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Shakeup coming as Google becomes a registrar, sells names at $12 with free privacy and email

Google has announced its first foray into the domain name registrar business with Google Domains.

The company tells me that the upcoming service will allow customers to buy or transfer domains for $12 a year.

Privacy protection, up to 100 email addresses and up to 100 subdomains — things existing leading registrars charge extra for — will be included at no additional cost.

Right now, the service is in an invitation-only beta. The first beta users are not expected to get access for a couple of weeks and the beta will likely last a couple of months.

Google says it wants to make domain registration a “simple and transparent experience”.

It’s not entirely clear which TLDs will be supported at first — .com, .net and .eu seem to be three of them — but the company plans to support “many” new gTLDs in future.

The service is unfinished, according to the company, but beta users will be able to buy and transfer domain names.

They’ll also be able to use web site creation tools supplied by the likes of Squarespace, Wix, Weebly and Shopify, which will carry an additional cost.

The $12 a year fee is comparable to market-leader Go Daddy’s annual rate for a .com, but Go Daddy charges about $8 extra per year for privacy and about $5 a month for email.

Google joins the likes of Minds + Machines and Uniregistry as new gTLD registries that have made the move into the registrar side of the business, hoping to bring a fresh approach to the market.

Google has actually been accredited by ICANN as a registrar for years — over a decade if memory serves — but to date has never used its accreditation to sell domains.

With its Google Apps service, the company refers domain buyers to Go Daddy and eNom. While there’s no confirmation from Google yet, I suspect those relationships may be in jeopardy in future.

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No mention of .london at ICANN London

The forthcoming .london gTLD didn’t get a look in during the opening ceremony of ICANN 50, held this morning in London.

The host city gTLD’s complete absence from the two-hour event — it wasn’t mentioned once — would have escaped notice had it not been for the abundance of plugs for .wales and .cymru attendees received instead.

.cymru is the Welsh name for Wales. The gTLDs are to be launched simultaneously.

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones was given stage time to announce, in between anti-English quips, that the Welsh government is to dump .gov.uk in favor of the two new Welsh gTLDs.

Later, a Welsh male voice choir (presumably a famous one) took to the stage to sing a couple of songs and announce that they too are planning to use .wales and .cymru for their web sites.

Nominet chair Rennie Fritchie also plugged the upcoming launches during her five-minute slot.

You’d have been forgiven for wondering if you’d accidentally got off the plane in Cardiff.

Where was .london?

Did Dot London Domains seriously drop the ball here?

Or did .london’s absence have something to do with the fact that the host ccTLD and meeting sponsor, Nominet, is the registry for .wales and .cymru but was beaten to the .london back-end contract by Minds + Machines?

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ICANN overturns new gTLD objection decision!

Kevin Murphy, June 22, 2014, Domain Policy

ICANN has overturned a Community Objection decision, allowing a .med new gTLD applicant back into the game, after a Request for Reconsideration from the applicant.

It’s the first time ICANN has overruled an objection panel during the new gTLD program and the first time in over a decade any RfR of substance has been accepted by the ICANN board of directors.

Medistry lost a CO filed by the program’s Independent Objector, Alain Pellet, back in January.

Under program rules, that should have killed off its application for .med completely.

But the company filed an RfR — ICANN’s first and cheapest appeals mechanism — claiming that Pellet acted outside his jurisdiction by filing the objection when there was not at least one informal objection from a community member on the public record.

Its case, as outlined in its RfR, was quite compelling, as I outlined in a piece in March.

Medistry argued that the International Chamber of Commerce’s panelist, Fabian von Schlabrendorff, had cited two non-existent informal community objections in his decision.

One of them literally did not exist — and von Schlabrendorff went so far as to infer its existence from its absence — while the other was “advisory” in nature and was not intended as an objection.

In March, ICANN’s Board Governance Committee accepted Medistry’s RfR on a preliminary basis, to give it more time to consider whether the IO had acted outside of the new gTLD program’s rules.

Yesterday, the BGC came to its final decision (pdf):

The BGC concludes that, based on information submitted with this Request, there is substantial and relevant evidence indicating that the Objection was inconsistent with ICANN procedures, despite the diligence and best efforts of the IO and staff. Specifically, the Requester [Medistry] has provided the BGC with uncontroverted information demonstrating that the public comments on which the Objection was based were not, in fact, in opposition to the Requester’s application. Accordingly, the BGC concludes that ICANN not consider the Expert Determination at issue and that the Requester’s Application for .MED is therefore permitted to proceed to the next stage of process in the New gTLD Program.

In other words: 1) Pellet inadvertently acted outside of his remit 2) the ICC’s ruling on the objection is simply cast aside and 3) Medistry’s application is back in the .med contention set.

The main reason this RfR succeeded while all others to date have failed is that Medistry managed to provide new information, in the form of clarifying letters from the two non-existent informal objectors, that was not originally available.

The large majority of previous RfR’s have failed because the requester has failed to bring any new evidence to the table.

The public comments from [National Association of Boards of Pharmacies] and [American Hospital Association] that were the basis for the Objection were vague and open to a number of interpretations. Given that there is substantial and uncontroverted evidence from the authors of those public comments, indicating what NABP and AHA intended, the BGC cannot ignore this information in assessing the Request or reaching its determination.

I think ICANN is going easy on the ICC and von Schlabrendorff (how can something that does not exist be “open to a number of interpretations”?) but it seems that the RfR process has in this case nevertheless been a bit of a success, overturning an extremely dodgy decision.

The .med contention set also contains HEXAP and Google.

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Euro govs livid as ICANN takes .wine off ice

Kevin Murphy, June 22, 2014, Domain Policy

The new gTLD applications for .wine and .vin are now live again, raising the ire of European governments.

ICANN chair Steve Crocker has written to the European Commission, along with the governments of France, Spain and the US that the three applications are once again being processed.

That’s after a 60-day temporary freeze, ostensibly in order to give the governments more time to push applicants for geographic indicator protections, expired earlier this month.

Geographic indicators are terms such as “Champagne” and “Bordeaux” which are protected under European law — they have to be produced in those regions — but not in the US and other non-EU countries.

France is expected to point to the .wine controversy as evidence of how ICANN is deficient as an organization.

“The problem is it is totally opaque, there is no transparency at all in the process,” Axelle Lemaire, minister for digital affairs, told the Financial Times today.

France also reckons ICANN’s decision will impact transatlantic trade negotiations unrelated to the domain name industry, the FT reported.

Lemaire’s comments about transparency are odd, given that pretty much the entire debate — whether in person at ICANN meetings or through correspondence — has been put on to the public record by ICANN.

The issue seems to be rather than the ICANN process does not give national governments a means to push their agendas onto the industry unless all participating governments agree.

The Governmental Advisory Committee was unable to come to a consensus on .wine and .vin — EU states wanted strong protection for GIs, but the US, Canada and Australia disagreed.

Lacking GAC consensus, ICANN had no mandate to act on requests for individual government requests.

But when its board decided to move ahead on the new gTLDs in March, the GAC noted that its process for making the decision may have broken its bylaws.

The EC, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Luxembourg and Switzerland then filed formal Requests for Reconsideration with ICANN, asking for the decision to be overturned.

Those RfRs were rejected by ICANN’s Board Governance Committee a month ago.

Last week Crocker wrote to governments on both sides of the debate to confirm that, with the 60 days expired and no outstanding GAC advice, .wine and .vin will proceed to contention resolution and contracting as normal.

The letters are all pretty much the same, with Crocker explaining the process to date and suggesting again that ICANN be not be the best forum for governments to hash our their disagreements over GI protections.

Crocker told (pdf) EC vice president Neelie Kroes:

should the GAC be in a position to provide any additional advice on this issue, we would welcome it. Similarly, should governments succeed in resolving these issues in other global trade fora such as the WTO [World Trade Organization] that, too, will be taken into account.

Expect the debate to continue this week at ICANN 50, the public meeting that kicked off in London yesterday.

The EU and its most-affected member states are not going to let this die.

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New gTLDs now outnumber the old TLDs

There are now more 2012-round new gTLDs alive on the internet than there are legacy TLDs.

With today’s addition of five new strings, including .brussels and .surf, there are now 312 delegated new gTLDs and 308 others in the DNS root zone file.

The legacy TLD count includes the original eight gTLDs such as .com and .gov, 285 ccTLDs (including 36 IDN ccTLDs), and 15 gTLDs added by ICANN in the 2000 and 2003 rounds.

With just shy of 1.2 million domains under management (including all the registry-reserved and freebies) the new gTLD program currently accounts for about 0.4% of all registered names.

About 140 new gTLDs are in general availability. The rest have been delegated but are either in sunrise periods or pre-sunrise periods.

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