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Will Bill Clinton keynote at ICANN San Francisco?

Kevin Murphy, January 7, 2011, Domain Policy

There’s been a rumor going around for at least a month that Bill Clinton is being lined up to provide the keynote address for the next ICANN meeting, to be held in San Francisco in March.

I’m not going to pretend to have any inside information, but I’ve heard it from so many people recently that I thought it was worthy of a post.

One reason the rumor may have been reinvigorated this week is the revelation of the hefty sums ICANN is charging its top sponsors for the San Francisco meeting.

As I reported earlier in the week, VeriSign appears to have paid up $500,000 to get one of two top-tier Diamond-level sponsorship deals for the meeting.

Clinton, like many former world leaders, can command powerful sums for public speaking engagements, reportedly up to $350,000 a gig a few years ago.

ICANN, of course, was the brainchild of the Clinton administration in 1998.

While the US government’s attitude to ICANN’s activities has changed over the years, the organization was formed largely to introduce competition in the registrar and registry markets.

Since these are two likely results of the approval of the new TLDs program, Clinton’s appearance at the meeting where it will possibly happen would be appropriate.

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Universe.jobs launches with hundreds of premium domains

Kevin Murphy, January 7, 2011, Domain Registries

The controversial Universe.jobs project has soft-launched, offering jobs listings at hundreds of premium geographic and vocational .jobs domains.

Country and state domains such as usa.jobs, gbr.jobs and texas.jobs, as well as industry domains such as firefighter.jobs and journalist.jobs are live and resolving.

If you visit, say, usa.jobs or rus.jobs, you’ll be presented with a bunch of job listings from the USA or Russia. If you visit retail.jobs, you’ll be bounced to usa.jobs/retail (at least, I was).

Even combinations, such as texas.nursing.jobs, seem to work.

I’ve no idea how many domains have been activated this way, but since all the geographics seem to be active I’m guessing it’s at least several hundred at the second-level.

The site, which is presented as a service of the DirectEmployers Association’s National Labor Exchange, currently says it’s in beta.

But the big questions now are: is this legit, and who owns the domains?

Employ Media, the .jobs registry, had to fight ICANN and mainstream commercial jobs boards in order to drop the contractual restrictions that previously limited .jobs to company names.

But some argued that, despite the relaxation of the string restrictions, employer-independent jobs sites such as Universe.jobs would still be verboten under Employ Media’s charter.

The .JOBS Charter Compliance Coalition, made up of newspaper associations and boards such as Monster.com, tried to get ICANN to reconsider its decision, but failed (kinda).

While the Coalition’s Reconsideration Request was unsuccessful, ICANN did say it will start to monitor Employ Media for compliance with its charter more closely.

More interestingly, perhaps, during the ICANN investigation Employ Media abruptly dropped plans to create a “self-managed” class of domains – names registered to itself, but “used” by third parties such as DirectEmployers.

Did it make good on its promise? It’s difficult to be certain, because the Whois for the many of the domains in question seems to be broken.

I’ve been able to establish that some older domains, such as usa.jobs and nursing.jobs, currently belong to DirectEmployers, but trying to figure out who owns some of the more recently registered geographical .jobs names is an excruciating process.

The Whois link buried at the bottom of the official Employ Media web site directs you to the Whois service provided by VeriSign (which runs the back-end registry infrastructure for .jobs).

VeriSign’s tool does not return the name of the registrant, only details such as the registration date, associated name servers, and the URL of the appropriate registrar’s Whois server.

In the case of all these geo domains, the registrar appears to be NameShare. The Whois server URL given by VeriSign points to a second tool, at whois.nameshare.com, that doesn’t work.

If you try to query, for example, usa.jobs (after filling out the Captcha) you get this message:

[r3] Error Message: Unsupported TLD .jobs

If you visit the NameShare homepage, you will be able to find a third .jobs Whois tool, at whois-jobs.nameshare.com/whois/. This doesn’t seem to work properly either.

This tool will tell you that the domain usa.jobs belongs to DirectEmployers.

However, almost every other Universe.jobs-related domain that I queried returned a “not found” message, even when the domain resolves and the VeriSign tools says it’s been registered for over a month.

I’m not sure what’s going on. Some kind of technical problem, no doubt.

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ICANN wants to make millions from SF meeting

Kevin Murphy, January 5, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN hopes to sign millions of dollars in sponsorship deals for its San Francisco meeting in March.

The organization has revamped its sponsorship options, adding new “Diamond” and “Platinum Elite” tiers (together worth up to $1.5 million) and doubling the price of its existing opportunities.

ICANN is looking for two companies to act as Diamond sponsors, paying $500,000 each, and two more to sign up for the Platinum Elite deal, each paying $250,000.

For the money, these companies will get the best booths, exclusive branding on bags and T-shirts, along with a bunch of other benefits not available to lesser sponsors.

Diamond sponsors will be given a “90-minute industry/technology related presentation delivered by your company at a scheduled session”, which I believe might be a first for ICANN.

They’ll also get “exclusive press access”, according to the ICANN site.

(In Cartagena, “the press” was pretty much just me and the guy from Managing Internet IP. I can’t speak for him, but access to me can be had in SF for the price of a couple of pints of Anchor Steam).

Prices for the Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze deals it has offered at previous meetings have also been doubled, to $100,000, $50,000, $20,000 and $10,000 respectively.

ICANN is also looking for another $160,000 to sponsor its three evening events, $125,000 to sponsor the twice-daily coffee breaks and $210,000 to sponsor the lunches.

According to my back-of-the-envelope calculations, ICANN took in less than half a million dollars in sponsorship money for its meeting in Brussels last summer, which was its last big “first-world” gig.

For the March meeting, the organization is clearly hoping to benefit from the concentration of technology companies in the San Francisco bay area, which of course includes Silicon Valley.

I suspect that tapping this pool of sponsor cash may be the main reason the conference is amusingly being referred to officially as the “Silicon Valley in San Francisco” meeting.

How many sponsorship slots get filled by the domain name industry will depend to a degree on how likely it appears that ICANN will approve the new top-level domains program at the SF meeting.

I expect there would be a reluctance from registry service providers to drop half a million bucks on a conference from which the main headline at the end of the week is “ICANN delays gTLDs again”.

The current ICANN budget, incidentally, forecasts just $500,000 in sponsorship revenue for fiscal 2011, which ends in June. Its meetings typically cost $1 million each to run.

UPDATED: In the two hours since this post was first published, .com registry VeriSign has appeared on the ICANN web site as the first $500,000 “Diamond” sponsor of the meeting.

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Go Daddy files UDRP on “Mad Dog” host

Kevin Murphy, January 5, 2011, Domain Registrars

Go Daddy has filed a UDRP complaint against a web hosting company that uses a similar brand to sell domain names, maddogwebhosting.com.

The domain appears to have been used by a small-time hosting reseller for about two years. Its mailing address is a flat in south London.

But Go Daddy subsidiary Mad Dog Domains, which also sells hosting, has been around for longer and appears to have a trademark on its brand.

It’s not really an open-and-shut case by UDRP standards, given that Mad Dog Web Hosting appears to be a legitimate site, but I suspect Go Daddy has a reasonably good chance of prevailing.

We’ll have to wait for the ruling to be made and published by WIPO to find out the full details.

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ICANN Ombudsman loses ‘air rage’ appeal

Kevin Murphy, January 3, 2011, Domain Policy

Outgoing ICANN Ombudsman Frank Fowlie has lost an appeal with Canadian air regulators over his bust-up with a steward on a first-class flight in 2009.

In a February 2010 decision, the Canadian Transportation Agency found that Air Canada was within its rights to stop Fowlie boarding a connecting flight after he clashed with flight staff over poor service.

The CTA ruled that Fowlie had “engaged in abusive and offensive behaviour” during the flight.

He first appealed, in March, to have his name removed from the record, but the request was rejected in July.

According to the CTA, Fowlie said at the time that:

a non-publication order is necessary to prevent a serious risk to an important interest which in this case is Dr. Fowlie’s employment as an ombudsman that carries an emphasis on public perception of impartiality and neutrality

And that the publication of his name would have:

a direct and highly detrimental impact on that perception that goes beyond the scope of mere embarrassment and undermines public confidence in the Office of the Ombudsman

Then he appealed the original decision, based on “new evidence”, which turned out to be a witness statement from his “traveling companion”, now apparently also his wife.

In its latest ruling, the CTA didn’t think that was good enough grounds to revisit its original decision.

Fowlie, ICANN’s original Ombudsman, is leaving the organization’s payroll this month, and his position is likely to be reevaluated in light of the ATRT report I noted earlier today.

I offered Fowlie an unnecessarily snarky tip back in February:

if you’re a high-powered executive type, dining out on your reputation for integrity and sound judgement, racking up hundreds of thousands of first class air miles on a bottomless expenses account, and you get into a fight with a trolley dolly because your salmon en croute was a little late, try to avoid having the whole embarrassing incident entered into the public record by doing something silly like, you know, filing a complaint.

I’d like to amend that tip to include the following:

Oh, and if you’re paid a six-figure salary to provide oversight for an organization that ostensibly values openness and transparency above all, perhaps subsequently attempting to have your indiscretions expunged from the public record may not paint you in the best light.

Thanks to George Kirikos, who did most of the legwork for this story.

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