Corporate sponsors raised $250,000 to fund a $400,000 showbiz gala for ICANN 51 next month, but ICANN pulled the plug after deciding against making up the shortfall.
Sources tell DI that the lavish shindig was set to take place at Fox Studios in Los Angeles on October 15, but that ICANN reneged on a commitment to throw $150,000 into the pot.
Meanwhile, a senior ICANN source insists that there was no commitment and that a “misunderstanding” is to blame.
ICANN announced a week ago that its 51st public meeting would be the first in a while without a gala event. In a blog post, VP Christopher Mondini blamed a lack of sponsors and the large number of attendees, writing:
One change from past meetings is that there will not be an ICANN51 gala. Historically, the gala has been organized and supported by an outside sponsor. ICANN51 will not have such a sponsor, and therefore no gala. ICANN meetings have grown to around 3,000 attendees, and so have the challenges of finding a gala sponsor.
This explanation irked some of those involved in the aborted deal. They claim that the post was misleading.
Sources say that sponsors including Fox Studios, Neustar and MarkMonitor had contractually committed $250,000 to the event after ICANN promised to deliver the remaining $150,000.
But ICANN allegedly changed its mind about its own contribution and, the next day, published the Mondini post.
“The truth is there were sponsors, the truth is it wasn’t too big,” said a source who preferred not to be named. “There was enough money there for a gala.”
The venue was to be the Fox Studios backlot, which advertises itself as being able to handle receptions of up to 4,000 people — plenty of space for an ICANN gala.
I’ve confirmed with Neustar, operator of the .us ccTLD, that it had set aside $75,000 to partly sponsor the event.
But Mondini told DI that ICANN had not committed the $150,000, and that claims to the contrary were based on a “misunderstanding” — $150,000 was the amount ICANN spent on the Singapore gala (nominally sponsored by SGNIC), not how much it intended to spend on the LA event.
“There was no ICANN commitment to make up shortfall,” he said. “It was misheard as an ICANN commitment.”
More generally, ICANN’s top brass are of the opinion that “we shouldn’t be in the business of spending lots of money on galas”, Mondini added.
“ICANN paying for galas is the exception rather than the rule,” he said.
He added that he stood by his blog post, saying that a failure to find sponsors to cover the full $400,000 tab is in fact a failure to find sponsors.
Verisign is trying to form a new industry standards-setting association for domain name registries and registrars.
To be called the Registration Operations AssociationTM (yes, according to its web site it is apparently already trademarked), Verisign wants potential members of the group to meet in October to figure out whether such an association is needed and what its remit would be.
But the Domain Name Association apparently has other ideas, suggesting in a recent blog post that the DNA would be the best place for these kinds of technical discussions to take place.
The primary purpose of an association would be to facilitate communication and technical coordination among implementers and operators of the EPP protocol and its current extensions to address interoperability and efficiency obstacles.
EPP is the Extensible Provisioning Protocol used by registrars to transact with all gTLD and many ccTLD registries. It’s an IETF standard written by Hollenbeck over a decade ago.
One of the problems with it is that it is “extensible” by design, so every time a registry extends it to deal with a peculiarity of a particular TLD, partner registrars have to code new connectors.
In a world of hundreds of new gTLDs, that becomes burdensome, Hollenbeck explained in his posts.
An industry association such as the formative ROA could help registries with common requirements standardize on a single EPP extension, streamlining interoperability.
That would be good for new gTLDs.
It’s no secret that many registrars are struggling to keep up with new gTLD launches while providing a good customer experience, as Andrew Allemann pointed out last week.
The need for cooperation seems plain; the question now is what is the correct forum.
While Verisign is pushing for a new group, the DNA reckons the task could be best-performed under its own umbrella.
Executive director Kurt Pritz blogged:
Given its multi-functional and global diversity, the DNA will be an effective place to coordinate discussion of these issues and to involve broader domain name industry involvement.
Verisign isn’t a DNA member. In fact, it appears to be the only significant back-end registry provider in the western world not to have purchased a membership.
But Pritz said in his post that technical discussions would not be limited to DNA members only — anyone would be able to participate without coughing up the $5,000 to $50,000 a year the group charges:
Recognizing that industry-wide issues are… well … industry wide, the DNA Board determined that this work must include those inside and outside the DNA, welcoming all domain name industry members. Scott and others from Verisign and other firms are invited regardless of whether they join the DNA.
So is the industry going to have to deal with two rival standards-setting groups?
In the many years I was a general Silicon Valley tech reporter, I must have written scores of articles about new technologies spurring the creation of competing “standards” organizations.
Usually, this involved pitting an incumbent monopolist such as Microsoft against a coalition of smaller rivals.
It makes for great headlines, but I’m not sure the domain name industry is big enough to support or require multiple groups tackling the same problems.
With resource-strapped registries and registrars already struggling to make new gTLDs work in any meaningful way, I doubt their geeks would appreciate duplicating their efforts.
I don’t know whether the DNA or ROA would be the best venue for the work, but I strongly suspect the work itself, which almost certainly needs to be done, only needs to be done once.
Verisign wants interested parties to meet in Los Angeles on October 16, just as the ICANN meeting there concludes. The meeting may also be webcast for those unable to attend in person.
Accent Media, one of four applicants for .tickets, has won the new gTLD at auction after receiving a $1.62 million investment from CentralNic.
As part of the deal, Accent has dumped Afilias as its back-end provider and will switch to CentralNic instead.
Competing applicants Donuts, Famous Four Media, Shubert Internet and Tickets TLD are now expected to pull their applications, though none appear to have had their withdrawals accepted by ICANN yet.
It’s not clear how much .tickets sold for.
CentralNic acquired a 12% stake in Accent in exchange for its investment. Both companies are based in the UK.
The deal is believed to be unrelated to the $1.5 million investment in a gTLD applicant that CentralNic announced — with the proceeds earmarked for auction — last week.
Accent has applied for a quite restricted TLD, with anti-fraud measures at its heart. Its authenticated registration process is described as being a bit like the process of buying an SSL certificate.
CentralNic CEO Ben Crawford said in a statement:
The “.tickets” Top-Level Domain will be a compelling new tool to assist consumers to easily identify legitimate and trusted ticket sales sites, as well as empowering venues, entertainers and sports organizations to improve their use of the internet for enabling fans to purchase tickets. This investment realizes our strategy of investing in Top-Level Domain applicants as well as operating as a business partner to their operators.
Russia is reportedly worried that the current wave of Western sanctions against it may wind up including ICANN turning off its domain names.
According to a report in the local Vedomosti newspaper, the nation’s Security Council is to meet Monday to discuss contingency plans for the possibility of being hit by internet-based sanctions.
Part of the discussion is expected to relate to what would happen if the US government forced ICANN to remove the local ccTLDs — .ru, .рф, and the discontinued .su — from the DNS root, according to Vedomosti’s source.
The paper reports, citing a source, that “officials want to control the entire distribution system of domain names in RUnet entirely”. RUnet is an informal term for the Russian-language web.
The report goes on to explain that the government’s goal is not to isolate the Russian internet, but to ensure it remains functioning within the country if its ccTLDs are cut off in the rest of the world.
Russia has been hit by sanctions from the US and Europe in recent months due to its involvement in the Ukraine crisis, but so far these have been of the regular economic kind.
Frankly, I find the possibility of the US government asking ICANN to intervene in this way — and ICANN complying — unlikely in the extreme. It would go dead against the current US policy of removing itself almost entirely from the little influence it already has over the root system.
Radix Registry launched its first three new gTLDs yesterday, and the first day’s numbers make an interesting case study in how difficult it can be to judge the health of a TLD.
Based on zone file numbers, .website was the clear winner. It had 6,340 names in its zone at the end of the day, compared to .host’s 778 and .press’s 801.
There’s clearly more demand for .website names right now.
But which made the most money? That’s actually a lot harder to figure out.
To make those calculations accurately, you’d need to know a) Radix’s base registry fee, b) the promotional discounts it applied for the launch c) which premium names sold and d) for how much.
None of that information is publicly available.
If we were to use Go Daddy’s base retail pricing as a proxy guide, .host was hypothetically the biggest money-spinner yesterday. At $129.99 a year, it would have made $101,132.
Because .website only costs $14.99 at Go Daddy, it would have only made $95,037, even though it sold thousands more names.
But Radix offered registrars what appears to be steep discounts for the launch. Go Daddy marked down its .host names from $129.99 to $49.99. That would make revenue of $38,892, less than half of .website.
With the discounts in mind, .host didn’t have as good a day from a cash-flow perspective as .website, but it arguably looks healthier from a long-term revenue perspective.
That’s all based on the snapshot of today’s zone files and an obviously incorrect assumption that Go Daddy sold all the names, of course.
Complicating matters further are the premium names.
Radix has priced a lot of its names with premium renewal fees and Radix business head Sandeep Ramchandani said that the company sold five five-figure premium names across all three gTLDs.
Given the relatively small amount of money we’re talking about, those five sales would have significantly impacted the three new gTLD’s relative revenue.