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Why .xxx will be domainer-friendly (and why it won’t)

Kevin Murphy, August 26, 2010, Domain Registries

The proposed .xxx top-level domain may be “sponsored”, but the restrictions on who will be able to register names are so loose that pretty much anybody, including domainers, will be able to register one.

I’ve now had time to dig through the mountain of documents that ICANN published earlier this week. I’m submitting something to The Register later today, but I thought I’d first look here at the domaining angle.

First, the bad news: .xxx domains won’t be cheap.

ICM Registry, which wants to run the TLD, plans to charge $60 per year, and that’s just the registry fee.

That’s a lot of money to recoup if you’re planning to park a domain, so it’s likely that much of the value of .xxx for domainers will be in development and resale.

The proposed contract does suggest, and ICM president Stuart Lawley is on record as saying, that the price of registrations could eventually come down. Whether that would include renewals remains to be seen.

Now for the good news: you won’t actually have to be a pornographer to register a .xxx domain.

It’s true that .xxx is ostensibly restricted to members of the adult entertainment community, but the definition also includes companies that supply products and services to the industry.

According to Lawley, flipping domain names falls into that category.

So, if you register a nice .xxx in order to sell it later to an actual pornographer, you’re technically part of the .xxx Sponsored Community. Congratulations, you’re in the adult business.

Parking .xxx domains will also be possible, and it doesn’t look like parking companies will need to make any changes in order to support the TLD.

It’s true that all .xxx sites will have to be “labelled” as porn, but that doesn’t mean, as I initially thought, that all .xxx web sites, including the parked ones, will have to slap a logo on their pages.

Lawley says that ICM will handle all the labelling transparently at the registry end, using a W3C standard called POWDER. Apparently this is doable without touching anybody’s HTML.

Of course, getting hold of a prime piece of .xxx real estate at launch will not be easy.

Anybody with designs on a geo .xxx domain is out of luck. ICANN will reserve all place names, and two-letter domains are banned, due to potential confusion with country codes.

But single-letter domains will be possible. The provision that banned it has been deleted from the new contract.

ICM plans to auction some premium names. It may even reserve some names, such as movie.xxx, in order to offer registrations at the third level.

An additional barrier is that roughly 9,400 people have already “pre-reserved” about 176,000 names (an average of 18 each). That’s about as many words as there are in the English language by some counts.

Quite how these reservations will be handled isn’t spelled out in detail in the contract, as far as I can tell.

The .xxx TLD is still in the application phase, of course, and there are ways it could still fail. If the contract is ultimately signed, general availability is expected seven months later.

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ICANN posts .xxx contract for comment

Kevin Murphy, August 24, 2010, Domain Registries

ICANN has just published the proposed contract for ICM Registry’s porn-only .xxx top-level domain, and over a dozen supporting documents.

Now the fun begins!

Another 30-day public comment period is now underway, which will likely see more concerted efforts by the Free Speech Coalition and its accidental allies on the religious right to have .xxx killed off.

It will also be interesting to see whether the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee decides to chip in with its $0.02.

The GAC has always been wary of the .xxx application and remains the tallest hurdle to jump before the TLD has a chance of being approved.

There’s a lot of information in these documents, including much more detail on IFFOR, the International Foundation For Online Responsibility, which will set the TLD’s policies.

I’m going to bury my nose in these docs, and will provide an update later if I find anything interesting, which seems likely.

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Facebook sues TeachBook.com for cybersquatting

Kevin Murphy, August 24, 2010, Domain Policy

All your “book” are belong to us?

Facebook has filed a cybersquatting and trademark infringement lawsuit against TeachBook.com, a social networking site for teachers.

The suit claims the site unfairly capitalizes on the Facebook trademark by using the “book” portion of the mark to evoke the idea of social networking.

According to the complaint, one of TeachBook’s selling points is that many schools ban teachers from using Facebook in order to prevent kids extorting them using personal information.

I don’t know how popular the site is — it doesn’t look like much — but it appears that TeachBook also owns a trademark on its brand.

I doubt this kind of claim would hold up under UDRP rules (unless a “friendly” panelist got the case), which is probably why Facebook has resorted to the US courts.

CourthouseNews.com has a PDF of the complaint and exhibits.

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ITU chief snubs ICANN’s Beckstrom

Kevin Murphy, August 24, 2010, Domain Policy

“If your name’s not down, you’re not coming in.”

That’s pretty much the message sent to ICANN chief Rod Beckstrom by the International Telecommunications Union’s secretary general, following his request to attend a top-level ITU policy meeting.

Beckstrom wrote to Hamadoun Toure last month, asking for observer status at October’s ITU Plenipotentiary Conference – the “supreme organ” of ITU policy-making, held every four years.

The idea was that ICANN and the ITU would start to develop a more formal relationship.

In a letter published today, Toure turned him down, noting that the guest-list for the Guadalajara meeting is strictly limited by convention to entities such as national telecoms regulators and UN agencies.

For your information, the Plenipotentiary Conferece, the supreme organ of the ITU, is the highest level of administrative conference for the Union.

I regret to inform you that the ITU is unable to respond positively to your request to attend

Ouch.

ICANN and the ITU have a spiky history. It’s well known that the ITU would prefer internet addressing to be handled from Geneva rather than Marina Del Rey. Over the years, it’s occasionally made the odd attempted power grab.

The fact that Beckstrom has been rebuffed is surely more evidence that, for all its flaws, ICANN is still a better place to manage the DNS.

If the head of ICANN can’t even observe the ITU’s top dogs at work, what chance would the rest of us have of being heard?

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Registrars “unprepared” for DNSSEC

Kevin Murphy, August 23, 2010, Domain Tech

Only one in 10 domain name registrars believes it is fully prepared to offer DNSSEC services today, according to new research out from Afilias, the .info registry.

The Registrar DNSSEC Readiness Report (pdf) also shows that a perceived lack of customer demand for the technology has translated into ambivalence at most registrars.

DNSSEC is a standard extension to DNS that helps prevent domain name hijacking through man-in-the-middle attacks.

The survey shows that 9.86% of registrars say they are “fully prepared” to offer DNSSEC to customers now, with 52.2% saying they were “somewhat” prepared. The remainder were not at all prepared.

A little over a quarter of respondents rated DNSSEC a “high” priority for the next 12 months, with less than 3% saying it was an “extremely high” priority.

Two of the biggest reasons for the lack of urgency were lack of customer demand – 59% of registrars said they saw no demand at all – and difficulties developing key management systems.

Despite this, when asked the question “Should TLD registries support DNSSEC?”, a whopping 80% responded in the affirmative.

I expect interest in the technology will pick up early next year, when VeriSign signs the .com zone.

The Afilias survey was conducted electronically earlier this month. The sample size was quite small, with only 71 respondents, and most of them were on the smaller side by domain count.

The report was released to coincide with Afilias’ launch of a broad effort to add DNSSEC support to all of the TLDs for which it provides registry services.

The company already offers the technology in .org, and that will now be extended to gTLDs including .info and ccTLDs such as .in. You can read the release at CircleID.

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