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ICANN heads to Mar-a-Lago for budget crisis talks

Kevin Murphy, April 1, 2018, Gossip

Cash-strapped ICANN has invited select community members to emergency budget talks at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, DI has learned.

The three-day summit next week will address how best to spend the organization’s $138 million annual budget, along with its $236 million auction proceeds war chest and its $80 million of leftover new gTLD application fees.

“Recent public comments have made it clear than many valued ICANN community members have misunderstood our FY19 budget,” CEO Goran Marby said. “I believe a long weekend of intensive discussions at Mar-a-Lago should persuade the community that we’re actually on the right track.”

To encourage participation from an increasingly weary volunteer pool, attendees will be treated to complimentary spa treatments, golfing, and the most beautiful pieces of chocolate cake, he said.

DI has managed to obtain a preliminary agenda for the summit, which can be read here (pdf).

Business-class flights and three nights’ accommodation at the exclusive members club will be covered by ICANN.

Mar-a-Lago, purchased by Donald Trump in the 1980s, is a “six-star” resort in Palm Beach, Florida. It was originally a five-star hotel, until 2004 when Trump purchased the one-star hotel next door and knocked through.

Marby defended the choice of venue, pointing out that the guest list is to be strictly limited to the ICANN board of directors, industry CEOs, and members of the Intellectual Property Constituency.

DI understands that the IPC will be permitted to invite members of the Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group to attend, should they require golf caddies.

To ensure gender diversity, all attendees will be able to bring along their spouses or partners. ICANN will make up any shortfall by hiring decorative females from a pool of Trump litigants.

A small support team of 50 ICANN staffers will also be available to hand out fresh towels, collect empty glasses, and so on.

Remote participation will be available via AOL Instant Messenger.

Chief financial officer Xavier Calvez declined to disclose the cost of the summit, citing privacy concerns caused by “GDPR or something”, but DI understands it is to be accounted for as a line item in ICANN’s Federal lobbying disclosure.

Calvez said ICANN has managed to negotiate “substantial” bulk discounts on the usual $200,000 Mar-a-Lago membership fees and $2,000-a-night room rates.

The cost will also be offset by sponsorship contributions from ICANNwiki and the National Rifle Association, he said.

Registry and registrar CEOs polled by DI this weekend were split on whether they would attend.

“Of course I’m going,” Blacknight CEO Michele Neylon told us by phone from an airport lounge in Kigali.

But .xyz chief Daniel Negari said he would attend only if he can secure sufficient funding for his bus fare to the airport.

Among the cost-cutting proposals on the menu, DI understands, is a request to consolidate all current and future policy working groups into a single, unified WG.

Sources say this would have the added benefit of reducing the annual policy implementation budget to zero dollars between now and, at the earliest, 2045.

ICANN bans sandwiches from Helsinki meeting

Kevin Murphy, April 1, 2016, Gossip

ICANN has announced that sandwiches have been banned from the forthcoming ICANN 56 public meeting in Helsinki.

The move has been made in response to recent controversies over the availability of “inappropriate” foodstuffs during coffee and lunch breaks at the thrice-yearly policy meetings.

“The board has listened, and the board has acted decisively in response to community concerns,” ICANN chair Steve Crocker said at a packed press conference today.

“Starting with ICANN 56, our meeting venues will be sandwich-free zones,” he said.

ICANN has had to take on new caterers to supply non-sandwich-based refreshments and will incur a one-time early termination fee of $242,000, according to its contract with its former supplier.

“It’s a small price to pay to make sure we only provide appropriate snacks for our valued stakeholders,” he said.

DI has obtained a copy of the proposed Helsinki menu, which has been approved as “100% fine” by ICANN’s board and Ombudsman, as well as the legal and compliance departments and external auditors.

You can read it here (pdf).

The unexpected sandwich ban surprised many community leaders.

“The ICANN board is totally missing the point here,” said GNSO chair James Bladel. “The PBJ-WG clearly and unanimously recommended that the prohibition should only apply to cheese sandwiches.”

“It’s just another example of top-down, unilateral regulation,” he said.

Critics noted that, due to pressure from the French government, the ban does not apply to filled baguettes.

But Crocker denied government meddling had created a loophole, noting that all baked goods containing fillings comprising over 32% dairy-based solids would still be captured by the ban.

“Naturally, we couldn’t ban all baguettes,” he said. “That would be a ludicrous thing to do.”

He advised all ICANN 56 delegates to show up early to sessions in order to speed up the new mandatory sandwich-screening bag checks.

Google launches com.google

Google has launched com.google, one of its batch of 2015 April Fool’s Day jokes.

Visiting the domain today will reveal a reversed perspective on the usual Google home page.

Even the results pages are reversed.

It’s probably the most inventive use of a dot-brand new gTLD to date.

ICANN’s secret “penthouse-level” domain program

Kevin Murphy, April 1, 2012, Gossip

Filthy with cash from incoming new gTLD applications, ICANN is secretly working on a new “penthouse-level domains” project, DomainIncite has learned.

The program, detailed in leaked emails (pdf) between senior ICANN executives, will open up the space to the right of the final, overlooked dot in a fully-qualified domain name.

The new “pLD” project will allow brand owners, for example, to apply to run a domain name to the right of their newly acquired dot-brand gTLD, creating new marketing opportunities.

Penthouse-level domains are believed to be the brainchild of outgoing CEO Rod Beckstrom.

“I figured I may as well torpedo the whole fucking joint on my way out,” he said, stuffing ICANN’s air-conditioning system with three-day-old sushi.

Officially, ICANN expects the program to be warmly welcomed by the trademark community

“The most common complaint we hear from dot-brand gTLD applicants is that they have no idea what to put at the second level,” said ICANN spin doctor Brad White.

“Do you use www.canon or www.canon.canon?” he said. “It’s confusing. But with a penthouse-level domain such as, I dunno, .com, Canon would be able to have www.canon.canon.com”.

“Companies that missed the dot-brand gTLD deadline would be able to apply for dot-brand pLDs instead, enabling addresses such as www.canon.com.canon,” he said. “And that’s much simpler.”

Sixteen new rights protection mechanisms have been created, all of which are expected to be so carefully balanced as to be essentially useless.

The new pLD application fee is likely to be set at $185,000 per character, according to sources, $175,000 of which has been earmarked for Jones Day’s cocaine bill.

Registry service providers have welcomed the penthouse-level domains move and today dismissed criticisms that the program places too high a financial burden on rights holders.

“The important thing you have to remember is that applying for a new penthouse-level domain isn’t the same as simply registering a gTLD,” said an Afilias spokesperson.

“The further to the right a word is on your screen, the more expensive it is to manage,” he said. “It stands to reason, right? Right? Yeah, well it does, trust me. We’re the experts.”

“And so are we,” said AusRegistry CEO Adrian Kinderis.

A burgeoning ecosystem of consultants is already emerging to support the pLD concept.

Mike Berkens and Monte Cahn today announced the launch of Right Of The Right Of The Dot Inc and, just in case, they have also defensively registered rightoftherightoftherightofthedot.com.

Minds + Machines also revealed it has ambitious plans to apply for dozens of new penthouse-level domains.

“We’re going to wait and see what pLDs others plan to apply for, then apply for those too,” said CEO Antony Van Couvering.

But other parts of the ICANN community have received the news with less enthusiasm.

“My name is Marilyn Cade,” said Business Constituency chair Marilyn Cade, before saying some other things that I forgot to write down.

“We’re completely opposed to new pLDs,” said CADNA’s Josh Bourne. “That’s why I’m proud to announce the launch of our reasonably priced new pLD consulting service.”

“And we’re doubly proud to announce that we’ve hired Steve Crocker to run it,” he added.

In related news, Paul Foody and George Kirikos were both found dead at the bottom of a cliff this morning in what police are describing as an apparent suicide pact.

“Goodbye cruel world,” said ICANN’s Filiz Yilmaz, reading from a laptop on Kirikos’ behalf.

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Based on an idea by Barry Shein.