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MMX gets nod to sell 22 gTLDs to GoDaddy

New gTLD registry MMX expects to shortly offload most of its portfolio of strings to GoDaddy Registry after receiving ICANN approvals.

The company said today that its transfer requests for four of its gTLD contracts have received full ICANN approval.

Another 18 have received conditional ICANN approval, and MMX believes it has met these unspecified conditions.

Another five of its stable that are not fully owned and operated still require the nod from its partners.

MMX said in April that it planned to sell its entire portfolio to GoDaddy, after which it is expected the company will be wound down.

The company did not break down which transfer have received full approval, conditional approval, or are still waiting for approval.

It gTLDs are: .cooking, .fishing, .horse, .miami, .rodeo, .vodka, .beer, .luxe, .surf, .nrw, .work, .budapest, .casa, .abogado, .wedding, .yoga, .fashion, .garden, .fit, .vip, .dds, .xxx, .porn, .adult, .sex, .boston, .london and .bayern.

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ICANN to hold hybrid meeting in October (not that one)

Kevin Murphy, July 13, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN said yesterday that is plans to hold a “hybrid” meeting in October with an in-person component.

It’s not the Seattle public meeting ICANN 72 — no decision has been made there yet — but rather the Asia Pacific Internet Governance Academy.

APIGA is basically a set of internet governance training sessions for adult students aged 18 to 35 in the Asia-Pac region, particularly South Korea.

It’s normally held for a week, in-person. But this time it will be spread over a full two months from October 1 with one or two evening sessions held online per week.

At the end, there’ll be a hybrid day, with South Korean participants gathered in person and others Zooming in remotely.

Is this a harbinger of things to come with the Seattle meeting, where there’s already some distress from Asian participants that they probably won’t be able to attend?

I don’t think so. APIGA appears to have been a decision of the ICANN staff, whereas 72 is going to a board vote later this month.

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Cambodia looking at new registry overseer

Kevin Murphy, July 13, 2021, Domain Policy

The Cambodian government is reportedly planning to create a new group to oversee its national ccTLD, .kh.

According to The Phnom Penh Post, the local telecommunications ministry is considering legislation that would create KH Network Information Centre.

KHNIC would be modeled on APNIC and combine domain name and IP address management under one roof, the report says.

.kh is currently delegated to Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia and managed by Telecom Cambodia.

There are reportedly only around 3,000 .kh domains under management. The infrastructure-poor south-east Asian country has about 16.5 million inhabitants but only around 250,000 fixed broadband subscribers.

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Panel hands .sucks squatter a WIN, but encourages action against the registry

A UDRP panel has denied a complaint against .sucks cybersquatter Honey Salt on a technicality, but suggested that aggrieved trademark holders instead sic their lawyers at the .sucks registry itself.

The three-person World Intellectual Property Organization panel threw out a complaint about six domains — covestro.sucks, lundbeck.sucks, rockwool.sucks, rockfon.sucks, grodan.sucks, tedbaker.sucks, tedbaker-london.sucks, and tedbakerlondon.sucks — filed jointly by four separate and unrelated companies.

The domains were part of the same operation, in which Turks & Caicos-based Honey Salt registers trademarks as .sucks domains and points them at Everything.sucks, a wiki-style site filled with content scraped from third-party sites.

Honey Salt has lost over a dozen UDRP cases since Everything.sucks emerged last year.

But the WIPO panel dismissed the latest case without even considering the merits, due to the fact that the four complainants had consolidated their grievances into a single complaint in an apparent attempt at a “class action”.

The decision reads:

although the Complainants may have established that the Respondent has engaged in similar conduct as to the individual Complainants, which has broadly-speaking affected their legal rights in a similar fashion, the Complainants do not appear to have any apparent connection between the Complainants. Rather it appears that a number of what can only realistically be described as separate parties have filed a single claim (in the nature of a purported class-action) against the Respondent, arising from similar conduct. As the Panel sees it, the Policy does not support such class actions

The panel decided that to force the respondent to file a common response to these complaints would be unfair, even if it is on the face of it up to no good.

Making a slippery-slope argument, the panel suggested that to allow class actions might open up the possibility of mass UDRP complaints against, for example, domain parking companies.

So the case was tossed without the merits being formally considered (though the panel certainly seemed sympathetic to the complainants).

But the sting in the tale comes at the end: the panel allowed that the complainants may re-file separate complaints, but also suggested they invoke the Trademark Post Delegation Dispute Resolution Procedure.

That’s interesting because the Trademark PDDRP, an ICANN policy administered by WIPO and others, is a way to complain about the behavior of the registry, not the registrant.

It’s basically UDRP for registries.

The registry for .sucks domains is Vox Populi, part of the Momentous group of companies. It’s denied a connection to Honey Salt, which uses Vox sister company Rebel for its registrations.

According to ICANN: “The Trademark PDDRP generally addresses a Registry Operator’s complicity in trademark infringement on the first or second level of a New gTLD.”

Complainants under the policy much show by “clear and convincing evidence” that the registry operator or its affiliates are either doing the cybersquatting themselves or encouraging others to do so.

There’s no hiding behind shell companies in tax havens — the policy accounts for that.

The trick here would be to prove that Honey Salt is connected to Vox Pop or the Momentous group.

Nothing is known about the ownership of Honey Salt, though Whois records and UDRP decisions identify a person, quite possibly a bogus name, as one “Pat Honeysalt”, who has no digital fingerprint to speak of.

The most compelling piece of evidence linking Honey Salt to Vox is gleaned by following the money.

The current business model is for Everything.sucks to offer Honey Salt’s domains for “free” by publishing transfer authorization codes right there on the squatted domain.

But anyone attempting to claim these names will still have to pay a registrar — such as Rebel — a transfer/registration fee that could be in excess of $2,000, most or all of which flows through to Vox Pop.

If we ignore the mark-up charged by non-Rebel registrars, the only party that appears to be profiting from Honey Salt’s activities appears to be the .sucks registry itself, in other words.

On its web site, Everything.sucks says it’s a non-profit and makes the implausible claim that it’s just a big fan of .sucks domains. Apparently it’s a fan to the extent that it’s prepared to spend millions registering the names and giving them away for free.

An earlier Everything.sucks model saw the domains listed at cost price on secondary market web sites.

The Trademark PDDRP, which appears to be tailor-made for this kind of scenario, has not to my knowledge been used to date. Neither WIPO nor ICANN have ever published any decisions delivered under it.

It costs complainants as much as $30,500 for a three-person panel with WIPO and has a mandatory 30-day period during which the would-be complainant has to attempt to resolve the issue privately with the registry.

The six domains in the UDRP case appear to have all gone into early “pending delete” status since the decision was delivered and do not resolve.

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Three rivals challenge EURid for .eu contract

Three organizations have emerged to rival EURid for the right to operate the .eu ccTLD.

The European Commission has published the list of four eligible applicants — which by law must be non-profits — for the .eu registry contract.

One of them is of course EURid, which has been running the TLD for over 15 years and could presumably be considered the favorite.

Another is the Estonian Internet Foundation, which already runs the .ee ccTLD for that country.

The other two appear to be unknown quantities, both formed in Luxembourg in December presumably solely to participate in the .eu tender.

One is known at The Open Registry or TORA. The other is called European Network Information Center or EU NIC.

The Commission has not published the bids, so little is known about these two entities.

The Commission will make its decision on the winner in 80 days.

The original request for proposals was delayed earlier this year after the Commission appeared to forget about Brexit.

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Amazon has started using hard-won .amazon

Amazon has started using its controversial dot-brand gTLD, .amazon.

Six domains — ads.amazon, alexa.amazon, echo.amazon, kindle.amazon, prime.amazon and primevideo.amazon — appear to have come online in the last month or so and all resolve.

Proponents of the dot-brand concept may be mildly disappointed to note that they’re all currently just redirects to the regular amazon.com site. There’s no .amazon branding in the URL bar.

The redirects do not appear to be geo-targeted. Even in the UK, I get punted to the US site.

Still, it’s a rare example of a gTLD in Amazon’s portfolio that’s actually being used. Others, such as .book, have been in the root for many years but have yet to launch.

You’ll recall that Amazon applied for .amazon in 2012 but it was not until last year that it was finally delegated.

The company encountered serious push-back from the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, representing the South American nations in the Amazonia region.

Amazon has offered each nation and ACTO itself the opportunity to register names for their own use in .amazon, but none have yet taken up the offer.

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Will you use SSAD for Whois queries?

Kevin Murphy, July 9, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN is pinging the community for feedback on proposed Whois reforms that would change how people request access to private registrant data.

The fundamental question is: given everything you know about the proposed System for Standardized Access and Disclosure (SSAD), how likely are you to actually use it?

The SSAD idea was dreamed up by a community working group as the key component of ICANN’s response to privacy laws such as GDPR, and was then approved by the Generic Names Supporting Organization.

But it’s been criticized for not going far enough to grant Whois access to the likes of trademark lawyers, law enforcement and security researchers. Some have called it a glorified ticketing system that will cost far more than the value it provides.

Before the policy is approved by ICANN’s board, it’s going through a new procedure called the ODP, for Operational Design Phase, in which ICANN staff, in coordination with the community, attempt to figure out whether SSAD would be cost-effective, or even implementable.

The questionnaire released today will be an input to the ODP. ICANN says it “will play a critical role in assessing the feasibility and associated risks, costs, and resources required in the potential deployment of SSAD.”

There’s only eight questions, and they mostly relate to the volume of private data requests submitted currently, how often SSAD is expected to be used, and what the barriers to use would be.

ICANN said it’s asking similar questions of registries and registrars directly.

There’s a clear incentive here for the IP and security factions within ICANN to low-ball the amount of usage they reckon SSAD will get, whether that’s their true belief or not, if they want ICANN to strangle the system in its crib.

It’s perhaps noteworthy that the potential user groups the questionnaire identifies do not include domain investors nor the media, both of which have perfectly non-nefarious reasons for wanting greater access to Whois data. This is likely because these communities were not represented on the SSAD working group.

You can find the questionnaire over here. You have until July 22.

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CentralNic gets into artificial intelligence

Kevin Murphy, July 9, 2021, Domain Tech

CentralNic has formed a business unit dedicated to big data and artificial intelligence.

The new Data and Artificial Intelligence Group will be headed by chief data scientist Pawel Rzeszucinski.

The company said that the group will be tasked with leveraging the “vast” amounts of data it generates as a registrar, registry, DNS resolution provider and domain monetization service.

CentralNic said in a press release:

CentralNic stores, manages, and is exposed to huge datasets that can be used for advanced analysis. Examples include; navigation data on tens of millions of daily DNS queries, ad-tech data on tens of millions of domain advertisements, site usage data on hundreds of millions of unique visits and millions of monthly clicks, and similarly extensive data on transactions and registrations.

These extremely large data sets lend themselves perfectly to AI and machine learning applications that can be used to provide a large array of initiatives which will benefit both the Company and our customers. These include; improved customer service, optimised business operations and decision making, enhanced marketing, reduced customer churn and automated detection of non-compliant customer activity.

There’s no mention of licensing its data to third parties, and the company notes that its initiatives will be compliant with current and future privacy rules from the public and private sectors, such as GDPR.

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“Diversity” warning over ICANN Seattle

Kevin Murphy, July 8, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN has been told that it risks disenfranchising community members from outside the US if it goes ahead with a return to in-person meetings at ICANN 72 in Seattle this October.

APAC Space, a group comprising participants from the Asia-Pacific region, reckons there’s almost no chance that any of its members will be able to make it to Seattle, due to pandemic restrictions.

The group wrote (pdf):

Like the rest of the community, the APAC Space members are keen to see a return to face-to-face meetings, but we have serious concerns about continued, longterm disenfranchisement if this return is done in an inequitable way. If a hybrid meeting does go ahead in Seattle, we are reasonably confident that there will be minimal, if any, in-person attendance from the APAC region

APAC Space goes on to note that ICANN 73 next March is also scheduled to take place in the same region, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The letter continues:

We are concerned that holding a hybrid meeting in which participants from only some regions can participate in-person is not in line with ICANN’s goal to reflect regional and cultural diversity, and risks further disenfranchising regions that are already under-represented within ICANN’s processes.

A recent ICANN survey found that a majority of community members were keen to return to face-to-face meetings. While this was true everywhere, the majority was stronger among North Americans and Europeans.

ICANN’s board of directors is due to make a decision about Seattle later this month.

This article was updated July 9 to clarify authorship of the letter to ICANN.

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ICANN DOESN’T money-grub in new gTLD contract shocker

ICANN may have a reputation for trying to slice itself a bigger slice of the pie whenever it renegotiates a new gTLD contract, but that doesn’t appear to be the case this week.

The .aero registry, which has been running for 20 years, looks set to continue to get its gTLD on the cheap, paying ICANN just a fifth of what newer registry operators pay.

But it has standardized on many other terms of the 2012-round Registry Agreement, meaning Uniform Rapid Suspension, zone file access via the CZDS, EBERO failover, and the registry code of conduct are all coming to .aero soon.

.aero is a “sponsored” TLD restricted to the aerospace industry, approved in 2000 as one of ICANN’s first “test-bed” gTLD round. The registry is Societe Internationale de Telecommunications Aeronautiques, a trade body.

Under the terms of its new contract, which is open for public comment, SITA will pay ICANN a fixed fee of $500 a year if it has under 5,000 names or $5,000 a year if it has more.

Registries receiving their delegations since 2012 pay $25,000 per year in quarterly installments.

.aero currently has about 12,000 names under management, so SITA will carry on paying $5,000 a year. Like other gTLDs, transaction fees kick in at 50,000 names, which at its historical growth rate should happen at some point in the 2090s.

The public comment period closes August 16, about a month before the current .aero contract expires. If history is any guide, any public comments filed will be duly noted and ignored.

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