ARI Registry Services has withdrawn its application for the .book new gTLD.
The application was one of nine for .book and is the first in the contention set to be withdrawn.
The application lists Global Domain Registry Pty Ltd as the applicant, but all the contact information belongs to ARI/AusRegistry and its executives.
ARI was also its selected back-end provider.
The company had proposed a restricted .book, where you could only register a name if you had an ISBN number.
It had a priority number of 1,464, so was not due to get its Initial Evaluation results for many weeks.
It’s a crowded contention set, however — other applicants include Google, Amazon, Top Level Domain Holdings and Donuts — that may well wind up costing a lot of money to resolve.
It’s the 57th new gTLD application to be withdrawn; 1,873 remain.
Former ICANN chief strategy officer Kurt Pritz had a conflict of interest related to back-end registry provider ARI Registry Services, DI can reveal.
Pritz resigned last week after disclosing the potential conflict to CEO Fadi Chehade, leading to a great deal of industry speculation about the specific nature of the problem.
Chehade revealed to attendees at an unrelated community meeting at ICANN headquarters in Los Angeles last Thursday that the conflict was of a “personal” nature.
Since then, I’ve managed to uncover the basic facts of the story – more than enough to confirm that it’s a personal issue and to establish that there do not appear to be any financial conflicts.
So I’ve decided not to report the full details, other than to say the conflict relates to ARI Registry Services, a major provider of back-end registry services for new gTLD applicants.
Pritz, as senior vice president for stakeholder relations and then chief strategy officer, was for a long time the key ICANN executive overseeing the new gTLD program.
I understand that the conflict was voluntarily disclosed by Pritz.
He also appears to have been held to at least as high a standard of ethics as ICANN’s own board of directors.
While ICANN clearly determined that there was a risk of a perception of a conflict of interest, I’ve discovered no reason to believe there was any actual wrongdoing by ICANN, ARI or Pritz.
The recent public record does not appear to reveal any instances of Pritz giving any special treatment to ARI. If anything, I believe the evidence would most likely lead to the opposite conclusion.
For example, during recent Trademark Clearinghouse implementation talks, Pritz was staunchly opposed to key aspects of a community solution co-developed by ARI.
As reported last month, these talks were notable for Pritz’s attempts to block some important parts of the community proposal, despite aggressive lobbying by ARI executives.
In short, I don’t think there’s a conspiracy here.
It’s my belief that Pritz’s resignation is the result of an unfortunate set of circumstances occurring at an organization that is – understandably – hyper-sensitive to negative perceptions about its integrity.
Registry services provider CoCCA has pulled out of the Asia Pacific Top Level Domain Association after APTLD gave support to AusRegistry in its campaign to continue to run .au.
The company claims that APTLD — the Hong Kong-based association of ccTLD operators from the region — backed AusRegistry because AusRegistry is one of its largest donors.
The allegations center on a consultation run by AuDA, the policy overseer for Australia’s .au domain.
AuDA is currently deciding whether to renegotiate AusRegistry’s longstanding registry back-end contract — which is its preferred option — or open it up to public tender.
Draft recommendations published for comment last month suggest that the contract should remain with AusRegistry when it expires in 2014, albeit with renegotiated terms.
CoCCA is mad with APTLD for submitting a comment in support of these recommendations without first consulting its membership, suspecting AusRegistry’s sponsorship of APTLD might have something to do with it.
In an email to APTLD last week, CoCCA director Garth Miller said:
That AusRegistry, a large for-profit company that is an associate member of APTLD can simply make a phone call to a board member and get the board to make a public submission on behalf of all members that a scheduled public tender be cancelled and AusRegistry be awarded the contract – worth as much as several hundred million dollars, because they have made substantial contributions to the APLTD in the past and are likely to do so in the future if awarded the contract is, in my view, disturbing.
CoCCA, which already provides registry services for a few ccTLDs in the region and runs the .cx (Christmas Island) ccTLD, reckons the .au back-end contract should be opened to competitive bidding.
Judging by the other submissions to AuDA’s consultation, which are published here, it’s a minority view.
Every other comment — most of which were sent by .au registrars, even newcomers such as Go Daddy — supports the recommendation that AusRegistry should keep the deal.
And AusRegistry says that everything is above board. CEO Adrian Kinderis said in a statement sent to DI:
AusRegistry has been actively seeking acknowledgments and recommendations from valued partners and industry leaders over the past month. This included an approach to APTLD to seek a reference from them to acknowledge the positive industry engagement and continued support and participation of AusRegistry in the Asia Pacific domain name industry. APTLD responded positively to our request. AusRegistry has made no secret of such, and to suggest that clandestine calls have taken place is simply not true.
APTLD also denied that it has done anything wrong, though it does not appear to be denying that AusRegistry contributions may have played a part in its decision.
In a statement, APTLD told DI:
The allegation on APTLD must be a misunderstanding and is untrue. APTLD has no comments to make on the tendering process and whether a public tender should be conducted. APTLD does not have sufficient local knowledge to provide any constructive comments. All APTLD can provide is a reference for AusRegistry as an active and positive player in the domain name industry in the Asia Pacific region. Past contributions to APTLD is just one of the many factors when the Board considers whether to provide a reference to a particular member.
AusRegistry has been running the .au registry under contract with AuDA since 2001. It’s used its experience to launch ARI Registry Services, a pretty big player in the new gTLD back-end market.
Last time its .au deal was renegotiated, prices came down.
ARI Registry Services officially announced its aggressive targeting of the DNS services market at an event in Toronto last week.
The company says it is the named DNS provider in over 450 new gTLD applications, giving it a substantial foot in the door should they be approved by ICANN.
That’s almost three times as many applications as ARI is involved with as registry provider.
“To our competitors, we are coming for you,” a tired and emotional ARI CEO Adrian Kinderis said during the launch event at a club in Toronto last Tuesday, which DI attended.
“Bring it on,” equally tired and emotional executives from larger competitors were heard to mutter in the audience.
ARI seems to be targeting just TLD operators to begin with, while competitors such as Verisign, Neustar and Afilias also offer managed DNS to enterprises.
ARI already runs the DNS for Australia’s .au.
Neustar and ARI Registry Services have come up with an alternative to ICANN’s proposed new gTLDs sunrise period process, based on a secure Public Key Infrastructure.
The concept was outlined in a draft paper published today, following an intensive two-day tête-à-tête between domain companies and Trademark Clearinghouse providers IBM and Deloitte last month.
It’s presented as an alternative to the implementation model proposed by ICANN, which would use unique codes and was criticized for being inflexible to the needs of new gTLD registries.
The PKI-based alternative from Neustar and ARI would remove some of the cost and complexity for registries, but may create additional file-management headaches for trademark owners.
Under the ICANN model, which IBM and Deloitte are already developing, each trademark owner would receive a unique code for each of their registered trademarks and each registry would be given the list of codes.
If a trademark owner wanted a Sunrise registration, it would submit the relevant code to their chosen registrar, which would forward it to the registry for validation against the list.
One of the drawbacks of this method is that registries don’t get to see any of the underlying trademark data, making it difficult to restrict Sunrise registrations to certain geographic regions or certain classes of trademark.
If, for example, .london wanted to restrict Sunrise eligibility to UK-registered trademarks, it would have no easy way of doing so using the proposed ICANN model.
But IP interests participating in the development of the Trademark Clearinghouse have been adamant that they don’t want registries and registrars getting bulk access to their trademark data.
They’re worried about creating new classes of scams and have competitive concerns about revealing their portfolio of trademarks.
Frankly, they don’t trust registries/rars not to misuse the data.
(The irony that some of the fiercest advocates of Whois accuracy are so concerned about corporate privacy has not been lost on many participants in the TMCH implementation process.)
The newly proposed PKI model would also protect trademark owners’ privacy, albeit to a lesser extent, while giving registries visibility into the underlying trademark data.
The PKI system is rather like SSL. It used public/private key pairs to digitally sign and verify trademark data.
Companies would submit trademark data to the Clearinghouse, which would validate it. The TMCH would then sign the data with its private key and send it back to the trademark owner.
If a company wished to participate in a Sunrise, it would have to upload the signed data — most likely, a file — to its registrar. The registrar or registry could then verify the signature using the TMCH’s public key.
Because the data would be signed, but not encrypted, registrars/ries would be able to check that the trademark is valid and also get to see the trademark data itself.
This may not present a privacy concern for trademark owners because their data is only exposed to registries and registrars for the marks they plan to register as domains, rather than in bulk.
Registries would be able to make sure the trademark fits within their Sunrise eligibility policy, and would be able to include some trademark data in the Whois, if that’s part of their model.
It would require more file management work by trademark owners, but it would not require a unique code for each gTLD that they plan to defensively register in.
The Neustar/ARI proposal suggests that brand-protection registrars may be able to streamline this for their clients by enabling the bulk upload of trademark Zip files.
The overall PKI concept strikes me as more elegant than the ICANN model, particularly because it’s real-time rather than using batch downloads, and it does not require the TMCH to have 100% availability.
ICANN is understandably worried that about the potentially disastrous consequences for the new gTLD program if it creates a TMCH that sits in the critical registration path and it goes down.
The PKI proposal for Sunrise avoids this problem, as registries and registrars only need a stored copy of the TMCH’s public key in order to do real-time validation.
Using PKI for the Trademark Claims service — the second obligatory rights protection mechanism for new gTLD launches — is a much trickier problem if ICANN is to stick to its design goals, however.
ARI and Neustar plan to publish their Trademark Claims proposal later this week. For now, you can read the Sunrise proposal in PDF format here.