Tata Group is reportedly considering buying a school for the Moroccan province of Tata in order to unlock the .tata gTLD.
The huge Indian conglomerate has been prevented from acquiring its own dot-brand because it matches the name of the tiny region, which is as protected geographic string under ICANN rules.
Without the express permission of Morocco, Tata will not get its desired domain.
According to the New Indian Express newspaper, the company has now reached out to the Indian government in an attempt to open diplomatic channels with Morocco and finally resolve the issue.
The paper cites an unnamed “official” as stating that buying a new school for the province may be the best way to “open the door” to a formal non-objection.
That has precedent.
New gTLD registry Punto 2012, managed to get a non-objection for its .bar application from Montenegro by offering to pay $100,000, spread over 10 years, to fund a school in the Bar region of the country.
Tata came close to acquiring .tata in 2014.
It was the final new gTLD application to pass its evaluation, after it managed to produce a letter from Morocco that was taken as a non-objection.
But Morocco’s digital minister subsequently objected, denying that the government had permitted the use of the string.
Tata’s application was then returned to its Geographic Names Review, which it flunked last December.
Since then, the bid has been marked “Will Not Proceed”, a status that usually only changes when an application is withdrawn.
The six losing applicants for the .hotel new gTLD are collectively threatening ICANN with a second Independent Review Process action.
Together, they this week filed a Request for Reconsideration with ICANN, challenging its decision earlier this month to allow the Afilias-owned Hotel Top Level Domain Sarl application to go ahead to contracting.
HTLD won a controversial Community Priority Evaluation in 2014, effectively eliminating all rival applicants, but that decision was challenged in an IRP that ICANN ultimately won.
The other applicants think HTLD basically cobbled together a bogus “community” in order to “game” the CPE process and avoid an expensive auction.
Since the IRP decision, the six other applicants — Travel Reservations, Famous Four Media, Radix, Minds + Machines, Donuts and Fegistry — have been arguing that the HTLD application should be thrown out due to the actions of Dirk Krischenowski, a former key executive.
Krischenowski was found by ICANN to have exploited a misconfiguration in its own applicants’ portal to download documents belonging to its competitors that should have been confidential.
But at its August 9 meeting, the ICANN board noted that the timing of the downloads showed that HTLD could not have benefited from the data exposure, and that in any event Krischenowski is no longer involved in the company, and allowed the bid to proceed.
That meant the six other applicants lost the chance to win .hotel at auction and/or make a bunch of cash by losing the auction. They’re not happy about that.
It doesn’t matter that the data breach could not have aided HTLD’s application or its CPE case, they argue, the information revealed could prove a competitive advantage once .hotel goes on sale:
What matters is that the information was accessed with the obvious intent to obtain an unfair advantage over direct competitors. The future registry operator of the .hotel gTLD will compete with other registry operators. In the unlikely event that HTLD were allowed to operate the .hotel gTLD, HTLD would have an unfair advantage over competing registry operators, because of its access to sensitive business information
They also think that HTLD being given .hotel despite having been found “cheating” goes against the spirit of application rules and ICANN’s bylaws.
In that case, the panel suggested that the board should conduct more thorough, meaningful reviews of CPE decisions.
It also found that ICANN staff had been “intimately involved” in the preparation of the Dot Registry CPE decision (though not, it should be noted, in the actual scoring) as drafted by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
The .hotel applicants argue that this decision is incompatible with their own IRP, which they lost in February, where the judges found a greater degree of separation between ICANN and the EIU.
Their own IRP panel was given “incomplete and misleading information” about how closely ICANN and the EIU work together, they argue, bringing the decision into doubt.
The RfR strongly hints that another IRP could be in the offing if ICANN fails to cancel HTLD application.
The applicants also want a hearing so they can argue their case in person, and a “substantive review” of the .hotel CPE.
The HTLD application for .hotel is currently “On Hold” while ICANN sorts through the mess.
ICANN should lift the freeze on new gTLDs .mail, .home and .corp, despite fears they could cause widespread disruption, according to applicants.
Fifteen applicants for the strings wrote to ICANN last week to ask for a risk mitigation plan that would allow them to be delegated.
The three would-be gTLDs were put on hold indefinitely almost three years ago, after studies determined that they were at risk of causing far more “name collision” problems than other strings.
If they were to start resolving on the internet, the fear is they would lead to problems ranging from data leakage to systems simply stopping working properly.
Name collisions are something all new TLDs run the risk of creating, but .home, .corp and .mail are believed to be particularly risky due to the sheer number of private networks that use them as internal namespaces.
My own ISP, which has millions of subscribers, uses .home on its home hub devices, for example. Many companies use .corp and .mail on their LANs, due to longstanding advice from Microsoft and the IETF that it was safe to do so.
A 2013 study (pdf) showed that .home received almost 880 million DNS queries over a 48-hour period, while .corp received over 110 million.
That was vastly more than other non-existent TLDs.
For example, .prod (which some organizations use to mean “production”) got just 5.3 million queries over the same period, and when Google got .prod delegated two years it prompted an angry backlash from inconvenienced admins.
While .mail wasn’t quite on the same scale as the other two, third-party studies determined that it posed similar risks to .home and .corp.
All three were put on hold indefinitely. ICANN said it would ask the IETF to consider making them officially reserved strings.
Now the applicants, noting the lack of IETF movement to formally freeze the strings, want ICANN to work on a thawing plan.
“Rather than continued inaction, ICANN owes applicants for .HOME, .CORP, and .MAIL and the public a plan to mitigate any risks and a proper pathway forward for these TLDs,” the applicants told ICANN (pdf) last Wednesday.
A December 2015 study found that name collisions have occurred in new gTLDs, but that no truly serious problems have been caused.
That does not mean .home, .corp and .mail would be safe to delegate, however.
Rejected community gTLD applicant Dot Registry has waded into the lawsuit between DotConnectAfrica and ICANN.
Filing an amicus brief on Friday in support of the unsuccessful .africa applicant, Dot Registry argues that chagrined new gTLD applicants should be allowed to sue ICANN, despite the legal releases they all signed.
The company is clearly setting the groundwork for its own lawsuit against ICANN — or at least trying to give that impression.
If the two companies are successful in their arguments, it could open the floodgates for more lawsuits by pissed-off new gTLD applicants.
Dot Registry claims applicants signed overly broad, one-sided legal waivers with the assurance that alternative dispute mechanisms would be available.
However, it argues that these mechanisms — Reconsideration, Cooperative Engagement and Independent Review — are a “sham” that make ICANN’s assurances amount to nothing more than a “bait-and-switch scheme”.
Dot Registry recently won an Independent Review Process case against ICANN that challenged the adverse Community Priority Evaluation decisions on its .inc, .llc, and .llp applications.
But while the IRP panel said ICANN should pay Dot Registry’s share of the IRP costs, the applicant came away otherwise empty-handed when panel rejected its demand to be handed the four gTLDs on a plate.
The ICANN board of directors has not yet fully decided how to handle the three applications, but forcing them to auction with competing applications seems the most likely outcome.
By formally supporting DotConnectAfrica’s claim that the legal waiver both companies signed is “unconscionable”, the company clearly reckons further legal action will soon be needed.
DotConnectAfrica is suing ICANN on different grounds. Its .africa bid did not lose a CPE; rather it failed for a lack of governmental support.
But both companies agree that the litigation release they signed is not legally enforceable.
They both say that a legal waiver cannot be enforceable in ICANN’s native California if the protected party carries out fraud.
The court seems to be siding with DotConnectAfrica on this count, having thrown out motions to dismiss the case.
Dot Registry’s contribution is to point to its own IRP case as an example of how ICANN allegedly conned it into signing the release on the assumption that IRP would be able to sort out any disputes. Its court brief (pdf) states:
although claiming to provide an alternative accountability mechanism, the Release, in practice, is just a bait-and-switch scheme, offering applicants a sham accountability procedure
Indeed, the “accountability” mechanism is nothing of the sort; and, instead of providing applicants a way to challenge actions or inactions by ICANN, it gives lip-service to legitimate grievances while rubber-stamping decisions made by ICANN and its staff.
That’s an allusion to the IRP panel’s declaration, which found no evidence that ICANN’s board of directors had conducted a thorough, transparent review of Dot Registry’s complaints.
Dot Registry is being represented by the law firm Dechert. That’s the current home of Arif Ali, who represented DotConnectAfrica in its own original IRP, though Ali is not a named lawyer in the Dot Registry brief.
West.cn, the Chinese registrar that has quickly become the highest-volume seller of new gTLD domains, has turned its attention to the English-speaking market.
The company has launched a new site at West.xyz, offering domains at some of the cheapest prices available, in English.
A .com can be obtained for the equivalent of $8.25 a year, while a .xyz costs about $1.20, according to the site. In .top, names are on sale for about $0.60.
West.xyz is still pricing its names in CNY, which may be off-putting to buyers in English-speaking markets.
The quality of the translation is currently quite poor also, verging on what razy lacists know as “Engrish”.
“Wish you a good luck in deals!” the front page offers.
“We hope to let all customers invest breezily and contribute to the domain industry with unremitting efforts,” the About page reads.
“In future, west.xyz will devote itself to the healthy and sustainable domain industry development and serve all customers wholeheartedly.”
The choice of .xyz as the domain for the new site is perhaps not surprising.
West.cn is XYZ.com’s biggest-volume channel partner, and recently put $1.5 million into subsidizing .xyz renewal fees.