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Brian Cute named CEO of .org

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2011, Domain Registries

Public Interest Registry, which manages the .org domain, has named Brian Cute as its new CEO, following the resignation of Alexa Raad last August.

Cute was most recently a vice president at Afilias, which provides .org’s back-end registry infrastructure. Before that, he was with VeriSign, .org’s original custodian.

He’s a familiar face to many in the domain name industry and the ICANN community, most recently chairing ICANN’s Accountability and Transparency Review Team.

Cute replaces Maarten Botterman, PIR’s chairman, who had stepped into the CEO’s office temporarily after Raad quit. He starts February 1.

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ICANN staff swamped

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN’s board of directors is giving its staff and policy-making bodies more work than they can handle.

The GNSO Council yesterday voted to shelve board-requested work on the new top level domains program because no ICANN staffers have the time to help coordinate the project.

Last month, the board asked the GNSO and other constituencies to come up with ideas, before mid-March, about how to measure the consumer benefits of new TLDs after they launch.

But the Council yesterday was faced with having to suspend other policy development, in order to get the required staff support, so decided instead to defer the new work.

A senior ICANN executive at the meeting said that ICANN staff is “not an unlimited resource” and has “no bandwidth to keep taking these projects”.

This has apparently been an issue for over a year.

In this particular instance, the problem project comprised part of ICANN’s obligations under its Affirmation of Commitments with the US government, so it’s not trivial stuff.

As others have noted, sometimes the amount of policy development going on in ICANN can appear overwhelming to outsiders, but it seems that this problem also extends to ICANN internally.

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Clinton agrees to do ICANN meeting

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN has confirmed that former US president Bill Clinton has agreed to speak at its San Francisco meeting in March.

But ICANN’s Scott Pinzon said in a blog post that a formal contract, which would be funded by a “targeted sponsorship” deal, has not yet been signed. He wrote:

We are also aware that ICANN meetings are highly structured, work-intensive events, and we want to be sure that an appearance by President Clinton enhances the meeting’s outcomes rather than distracts from them.

Read into that what you will.

Clinton’s appearance will likely make the San Francisco meeting ICANN’s best-attended so far, at least for a day or so. Expect TV.

It will also raise the profile of the new top-level domains program, if ICANN in fact approves it during the meeting.

On a personal level, this is tragic news. It’s already hard enough to get a coffee in the ICANN press room without a thousand other newbie reporters crowding the place out.

I’ve put in a request for an interview anyway.

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IP lawyers call for halt to new TLDs

Kevin Murphy, January 13, 2011, Domain Registries

Some trademark interests are ratcheting up the rhetoric in opposition to ICANN’s new top-level domains program, with one company calling for it to be scrapped altogether.

While ICANN’s extended public comment period on the proposed final Applicant Guidebook does not end until the weekend, a Danish bloc of companies has already made its objections known.

The most vociferous views so far this week have come from Lundbeck, a drug company that researches treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Lundbeck trademark counsel Søren Ingemann Larsen accused ICANN of operating “fake” comment periods that ignore feedback from the trademark lobby.

In a cap-happy missive, he said the program should be “HALTED” until ICANN can prove the domain market lacks competition, then “cancelled” if such proof is not forthcoming.

The fact of the matter is that the only entities that are in favour of the Program are the ones who can make money out of it, and that is ICANN and the Registrars. The “internet community”, including private users and brand owners, are NOT interested.

Lundbeck, which has brands such as “Cipralex” and “Xenazine”, does not appear to be a major target for cybersquatters, judging by how many UDRP complaints it has filed (none).

It did however join CADNA, the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse, at the same time as prolific UDRP user Lego Juris, last November.

Lego, and a few other companies submitting virtually identical comments to ICANN this week, have reiterated criticisms of the program’s trademark protections expressed in previous months.

But they have now also seized upon elements of the latest independent economic report into the costs and benefits of new TLDs, which ICANN published last month.

One extract Lego and the others quote questions whether new TLDs are needed to provide some of the services proposed by community TLD wannabes:

Are there other ways to achieve the primary objectives of the proposed gTLD, such as: (a) second-level domain names; (b) certificates; (c) software tags; and (d) filters that look at content beyond the URL and any tags? How do the alternatives, if any, compare in terms of their likely effectiveness in achieving the primary objectives of the gTLD and the costs they would impose on different members of the Internet community?

It’s an interesting argument – that a community TLD could just as well operate as a second-level domain – not one I recall reading in a long while. I don’t think it has legs.

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eNom named “worst” for badware

Kevin Murphy, January 12, 2011, Domain Registrars

Demand Media-owned eNom has been fingered as the worst company when it comes to hosting “badware”, according to the latest quarterly report from HostExploit.

The report puts eNom at number three in its overall league table of hosts involved (albeit generally unwittingly) in supporting malicious activity online, up from seven in the third quarter.

HostExploit conducts meta-research, looking at a number of factors (such as phishing and spam) normalizing and weighting data provided by a wide variety of sources.

eNom’s position on the list is based almost entirely on its ranking under the “badware” metric, which uses data supplied by StopBadware.org members Google, Sunbelt Software and Team Cymru.

Broken down by category, eNom scored 944 out of 1,000 in the fourth quarter, using HostExploit’s scoring system for badware. The network ranked second scored only 594.

What is badware? The report says:

Badware fundamentally disregards how users might choose to employ their own computer. Examples of such software include spyware, malware, rogues, and deceptive adware. It commonly appears in the form of free screensavers that surreptitiously generate advertisements, malicious web browser toolbars that take browsers to unexpected web pages and keylogger programs that transmit personal data to malicious third parties.

Other major domain name companies also rank in the top 50 worst hosts; 1&1, Oversee.net and Go Daddy occupy positions #35, #36 and #37. Google is at #28.

The HostExploit report appears to have been funded by the Nominet Trust.

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