Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Porn.com owner buys porn.xxx

Kevin Murphy, May 22, 2013, Domain Sales

PimpRoll, a pornography publisher and owner of porn.com, has bought the domain name porn.xxx from registry manager ICM Registry, it has just been announced.
The domain is already live. The site appears to be distinct from porn.com, but PimpRoll said it plans to build another “tube” site there.
The price of the domain was not disclosed, but PimpRoll is known to have paid $9.5 million for its .com address.
I’d guess we’re talking about low six figures for the .xxx, which was reserved by ICM as a “premium” name.
ICM said in a press release that the buyer will also automatically qualify for porn.sex, porn.porn and porn.adult under ICM’s Grandfathering Program, should it be awarded those gTLDs by ICANN.

New gTLDs applicants should brace for GAC delays

Kevin Murphy, May 12, 2013, Domain Policy

New gTLD applicants affected by Governmental Advisory Committee advice may be about to find that their launch runway is quite a bit longer than they hoped.
That’s the message that seems to be coming through subtly from ICANN and the GAC itself — via last week’s applicant update webinar and GAC chair Heather Dryden — right now.
Dryden made it clear in an official ICANN interview, recorded early last week, that the GAC expects its Beijing communique to be “fully taken into account”, lest governments abandon ICANN altogether.
But at the same time she seemed to suggest that the rest of the community may have misunderstood the GAC’s intentions, due in part to the fact that its deliberations were held in private.
Here’s a slice of the interview with Brad White, ICANN’s media relations chief:

WHITE: Suppose the [ICANN] board in the end says “thank you very much for the advice, we’ve looked at it, but we’re moving on” and basically ignores a lot of that advice?
DRYDEN: I think it would be a very immediate reaction, questioning the value of participating in the Governmental Advisory Committee. If it is going to be the place for governments to come and raise their concern and influence the decision making that occurs at ICANN then we have to be able to demonstrate that the advice generated is fully taken into account or to the maximum extent appropriate taken in and in this way governments understand that the GAC is useful mechanism for them.

WHITE: What you seem to be saying is there is concern about whether or not some governments might pull out from that multi-stakeholder model?
DRYDEN: Right, right why would they come? How would they justify coming to the GAC meetings? Why would they support this model if in fact it’s there aren’t channels available to them and appropriate to their role and perspective as a government?

Under ICANN’s bylaws, the board of directors does not have to adopt GAC advice wholesale.
It is able to disagree with, and essentially overrule, the GAC, but only after they’ve tried “in good faith and in a timely and efficient manner, to find a mutually acceptable solution”.
The only time this has happened before was in February 2011, when discussions covered the final details of the new gTLD program and the imminent approval of the .xxx gTLD.
Then, the ICANN board and the GAC gathered in Brussels for two days of intense face-to-face discussions, which was followed by multiple “scorecard” drafts and follow-up talks.
It seems very likely that we’re going to see something similar for the Beijing advice, if for no other reason than the communique is vague enough that ICANN will need a lot of clarification before it acts.
So does this mean delay for new gTLD applicants? Probably.
Dryden, asked about the GAC’s agenda for the ICANN public meeting in Durban this July, said:

There may well also be aspects of safeguard advice that we would discuss further with the board or with the community or would need to, particularly the implementation aspects of some of the new safeguards that the GAC identified.

The “safeguard” advice is the large section of the Beijing communique that attempts to impose broad new obligations on over 500 new gTLDs in “regulated or professional sectors”.
Dryden appeared to acknowledge the criticism that much of the advice appears unworkable to many, saying:

The intent behind this was to provide a reminder or to reinforce the importance of preexisting obligations and the applicability of national laws and really not to impose new burdens on applicants or registrants.
However, there are measures proposed in that safeguard advice where there are real implementation questions and so we think this is a very good focus for discussions now in the community with the GAC and with the board around that particular aspect of the advice.

The safeguard advice is currently open for public comment. I outline some of the many implementation questions in this post.
White put to Dryden DI’s criticism that the communique was a “perplexing, frustrating mess” aimed at using the DNS to solve wider problems with the internet.
For example, the GAC appears to want to use ICANN contracts use introduce new ways to enforce copyrights and data security regulations, something perhaps better addressed by legislation.
She responded:

It’s really not intended to impose a new global regulatory regime. It is intended to be consistent with ICANN’s existing role and serve as a reminder to those that have applied of what is really involved with implementing if they are successful a string globally as well as really wanting to emphasize that some of those strings raise particular sensitivities for governments

So have we misunderstood the GAC’s intentions? That seems to be the message.
Watch the whole Dryden interview here:

Based on current evidence, I’d say that any applicant covered by the Beijing communique that still believes they have a chance of signing a contract before July is kidding itself.
The ICANN board’s new gTLD program committee met on Wednesday to discuss its response to the Beijing communique. The results of this meeting should be published in the next few days.
But there’s little doubt in my mind that ICANN doesn’t have enough time before Durban to pick through the advice, consult with the GAC, and come up with a mutually acceptable solution.
Quite apart from the complexity of and lack of detail in the GAC’s requests, there’s the simple matter of logistics.
Getting a representative quorum of GAC members in the same room as the ICANN board for a day or two at some point in the next 60 days would be challenging, based on past performance.
I think it’s much more likely that a day or two will be added to the Durban meeting (before its official start) to give the board and GAC the kind of time they need to thrash this stuff out.
ICANN’s latest program timetable, discussed during a webinar on Thursday night, extended the deadline for the ICANN board’s response to the GAC from the first week of June to the end of June.
On the call, program manager Christine Willett confirmed that this date assumes the board adopts all of the advice — it does not take into account so-called “bylaws consultations”.
While it seems clear that all 518 applications (or more) affected by the “safeguards” advice won’t be signing anything before Durban, it’s less clear whether the remaining applicants will feel an impact too.

Three gTLDs that Google doesn’t treat as gTLDs

Google this week reportedly updated its Webmaster Tools service to treat more ccTLDs as non-geography-specific, but it still seems to be overlooking two gTLDs altogether.
According to its refreshed FAQ, only 19 gTLDs are treated as “gTLDs that can be geotargeted in Webmaster Tools”.
The list does not include .post, which has been in the DNS since August 2012 and available to buy since October, or .xxx, which was delegated and went to general availability in 2011.
While the .arpa gTLD also does not appear (for perfectly sane reasons), the list does include tightly controlled and restricted gTLDs such as .int and .mil, however.
Google treats .asia the same as the ccTLD .eu: a “regional top-level domain” that can be geo-targeted in the same way as a regular gTLD.
The rules appear to apply to the geo-targeting function in Webmaster Tools, which allows webmasters to specify whether their site is designed for only a certain nation or region.
Assuming the list, which was updated this week, is accurate, it’s just the latest example of Google dragging its feet on gTLD acceptance.
One would assume, with Google being an applicant for almost 100 new gTLDs, that before long its gTLD team will be able to affect change elsewhere in the company in a more timely fashion.

ICM sees 20-fold increase in registrations after sharp price drop

ICM Registry says its rate of domain registrations increased 20-fold during the first day .xxx has been on sale at .com prices.
The company took 1,000 registrations at the new $7.85-a-year registry fee since it revealed the price drop yesterday.
While that’s not an earth-shattering number, .xxx’s average daily take is 40 to 50 names, according to ICM CEO Stuart Lawley. The company had roughly 110,000 names under management before the offer started.
Some registrars have only started pushing the names today, he said. Retail prices are roughly the same as those for .com, with Go Daddy, for example, currently selling .xxx for $14.95 a year.
The reduced fee only applies for the month of May, but registrants can lock in prices for up to 10 years.
According to Lawley, domains registered in the last 24 hours were almost exclusively either for one year or 10 years, with an average of 2.3 years.
Almost half (48%) of the new names had been previously registered but allowed to expire over the last few months, he said.
Examples include valentine.xxx, students.xxx, hdmovies.xxx and plenty of others with somewhat more NSFW keywords. ICM actually maintains its own list of dropped porn-related keyword domains here.
One customer yesterday registered .xxx for the new retail price that would have cost him $88,000 on the secondary market for the equivalent .com, Lawley said.

YouPorn spanks ICM as .xxx prices slashed

YouPorn owner Manwin Licensing scored a PR coup in its lawsuit against ICM Registry today, when the .xxx registry agreed to steep financial concessions in order to settle the case.
One of the effects of the settlement, at least according to Manwin, is that .xxx is slashing its registry fees from $60 to $7.85 a year for any new domains registered in May.
That brings .xxx into line with .com pricing, temporarily.
The discount only lasts for a month, but it applies to any length of registration up to 10 years. A 10-year registration would see ICM get $78.50, as opposed to the usual $600.
ICM said it will offer price reductions in future years too.
According to Manwin, this reduction is part of the settlement of the anti-trust lawsuit that it filed in November 2011.
“One of Manwin’s key motivations was to make .XXX pricing lower and more competitive,” the company said in a press release.
However, ICM told its registrars about the price reduction over a month ago, so Manwin’s claims might not be as straightforward as they seem.
What’s less open to interpretation is ICM’s agreement to donate $2 from every new .xxx domain created into “a fund designated by Manwin to support the adult entertainment industry”.
In return, Manwin has agreed to drop its boycott of .xxx — ads for .xxx sites will now be allowed to appear on its highly trafficked “tube” sites.
According to a Manwin press release, ICM has also made the humbling admission that “websites hosted on their adult-specific TLDs are not the only responsible and safe adult content websites.”
The lawsuit originally claimed that ICM and ICANN acted anti-competitively by introducing .xxx. ICM counter-sued saying that Manwin’s boycott was illegal.

.pw claims 50,000 domains registered in three weeks

Kevin Murphy, April 23, 2013, Domain Registries

Directi’s recently relaunched .pw top-level domain has racked up 50,000 domain name registrations after just three weeks of general availability, according to the company.
The number, which will put a smile on the faces of many new gTLD applicants, relates to GA only and does not include defensive registrations made during the ccTLD’s sunrise period, Directi confirmed to DI.
“Our goal was 100,000 names for the first year,” Directi CEO Bhavin Turakhia said in a press release. “The feeling of achieving 50% of the goal within the first three weeks is surreal.”
As previously reported, there were 4,000 .pw domains registered during the first half hour of GA.
Directi (running .pw as .PW Registry and/or Radix Registry) signed up 120 registrars to sell .pw names, which it brands as “Professional Web”.
It’s really the ccTLD for Palau, a small nation in the Pacific.
The registry is going for budget buyers, with registry fees and retail prices coming in a little lower than .com.

Will the Trademark Clearinghouse kill off premium domains?

Kevin Murphy, April 18, 2013, Domain Policy

Rules proposed for the new Trademark Clearinghouse threaten to cut off some of new gTLD registries major sources of early revenue, according to registry providers.
Premium domain sales and founders programs are among the now industry-standard practices that would be essentially banned under the current draft of the TMCH rules, they say.
The potential problems emerged in a draft TMCH Requirements document circulated to registries 10 days ago and vigorously discussed during a session at the ICANN meeting in Beijing last week.
The document lists all of the things that new gTLD registries must and must not, and may and may not, do during the mandatory Sunrise and Trademark Claims rights protection launch periods.
One of the bits that has left registries confused is this:

2.2.4 Registry Operator MUST NOT allow a domain name to be reserved or registered to a registrant who is not a Sunrise-Eligible Rights Holder prior to the conclusion of the Sunrise Period.

What this means is that trademark owners get first dibs on pretty much every possible string in every gTLD.
“Trademark owners trump everything,” Neustar business affairs veep Jeff Neuman said during the Beijing meeting. “Trademark owners trump every possible use of every possible name.”
It would mean, for example, that if a new gTLD wanted to allocate some names to high-profile anchor tenants during a “founders program”, it would not be able to do so until after the Sunrise was over.
Let’s say the successful applicant for .shop wants to reserve the names of hundreds of shop types (book.shop, food.shop, etc) as premium names, to allocate during its founders program or auction later.
Because the .shop Sunrise would have to happen first, the companies that the own rights to, for example, “wallpaper” or “butcher” (both real US trademarks) would have first rights to wallpaper.shop and butcher.shop, even if they only planned to defensively park the domains.
Because there’s likely to be some degree of gaming (there’s a proof-of-use requirement, but the passing threshold is pretty low), registries’ premium lists could be decimated during Sunrise periods.
If ICANN keeps its TMCH Requirements as they are currently written, new gTLD registries stand to lose a lot of early revenue, not to mention control over launch marketing initiatives.
However, if ICANN were to remove this rule, it might give unscrupulous registries the ability to circumvent the mandatory Sunrise period entirely by placing millions of strings on their premium lists.
“Registries should have discretion to schedule their start-up phases according to their business plans so long as rights protection processes are honored, so that’s the balancing we’ve tried to do,” ICANN operations & policy research director Karen Lenz said during Beijing.
“It’s trying to allow registries to create requirements that suit their purposes, without being able to hollow out the rights protection intention,” she said.
The requirements document is still just a draft, and discussions are ongoing, she added.
“It’s certainly not our intention to restrict business models,” Lenz said.
Registries will get some flexibility to restrict Sunrise to certain registrants. For example, they’ll be able to disqualify those without an affiliation to the industry to which the gTLD is targeted.
What they won’t be able to do is create arbitrary rules unrelated to the purpose of the TLD, or apply one set of rules during Sunrise and another during the first 90 days of general availability.
The standard Registry Agreement that ICANN expects all new gTLDs to sign up to does enable registries to reserve or block as many names as they want, but only if those names are not registered or used.
It seemed to be designed to do things like blocing ‘sensitive’ strings, rather like when ICM Registry reserved thousands of names of celebrities and cultural terms in .xxx.
The Requirements document, on the other hand, seems to allow these names being released at a later date. If they were released, the document states, they’d have to be subject to Trademark Claims notices, but not Sunrise rules.
While that may be a workaround to the premium domains problem, it doesn’t appear to help registries that want to get founders programs done before general availability.
It seems that there are still many outstanding issues surrounding the Trademark Clearinghouse — many more than discussed in this post — that will need to be settled before new gTLDs are going to feel comfortable launching.

GAC Advice on new gTLDs “not the end of the story”

Kevin Murphy, April 15, 2013, Domain Policy

Governments may want new gTLD registries to become the internet’s police force, but ICANN doesn’t have to take it lying down.
ICANN is set to open up the shock Beijing communique to public comments, CEO Fadi Chehade said Friday, while chair Steve Crocker has already raised the possibility of not following the GAC’s advice.
“Advice from governments carries quite a bit of weight and equally it is not the end of the story,” Crocker said in a post-meeting interview with ICANN PR Brad White.
“We have a carefully constructed multi-stakeholder process,” he said. “We want very much to listen to governments, and we also want to make sure there’s a balance.”
The ICANN bylaws, he reminded us, give ICANN “a preference towards following advice from the GAC, but not an absolute requirement.”
That’s a reference the the part of the bylaws that enables ICANN’s board to overrule GAC advice, as long as it carries out consultation and provides sound reasoning.
It was invoked once before, when ICANN tried to get a handle on the GAC’s concerns about .xxx in 2011.
In this case, I’d be very surprised indeed if the GAC’s advice out of Beijing does not wind up in this bylaws process, if only because the document appears to be internally contradictory in parts.
It’s also vague and broad enough in parts that ICANN is going to need much more detail if it hopes to even begin to implement it.
It looks like at least 517 new gTLD applications will be affected by the GAC’s advice, but in the vast majority of cases it’s not clear what applicants are expected to do about it.
The first part of dissecting the Beijing communique will be a public comment period, Chehade said during the interview Friday. He said:

The community wishes to participate in the discussion about the GAC communique. So, alongside the staff analysis that is starting right now on the GAC communique we have decided to put the GAC communique out for public comment, soliciting the entire community to give us their input to ensure that the GAC communique is taken seriously but also encompasses our response, encompasses the views of the whole community.

Watch the full video below.

ICANN headed for GAC fight over IGO pleading

Kevin Murphy, April 10, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN may be heading for a bust-up with its Governmental Advisory Committee over the issue of a special domain name block-list for intergovernmental organizations.
The board of directors this week indicated at a meeting with the GAC in Beijing that it’s prepared to deny the GAC’s official demand for IGO protection at second level in all new gTLDs.
The GAC wants the names and acronyms of hundreds of IGOs — any organization that qualifies for a .int domain name — blocked, so that nobody would be able to register them, in every new gTLD.
It would, for example, give the European Forest Institute the exclusive rights to efi.tld in all future gTLDs.
Other well-known cybersquatting targets such as the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region of Africa (ICGLR), would also be protected.
Some potentially very useful operational domains, such as a who.tld, would be banned (because of the World Health Organization).
Clearly, the GAC’s demands are a solution looking for a problem, giving special protection to many organizations that simply don’t need it, potentially at the expense of legitimate users.
The GAC had indicated that clashes with legitimate uses could be handled in a similar way to country names will be controlled in new gTLDs, where registries have to request special permission from the governments concerned to release the domains to others.
This would open a whole can of worms, however, the implications of which were outlined in an April 1 letter from ICANN board chair Steve Crocker to the GAC.
The board’s case was also succinctly articulated by director Chris Disspain during the board’s meeting with the GAC on Tuesday, and worth quoting in full. Disspain said:

This would mean that the Church of England would require the approval of the Council of Europe to register coe.church. It means the government of Canada would require the approval of the Andean Community to register can.anything. It means the International Standards Organization would require the approval of the International Sugar Organization to register iso.anything.
Even if this is what you intended in principle, the implementation of this advice is extremely problematic.
Who at each IGO would make a decision about providing consent? How long would each IGO have to provide consent? Would no reply be equivalent to consent? What criteria would be used to decide whether to give consent or not? Who would draft that criteria? Would the criteria be consistent across all IGOs or would consent simply be granted at the whim of an IGO.
The board believes that all these issues make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to accept the advice as is.
Rather than rejecting this advice we seek an acknowledgement from the GAC in its communique that there are issues to be worked through, and we seek agreement with the GAC that they will work with the board and staff on these issues from now until Durban [this July] when the board will make a decision?

Disspain added that despite a board decision in November to set the ball rolling on IGO protections, it most certainly has not already decided to grant the GAC’s request.
This is an excellent development in GAC-board relations, in my view.
Rather than quaking at GAC advice, or rush-approving it to meet new gTLD program deadlines, the board is schooling the GAC about the obvious flaws in its position, and inviting it to think about the problems in a bit more depth, hearing alternate views, before lobbing advice grenades.
It’s a stark contrast to its treatment of the GAC’s 2011 advice on International Olympic Committee and Red Cross/Red Crescent names, where the board agreed to special protections in order to get the new gTLD program out of the door, creating thousands of extra person-hours of work for the GNSO.
When the GAC issued its IOC/RC/RC advice, it assured ICANN that the organizations concerned were special cases.
Others warned — presciently, as it turned out — that such protections would be merely the top of a slippery slope that would lead to a much longer list of protected names.
An effect of ICANN’s strong position now is that the slope is less steep and less slippery.
What happens next with the IGO names depends on the GAC’s communique from the ongoing Beijing meeting.
If it decides to engage with ICANN to sort out the problems it’s trying to create, they have until Durban to come to a deal. If it stands firm, ICANN may have to invoke the part of its bylaws that allows it to overrule the GAC, which has only done once before, when it approved .xxx.

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.