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Judgment day for .xxx and .jobs

Kevin Murphy, August 5, 2010, Domain Registries

ICANN’s board of directors will today meet to decide the fate of the .xxx and .jobs top-level domains.

ICM Registry will find out whether its contract to run .xxx will have to face a potentially lengthy review by ICANN’s notoriously slow-footed Governmental Advisory Committee.

Employ Media will find out whether it will be allowed to relax its registration rules to allow non-company-name .jobs domains.

If the board decides no further GAC intervention is needed, ICM will be on a fast track to having its TLD considered for delegation in Cartagena this December.

If Employ Media’s proposal is rejected, it faces more years in the wilderness of managing a registration base in the low tens of thousands.

I have a track record of lousy predictions, but I’m going to go out on a limb again and make a low-confidence prediction that both registries are going to get what they want.

I’m not sure if it’s been noted before, but there are some strong similarities between the two TLDs and their proposals.

In the case of .xxx, some of the main opponents of the domain have been the adult industry itself. With the .jobs liberalization, the loudest outcry has come from jobs boards.

Both are essentially cases of a registry proposing something that makes good business sense for itself, but which is not necessarily what a significant portion of its would-be constituents want.

In the case of ICM, lack of support from the porn business was what originally killed off the application (at least, that was the official line), a decision that ICANN was recently forced to reverse if not recant.

In the case of .jobs, ICANN’s recent summary and analysis of the well-attended public comment period, which the board will be given prior to voting, may be a telling.

Most of the opposition to the .jobs deal was organized by the International Association of Employment Web Sites, which itself sent a long letter spelling out precisely why it thinks the scheme is bogus.

Of the 2,600 words IAEWS submitted, ICANN’s summary and analysis document quotes just two sentences, one of which is this:

“Neither human resources professionals employed in corporate human resources (‘HR’) departments nor executive search/staffing firms [which are part of the .JOBS community] are eligible for membership in IAEWS.”

The quote is pulled from the introduction of the IAEWS letter, rather than the substance of its objection, and the text in square brackets is ICANN’s own insertion.

I can’t think of any reason that text is worth quoting other than in order to dilute the significance of the IAEWS’ arguments against the .jobs liberalization.

Indeed, the document uses more wordage to describe the nature of the IAEWS letter-writing campaign than it does the content of its letters, which can’t look good for the IAEWS.

Employ Media’s response to the IAEWS letter is quoted at greater length, particularly the bit where it compares its own plans to the new gTLD program.

While they claim that the addition of occupation, industry and geographical identifiers at the second level within the .JOBS sTLD will lead to increased confusion within the marketplace, it is hard to reconcile this argument to ICANN’s extensive public policy work and implementation plan in connection with the new gTLD process. The same fundamental economic basis for going forward with the whole new gTLD initiative also applies to this .JOBS RSEP request; these issues should not be re debated and should not delay or deny approval of the .JOBS RSEP request.

If you’re an ICANN board member, aware of how much of ICANN’s credibility is tied up with the new TLD program, can you really argue with that?

Of course, board and staff don’t always agree, so I may be way off the plot here, but it seems to me that .jobs is likely to very soon become a considerably more open namespace.

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VeriSign may settle CFIT lawsuit

Kevin Murphy, August 4, 2010, Domain Registries

VeriSign’s chief executive has not ruled out settling its potentially damaging lawsuit with the Coalition For ICANN Transparency out of court.

During the company’s second quarter earnings call earlier this week, Mark McLaughlin was asked whether there was a way the lawsuit could be made to go away, settling investor nerves.

His response: “It is an option that could be pursued.”

CFIT, backed by Momentous.ca, claims that VeriSign’s .com and .net no-bid contracts with ICANN, including the price increases they allow, are anti-competitive.

If VeriSign loses the case, it could face the loss of its .com and .net monopolies, which makes me think it will certainly seek to settle the case before that becomes a risk.

VeriSign currently has to decide whether to request a review at the Supreme Court, or go to the District Court for trial. It has until October 7 to make its call.

Also during Monday’s earnings call, McLaughlin addressed the growth opportunities VeriSign is looking at, following its renewed focus on the domain name business.

Asked whether the introduction of new TLDs would affect .com and .net growth, McLaughlin said:

I think it’s positive… just related to .com and .net, with the introduction of new TLDs there’s an expectation it just brings more people to the market and we generally do better when more people show up to the market. And the second thing, we intend to participate in some of those ourselves, so we see growth opportunities for us.

He also confirmed again that VeriSign will seek to launch non-ASCII internationalized versions of its existing TLD base, which includes .com, .net, tv and .name.

As Andrew Allemann noted yesterday, he also declared the pay-per-click-based speculative registration market essentially “dead”.

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Massive BackCountry.com UDRP case ignores rude typos

Kevin Murphy, August 2, 2010, Domain Policy

Amusingly, a huge 41-domain typosquatting UDRP case just filed by BackCountry.com contains none of the obvious, profane typos.

The claim, apparently filed by an outdoor equipment retailer, covers typos such as backxountry.com, backcountru.com and even backc9untry.com.

It does not include the typo that first occurred to me. You know the one I mean.

That domain exists, and is currently parked with suggestive, adult-oriented ad links.

In fact, none of the 41 domains listed in the National Arbitration Forum claim contain the particular four-letter Shakespearean pun that I’m thinking of.

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Free entry to the .uk iPad prize giveaway

Kevin Murphy, August 2, 2010, Domain Registries

Nominet is giving away eight iPads and dozens of iTunes vouchers to new .uk domain name registrants, but you can enter the prize draw for free if you know where to look.

The promotion starts today and runs until September 27. Every week, the company will give away one iPad. Every day, a £25 iTunes voucher will be up for grabs.

The promotion is being offered via participating .uk registrars, as well as by Nominet itself.

Without delving into the terms and conditions, you’d be forgiven for thinking you have to register a domain name to enter the draw.

Not so. Under UK law, companies have to offer no-purchase-necessary alternatives when they run competitions like this, and Nominet is no exception.

If you live in the UK, you can enter here for free.

It looks like you’ll have to enter every week to be eligible for all eight prize draws.

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Sedo handles domain sales worth $22 million in Q2

Kevin Murphy, August 2, 2010, Domain Sales

Sedo oversaw almost $22 million in domain name aftermarket sales in the second quarter, predominantly in the .com namespace.

The company’s Domain Market Study, published today, also shows that .co.uk, .de and .eu continue to be the most popular domains in the ccTLD market.

Sedo said that 11,146 domains were sold for a total of $21.6 million in the three months to June 30. That’s down from 11,942 names totalling $23.2 million in the first quarter.

The Q1 results included the $1 million sale of Poker.org.

Sedo had no public seven-figure sales in Q2. The most expensive domain to change hands was cgm.com, which went for $365,000.

The other two of the top three sales were German – kredit.com and software.de. Domains under .de accounted for almost half of all ccTLD sales: 49%.

Of course, .com continued to dominate overall, representing 46% of all sales and 74% of all gTLD sales.

But .net continues to be, on average, the most pricey TLD, with a median sales price of $581 versus .com’s $510. The .biz TLD has the lowest median, at $380.

Q3 is likely to see a sharp spike in sales data by dollar value. Sedo is currently trying to broker the sale of Sex.com, which will certainly fetch seven figures, if it sells.

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