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On day one, Donuts in breach of new gTLD contract

Kevin Murphy, October 24, 2013, Domain Registries

Ooops! Donuts accidentally broke the terms of its first new gTLD Registry Agreement last night, just hours after its first string, .游戏, was delegated to the DNS root.

If you’ve been following the name collisions debate closely, you’ll recall that all new gTLD registries are banned from activating any second-level domains for 120 days after they sign their contracts:

Registry Operator shall not activate any names in the DNS zone for the Registry TLD (except for “NIC”) until at least 120 calendar days after the effective date of this agreement.

For the first four gTLDs to go live, that clock doesn’t stop ticking until November 12.

And yet, last night, Donuts activated donuts.游戏, apparently in violation of its new contractual obligations with ICANN.

The name was live and resolving for at least an hour. Donuts pulled it after we asked a company executive whether it might be a breach of contract.

I don’t think it’s a big deal, and I doubt ICANN needs to take any action.

Chalk it down to the understandable ebullience that naturally accompanies finally getting delegated to the root after such a long and painful evaluation process.

The 120-day rule was also a late amendment to Specification 6 of the RA, added by ICANN just seven days before .游戏 was delegated and over three months after Donuts signed the original contract.

It’s designed to address the potential for collisions between second-level domains in new gTLDs and names used on internal networks that already have working SSL certificates.

The no-activation window was chosen to match the 120-day period that the CA/Browser Forum gives its certificate authority members to revoke clashing certificates.

It seems unlikely donuts.游戏 will have caused any security issues during the brief period it was alive.

First new gTLDs to go live “in the next few hours”

Kevin Murphy, October 23, 2013, Domain Registries

The first four new gTLDs are expected to go live in the next few hours.

That’s according to the registries themselves, and reports out of the Internet Governance Forum in Bali, where ICANN division president Akram Atallah was speaking on a panel earlier today.

The gTLDs are: .сайт (Russian “.site”) and .онлайн (Russian “.online”) from CORE Association, شبكة. (Arabic “.web”) from dotShabaka Registry and .游戏 (Chinese “.games”) from Donuts.

By “go live” I mean of course that the ASCII versions of these strings (for example, .xn--ngbc5azd for شبكة.) will be entered into the DNS root.

It may take a short while for the registries to activate second-level domains (such as nic.) under their new TLDs, and nothing will actually go on sale for weeks.

They’re all of course internationalized domain names, given ICANN’s decision almost a year ago to prioritize IDNs at all stages of the evaluation and delegation process.

All four received their block-lists of “collision risk” second-level domains on Friday and elected to implement the blocks to get to delegation faster.

The three registries signed their contracts on stage at the ICANN meeting in Durban July 15.

This is a pretty big day for ICANN and its community. After many years and countless arguments and delays, new gTLDs are actually about to go live!

Live new gTLDs this month? First four pass to delegation

Kevin Murphy, October 22, 2013, Domain Registries

New gTLDs are on the home stretch, after ICANN sent the first four applications to the final delegation stage of the process.

The four are: .сайт (Russian “.site”) and .онлайн (Russian “.online”) from Core Association, شبكة. (Arabic “.web”) from dotShabaka Registry and .游戏 (Chinese “.games”) from Donuts.

These were also the first four to sign their registry contracts with ICANN — over three months ago — and the first to be given their name collisions mitigation plan, just a few days ago.

Proceeding to delegation means the applications are now in the hands of IANA, the ICANN department with responsibility over changes to the DNS root system.

IANA has its own set of procedures to follow before delegating, which have historically taken a couple of weeks to process. If I recall correctly, .xxx was with IANA for about 10 days before it went live.

It seems possible that the first new gTLDs could be live this month, meaning the first sunrise periods could kick off in early December, with general availability following a month later.

However, the Christmas and New Year holiday period may wind up forcing some registrars to stagger their dates in order to benefit from the best publicity window when they finally go on sale.

This is how stupid the GAC’s new gTLDs advice is (part two)

Kevin Murphy, July 15, 2013, Domain Policy

When Donuts and ICANN signed a new gTLD contract for .游戏, on a stage in front of hundreds of people at ICANN 47 this morning, it made a mockery of the relationship between ICANN and the GAC.

游戏 is the Chinese for “game” or “games”. It was an uncontested application with no objections and, importantly, no Governmental Advisory Committee advice standing in its way.

Donuts got lucky. The six companies that have applied for .game or .games in English are all currently prohibited from entering into contract negotiations with ICANN because they did receive GAC advice.

When the GAC drafted its “Advice on New gTLDs” in Beijing three months ago, it included a long but “non-exhaustive” set of strings that it said needed extra “safeguards” on security and community support.

ICANN has called these strings the “Category 1” list. It’s already been the subject of some strong discussion with the GAC at the meeting in Durban, which kicked off over the weekend.

So was it the GAC’s intention with Category 1 to introduce a language bias into the new gTLD program? Did it intend to give Chinese-script strings special privileges over ASCII-based languages?

If there was a sensible rationale for including .game/.games on the Category 1 list, why didn’t it apply to .游戏?

Or did the GAC simply not give its Beijing advice the care and attention it deserved?

Based on sessions in Durban over the weekend, the latter explanation appears to be closer to the truth.

“Vague and unimplementable”

At session between the GAC and ICANN’s board-level New gTLD Program Committee yesterday, the GAC heard in the strongest terms (within the bounds of polite discourse) how silly its Beijing advice was.

The session kicked off with NGPC member Chris Disspain delivering a witheringly but necessarily blunt assessment of the “Category 1” list and the associated safeguards.

He first noted that ICANN already rejected the GAC’s advice to make certain strings mandatory “community” gTLDs — something that would have had the same effect as the Beijing advice — back in 2011.

The GAC Early Warning system was introduced instead, he said, to give governments the ability to work with or object to applicants for specific strings that they were worried about.

Disspain continued with a catalog of criticisms against the Category 1 advice:

The difficulties we see at the moment are that the categories of strings are broad and undefined. There’s no principled basis for distinguishing certain categories and strings.

Generic terms are in the same category as highly regulated industries. Some strings have segments that are both licensed and unlicensed.

It’s difficult to determine relevant regulatory agencies and self-regulatory organizations. Some strings refer to industries that may be sensitive or regulated in a single or a few jurisdictions only.

The safeguard advice items three to eight create obligations that are vague and unimplementable.

And these are the outcomes that we sought to avoid when we rejected the advice in the first place. And we agreed to put in place the Early Warning system so that governments could deal directly with applicants if they had issues with the string.

He received some push-back from GAC members, some of whom — insisting that the Beijing communique was well-considered and easily understood — appear to be in denial.

“In the end, you should come with us, trying to implement,” the member for Italy said. “Because I’m sure that you well understood the meaning of this Annex 1.”

In response, Disspain reiterated that the NGPC really doesn’t understand what the GAC wants and really doesn’t understand how it came up with the Category 1 list in the first place.

“We’re unclear how we could implement at all some pieces of the advice,” he said. “The issue for us is not so much that there could be other names that could be added to the list but rather there are names that appear on the list that we don’t understand why they’re there in the first place.”

Now what?

Impasse thus reached, much of the discussion during the hour-long session focused on ways to potentially move the process forward, with participants acknowledging they’re in “uncharted territory”.

Switzerland suggested — contrary to what is plainly spelled out in the Applicant Guidebook, which asks the GAC to comment on specific applications — that the GAC didn’t think that its job was to come up with a definitive list of worrying strings. He said:

Initially, we did not think that it’s the task of the GAC to put together a finite list of sensitive strings, but we have been informed that it would be helpful to come up with concrete names.

So don’t take this list as a list that has been worked out over months and years and every TLD has been tested. These are examples, as we identified it in a rather short time.

There might be a few names that are not on the list that you could easily also add. There are some inconsistencies in that sense. But this is not meant to be a finite, absolute list.

The UK rep said he was disappointed with the “negative” tone of the NGPC’s response to the safeguard advice, but also suggested that the next step might be to come up with a proper list of strings.

“I think the next step forward is for the committee to try and prepare a first draft list for consultation with the whole community,” he said. “And we, the governments, we could obviously seize the opportunity to contribute to that consultation.”

The European Commission provided a statement that its representative said represented the views of EU states on the GAC. The statement said that the Beijing list should be an “at-minimum” list.

European GAC members consider the role of the GAC in this discussion is to provide high-level clarifications regarding the Beijing GAC advice rather than precise implementation means.

We would also like to note that the list of sensitive strings provided in the Beijing communique is a non-exhaustive one… meaning the list should be considered an at-minimum list.

What does this all mean for applicants?

Based on yesterday’s hour-long discussion, ICANN can surely be no closer to understanding which applications are affected by the GAC advice and presumably still doesn’t have a clue what some of it means.

This afternoon, during another session in Durban, program manager Christine Willett said that ICANN is using the Category 1 list published in Beijing when deciding which applicants can be contracted with.

“The NGPC is still considering the Category 1 advice and we have no direction or indication from them yet that a definitive list will be created,” she said.

I can’t see it being resolved this week, and inter-sessional meetings are very rare, so we could now be looking at Buenos Aires — November — before any of this gets sorted out.

For applicants who were — it now seems — selected at random to appear on the Beijing list, they’re facing months more delay while applicants that were not included are free to sign registry contracts today.

Is this fair?

Is it fair to allow applicants that were inexplicably excluded from the GAC’s Beijing list to go ahead and contract with ICANN, while others that were inexplicably included are delayed by many more months?

Is it fair that some applications will get bumped up the queue to delegation just because the GAC didn’t spend enough time thinking about its task?

How can ICANN be certain at contracting that any application is free of GAC advice, when the GAC has made it clear that it expects its list of strings to grow?

I asked ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade some of these questions during a press conference this afternoon and he pointed out that there are mechanisms in place in the Registry Agreement to allow future GAC advice to be addressed.

If it indeed the case that Donuts, for example, might have to add some safeguard commitments to its already signed .游戏 contract, why prevent the .game and .games applicants from signing contracts too?

Wouldn’t it be fairer to delay all new gTLD applications, or none at all, rather than relying on a list of strings we now know definitively to be ad hoc and unreliable?