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Loss-making M+M predicts December new TLD announcement

Top Level Domain Holdings, the parent company of Minds + Machines, has reported another six months of steep losses as it patiently waits for ICANN to launch its new TLD round.

The company, which is listed in London, reported revenue for the period to the end of April of £32,000 ($49,000), with a loss of £462,000 ($708,000).

TLDH still has almost £4m in cash and equivalents, so it’s not likely to go out of business before the new TLD round commences. Unless the round is delayed by litigation, of course.

M+M has apparently been tightening its belt a little since April. I’m aware of at least one key employee who is no longer working there.

TLDH says in its interim report that it expects ICANN to finalize its Applicant Guidebook in November and announce the application window for the first round in Cartegena in December.

While that’s definitely compatible with noises ICANN’s chairman was making in Brussels, I know I’m not the only person who believes this is a somewhat optimistic estimate.

The report also makes reference to the issue of registry-registrar integration, noting that the ICANN Nairobi resolution to prohibit cross ownership benefits M+M, which is not a registrar.

TLDH’s share price closed up 2% today.

ICANN chair says new TLD guidebook could be final by December

Kevin Murphy, June 28, 2010, Domain Policy

Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of the ICANN board, thinks there’s a chance that the Applicant Guidebook for new top-level domains could be ready by ICANN’s next meeting, set for Cartagena in early December.

The board resolved in Brussels on Friday to turn its September two-day retreat into a special meeting focussed on knocking the DAG into shape.

Shortly after the vote, Peter Dengate Thrush spoke at a press conference (emphasis mine).

Soon after the closing of the [DAG v4] public comment period was a regularly scheduled retreat for the board to go and do what boards do at retreats, and what we’ve decided today to do is to use that two-day retreat to see if we can’t make decisions on all the outstanding issues in relation to the new TLD program.

That’s probably reasonably ambitious, there may still be a couple left, but we want to get as many of them out of the way as we can. That means that when we come to the next ICANN meeting in Cartagena in December we hope to be very close if not actually able to hand out the Applicant Guidebook for that new process.

I asked him what outstanding issues needed to be resolved before the DAG can be finalized. Instead of a comprehensive list, he named two: IP protection and the Governmental Advisory Committee’s “morality and public order” concerns.

The IP issue is “close” to being resolved, he said, but “there may still be issues”.

On MOPO, he said there is “a potential conflict emerging” between GAC members who value free speech and those who are more concerned with their own religious and cultural sensitivities.

When I followed up to ask whether it was possible to reconcile these two positions, this is what he said:

What we’ve done is ask the GAC is how they would reconcile it… now they are saying that they can’t see how it can be done. We see that very much as a problem either for the GAC to change its advice, or to provide us with a mechanism whereby that can be reconciled.

The Brussels GAC Communique (pdf), has little to say on MOPO, delaying its advice until its official DAG v4 public comment filing.

MOPO has already created tensions between the GAC and the board. The conversation at their joint meeting on Tuesday went a little like this:

GAC: We don’t like this MOPO stuff. Please get rid of it.

BOARD: Okay. What shall we replace it with?

GAC: Erm…

BOARD: Well?

GAC: It’s not our problem. You think of something.

BOARD: Can you give us a hint?

GAC: No.

BOARD: Please? A little one?

GAC: We’ll think about it.

So can we expect the GAC to get its act together in time for Cartagena? That, too, seems ambitious.

New TLD guidebook could be finalized at ICANN retreat

Kevin Murphy, June 21, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN’s Draft Applicant Guidebook for new TLDs could become the Final Applicant Guidebook at an ICANN retreat before the next ICANN meeting.

Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush said at a press conference here in Brussels earlier that a private two-day board retreat this year, focused entirely on new TLDs, could “clear up any remaining issues” with the DAG.

I believe he was referring to the ICANN board’s scheduled September 24-25 retreat, although he may have had something else in mind.

Dengate Thrush said that we should not expect the board to pass as many resolutions relating to the DAG at the end of the Brussels meeting as it did at the end of Nairobi three months ago.

But he still expects DAG v4 will be the final draft published before the guidebook is finalized.

“The reality is that there are a number of overarching issues where the community has to reach consensus, and it’s difficult for us to put time limits on the community,” he said.

A few minutes ago, during an open mic session on new TLDs, Jon Nevett of Domain Dimensions questioned whether there should be a special ICANN meeting, before the retreat, to give the community a chance to help with the finalization process.

Will ICANN punt .xxx in Brussels?

Is ICANN set to delay approval of the proposed .xxx top-level domain – again – in Brussels?

That’s my reading of ICANN’s latest document concerning ICM Registry’s long-running and controversial battle for a porn-only TLD.

This week, ICANN submitted its summary of the public comment period that ran to May 10. It’s a fair bit shorter than the one Kieren McCarthy compiled for ICM last month.

As usual, it’s written in a fairly neutral tone. But, if you’re feeling conspiratorial, the mask does slip on occasion, perhaps giving a sense of where the .xxx application could head next.

The ICANN summary occasionally breaks from reporting what a commenter actually said in order to highlight a potential problem they did not address.

Example (my emphasis):

Only two commenters directly addressed the question of further interaction with the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) on the .XXX sTLD Application. Both of those commenters were against seeking any further input from the GAC outside of any public comment period. Neither of these commenters – nor any other – addressed the potential violation of the ICANN Bylaws that could result from the Board’s failure to properly consider the advice of the GAC

This suggests, to me, that the ICANN board will be receiving advice to the effect that further GAC input needs to be forthcoming before it can move forward with .xxx.

If this is the case, the GAC might have to produce some advice before next Friday’s board meeting if ICM has any hope of getting back around the negotiating table prior to Cartagena in December.

That’s not the only reason to believe ICANN may punt .xxx again, however. Elsewhere in the report, we read (my emphasis again):

For those in favor of proceeding with the .XXX sTLD Application, many created an alternative option – that ICM and ICANN should proceed to a contract right away. There was substantial discussion on this point in the ICM submissions. Few commenters addressed the technical realities identified within the Process Report ‐ that prompt execution of the agreement negotiated in 2007 is not feasible.

The Process Report referenced says that it is not possible to go straight into contract talks because ICM first applied for .xxx more than six years ago.

This has been a bone of contention. ICM points to .post, which was applied for at the same time as .xxx and only approved late last year, as proof that the passage of time should be no barrier.

But ICANN president Rod Beckstrom doesn’t buy that comparison. He wrote to ICM (pdf) at the end of March noting that .post was backed by the International Postal Union, whereas .xxx is “sponsored” by IFFOR, an organization created by ICM purely to act as its sponsor.

In that letter, Beckstrom talks about due diligence to make sure ICM and IFFOR still satisfy financial and technical criteria, and a review of whether .xxx “can still satisfy the requisite sponsorship criteria”.

I’ll admit that I’m breaking out the crystal ball a bit here, and I’ve been wrong before, but I don’t think it’s looking great for ICM in Brussels.

ICANN picks Colombia for December meeting

Kevin Murphy, April 22, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN chief Rod Beckstrom has just confirmed via Twitter that Cartagena, Colombia has been picked for the organization’s December meeting.

Judging from US State Department reports, the country is nowadays not nearly as scary as it was when Joan Wilder made a flying visit to rescue her sister in 1984.

Still, I’m guessing we’ll still see a little bit of that nervousness and paranoia that usually rears its head when ICANN heads for cities with a reputation for violent crime.

Terrorism concerns in Kenya caused many US stakeholders to stay at home and brave unreasonably early mornings participating remotely.

Even the choice of Mexico City caused a bit of a stir last year.

Personally, I’d love to see ICANN hold a meeting in Oakland or Baltimore, just to see what the security advisory looks like.