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ICANN hires weight-loss guru as vice president

Kevin Murphy, March 9, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN has quietly hired a new vice president with a very peculiar résumé.

Elad Levinson, a psychotherapist with a distinctly Buddhist bent who has previously specialized in weight loss, joined the organization in early January as Vice President for Organization Effectiveness.

He’s been on the payroll as a consultant since May 2010, according to his LinkedIn profile and other sources, but only joined ICANN as a full-time VP two months ago.

ICANN currently has only about a half dozen vice presidents. The most recent to be officially announced (pdf) was noted cryptographer Whitfield Diffie, now VP of information security.

Unlike Diffie, Levinson did not get an announcement when he joined ICANN. Two months after joining the organization, he’s still not even listed on the ICANN staff web page.

(UPDATE: As of last night he is listed on the web site. Possibly because somebody was tipped off I was writing this post.)

I’ve confirmed that he started work there at the start of the year, but I’m not entirely clear what his role is. He appears to be some kind of human resources consultant slash life coach.

He’s previously consulted for a number of California-based corporations.

I understand Levinson is based in the Silicon Valley office, which I believe has about a dozen employees and is located roughly 300 miles from ICANN’s headquarters in the Los Angeles suburb of Marina Del Rey, where the vast majority of its staff are based.

Levinson has described himself as the author of “several publications regarding the power of self awareness and the integration of western social psychology and Buddhist Psychology” and an advocate of “the use of mindfulness and Buddhist Psychology in its application to organization development, leadership practices, stress reduction and related problems, relationships and parenting.”

His LinkedIn profile, which erroneously refers to ICANN as the “Internet Corporation Assigning Numbers and Naming”, says:

My goals are to bring the arts of relationship building and creation-intention generation to the science of causing tangible, factual results that increase shareholder value and develop highly adaptable cultures supporting the best in human spirit and actions.

The same profile discloses that Levinson has founded or co-founded at least four organizations: Noble Purpose Consulting, Pounds For Poverty, Lose Weight Mindfully and Growth Sherpas.

He’s still listed as an employee on three of those. Noble Purpose’s domain resolves to a blank page.

Pounds For Poverty, with which he was apparently involved until at least June last year, is a California consultancy offering “practical solutions for difficulties with over eating, anxiety, and depression.”

Its web site suggests that the money fat Californians spend on over-eating would be better used fighting hunger elsewhere but, despite the name, it does not appear to be a poverty charity in the usual sense.

Archive.org’s most-recent capture of Noble Purpose, from 2009, reveals it had aims such as “supporting human being’s nobility of purpose on earth” and “insuring that the skills and knowledge necessary for your noble purpose reside internally”.

If you don’t understand what any of the above means, you’re not alone.

Wikipedia’s (poorly sourced) page on “organizational effectiveness” helpfully explains it is “the concept of how effective an organization is in achieving the outcomes the organization intends to produce” and “an abstract concept… basically impossible to measure.”

“Mindfulness” is a Buddhist teaching relating to meditation and focus that has found its way into Western psychology over the last few decades.

It’s not a huge secret that ICANN has issues, internally. Clearly somebody over there believes that some kind of consultant like Levinson is required at the VP level.

According to the Growth Sherpas web site, Levinson is “the one you turn to when you want help solving a thorny company-wide or people problem and want the solution to stick.”

Outsiders are generally more concerned with staffing issues such as the lack of resources to support policy development and compliance initiatives, which will both become even more important once the new top-level domains program kicks off.

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WIPO launches global brand database

Kevin Murphy, March 8, 2011, Domain Services

The World Intellectual Property Organization has opened up a free, searchable web-based database of over 640,000 trademarks.

The slick new Global Brand Database is not related to domain names specifically, but could well prove an invaluable research tool for players in the space, especially for top-level domain applicants.

How useful it becomes will depend on how much the database grows. At the moment, it appears less than comprehensive.

WIPO said the interface currently provides access to three existing databases.

There’s the list of “armorial bearings, flags and other state emblems as well as the names, abbreviations and emblems of intergovernmental organizations” protected under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.

There’s the database of “appellations of origin” – geo-brands such as Champagne and Tequila – registered under the so-called Lisbon system.

Finally, and probably most interestingly, there’s international trademarks registered under the Madrid system, which is a way for companies to register their brands in multiple legal jurisdictions.

But don’t expect to find US trademarks, for example, listed in the database yet. WIPO said in its announcement that it plans to add national databases to the system in the future.

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AusRegistry chalks up third Arabic domain win

AusRegistry International has announced it has been picked to provide the back-end registry for عمان., the Arabic-script internationalized domain name for Oman.

It’s the company’s third IDN ccTLD contract in the region, following on from Qatar’s forthcoming قطر. and the United Arab Emirates’ already-live امارات.

The company’s press release suggests to me that it’s a software/support deal, rather than a full-blown hosted back-end registry solution.

AusRegistry said it will “provide Domain Name Registry Software and supporting services for the establishment of a new Domain Name Registry System”.

It has previously announced back-end deals for ASCII ccTLDs including .qa and .ae, and manages Australia’s .au, which recently passed the two million domains milestone.

The deal with Oman, which AusRegistry said was competitively bid, also encompasses .om, the nation’s regular ccTLD.

While ICANN approved Oman’s chosen string under its IDN ccTLD Fast Track program back in October, it has not yet been delegated to the DNS root zone.

With the approval of Ukraine’s Cyrillic ccTLD last week, 25 territories have had their choice of local-script ccTLD given the nod under the program.

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New TLDs conference calls for speakers

The newdomains.org conference on new top-level domains, scheduled for September 26 and 27 in Munich, has put out a call for speakers.

Here’s the catch: if you’re interested, you might need an audition tape. The organizers want to see a short YouTube clip of your presenting skills in action before they consider your pitch.

Ram Mohan, CTO of Afilias, and Tim Schumacher, CEO of Sedo, are both already named on the draft agenda, but there are still plenty of open spots, including the first-day keynote.

Franz Josef Pschierer, IT commissioner of the Bavarian state government, will keynote day two.

The conference is being organized by the registrar United Domains, part of the same family of domain name companies as Sedo and 1&1 Internet.

While newdomains.org will take place in Germany, possibly the biggest market for new TLDs outside of the US, all the sessions will be conducted exclusively in English.

The conference currently looks like it’s shaping up along the same lines as the .nxt conference last month, with sessions on brand protection, community building, marketing and so on.

One notable difference is the addition of coached “workshops” as well as panel discussions.

Extracurricular activities include a tram ride around the city and a visit to the Hippodrom tent at Oktoberfest, the world-famous beer-drinking festival.

Needless to say, I shall be in attendance. For the trams, obviously.

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Start-up plans .bank and .secure TLDs

The first applicant for “.bank” and “.secure” top-level domains has revealed itself.

Domain Security Company, a start-up based in Wisconsin, is behind the proposals. It’s currently seeking funding for the applications, according to its web site.

The firm says it will offer security via a mix of “technical innovations, process improvements, and enhanced requirements”.

Its intention to obtain .secure and .bank seems to have first emerged when it filed for a US trademark registration on both TLDs last September.

The company’s domain name – interestingly, it’s a .co – is registered to entrepreneur Mary Iqbal of Asif LLC, a frequent participant in ICANN policy-making.

I think I’m on record as saying I think .secure is an incredibly risky proposition, the equivalent of painting a giant target on your back. Nothing on the internet is truly secure, and a TLD that says otherwise is a bold statement that invites trouble.

I think it’s also fair to say that unless Domain Security Company manages to secure the support of the world’s leading financial institutions, it will face an extremely tough fight to win .bank.

The Financial Services Roundtable’s technology arm, BITS, has taken a strong view on .bank, and is drafting security guidelines it hopes will be used by applicants.

And ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee still wants TLDs including .bank to be subject to a higher level of community support before they are approved.

It’s possible that .secure will be contested. Another site seems to have a similar idea.

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