Retail giant Safeway has removed itself from the new gTLD program entirely, last week withdrawing all four of its applications.
The $139-billion-a-year company had applied for the dot-brands .safeway, .vons, .justforu and the generic .grocery, but all four bids are now showing as withdrawn.
Now that Safeway has withdrawn, the only remaining applicant for .grocery is rival retailer Wal-Mart.
.grocery had been applied for as a “closed generic”, in which Safeway would be the only eligible registrant.
The ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee had advised against closed generics on consumer protection grounds.
When ICANN pressed applicants for such strings to clarify whether they were in fact “closed generics”, Safeway denied (pdf) that .grocery was.
Wal-Mart, on the other hand, said that its .grocery would be restricted to Wal-Mart and its affiliates.
ICANN has suspended the accreditation of Korean registrar Dotname Korea over failures to comply with Whois accuracy rules.
The company was told this week that it will lose the ability to sell names for three months.
“No new registrations or inbound transfers will be accepted from 7 October 2014 through 5 January 2015,” ICANN compliance chief Maguy Serad told the company (pdf).
The suspension follows breach notices earlier in the year pertaining to Dotname’s failure to show that it was responding adequately to Whois inaccuracy complaints.
Other breaches of the Whois-related parts of the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement were also alleged.
The company has until December 16 to show compliance of face the possibility of termination.
Iraq was this week granted the right to use a new Arabic-script country-code top-level domain.
ICANN said the war-torn nation’s request for عراق., which is Arabic for “Iraq”, has passed the String Evaluation phase of the IDN ccTLD Fast Track program.
Like .iq, the registry will be the government’s Communications and Media Commission.
Once delegated, the Punycode inserted into the root will be .xn--mgbtx2b.
ICANN said Iraq is the 33rd nation to have an IDN ccTLD request approved. There are currently 26 IDN ccTLDs in the root. Most of them aren’t doing very well.
Continuing its strategy of getting well-known anchor tenants involved in its new gTLD launches, Minds + Machines has recruited the Brewers Association to back its just-launched .beer.
The BA represents over 2,300 independent breweries in the US, according to its web site.
.beer hit general availability yesterday. Due to delays with ICANN’s zone file publishing system this morning I can’t yet bring you the first-day figures for the TLD.
The launch was timed to coincide with the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado.
Two weeks ago, M+M launched .country with backing from music legend Dolly Parton, who claimed dolly.country, dollyparton.country, queenof.country, dollywood.country and 9to5.country.
If nothing else, the endorsement reminded non-Americans that .country is supposed to relate to music, not geography.
If there are any companies clamoring to get on the new gTLD bandwagon, they’ve got some waiting to do.
Based on a sketchy timetable published by ICANN this week, it seems unlikely that a second application round will open before 2017, and even that might be optimistic.
While ICANN said that “based on current estimates, a subsequent application round is not expected to launch until 2016 at the earliest”, that date seems unlikely even to senior ICANN staffers.
“The possibility exists,” ICANN vice president Cyrus Namazi told DI, “but the probability, from my perspective, is not that high when you think about all the pieces that have to come together.”
Here’s an ICANN graphic illustrating these pieces:
As you can see, the two biggest time-eaters on the road-map, pushing it into 2017, are a GNSO Policy Development Process (green) and the Affirmation of Commitments Review (yellow).
The timetable envisages the PDP, which will focus on what changes need to be made to the program, lasting two and a half years, starting in the first quarter 2015 and running until mid-2017.
That could be a realistic time-frame, but the GNSO has been known to work quicker.
An ICANN study in 2012 found that 263 days is the absolute minimum amount of time a PDP has to last from start to finish, but 620 days — one year and nine months — is the average.
So the GNSO could, conceivably, wrap up in late 2016 rather than mid-2017. It will depend on how cooperative everybody is feeling and how tricky it is to find consensus on the issues.
The AoC review, which will focus on “competition, consumer trust and consumer choice” is a bit harder to gauge.
The 2009 Affirmation of Commitments is ICANN’s deal with the US government that gives it some of its authority over the DNS. On the review, it states:
If and when new gTLDs (whether in ASCII or other language character sets) have been in operation for one year, ICANN will organize a review that will examine the extent to which the introduction or expansion of gTLDs has promoted competition, consumer trust and consumer choice, as well as effectiveness of (a) the application and evaluation process, and (b) safeguards put in place to mitigate issues involved in the introduction or expansion.
The AoC does not specify how long the review must last, just when it must begin, though it does say the ICANN board must react to it within six months.
That six-month window is a maximum, however, not a minimum. The board could easily take action on the review’s findings in a month or less.
ICANN’s timeline anticipates the review itself taking a year, starting in Q3 2015 and broken down like this:
Based on the timelines of previous Review Team processes, a rough estimate for this process is that the convening of the team occurs across 3-5 months, a draft report is issued within 6-9 months, and a final report is issued within 3-6 months from the draft.
Working from these estimates, it seems that the review could in fact take anywhere from 12 to 20 months. That would mean a final report would be delivered between September 2016 and July 2017.
If the review and board consideration of its report take the longest amount of time permitted or envisaged, the AoC process might not complete until early 2018, a little over three years from now.
Clearly there are a lot of variables to consider here.
Namazi is probably on safe ground by urging caution over the hypothetical launch of a second round in 2016.
Given than new gTLD evaluations were always seen as a “rolling” process, one of the things that the GNSO surely needs to look into is a mechanism to reduce the delay between rounds.