

That’s got to change.

The organization is currently looking for a North American city in which to hold its fortieth public meeting, slated for next March. It’s the perfect opportunity for a company to put in a Las Vegas bid.

It’s about time ICANN headed to The Strip. It’s got to be the only industry organization in the world to never convene there. If the International Beverage Dispensing Equipment Association gets to have a Vegas convention, why can’t we?

Vegas is the conference center of North America, if not the world. There’s literally dozens of venues capable of handling a thousand or less beardy domain types, all within walking distance of each other.

If the conference facility prices are anything like the hotel room prices, ICANN and its sponsor should be able to find a real bargain.

For overseas visitors on a budget, flights to and hotels in Vegas can be very reasonable – rooms are generally subsidized by the money lost in the casinos downstairs.

The ICANN Fellowship Program would be massively oversubscribed. Live in the developing world? Fancy a free trip to Vegas? ICANN will be fighting off applicants with the proverbial stick.

But who would sponsor such a meeting?

Let me think… we’d be looking for a domain name company with deep pockets, something to sell, and no particular queasiness about sponsoring a Sin City event.

Can you think of anyone like that?

By March 2011, ICM Registry will very likely be in the pre-launch stages of the .xxx TLD.

The company will be looking for registrar partners, trying to assure IP interests that it’s not going to screw them, preparing for its sunrise and landrush periods… perfect timing.

Plus, we could have strippers at the Gala Event.

The stars are aligning on Las Vegas for ICANN 40.

ICANN, ICM – let’s make this happen.

DirectEmployers calls shenanigans on .jobs outcry

The DirectEmployers Association has gone on the offensive in the continuing battle over the .jobs liberalization, accusing its detractors of conducting an “astroturf” campaign.

Bill Warren, founder and executive director of the DEA, has filed comments to ICANN here.

He accuses the International Association of Employment Web Sites of conducting “nothing less than a smear campaign using modern day technology such as e-mail, blogs, and twitter”.

He’s referring to the scores of letters and emails that have arrived at ICANN over the last week, criticizing .jobs registry Employ Media’s proposal to drop the rule that only company names are allowed in the .jobs namespace.

Jobs sites, in particular, are pissed that Employ Media plans to hand over tens of thousands of premium generic .jobs domains to the DEA to use as gateways to a massive new jobs board, rather than open them up for general registration.

If you currently run a jobs site at NewYorkJobs.com or NursingJobs.com, for example, you would be unable to register NewYork.jobs or Nursing.jobs.

The DEA would likely own both of these domains, along with thousands of others, a situation described by one commenter as a “big giant SEO scam“.

Warren’s letter generally avoids discussing the merits of this plan, instead focusing on attacking its critics’ tactics.

the overwhelming majority of opposing comments – and we’ve reviewed each – clearly indicate no review of the substantial body of work that comprises the RSEP [Registry Services Evaluation Process] submission by Employ Media

It’s true that the majority of the letters include at least some form text created by Steven Rothberg of CollegeRecruiter.com, one of the key individuals behind the IAEWS campaign.

The letters are generally less spammy than similar letter-writing campaigns conducted during the recent .xxx controversy, however, with many writers attempting to add their own two cents.

(Speaking of .xxx, Warren claims that IAEWS has hired the same lawyer who represented .xxx registry ICM. I’m guessing he means Becky Burr of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, but I’m waiting for confirmation of that)

Warren believes that the Society of Human Resource Management, the sponsor and policy-maker for the .jobs domain, “managed a policy development process to arrive at a bottom up, consensus recommendation in the interests of the specific community .jobs exists to serve”.

According to ERE.net, the HR news site that has been doing a far better job of reporting this story than me, this SHRM policy council has been pretty much asleep at the wheel, and may even have been captured. Warren himself apparently used to chair it.

Personally, as somebody with no horse in this race, I merely find it distasteful that Warren is complaining so vehemently about jobs boards having their say in the ICANN process, when the SHRM process deliberately excluded their opinions from its outreach.

The SHRM survey (pdf) filed in support of the .jobs proposal specifically says: “Consultants were also not included in this universe, so that companies specializing in providing job search engines/job boards could not distort the responses from practicing HR professionals.”

The Employ Media proposal to change its contract has already passed an ICANN competition review, so I’m not sure there are any documented ways it can be killed off under the RSEP, although the board will still have to vote on it.

ICANN un-terminates domain name registrar

In what I believe is an unprecedented move, ICANN has renewed a domain name registrar’s accreditation having already sent it a public notice of non-renewal.

A Technology Company, aka ATECH, was told last month that its accreditation would expire July 12 because it had failed to pay over $5,600 in ICANN fees.

That letter (pdf) suggested that ATECH had been in breach since before April 2009.

On all previous occasions, whenever ICANN has posted a notice of termination or non-renewal on its site, it’s game over for that registrar.

Today, a brief note on ICANN’s web site says simply:

A Technology Company, Inc. cured all outstanding contract breaches as of 30 June 2010. A Technology Company, Inc.’s accreditation was renewed on 13 July 2010.

As I’ve previously noted, ATECH and .xxx registry hopeful ICM Registry share a common founder, although the two companies are no longer affiliated.

Investors circle ICM as .xxx enters home straight

ICM Registry’s board of directors has approved a $5 million funding round, following the recent decision by ICANN to put the .xxx top-level domain onto the path to approval.

ICM president Stuart Lawley tells me he’s underwritten the whole round himself, already injecting another $500,000 of his own money into the company.

Venture capital investors have already approached the company, following the Brussels decision two weeks ago, according to Lawley.

In Brussels, ICANN’s board resolved to re-enter contract negotiations with ICM, following years of wrangling with ICANN’s appeals and independent review processes.

While .xxx’s approval and entry to the DNS root is not a slam-dunk, the only major hurdle appears to be ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee, and many believe the GAC is unlikely to stick its neck out on such a controversial issue.

While demand for .xxx domains is yet to be proven, there are already 162,000 pre-registrations, which would work out to a $10 million business, not including premium sunrise and landrush fees.

A report in Business Week last week said ICM could bring in $200 million per year in revenue on registrations alone.

I think that’s a pretty ambitious prediction, to be honest, and I can’t help but wonder in Business Week got ICM’s ten-year and one-year projections mixed up.

Even at $60 a pop, that’s still 3.3 million registered domains. The stars will have to align in unexpected ways for .xxx to reach that kind of penetration (pun intended).

ICM has previously projected near-term registrations in the low-mid hundreds of thousands.

ICM is currently owned by a close-knit group of investors, mainly Lawley’s circle and ICM’s management, with Lawley himself owning roughly 70% of the business.

Registrar linked to .xxx loses ICANN accreditation

A Technology Company Inc, a registrar previously linked to the .xxx top-level domain application, has lost its ICANN accreditation for non-payment of fees.

The company, which is also known as NameSystem.com or ATECH, was founded by Jason Hendeles, who is also the founder of ICM Registry, the company behind .xxx.

ICANN has informed ATECH (pdf) that its accreditation will expire and not be renewed on July 12 because it has failed to pay $5,639 in ICANN fees.

ATECH was one of the second wave of competitive registrars to go live, applying for its ICANN accreditation all the way back in 1999. It currently has just a few thousand domains under management.

Hendeles, currently ICM’s vice president of strategic business development, was behind ICM’s original .xxx bid, filed in ICANN’s 2000 round of new TLD applications.

ICM was subsequently taken over by British businessman Stuart Lawley, its current chief executive.

I’m told ATECH was sold to Alok Prakash of Oregon a few years ago.

UPDATE 2010-07-14: ATECH has evidently coughed up, and has regained its accreditation.