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Big week for new gTLDs as 114 apps pass

ICANN has just released this week’s Initial Evaluation results and it’s the biggest dump to date, with 114 applications getting through to the next stage of the process.

We’re now up to 628 passes, which is roughly one third of the original 1,930 applications.

Applications for these strings achieved passing scores (links to DI PRO):

.help .hosting .property .fashion .warman .love .yoga .winners .bnl .sexy .bauhaus .mnet .health .gratis .save .cfd .inc .tjmaxx .homegoods .tjx .deal .restaurant .spa .link .tech .airbus .city .dealer .bnpparibas .tvs .latino .boo .makeup .website .tips .amp .jpmorgan .kyknet .dad .vivo .kerryproperties .sucks .emerson .sas .lancaster .vin .lotto .homes .rodeo .goldpoint .movie .next .bloomberg .moda .tennis .song .nrw .alfaromeo .web .press .london .hot .futbol .windows .webjet .green .sarl .home .video .apartments .bingo .hotel .allstate .software .lanxess .mango .ferrari .coupon .broadway .drive .gea .law .engineering .epost .swiftcover .country .army .weber .broadway .marshalls .style .theater .samsung .firmdale .design .booking .tatamotors .komatsu .mls .abudhabi .vip .game .alibaba .like .store .lgbt .team .boats .tax .nikon .sony .you .citic .trade

No applications failed this week. We’re up to 700 in the prioritization queue.

Governments expand gTLD objection shortlist

Kevin Murphy, April 2, 2013, Domain Policy

With the start of its meetings in Beijing just a couple of days away, ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee has handed out clues as to which new gTLDs it might object to.

The GAC says that 20 specific bids have already been put forward by one government as potential recipients of GAC Advice, but that there are nine broad categories of concern.

Some of the categories seem to obviously apply to certain narrow types of gTLD, while others are broad enough to catch almost any bid the GAC doesn’t like the look of.

Any application that receives adverse GAC Advice at the end of the Beijing meeting faces, at the very least, a prolonged approval process along the lines of what .xxx had to endure.

The worst-case scenario is rejection of the bid by the ICANN board of directors.

These are the GAC’s categories, along with some educated guesses about which strings they could apply to:

  • “Consumer protection” — could apply to anything, depending on how well-lobbied the GAC has been by a particular interest group. Any gTLD that could implausibly be argued to increase the risk of counterfeiting may show up here. A liberal interpretation could well capture .music or sports-related strings.
  • “Strings that are linked to regulated market sectors, such as the financial, health and charity sectors” — Dozens of applications, such as those for .lawyer, .doctor, .health .bank, and .charity — will fall into this category.
  • “Competition issues” — This most likely applies to applications for category-killer dictionary words where the applicant is already a dominant player in the relevant market, such as Google’s bid for .search or Amazon’s for .book.
  • “Strings that have broad or multiple uses or meanings, and where one entity is seeking exclusive use” — Again, this could apply to the many controversial “closed” gTLD applications.
  • “Religious terms where the applicant has no, or limited, support from the relevant religious organisations or the religious community” — I suspect that the the Vatican’s application for .catholic is less at risk than a Turkish company’s bid for .islam. Any Islam-related domains are likely to fail the “support” test, given the lack of centralized control over the religion.
  • “Minimising the need for defensive registrations” — A category that seems to have been specially created for .sucks.
  • “Protection of geographic names” — Most probably will be used to kill off DotConnectAfrica’s application for .africa and Patagonia Inc’s application for .patagonia. But will Amazon’s dot-brand bid also fall foul?
  • “Intellectual property rights particularly in relation to strings aimed at the distribution of music, video and other digital material” — If the GAC buys into the lobbying and believes that an unrestricted .music or .movie gTLD would increase piracy, expect objections to some of those bids. The GAC doesn’t have to provide a shred of evidence to support its Advice at first, remember, so this is not as ludicrous a possibility as it sounds.
  • “Support for applications submitted by global authorities” — This is a newly added category. If the GAC is proposing to submit advice in support of one application in a contention set, there’s no mechanism ICANN can use to ensure that he supported applicant wins the set. The Advice may turn out to be useless. Certain sports-related applications are among those with “global authority” backing.
  • “Corporate Identifier gTLDs” — Not, as this post originally speculated, dot-brands. Rather, this applies to the likes of .inc, .corp, .llc and so on.
  • “Strings that represent inherent government functions and/or activities” — Expect military-themed gTLDs such as .army and .navy to feature prominently here. Could also cover education and healthcare, depending on the government.

The GAC also plans to consider at least 20 specific applications that have been put forward as problematic by one or more governments, as follows:

Community name where the applicant does not have support from the community or the government: 1

Consumer protection: 2

Name of an Intergovernmental Organisation (IGO): 1

Protection of geographic names: 9

Religious terms: 2

Strings applied for that represent inherent government functions and/or activities: 3

Support for applications submitted by global authorities: 2

ICANN plans to formally approve the first batch of new gTLDs, with much ceremony, at an event in New York on April 23, but has said it will not approve any until it has received the GAC’s Advice.

The GAC is on the clock, in other words.

While it’s been discussing the new gTLDs on private mailing lists since last year’s Toronto meeting, it’s already missed at least self-imposed deadline. The information released today was due to be published in February.

While the ICANN Beijing meeting does not officially begin until next Monday, and the rest of the community starts its pre-meeting sessions at the weekend, the GAC starts its closed-session meetings this Thursday.

Australia leads the charge as governments file 242 new gTLD warnings

Kevin Murphy, November 21, 2012, Domain Registries

Governments of the world have filed 242 warnings on new gTLD applications, more than half of which came from Australia.

Warnings were filed against 145 strings in total, and in most cases governments issued the same warnings against all competing applications in a given contention set.

Australia was responsible for 129 warnings, accounting for most of the 49 warnings received by Donuts.

There are some surprises in there.

Notably, there were no warnings on any of the strings related to sex, sexuality or porn.

Given the amount of effort the GAC put into advising against .xxx, this is a big shock. Either governments have relaxed their attitudes, or none were willing to single themselves out as the anti-porn country.

No government warned on .gay.

The largest single recipient of warnings, with 49, was Donuts, the largest portfolio applicant.

The most-warned application, with 17 warnings, was DotConnectAfrica’s .africa. The company is contesting the gTLD without government support, and African nations objected accordingly.

Nigeria also warned Delta Airlines about its proposed .delta dot-brand,

The string “delta” is a protected ISO 3166 sub-national place name, as Delta is likely to discover when the Geographic Names Panel delivers the results of its evaluation.

Australia objected to .capital on the same grounds.

Top Level Domain Holdings was hit with warnings from Italy and South Africa based on a lack of government support for its geographic applications .roma and .zulu.

Remarkably, Samoa warned the three applications for .website on the grounds that they would be “confusingly similar” to its own ccTLD, .ws, which is marketed as an abbreviation for “website”.

The US warned on all 31 of Radix Registry’s applications, saying that the Directi company inappropriately included an email from the FBI in its bids, suggested an endorsement when none exists.

Australia, among its 129 warnings, appears to have won itself a lot of friends in the intellectual property community.

It’s objected to .fail, .sucks, .gripe and .wtf on the grounds that they have “overly negative connotations” and a lack of “sufficient mechanisms to address the potential for a high level of defensive registrations.”

It also issued warnings to applicants planning gTLDs covering “regulated sectors”, including .accountant, .architect and .attorney, without sufficient safeguards to protect consumers.

Generic strings with single-registrant business models — such as Google’s .app and .blog bids — are also targeted by Australia on competition grounds.

Australia more than any other governments appears to be trying to use its warnings as a way to enter into talks with applicants, with a view to remedial action.

Whether this will be permitted — applicants are essentially banned from making big changes to their applications — is another matter entirely.

The full list of warnings can be found here.

GAC Early Warnings confirmed for today. Here’s what I expect to see

Kevin Murphy, November 20, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee is ready to send out its Early Warnings on new gTLD applications today as scheduled, ICANN has confirmed.

The Early Warnings, which highlight applications that individual GAC members have problems with, are expected to be sent by the GAC to applicants and published by ICANN later.

Because the warnings are expected to be issued by individual governments, rather than the GAC as a whole, we could wind up seeing hundreds, due to multiple governments objecting to the same applications.

However, some governments may have decided to be conservative for precisely the same reason.

Governments won’t be able to hide behind the cloak of “GAC Advice”, as they did when .xxx was up for approval last year; the names of the governments will be on the warnings.

That’s not to say there won’t necessarily be safety in numbers. It’s possible that some warnings will be explicitly supported by multiple governments, potentially complicating applicant responses.

But which countries will provide warnings?

I’d be surprised if the US, as arguably the most vocal GAC player, does not issue some. Likewise, the regulation-happy European Commission could be a key objector.

It’s also my understanding that Australia has a raft of concerns about various applications, and has been leading much of the back-room discussion among GAC members.

Going out on a limb slightly, I’m expecting to see the warnings from Western nations concentrating largely on regulated industries, IP protection and defensive registrations.

We’re likely to see warnings about .bank and .sucks, for examples, from these governments. To a certain extent, any non-Community applications that could be seen as representing an industry could be at risk.

On the “morality” front, indications from ICANN’s public comment period are that Saudi Arabia has a great many problems with strings that represent religious concepts, and with strings that appear to endorse behavior inconsistent with Islamic law, such as alcohol and gambling.

But last time I checked Saudi Arabia was not a member of the GAC. It remains to be seen whether similar concerns will be raised by other governments that are members.

The one Early Warning we can guarantee to emerge is against .patagonia, the application from a US clothing retailer that shares its name with a region of South America.

The Argentinian government has explicitly said it will issue a warning against this bid, and I expect it to garner significant support from other GAC members.

The GAC Early Warnings stand to cause significant headaches for applicants, many of which are gearing up for a four-day US Thanksgiving weekend.

After receiving a warning, applicants have just 21 days to decide whether to withdraw their bid — receiving an 80% refund of their $185,000 application fee — or risk a formal GAC Advice objection next year.

But that’s not even half of the problem.

The GAC has indicated that it wants to be able to, effectively, negotiate with new gTLD applicants over the details of their applications after issuing its warnings.

At the Toronto meeting last month, the GAC asked ICANN to explain:

the extent to which applicants will be able to modify their applications as a result of early warnings.

[and]

how ICANN will ensure that any commitments made by applicants, in their applications or as a result of any subsequent changes, will be overseen and enforced by ICANN.

ICANN has not yet responded to these inquiries and it does not expect to do so until Thursday.

The fact is that ICANN has for a long time said that it does not intend to allow any applicant to make any material changes to their applications after submission. This was to avoid gaming.

It has since relaxed that view somewhat, by introducing a change request mechanism that has so far processed about 30 changes, some of which (such as .dotafrica and .banque) were highly material.

Whether ICANN will extend this process to allow applicants to significantly alter their applications in order to calm the fears of governments remains to be seen.

Whatever happens this even, many new gTLD applicants are entering unknown territory.

Company files for injunction against 189 new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, October 12, 2012, Domain Registries

Alternate root player Name.Space has sued ICANN for trademark infringement and anti-competitive behavior, saying “insiders” have conspired to keep it out of the new gTLD program.

If successful, the suit would prevent dozens of new gTLD applicants from having their applications approved.

The lawsuit, filed in California this week, follows a warning the company fired at ICANN this March.

While only ICANN is named as a defendant, the suit alleges that the new gTLD program was crafted by and is dominated by “ICANN insiders” and “industry titans”.

It wants an injunction preventing ICANN delegating any of the 189 gTLD strings that it claims it has rights to.

It also fingers several current and former ICANN directors, including current and former chairs Steve Crocker and Peter Dengate Thrush, over their alleged conflicts of interest.

Name.Space has been operating 482 diverse TLDs — such as .news, .sucks, and .mail — in a lightly used alternate root system since 1996.

Most people can’t access these zones and are unaware that they exist.

The company applied to have 118 of these strings added to the root in ICANN’s “proof of concept” gTLD expansion in 2000, when the application fee was $50,000, but was unsuccessful.

Now, the company claims the new gTLD program is “an attack on name.space’s business model and a mean by which to create and maintain market power in the TLD markets”.

The complaint (pdf) states:

Rather than adopting a procedure to account for the pending 2000 Application and facilitate the expansion of TLD providers in the DNS, ICANN has adopted a procedure so complex and expensive that it once again effectively prohibited newcomers from competing. It instead has permitted participation solely by ICANN insiders and industry titans.

If it had applied for all 118 again in this year’s round, it would have cost almost $22 million (though it would have qualified for an $83,000 discount on a single bid).

Name.Space is asking for damages and an injunction preventing ICANN from approving 189 gTLDs that match those it currently operates in its alternate root.

The full list of affected applications is attached to the complaint.

Congressmen say new gTLDs need more comments

Kevin Murphy, August 8, 2012, Domain Policy

Senior members of the US Congress have asked ICANN to prove that it’s giving the internet community enough opportunity to comment on its 1,930 new gTLD applications.

A letter from the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate judiciary committees sent to ICANN yesterday basically implies rather heavily that, again, ICANN’s new gTLD program outreach sucks.

Sens. Leahy and Grassley, and Reps. Smith and Conyers write:

many members of the public outside the ICANN community are unaware that the New gTLD program is underway. Of those who are aware, few know about the public comment process or comprehend that their opportunity to participate in this forum is scheduled to end in less than a week.

Probably not coincidentally, the letter comes soon after requests for more time to comment from the Association of National Advertisers and the Intellectual Property Constituency.

The IPC wants another 30-45 days added to the comment period, which is currently set to close — at least for comments that will be forwarded to evaluators — this Sunday.

The Leahy letter highlights the need for comment on “potentially sensitive names like ‘.church’, ‘.kids’, and ‘.sucks'”, which should be a cause for concern for at least seven gTLD applicants.

Given who’s pulling the strings here, it’s not surprising that the letter also highlights the demands from IP interests for stronger rights protection mechanisms, such as a permanent Trademark Clearinghouse service.

They write:

ICANN’s current policy only requires the Clearinghouse to be available for the first 60 days after a registry launches. Moreover, the Clearinghouse will only give notice when someone registers a website that is identical to a trademark; not when the website contains the trademark in a varied form.

As an example, this means that a nonprofit such as the YMCA will receive notice only if a user registers a website such as www.yrnca.give or www.ymca.charity within the first 60 days of the “.give” or” .charity” registry. The YMCA would not receive notice if a person registers those names after 60 days, or if someone registers a closely related name such as www.ymcaDC.charity.

(To which I add, as an aside: and what if Intel wants to register www.buymcafee.shop?)

I think the Congressmen/ANA/IPC have a point, anyway, at least about the lack of commenting from people outside the tightly knit ICANN community.

A lot of data was released on Reveal Day, and much more has been released since.

There are 1,930 new gTLD applications.

The public portions weigh in at almost 400 MB in HTML format and generally run to between 15,000 and 50,000 words apiece.

The 20,000 published application attachments (which MD5 hashing reveals comprise close to 3,000 unique files) are currently taking up about 6 GB of space on the DI PRO server (where subscribers can cross-reference them to see which files show up in which applications).

It’s a lot to read.

That must be at least part of the reason there hasn’t been a single community-based objection comment about Google’s single-registrant .blog application yet.

For me, that’s the benchmark as to whether anyone in the real world is paying attention to this program.

I mean, seriously: no bloggers are concerned about Google using .blog as an exclusive promo tool for its third-rate blogging platform?

What’s worrying the Congressmen is that ICANN’s expensive Independent Objector is not allowed to object to an application unless there’s been at least one negative comment about it

The IO can file community-based objections on behalf of those who cannot afford to do it themselves, but it’s not at all clear yet what the cut-off date for the IO to discover these comments is.

Hopefully, when ICANN reveals its proposed evaluation timetable this week, some of these questions will be answered.

Momentous’ .sucks bid “about creating dialogue”

The CEO of Momentous’ .sucks new gTLD applicant reckons smart brands will embrace the cheeky concept.

I chatted to John Berard, CEO of Momentous subsidiary Vox Populi Registry, this afternoon for a piece in The Register, and he reckons .sucks isn’t the money-grubbing scam many people will say it is.

“If some people think this is just a way to get registration money out of corporations, then those people are either unaware or are being short-sighted about their marketing effectiveness,” he said.

Berard believes smart companies nowadays are embracing social media interactions as a way to improve their marketing, and that .sucks will be a way to facilitate that.

That said, the policies governing .sucks are still not clear.

Momentous is also applying for .design, .rip and .style.

Five amusing Twitter accounts to follow

Kevin Murphy, January 29, 2012, Gossip

One of the good things about Twitter is that there’s no Whois (yet), which makes it fertile ground for pseudonymous humor.

Here are the five bogus domain humor tweeters I find amusing.

No, before you ask, none of these are me. I’ve only written one thing under a fake identity since I launched DI.

@BobRecstrum

Bob tweets in-character as a “heightened” version of ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom.

He’s basically a globe-trotting narcissist hippy with delusions of grandeur and an obsessive penchant for taking panoramic iPhone photos of himself shaking hands with world leaders.

His avatar, inexplicably, is Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Bob Recstrum

@thereforeICANN

This account, which usually offers a satirical view of ICANN proceedings, typically peaks during its thrice-yearly public meetings.

Whoever is responsible for this account has clearly been around ICANN for a while – s/he goes to the meetings, reads the web site, and knows what’s coming before it happens.

@dns_borat

This one’s for the geeks. Imagine everyone’s favorite Kazakhstani roving reporter, but he’s a DNS administrator.

That’s pretty much it really.

@DotSucks

This account was only created in the last few days. I’d hazard a guess that it has links to the adult entertainment industry, due to the obvious anti-.xxx sentiment on display.

The premise, of course, is that new gTLDs are basically a massive shakedown. Shows promise.

(I’ll note that the first time I heard of .sucks back in 2000 when it was floated by then-chair of ICANN Esther Dyson, ironically now one of the new gTLD program’s highest-profile critics.)

@domainhumor

This one is slightly different for two reasons: 1) I know who it is. 2) He/she has not tweeted much funny stuff lately.

I follow it in the hope that this might change one day.

Five killer TLDs nobody wants (and five rubbish ones)

Kevin Murphy, September 1, 2010, Domain Registries

Not including the incumbents, there are roughly 130 known new top-level domain applicants at the moment, covering everything from music to sport to health.

While several would-be TLDs, such as .gay and .eco, are known to have multiple applicants, there are some no-brainer strings that so far no company has staked a claim on.

Here’s five, off the top of my head.

.blog

Apparently there are something like 400 million active blogs on the internet today. And that’s just in the English language. I’ll take 1% of that, thanks.

.sex/.porn

We may already have .xxx by the time the first application round opens, but that’s no reason to prevent the porn industry taking its fate into its own hands and applying for either of these strings.

Both of these potential TLDs are category killers, moreso than .xxx. According to Google’s keyword tool, [sex] and [porn] each get 24.9 million searches per month, compared to 20.4 million for [xxx].

Yes, it will add even more defensive registrations costs, but it could be run on a cheap-as-chips basis, with free grandfathering, and without the expensive policy oversight body that they all seem to hate so much.

.sucks

The only UDRP-proof TLD. No sunrises, no trademark worries, just tens of thousands of disgruntled former employees happily slandering away.

That’s the theory, anyway. To be more mercenary, this is the one TLD guaranteed to make millions in defensive registrations alone.

Esther Dyson said she liked the idea back in 2000, and I agree with her. The internet needs a renewed dose of anarchic freedom of speech.

.poker

Online poker is worth billions. The term [poker] attracts far more interest than [casino], some 20 million searches per month, according to Google.

The value of the landrush auctions alone would be enough of an incentive for a registry to apply for .poker. Registration fees could also be set pretty high.

And, for balance, five rubbish TLDs.

Again, I’m not talking about guaranteed flops that have already been announced (.royal anyone?), but rather the TLDs that appear attractive at first look, but would, in my humble opinion, almost certainly fail hard.

.book

Sure, every year something like 400,000 books are published in the UK and US, but how many of them really get marketed to the extent that they need their own web site? Very few, I suspect.

And if you’re planning on using the TLD to sell books, good luck trying to train the world out of the Amazon mindset.

.kids

A legal nightmare, requiring a bloated policy oversight body to make sure all content is kid-friendly, which is pretty much impossible when nobody can even agree what a kid is.

You need look no further than the spectacularly unsuccessful government-mandated .kids.us effort to see what a waste of time a .kids would be. It has fewer domains than .arpa.

Still, it kept the politicians happy.

.news

A smaller market than you’d think. Google News only sources from about 25,000 publications, and only 4,500 of those are in English. How many will want to make the switch to a new TLD?

I’d say a .news TLD would struggle to hit six figures.

.secure

No, it isn’t. This is the internet.

A .secure TLD would be a PR nightmare from launch day to its inevitable firey death six months later.

.any-fad-technology

Back in 2000, there was an application for .wap. Really. It almost makes .mobi look like a good idea.

Pretty much no technology is immune from this rule. You can’t build a sustainable business on a string that’s likely to be tomorrow’s Betamax. Even the humble DVD has a shelf life.