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Trump nominee open to retaking ICANN oversight role

Kevin Murphy, January 19, 2017, Domain Policy

The incoming head of the US Department of Commerce has indicated that it is unlikely he’ll try to reestablish the US government’s unique oversight of ICANN, at least in the short term.

But at his confirmation hearing in Congress yesterday, Trump nominee for secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross said he’d be open to ideas about how the US could increase its power over ICANN.

He was responding to a question from Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who made halting the IANA transition one of his key concerns last year.

Cruz, framing the question in such a way as to suggest ICANN is now in the hands of an intergovernmental consortium (which it is not) asked Ross whether he was committed to preventing censorious regimes using ICANN to hinder Americans’ freedom of speech.

Ross replied:

As such a big market and really as the inventors of the Internet, I’m a little surprised that we seem to be essentially voiceless in the governance of that activity. That strikes me as an intellectually incorrect solution. But I’m not aware of what it is that we actually can do right now to deal with that. If it exists, if some realistic alternative comes up, I’d be very interested.

His response also mischaracterizes the power balance post-transition.

The US is not “essentially voiceless”. Rather, it has the same voice as every other government as a member of the Governmental Advisory Committee.

Its role is arguably still a lot more powerful than other nations, given that ICANN is now bylaws-bound to remain headquartered in California and under US jurisdiction.

As head of Commerce, Ross will have authority over the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the agency most directly responsible for dealing with ICANN and domain name issues in general.

NTIA itself will to the best of my knowledge still be headed by assistant secretary Larry Strickling, who handled the IANA transition from the US government side. (UPDATE: this may not be correct)

Ross, 79, is a billionaire investor who made most of his estimated $2.5 billion fortune restructuring bankrupt companies in the coal and steel industries.

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NamesCon picks if you’re not a domainer

Kevin Murphy, January 17, 2017, Gossip

I’m not going to NamesCon this year. Scheduling conflicts, personal life, blah blah blah. You don’t need to know.

It’s a shame, as I’ve enjoyed the show in previous years and there’s usually plenty to be learned even if, like me, you’re not a domain investor.

So while I won’t be there, I thought I’d put together a list of sessions that I’d be likely to attend in my capacity as a non-domainer, if I were attending. Which I’m not.

Don’t get me wrong, I usually find the domainer-focused stuff interesting. It’s just less interesting to me because DI is not an investment tip sheet and I personally have no pony in the race.

In agenda order…

The Evolution of Domaining

This is Frank Schilling’s seemingly annual keynote, this year subtitled “A vision for the future of domaining and how we’re going to get there. The next wave of passive income generation for the savvy domainer.”

While it’s certainly got a domainer-leaning theme, the Uniregistry CEO’s speeches are often must-listen events. Schilling is usually a candid and amiable speaker.

Plus, he’s made a shedload of cash out of domains so many people hang on his every word. That’s why he’s been on the Domain Name Wire podcast 86 times.

It’s on at 10am on Monday.

Dominate the Drop: Best Practices for Successfully Acquiring Deleting Domains

Michael White from SnapNames and Jonathan Tenenbaum from Namejet promise to spill the beans about the crazy competitive drop-catching market.

I find this aspect of the industry fascinating, especially given the arms race going on between SnapNames/Namejet and its rivals at the moment.

Over half of all ICANN-accredited registrars are currently shell companies created to bulk up the dropnets of the two aforementioned companies, as well as TurnCommerce and Pheenix.

There’s clearly money in it, so I regret I’ll be missing this session.

It’s on at 11am on Monday.

Domain Monetization for Registries and Registrars

As somebody who writes a blog largely looking at the sell-side of the industry, this session title speaks to me.

It’s being held by Michael Gilmour, CEO of ParkLogic, a company I’m not particularly familiar with.

Even if it just turns out to be a sales pitch for ParkLogic, it might be interesting anyway, due to the promise to “unlock hidden value from data that is readily accessible to you”, which intrigues me as a data nerd.

It’s on at 11am on Monday too, so it clashes with the dropcatching session.

The Most Shocking UDRP Decisions of 2016

This one sounds like fun. There are few things more amusing in the domain industry than listening to domainers moan about crappy UDRP decisions.

In this session, three industry names who are no strangers to UDRP will compete to have a decision of their choice crowned the “most shocking” of the last year.

This is on at noon on Monday.

Investing in New TLDs – Making Money in the Short and Long Term

A panel of experts discuss how to make money out of new gTLDs. I think that is going to be a hard sell to a typically skeptical domainer crowd, so I’d be curious to hear what they have to say at 2pm on Monday.

NamesCon Domain Auction 2017

Live domain auctions are sometimes entertaining, but depending on the auctioneer you may need to bring ear-protectors. It’s on at 3pm.

Uniregistry After Hours Party

If you haven’t fested enough sausage yet, now’s your chance to top up, from 9pm until “late” (which in Vegas could mean midnight, 2am, 6am, or mid-February).

Christian Domainers Breakfast Buffet

I’m slightly flabbergasted that this is a thing. What is a Christian domainer, and how do they differ from non-Christian domainers?

A special prize goes to the first person to send me a photo of themselves at this event reading a hardback copy of “The God Delusion” whilst eating a free Christian pastry.

7am Tuesday.

Building a Business to Last Decades

Despite the dry title, this is Matt Muellenweg, founder of WordPress/Automattic, and I’m interested to hear what he has to say. Plus, it’s the only thing going on at 10am on Tuesday.

China Masterclass

Few things have influenced the domain name industry over the last couple of years than China. In this session, four guys who understand the market over there discuss the trends they’re seeing and expecting.

12pm Tuesday.

Will Branded TLDs Impact the Marketplace in 2017 and Beyond?

Events promising to spill the beans about how big companies plan to use the dot-brands are rarely very informative in my experience — speakers play their cards far too close to their chests — but I keep going to them anyway.

Let’s hope the Microsoft and MarkMonitor speakers have something new to add to the conversation at 2pm.

Dollars and Sense of .net

Verisign’s Pat Kane pitches .net, which has been stagnating since the launch of new gTLDs. 3pm.

DNS Industry SWOT Analysis, 2017 Edition

The “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats” for the industry according to… ICANN?

Global Domains Division head and occasional CEO Akram Atallah is the only big ICANN name speaking at this year’s NamesCon, so it’s worth checking this session out for that reason alone.

It’s on at 9.30am on Wednesday.

A Look Ahead at New TLDs

Three registries and one registrar discuss the future of new gTLDs at 11am on Wednesday.

Bloggers Broadcast: Dispatches from NamesCon 2017

An opportunity to throw things at my competitors at 12pm on Wednesday.

The Pragmatic Rebel: a Fireside Chat with Elliot Noss

Noss is one of the most engaging speakers in the industry in my view, even if the subject matter of this session is not quite up my alley. 1pm Weds.

Privacy and Your Domains

This review of domain privacy developments is right up my alley, but it also clashes with the Noss interview.

Executive Roundtable: Industry Trends Forecast for 2017

A conference roundup from four registry/registrar bigwigs closes down the conference.

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.com-dominated NamesCon auction already has one million-dollar bid

Kevin Murphy, January 17, 2017, Domain Sales

There’s still about week to go until this year’s NamesCon conference kicks off in Las Vegas, but the live auction that will close the first day of the show has already seen pre-bidding action.

One batch of domains has already received a high bid of $1,010,000, but does not appear to have yet met its reserve.

The batch is led by bar.com, but also includes bar.net, cafes.com, grill.com, place.com, pub.com and shelter.com.

Another five domains on the list, all .com names, have attracted bids in six figures, topped by the $800,000 bid for ol.com.

The list of names up for pre-bid on NameJet (100 of which will hit the live auction) is dominated by Verisign TLDs — .com, obviously, and to a lesser extent .net and .tv.

The biggest pre-bid for a 2012-round gTLD is the $1,010 currently offered for gold.club, roughly 110th on the list as ordered by current bid.

The most active new gTLD auction is currently shoes.xyz, which has 28 bidders but a top bid of just $330.

I’m not sure how much can be inferred from pre-bids, but it certainly seems that most of the money from domain investors is still being put into short, one or two-word .com domains.

The auction will begin at 1500 US Pacific Time next Monday, January 23.

The auction is being managed and promoted by Right Of The Dot and NameJet. Would-be buyers need a NameJet account to participate.

Names not sold during the live event will go to an extended auction until February 9. ROTD’s Monte Cahn said this is in order to give Chinese bidders time to bid after Chinese New Year (January 28 this year).

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Domain “slammer” making millions in Oz

Kevin Murphy, January 13, 2017, Domain Registrars

A company accused of the domain slamming scam made over $5 million over three years tricking companies into buying domains they didn’t need, it has been alleged.

Consumer Affairs Victoria, an Australian state government watchdog, has reportedly taken Domain Register Pty Ltd to court, claiming tens of thousands of people had been conned by fake invoices.

The company sent letters that appeared to be renewal notices for .com.au names, but were actually solicitations to buy the matching .com for AUD 249 ($186) a year, an Adelaide court reportedly heard.

Domain Register, which appears to be (or was) a reseller of TPP Wholesale, made AUD 7.7 million ($5.5 million) from 31,000 suckers between 2011 and 2014, according to local reports.

auDA, the .au domain registry, warned about the company as far back as 2011.

An example of a bogus invoice attributed to Domain Register can be found here.

It’s not clear whether the defendant in the case is linked to the Brandon Gray slamming outfit, which has also gone by names including Domain Registry of America, Domain Registry of Europe, Domain Registry of Canada and Domain Renewal Group.

Brandon Gray lost its ICANN accreditation in 2014.

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DCA files for ANOTHER .africa injunction

Kevin Murphy, January 11, 2017, Domain Registries

DotConnectAfrica is continuing its legal attempt to prevent the .africa gTLD from being delegated to a competitor supported by African governments.

The recalcitrant applicant has filed for another temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that would prevent ICANN handing .africa to the successful applicant, ZA Central Registry, according to ZACR.

DCA’s last application for an injunction was refused by a California judge in December, but last week it renewed its efforts to stymie the long-delayed geo.

ZACR said on its web site yesterday:

On January 4, 2017, DCA filed an ex parte (emergency) temporary restraining order (“TRO”) asking the Court to prevent ICANN from delegating .Africa to ZACR. The Court denied DCA’s ex parte request for a TRO on the grounds that there was no exigency that required an immediate ruling. The Court further clarified that the prior order denying DCA’s preliminary injunction motion was based upon all arguments submitted by ICANN and DCA (thereby rejecting DCA’s contention in its ex parte papers that the ruling did not include ZACR’s arguments). However, the Court agreed to consider DCA’s new arguments as grounds for a new motion for a preliminary injunction. DCA was given until January 6, 2017 to file its motion. ICANN and ZACR shall file opposition papers by January 18, 2017. DCA will then be given an opportunity to file a reply.

The court is scheduled to hear arguments for and against the injunction January 31, ZACR said.

In the meantime, .africa remains in limbo.

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