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Ten more new gTLDs go live

Kevin Murphy, January 24, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts, Afilias and Atgron were the beneficiaries of 10 new gTLD delegations yesterday.

Various Donuts subsidiaries had .boutique, .bargains, .cool, .expert, .tienda (“shop” in Spanish), .tools, .watch, .works delegated, bringing the company’s total portfolio to 70 gTLDs.

Afilias had its fourth new gTLD of this round go live in the DNS root: .kim, which is expected to serve people who have the first or last name Kim.

I think it’s the first personal-name gTLD to hit the internet.

Finally, Atgron had .wed delegated. It’s going to be an unrestricted gTLD aimed at marrying couples. It will eventually compete with the currently contested string .wedding.

I have to ponder what the renewal rates are going to be like for what seems to be the first event-focused TLD.

How long before their big day will registrants register their names, and for how long afterwards will they keep the registration alive for sentimental reasons? Atgron reckons such sites stay live for about 18 months.

There are also reportedly twice half as many divorces as marriages in the US at the moment. One wonders why nobody applied for .divorce.

.pink and two other gTLDs get contracts

Kevin Murphy, October 3, 2013, Domain Registries

ICANN has signed Registry Agreements this week with three new gTLD applicants, covering the strings .wed, .ruhr and .pink.

I would characterize these strings as a generic, a geographic and a post-generic.

regiodot GmbH wants to use .ruhr as a geographic for the Ruhr region of western Germany while Atgron wants to providing marrying couples with .wed for their wedding-related web sites.

Afilias’ .pink belongs to that unusual category of applied-for gTLDs that I’m becoming increasingly interested in: the non-SEO generic.

The vast majority of generic, open gTLDs that have been applied for (mostly by domainer-driven portfolio applicants) in the current round are essentially “keyword” strings — stuff that’s very likely going to prove useful in search engine optimization.

I’m talking here about stuff like .music, .video, .football and .porn. These may prove popular with small business web site owners and domainers.

But there’s another category of generic gTLDs I believe have little SEO value but offer a certain quirky-cool branding opportunity that may prove attractive to regular, non-commercial registrants.

I’d put strings such as .ninja, .bom, .wow, .hot, .love and .pink into this category.

I’m very curious to see how these kinds of strings fare over the next few years, as I suspect we may see many more such applications in future gTLD rounds.

Google beats Donuts in objection — .pet and .pets ARE confusingly similar

Kevin Murphy, August 16, 2013, Domain Policy

Google has won a String Confusion Objection against rival new gTLD applicant Donuts, potentially forcing .pet and .pets into the same contention set.

The shock ruling by International Centre for Dispute Resolution panelist Richard Page goes against previous decisions finding singulars and plurals not confusingly similar.

In the 11-page decision, Page said he decided to not consider the reams of UDRP precedent or US trademark law submitted by the two companies, and seems to have come to his opinion based on a few simple facts:

Objector has come forward with the following evidence for visual, aural and meaning similarity. Visually, the words are identical but for the mere addition of the letter “s”. Aurally, the word “pets” is essentially phonetically equivalent to the word “pet”. The term “pet” is pronounced as it is spelled, “pet”. The term “pets” is likewise pronounced as “pets” in essentially a phonetically equivalent fashion. The terms each have only one syllable, and they have the same stress pattern, with primary accent on the initial “pe” portion of the words. In commercial meaning, the terms show no material difference. As English nouns, “pets” is the pluralization of “pet”.

The visual similarity and algorithmic score are high, the aural similarity is high, the meaning similarity is high. Objector has met its burden of proof. The cumulative impact of these factors is such that the Expert determines that the delegation of <.pet> gTLD and the <.pets> gTLD into the root zone will cause a probability of confusion.

Page did take into account the similarity score provided by the Sword algorithm — for .pet and .pets it’s actually a fairly weak 72% — in his thinking on visual similarity.

But he specifically rejected Donuts’ defense that co-existence of plurals at the second level was proof that plural/singular gTLDs could also co-exist at the top-level, saying:

The rapid historical development of the Internet and the proliferation of domain names over the past two decades has taken place without the application of the string confusion standard now established for gTLDs. Therefore, the Expert has not considered the current coexistence of pluralized second-level TLDs or similarities between country code TLDs and existing gTLDs in the application of the string confusion standard in this proceeding.

Can: open. Worms: everywhere.

The decision stands in stark contrast to the decision (pdf) of Bruce Belding in the .hotel v .hotels case, in which it was found that the two strings were “sufficiently visually and audibly different”.

Likewise, the panelist in .car v .cars (pdf) found that Google had not met the high evidential bar to proving the “probability” rather than mere “possibility” of confusion.

One has to assume that the evidence Google submitted in .car is fairly similar to the evidence it submitted in .pets.

Are String Confusion Objections just a crap shoot, the outcome depending on which panelist you get? It’s probably too early to say for sure, but it’s looking like a possibility.

The big test will come with the next .pets decision. Afilias, the other .pet applicant, has also filed an SCO against Donuts over its .pets bid.

What if the panel in the Afilias case goes the other way? Will Donuts be in a contention set with Google and Afilias or won’t it?

I asked Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s Generic Domains Division, about this yesterday and he said that ICANN basically doesn’t know, and that it might have to refer back to the community for advice.

Read the Atallah interview here and the .pets decision (pdf) here.

Three gTLD contracts to be renewed next week

Kevin Murphy, August 16, 2013, Domain Registries

ICANN is set to belatedly renew the .info, .org and .biz Registry Agreements next week, according to the just published agenda of its board of directors’ next meeting.

The .info and .biz contracts expired last year, while .org’s expired in April. All three were extended while ICANN and the registries — Afilias, Neustar and PIR — figured out how much of the new gTLD Registry Agreement to incorporate into the renewed deals.

They wound up agreeing to, among other things, mandating the use of the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement in all three gTLDs, but only on the condition that Verisign agrees to the same terms for .com and .net.

The three contracts didn’t go far enough for some, such as the Intellectual Property Constituency, which wants new gTLD rights protection mechanisms such as Uniform Rapid Suspension to be added.

The approval of the three renewals is on the consent agenda for the ICANN board’s August 22 meeting, so it seems unlikely that there will be any huge changes to the previously published draft contracts.

Also on the agenda for next week are the redelegations of the ccTLDs for Botswana (.bw) and Portugal (.pt).

Afilias wants registrar ownership ban lifted on .mobi and .pro

Afilias has applied to ICANN to have its ban on owning registrars in two of its own gTLDs, .mobi and .pro, lifted.

With requests to ICANN a few days ago (here and here), the company said it wants to be able to own more than 15% of an ICANN-accredited registrar that sells both TLDs, which is currently forbidden by the two Registry Agreements in question.

Afilias’ proposed new .info contract, which was renegotiated this year (because it expired) and closed for public comment last week, would also enable the company to vertically integrate with a .info registrar.

A process for relaxing the cross-ownership rules on a per-TLD basis was approved by ICANN’s board of directors last October.

The only registry so far to have its contractual ban lifted is puntCat, the .cat registry operator.

When an ICANN working group was discussing the vertical integration issue a couple of years ago, Afilias was one of the participants that held fast against any relaxation of the 15% ownership cap, eventually driving the working group into stalemate and forcing the ICANN board’s hand.