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How .pw signed up more launch registrars than .xxx

Kevin Murphy, February 12, 2013, Domain Registries

Directi has signed up more registrars for its launch of the .pw top-level domain than .xxx managed a year ago, crediting pricing and “operating in new gTLD mode” for its progress.

Sandeep Ramchandani, business head of .pw at the company, said that over 90 registrars are currently accredited. That’s compared to the about 80 that ICM Registry launched .xxx with in December 2011.

The ccTLD for the tiny nation of Palau (pop. 20,956), .pw isn’t what you’d call an intrinsically exciting string, despite Directi’s attempt to rebrand it as “Professional Web”, making its relatively strong launch channel a bit of a head-scratcher.

The fact that Directi also runs registrar-in-a-box provider LogicBoxes has helped it add some registrars, no doubt.

But Ramchandani reckons a combination of low pricing, open registration policies, a focus on developing markets, and attractive registrar incentives, are helping the TLD gain channel traction.

“There’s going to be a massive shift in power from registries to registrars,” he said. “We’re basically operating .pw in the new gTLD mode.”

I had assumed that many registrars might have wanted to plug in to .pw in order to ease the need for integration work with Directi’s registry if/when the company launches the 30-odd gTLD it has applied for, but Ramchandani pointed out that this is not the case.

The company is using CentralNic as the back-end for .pw, but it’s signed up to use ARI Registry Services for its gTLDs.

“This is not something related to our gTLD business, because we’re working off a completely different platform,” Ramchandani said.

But with the imminent launch of new gTLDs, there’s recently been an increased industry focus on how registrars should be paying their registry fees. Typically, they prepay each TLD registry before they sell domains to registrants, tying up capital that they could be using for other purposes.

That model may work in a world of 1,700 registrars and 18 gTLDs, but it will become increasingly cumbersome and uneconomical for registrars as the number of TLDs approaches 1,000.

Some say it will make more sense for registries to scrap the prepay model, if they want to attract more registrars.

While Directi has stopped short of offering blanket post-pay to its registrars, Ramchandani said it will offer the model in some cases (unlike ICANN-contracted gTLDs, .pw has leeway to treat registrars differently).

“We will be asking for prepayment, but if a registrar is doing significant volume… If they feel they’re blocking a lot of capital and require a more convenient and flexible model we could offer post-payment,” he said. “But it’s not something we can offer every registrar.”

It’s also offering what it says is a more attractive way of handling promotional pricing.

Typically, if a gTLD registry runs a pricing promotion today it will rebate its registrars the difference between the promo price and the regular fee monthly or quarterly based on their sales volumes.

Ramchandani said the .pw model is more attractive to registrars: “With our programs, we will charge the discounted amount up-front, as opposed to charging the full amount and rebating later.”

“We will be coming up with some very, very aggressive promotions that will bring down the first-year registration cost a lot,” he added.

In contrast to SX Registry’s .sx (for the new nation of Sint Maarten), which is launching with prices of around $50 a year, Directi is selling .pw domains with a registry fee “sub-.com” before discounts.

Exact registry pricing for .pw domains has not been publicly disclosed, and Ramchandani declined to give out that information, but given current .com prices we can estimate a ceiling of about $7.85.

Directi reckons the low prices will drive volumes in developing markets, such as its native India.

The .pw launch is currently in the last few days of sunrise — which like so many other recent sunrise periods has been extended to cope with last-minute filings — during which trademark holders can defensively register their brands as domain names for a higher fee.

Not ever registrar is participating in sunrise; eNom, for example, which is .pw’s biggest registrar signing to date, does not plan to get involved until landrush.

Directi has something interesting planned for landrush, which begins next Monday, too.

According to Ramchandani, the registry will release and promote a list of unreserved “premium” domains that are available for registration during the landrush period.

This is slightly different to the standard registry practice of holding back premiums for auction. The names .pw will promote will not be “reserved”, they’ll just be examples of decent strings picked out of the available pool.

Each could technically be sold for the basic landrush fee if only one registrant attempts to register them. In practice, due to the promotion, there’s a higher likelihood of the domains going to auction, however.

“We’re making available a much larger set of premium names during landrush,” Ramchandani said. “We think it will help raise awareness to say: ‘Hey, these are the top picks.'”

“Since those names are generally reserved by the registry, we think it’s important to say: these are available,” he added.

The full list of registrars participating in .pw’s launch is available here.

Directi is promoting those registrars that have committed some marketing resources to the TLD, such as by creating dedicated landing pages.

It has not yet signed up Go Daddy, which is typically responsible for a quarter or more of all sales in gTLDs it sells, but Ramchandani said he expects more “top five” registrars to follow eNom in supporting .pw soon.

Frank Schilling’s Uniregistry gets accredited as a registrar

Kevin Murphy, February 5, 2013, Domain Registrars

Portfolio new gTLD applicant Uniregistry has taken the first step towards bringing its proposed new gTLDs to market by getting accredited as a registrar by ICANN.

Uniregistrar Corp shares its Cayman Islands address with Uniregistry.

The company’s web site states:

Uniregistrar is a new ICANN accredited registrar designed to let you create domain names in the new top level domain extensions offered by Uniregistry.

Beginning in 2014 anyone will be able to create and manage their domain names using the simple site we plan to create here. The names offered by Uniregistrar will be shorter, clearer, easier to use and manage than the .com .net or .org names you know from the past.

Given that its IANA number does not yet appear on the official list, the accreditation must have been granted pretty recently.

Uniregistrar is already accredited to sell .asia, .biz, .com, .info, .jobs, .mobi, .name, .net, .org, .pro, .travel and .xxx names, suggesting that the company plans to sell more than just its own TLDs.

Schilling’s existing accredited registrar, iRegistry, which is used primarily (or exclusively) to manage Name Administration’s massive portfolio of domains, is only accredited in .com, .net, .org and .xxx.

Uniregistry is an applicant for 54 new gTLDs, including .auction, .sexy, .christmas and .blackfriday.

Unlike the current regime, under ICANN’s rules for new gTLDs, “vertical integration” — where a registry can own a registrar that sells domains in its TLDs — is permitted.

IFFOR targets new gTLDs with policy service

Kevin Murphy, February 1, 2013, Domain Policy

The International Foundation For Online Responsibility, which sets policy for .xxx, wants to broaden its scope and is to launch a “Policy Engine” service for new gTLD registries.

Kieren McCarthy, who has been working for IFFOR as its public participation manager for the last year, has been tapped to lead the organization too, taking over from Joan Irvine as executive director in April.

IFFOR is the sponsoring organization for .xxx, independent but created by registry manager ICM Registry as a way to demonstrate to ICANN that it planned to operate the porn gTLD responsibly.

It’s kept a bit of a low profile since .xxx launched, only emerging to distribute some small grants to worthy causes, but McCarthy says that it’s built up substantial policy-making and compliance expertise.

Now, it wants to let new gTLD registries outsource these functions to it.

“Broadly, the Policy Engine service lets gTLD applicants outsource their policy issues to an independent body,” McCarthy said.

IFFOR reckons plenty of new gTLDs will want such services, especially given the increased interest from governments in how new gTLDs are operated.

As the organization is currently set up to deal only with .xxx — it’s funded $10 a year from every .xxx sold — only three of its nine-member Policy Council are not members of the adult entertainment industry or connected to ICM.

Additionally, ICM’s general counsel is on its three-member board of directors.

But McCarthy said that the Policy Council, which also has substantial expertise in privacy, child protection and free speech issues, usually uses sub-groups to come up with its policies.

“The majority of what we do is applicable across any top-level domain,” he said.

McCarthy is the former journalist and ICANN staffer, current CEO of .nxt. When he takes over from Irvine in April, she is expected to stay around as a consultant.

New gTLD “strawman” splits community

Kevin Murphy, January 16, 2013, Domain Policy

The ICANN community is split along the usual lines on the proposed “strawman” solution for strengthening trademark protections in the new gTLD program.

Registrars, registries, new gTLD applicants and civil rights voices remain adamant that the proposals — hashed out during closed-door meetings late last year — go too far and would impose unreasonable restrictions on new gTLDs registries and free speech in general.

The Intellectual Property Constituency and Business Constituency, on the other hand, are (with the odd exception) equally and uniformly adamant that the strawman proposals are totally necessary to help prevent cybersquatting and expensive defensive registrations.

These all-too-predictable views were restated in about 85 emails and documents filed with ICANN in response to its initial public comment period on the strawman, which closed last night.

Many of the comments were filed by some of the world’s biggest brand owners — many of them, I believe, new to the ICANN process — in response to an International Trademark Association “call to action” campaign, revealed in this comment from NCS Pearson.

The strawman proposals include:

  • A compulsory 30-day heads-up window before each new gTLD starts its Sunrise period.
  • An extension of the Trademark Claims service — which alerts trademark owners and registrants when a potentially infringing domain is registered — from 60 days to 90 days.
  • A mandatory “Claims 2” service that trademark owners could subscribe to, for an additional fee, to receive Trademark Claims alerts for a further six to 12 months.
  • The ability for trademark owners to add up to 50 confusingly similar strings to each of their Trademark Clearinghouse records, provided the string had been part of a successful UDRP complaint.
  • A “Limited Preventative Registration” mechanism, not unlike the .xxx Sunrise B, which would enable trademark owners to defensively register non-resolving domains across all new gTLDs for a one-off flat fee.

Brand owners fully support all of these proposals, though some companies filing comments complained that they do not go far enough to protect them from defensive registration costs.

The Limited Preventative Registration proposal was not officially part of the strawman, but received many public comments anyway (due largely to INTA’s call-to-action).

The Association of National Advertisers comments were representative:

an effective LPR mechanism is the only current or proposed RPM [Rights Protection Mechanism] that addresses the critical problem of defensive registrations in the new Top Level Domain (gTLD) approach. LPR must be the key element of any meaningful proposal to fix RPMs.

Others were concerned that the extension to Trademark Claims and proposed Claims 2 still didn’t go far enough to protect trademark rights.

Lego, quite possibly the most aggressive enforcer of its brand in the domain name system, said that both time limits are “arbitrary” and called for Trademark Claims to “continue indefinitely”.

It’s pretty clear that even if ICANN does adopt the strawman proposals in full, it won’t be the end of the IP community’s lobbying for even stronger trademark protections.

On the other side of the debate, stakeholders from the domain name industry are generally happy to embrace the 30-day Sunrise notice period (many will be planning to do this in their pre-launch marketing anyway).

A small number also appear to be happy to extend Trademark Claims by a month. But on all the other proposals they’re clear: no new rights protection mechanisms.

There’s a concern among applicants that the strawman proposals will lead to extra costs and added complexity that could add friction to their registrar and reseller channel and inhibit sales.

The New TLD Applicant Group, the part of the Registries Constituency representing applicants for 987 new gTLDs, said in its comments:

because the proposals would have significant impact on applicants, the applicant community should be supportive before ICANN attempts to change such agreements and any negative impacts must be mitigated by ICANN.

There’s a concern, unstated by NTAG in its comments, that many registrars will be reluctant to carry new gTLDs at launch if they have to implement more temporary trademark-protection measures.

New registries arguably also stand to gain more in revenue than they lose in reputation if trademark owners feel they have to register lots of domains defensively. This is also unstated.

NTAG didn’t say much about the merits of the strawman in it comments. Along with others, its comments were largely focused on whether the changes would be “implementation” or “policy”, saying:

There can be no doubt that the strawman proposal represents changes to policy rather than implementation of decided policy.

If something’s “policy”, it needs to pass through the GNSO and its Policy Development Process, which would take forever and have an uncertain outcome. Think: legislation.

If it’s “implementation”, it can be done rather quickly via the ICANN board. Think: executive decision.

It’s becoming a bit of a “funny cause it’s true” in-joke that policy is anything you don’t want to happen and implementation is anything you do.

Every comment that addresses policy vs implementation regarding the strawman conforms fully to this truism.

NTAG seems to be happy to let ICANN mandate the 30-day Sunrise heads-up, for example, even though it would arguably fit into the definition of “policy” it uses to oppose other elements of the strawman.

NTAG, along with other commenters, has rolled out a “gotcha” mined from a letter then-brand-new ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade sent to the US Congress last September.

In the letter, Chehade said: “ICANN is not in a position to unilaterally require today an extension of the 60-day minimum length of the trademark claims service.”

I’m not sure how much weight the letter carries, however. ICANN could easily argue that its strawman negotiations mean any eventual decision to extend Claims was not “unilateral”.

As far as members of the the IPC and BC are concerned, everything in the strawman is implementation, and the LPR proposal is nothing more than an implementation detail too.

The Coalition for Online Accountability, which represents big copyright holders and has views usually in lock-step with the IPC, arguably put it best:

The existing Rights Protection Mechanisms, which the Strawman Solution and the LPR proposal would marginally modify, are in no way statements of policy. The RPMs are simply measures adopted to implement policies calling for the new gTLD process to incorporate respect for the rights (including the intellectual property rights) of others. None of the existing RPMs is the product of a PDP. They originated in an exercise entitled the Implementation Recommendation Team, formed at the direction of the ICANN Board to recommend how best to implement existing policies. It defies reason to assert that mechanisms instituted to implement policy cannot now be modified, even to the minimal extent provided in the current proposals, without invoking the entire PDP apparatus.

Several commenters also addressed the process used to create the strawman.

The strawman emerged from a closed-doors, invitation-only event in Los Angeles last November. It was so secretive that participants were even asked not to tweet about it.

You may have correctly inferred, reading previous DI coverage, that this irked me. While I recognize the utility of private discussions, I’m usually in favor of important community meetings such as these being held on the public record.

The fact that they were held in private instead has already led to arguments among even those individuals who were in attendance.

During the GNSO Council’s meeting December 20 the IPC representative attempted to characterize the strawman as a community consensus on what could constitute mere implementation changes.

He was shocked — shocked! — that registrars and registries were subsequently opposed to the proposals.

Not being privy to the talks, I don’t know whether this rhetoric was just amusingly naive or an hilariously transparent attempt to capitalize on the general ignorance about what was discussed in LA.

Either way, it didn’t pass my sniff test for a second, and contracted parties obviously rebutted the IPC’s take on the meeting.

What I do know is that this kind of pointless, time-wasting argument could have been avoided if the talks had happened on the public record.

The 100% Porn-Free Top 10 DI Stories You Should Have Been Reading In 2012.

Kevin Murphy, January 2, 2013, Gossip

Happy New Year everyone.

It’s time for the now-traditional round-up of the last year’s biggest DI stories, but this year it’s going to be a little different.

Having perused the traffic logs for the last 12 months, it’s pretty clear that the Top 10 stories for 2012 would be about 90% porn-related.

The list is all “YouPorn this” and “.xxx that”, with dishonorable mentions for stories about “Hot Czech girls” and photos of Go Daddy girls’ bottoms.

It’s sad, but perhaps inevitable, that sex-related stories seem to appeal to a wider readership than the more chaste variety. Residual search traffic also seems to linger for longer with these pieces.

Traffic logs are a rubbish way to gauge the importance of a story.

So I’ve ignored all that guff in this year’s rundown. With apologies to Manwin and ICM Registry, here’s the hand-picked 100% Porn-Free Top 10* DI Stories You Should Have Been Reading In 2012.

(* More than 10)

The New gTLD Program Splutters Into Life

Our Word Of The Year for 2012 is “glitch”.

With hindsight, ICANN chairman Steve Crocker is probably regretting saying in a New Year email to colleagues, “I am confident the program is well constructed and will run smoothly.”

And with hindsight, I’m regretting not being more skeptical in my January 3 article, ICANN chair says new gTLD program “will run smoothly”.

A week later, ICANN started to accept new gTLD applications (ICANN opens new gTLD program) and the TLD Application System at first did appear to run more or less smoothly, but it didn’t last long.

By early February the first “glitches” were emerging (New gTLD applications briefly vanish after glitch) and by April the TAS had completely imploded.

As the application window was just about to close April 30, ICANN shut down TAS, saying that a “technical glitch” had led to “unusual behavior” (ICANN extends new gTLD application window after technical glitch)

It turned out that a bug in ICANN’s custom-made TAS software had allowed some applicants to see other applicants’ applications (It’s worse than you thought: TAS security bug leaked new gTLD applicant data)

Over 100 applicants were affected (TAS bug hit over 100 new gTLD applicants) but the damage appears so far to have been limited to ICANN’s reputation and the cost to applicants of over a month’s delay (TAS reopens after humiliating 40 days) while the bug was being fixed.

Wow. How Many Applications?

By the time Reveal Day rolled around in June, tensions were high.

Moderating a panel discussion during the live London event (Big Reveal confirmed for London), I got my hands on a print-out of the list of gTLD applications half an hour before it was released publicly.

In hard copy, it was thick enough to choke a horse.

There were 1,930 applications in total (It’s Reveal Day and there are 1,930 new gTLD bids), largely made up of English keywords and Western dot-brands, with not as much representation from the developing world or non-Latin scripts as ICANN had hoped.

While we’d long expected big portfolio bids from the likes of Donuts (Donuts applies for 307 (yes, 307) gTLDs), Uniregistry (Schilling applies for “scores” of new gTLDs) and TLDH, Amazon and Google were the surprise big applicants, facing off on several prime keywords.

When it became clear that both companies were planning to keep huge swathes of real estate private, using the dot-brand model with dictionary words (Most new gTLDs could be closed shops), a controversy was set in motion that has not yet been resolved (Industry objection forming to Google and Amazon’s keyword gTLD land grab).

Digital Archery misses the target

By far the year’s weirdest rolling story was the creation, deployment, failure and death of Digital Archery, ICANN’s whacky way of splitting new gTLD applications into evaluation batches.

Applicants would have to take their chances with network latency, clicking a button on a web page and hoping ICANN’s servers received the ping as close to a target time as possible, as we revealed in March (Here’s how new gTLD batching will work).

The system was branded “Digital Archery” (ICANN approves “digital archery” gTLD batching). It later transpired that the ICANN board was warned that it looked absurd (Digital archery looked “silly” but had “minor risks”, ICANN board was told).

Several companies quickly seized on the opportunity to make a bit of cash from the process, leveraging years of drop-catching experience (Pool.com offers $25k gTLD digital archery service).

But opposition to the system quickly grew, with several companies openly wondering whether Digital Archery was any better than the illegal lottery it was supposed to replace.

(See Revolt brewing over digital archery and ARI: digital archery is a lottery and we can prove it, Is this why digital archery is borked?

Despite beginning Digital Archery, by June the process had been suspended (Digital archery suspended, surely doomed) and finally killed off (Digital archery is dead, but uncertainties remain).

Roll up! Roll up!

Archery was replaced by a lottery, in one of the most surprising about-faces of the year.

Apparently prize draws were not illegal under Californian law after all, clearing the way for a widely lauded chance-based solution to the prioritization problem (New gTLD winners will be decided by lottery after all).

And what do you know… it worked. At least, nobody has yet publicly complained about the New gTLD Prioritization Draw, which took place in LA a couple of weeks ago. (Amazon, Uniregistry, Verisign… here’s who won the new gTLDs lottery)

Conflicts Over Conflicts Of Interest

The repercussions of Peter Dengate Thrush’s 2011 move from ICANN’s chair to a top job at Top Level Domain Holdings continued in 2012, with paranoia over conflicts of interest rife.

This was the year in which ICANN made serious efforts to avoid even the perception of conflicts of interest on its board of directors (Seven ICANN directors have new gTLD conflicts) by starting up a New gTLD Program Committee stacked with non-conflicted individuals.

Despite this move, other questions were raised over the course of the year about the relationship between directors on the committee and new gTLD applicants (Another conflicted ICANN director? and Ombudsman asks DCA to simmer down after .africa conflict of interest complaint).

CEO Rod Beckstrom even used his penultimate ICANN meeting keynote to take a pop at his fellow directors (Beckstrom slams his own board over conflicts) over the poorly perceived ethics environment.

But it didn’t take long before many community members started to question the value of excluding industry expertise from the new gTLD committee, a view given weight by the fact that one of the committee’s first decisions was approving Digital Archery.

To the disappointment of many, even recently promoted new gTLD program overseer Kurt Pritz fell victim to the paranoia over clashes, tendering his resignation in November after fessing up to a personal conflict of interest (Pritz’s conflict of interest was with ARI).

To cap it all, concern about conflicts led to one GNSO Council member accidentally torpedoing his own client’s interests (albeit temporarily) when he abstained from a November vote. (GNSO gives thumbs down to Olympic trademark protections in shock vote).

The Death of the GNSO

Worries about the decreasing relevance of the Generic Names Supporting Organization were aired a few times in 2012, pretty much every time the brand protection side of the house locked horns with non-commercial interests.

At the Costa Rica meeting in March, all of the unnecessary but politically valuable work that the GNSO had put into giving the Red Cross and International Olympic Committee special brand protection seemed to come to naught due to Non-Commercial User Constituency shenanigans (Olympic showdown spells doom for ICANN, film at 11).

While the storm was very much of the teacup variety (The Olympics and the death of the GNSO, part deux), more recent apparent attempts by ICANN executives and the GAC to do end-runs around the GNSO have started to raise many of the same concerns.

Too sluggish to react to the industry? Too complicated to function? Interests too entrenched for compromise? The “death of the GNSO” is a meme that is stronger than ever as we head into 2013.

Change at the top

In June, the industry mourned the departure of Bob Recstrum, Twitter’s premier ICANN spoof account.

In related news, Rod Beckstrom grew a beard and fucked off on his yacht or something, two million dollars the richer, leaving ICANN with interregnum leadership awaiting his successor.

After spending six months filtering through 100 applicants (ICANN gets 100 applicants for CEO job) for the lucrative if stressful position, ICANN’s board settled on the industry outsider Fadi Chehade, whose special skill is consensus building.

Chehade impressed on his first day by cleverly hiring two of the unsuccessful CEO candidates as special advisers, as he explained in an interview with DI (Fadi Chehade starts at ICANN today, immediately shakes up senior management)

As well as wowing the ICANN community by saying all the right things in his inaugural keynote, he has also since managed to successfully win over critics of ICANN in national governments and the International Telecommunications Union (Unsnubbed? ICANN brass get tickets to ITU curtain-raiser), demonstrating his chops when it comes to big picture stuff.

But the recent outcry over two secretive meetings relating to the Trademark Clearinghouse — along with more delays to the new gTLD program — suggests that the honeymoon period for Chehade is probably already over.

Verisign gets whacked by Commerce

The US government dealt a serious blow to Verisign at the back end of the year, capping its .com registry fee at current rates — barring highly improbably eventualities — for the next six years (Verisign loses right to increase .com prices).

While ICANN took a reputational hit — having approved a .com contract (ICANN gives Verisign’s .com contract the nod_ with 7% annual price increases — it got to keep the extra fees Verisign will pay it (ICANN to get $8 million more from new .com deal).

And the rest…

ICANN staffer linked to hacked intelligence firm — ICANN’s Eastern European VP Veni Markowski was fingered as an informant for an American intelligence firm, which described him as a “billionaire oligarch” with ties to organized crime, by the Bulgarian media. The reality, in my view, was rather less exciting.

Refunds uncertain as .nxt says sorry for cancellation — Many members of the industry were left fuming when the .nxt conference on new gTLDs, scheduled for London last summer, was cancelled twice and the organizers had trouble refunding registration fees.

Company claims ownership of 482 new gTLDs — ICANN’s past returned to haunt it in the second half of the year, as two new gTLD applicants from the 2000 round emerged to sue the organization for not returning its calls for the last 12 years.

O.co loses 61% of its traffic to O.com — Overstock’s ambitious rebranding around a .co domain failed to pay off. This story is a particular favorite citation of .com domain investor Rick Schwartz.

.radio gTLD applicant joins the GAC — The European Broadcasting Union applied for .radio, competing against three other applicants, then joined the Governmental Advisory Committee to give it special lobbying access to the GAC and its special gTLD objection powers (GAC gets more power to block controversial gTLDs). Conflict of interest?

“Whistleblower” accuses Nominet of trying to dodge freedom of information law — In what has to be the biggest case of disgruntled former employee in years, Nominet’s former policy chief spilled the beans about the company’s alleged plot to sell out .uk to the UK government in order to keep it out of the hands of domainers.

Newbie domain registrant discovers Whois, has Twitter meltdown — I deleted the quoted tweets after receiving a handful of insane emails from the newbie in question, so you’ll have to use your imagination.

ICANN’s secret “penthouse-level” domain program — Because April Fools Day stories are always fun to write.

NTIA throws a bomb, cancels IANA contract RFP — The US government’s other big surprise of the year was making ICANN kneel and beg for the renewal of its critical IANA contract. This story, incidentally, was the most-trafficked of 2012.

Apart from all the porn, that is.

gTLD Objector says .sex, .gay, .wtf are all okay

Kevin Murphy, December 26, 2012, Domain Policy

The Independent Objector for ICANN’s new gTLD program has given a preliminary nod to applications for .sex, .gay, .wtf and six other potentially “controversial” applied-for strings.

Alain Pellet this week told applicants for these gTLDs that he does not expect to file objections against their bids, despite an outpouring of public comments against them.

The strings given the okay are .adult, .gay, .hot, .lgbt, persiangulf, .porn .sex .sexy, and .wtf.

A total of 15 applications have been submitted for these strings. Some, such as .gay with four applicants, are contested. Others, such as .wtf and .porn, are not.

The IO is limited to filing objections on two rather tightly controlled grounds: Limited Public Interest (where the bid would violate international law) and Community (where a community would be disenfranchised).

For each of the nine strings, Pellet has decided that neither type of objection is warranted.

In his preliminary finding on .gay and .lgbt, he also noted that to file an objection “could be held incompatible with the obligation of States not to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity which is emerging as a norm”.

As part of a lengthy analysis of the international legal position on homosexuality, De Pellet wrote:

even though the IO acknowledges that homosexuality can be perceived as immoral in some States, there is no legal norm that would transcribe such a value judgment at the international level. Thus, the position of certain communities on the issue is not relevant in respect to the IO’s possibility to object to an application on the limited public interest ground.

For the porn-related applications, Pellet noted that any bid for a gTLD promoting child abuse material would certainly be objected to, but that ICANN has received no such application.

On .wtf, which received many public comments because it’s an acronym including profanity, Pellet observed that freedom of expression is sacred under international law.

He regarded the problem of excessive defensive registrations — as raised by the Australian government in the recent wave of Governmental Advisory Committee early warnings — is outside his remit.

Pellet’s findings, which I think will be welcomed by most parts of the ICANN community, are not unexpected.

Limited Public Interest Objection, originally known as the Morality and Public Order Objection, had been put forward in the wake of the approval of .xxx in 2010 as a way for governments to bring their national laws to bear on the DNS.

But it was painstakingly defanged by the Generic Names Supporting Organization in order to make it almost impossible for it to be used as a way to curb civil rights.

The GAC instead shifted its efforts to the GAC Advice on New gTLDs objection, which enables individual governments to submit objections vicariously based on their own national interest.

Pellet’s findings — which are preliminary but seem very unlikely to be reversed — can be read in full on his web site.

ICM seizes on Google’s porn algorithm change

Kevin Murphy, December 14, 2012, Domain Registries

Grasping the opportunity for a bit of easy publicity, ICM Registry has seized upon a recent Google algorithm change to promote its .xxx gTLD’s brand.

It was reported earlier this week that Google has made it harder to accidentally stumble across sexually explicit imagery in Google Images by making its Safe Search filtering mandatory in the US.

The company defended itself from cries of censorship by pointing out that porn could still be found, as long as you are a bit more “explicit” about what it is you’re looking for, telling CNet:

If you’re looking for adult content, you can find it without having to change the default setting — you just may need to be more explicit in your query if your search terms are potentially ambiguous.

Now ICM is plugging .xxx as a “workaround” to this problem, saying in a press release today:

one can simply type a description of whatever porn one wants into any search bar followed by the letters “XXX.” Results are instant and on target. For example, if one is looking for adult content that includes a mainstream generic word like “Toys,” simply enter the search term “Toys XXX” and problem solved.

ZDNet gave similar advice in an article this week, and ICM says that traffic to its own search engine, search.xxx, saw a 50% spike in the last 24 hours as a result.

Could this be a portent for changes in user search behavior in the age of niche new gTLDs?

YouPorn owner arrested in tax evasion probe

Kevin Murphy, December 10, 2012, Domain Registries

YouPorn owner and regular ICM Registry antagonist Fabian Thylmann has reportedly been arrested in Belgium in connection with a German tax evasion investigation.

He was taken into custody at Brussels airport today under a warrant from the Cologne District Court, according to German daily Die Welt.

Thylmann is the owner — some say nominally so — of Manwin Licensing, the online porn empire behind brands such as YouPorn, Brazzers and, under license, Playboy.

Manwin sued ICANN and ICM late last year over the .xxx gTLD, saying it violates US antitrust laws, charges which are denied.

The company is also engaged in an ICANN Independent Review Panel procedure over the same issues.

ICM says that the lawsuit, and a related boycott, are merely attempts to disrupt its business. Thylmann, the company claims, offered to invest in ICM but was rebuffed.

According to Die Welt, Manwin’s German headquarters was raided last Tuesday as part of an ongoing tax evasion probe, which was spurred in part by the newspaper’s own investigation into the company.

Russian iTunes Store infiltrated by .xxx banners after snafu [NSFW]

Kevin Murphy, December 5, 2012, Domain Registries

Russian iTunes users reportedly got a shock today when they discovered masses of sexually explicit content from the .xxx gTLD in their iTunes Store.

According to local reports, attempts to visit a part of the store dedicated to foreign movies displayed a bunch of banner ads for .xxx web sites instead of the expected content.

Digging a little deeper, it appears that the images were being drawn directly from xxx.xxx, a promotional directory site owned and managed by ICM Registry, the .xxx registry.

Speculation in the Apple blogs is that an iTunes Store developer inadvertently typed “xxx.xxx” somewhere as a placeholder URL, not realizing that .xxx is actually a live TLD.

There’s a lesson here for new gTLD registries somewhere, I’m sure.

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.