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ICANN releases (censored) board briefing docs

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN has given an unprecedented glimpse into the workings of its board of directors, with the release of hundreds of pages of staff briefing papers.

But the documents are quite heavily redacted, particularly when it comes to some of the more controversial topics.

The documents show what ICANN staffers told the board in the run-up to the Nairobi and Brussels meetings, dealing with important decisions such as .xxx and internationalized domain names.

The Brussels decision to put .xxx back on the track to approval sees more than its fair share of blacked-out text, but the documents do show that ICANN general counsel John Jeffrey’s recommendations were pretty much in line with how the board eventually voted.

Other topics seeing redaction include the implementation of DNSSEC at the root, the activities of the Internet Governance Forum, and specific discussion of IDN ccTLD delegations.

Some topics are deemed so sensitive that even the titles of the pages have been blacked out. But in at least one case somebody apparently forgot to redact the title from the PDF’s internal bookmarks.

So we know, for example, that a section entitled “Chronological-History-ICM” is deemed entirely unpublishable, even though ICANN has previously published a document with pretty much the same title (pdf).

Who voted against three Arabic ccTLDs and why?

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2010, Domain Registries

Two ICANN board members voted against the recent resolution to grant Arabic top-level domains to Palestine, Jordan and Tunisia, it has emerged.

ICANN has published the preliminary report for its August 5 board meeting, which breaks down the votes for each of the 27 resolutions and provides a minuscule amount of color about the discussions.

While the resolutions approving internationalized domain names for Singapore and Thailand were carried unanimously and without discussion, the three Arabic-script IDNs were discussed and received two negative votes and three abstentions.

So which two board members voted against these ccTLDs and why?

Beats me. The IDN ccTLD fast track process is one area where ICANN is quite secretive, and the report does not break down the substance of the discussion or the identities of the directors.

Strangely, two resolutions I would consider much more controversial faced less opposition.

The report shows that the resolution passing ICM Registry’s .xxx domain to the next stage of approval was carried unanimously, and that only one director voted against the .jobs amendment.

ERE.net has more on the .jobs story.

Top-level domain count likely to top 300 this year

Kevin Murphy, August 16, 2010, Domain Registries

Perusing the big stack of marketing literature that I picked up at ICANN Brussels in June, I noticed that few companies agree about how many top-level domains currently exist.

Mildly surprising really, given that the official count isn’t especially difficult to come by. According to IANA’s database, there are 292 delegated TLDs today.

That number breaks down like this:

251 ASCII ccTLDs
9 IDN ccTLDs
4 gTLDs
3 “restricted” gTLDs
1 “infrastructure” TLD
13 “sponsored” gTLDs
11 test IDN TLDs

Interestingly, according to IANA, there are only four vanilla, open gTLDs – .com, .net, .org and .info.

I wonder how many sites NeuStar has shut down because .biz is “restricted” to business users? Or how many .mobi domains have been put on hold for breaking the “sponsored” guidelines.

The list does not yet count the six IDN ccTLDs that ICANN’s board approved August 5. So there are actually 298 approved top-level domains today.

In the IDN ccTLD pipeline as of Brussels were also Qatar, Singapore and Syria, which had met string approval but were not yet delegated, and about 15 others that had not.

There are two (or three) more voting meetings for ICANN’s board this year, and so it seems likely that the delegated TLD count will break through the 300 mark before 2011.

Palestine gets its own Arabic domain names

Kevin Murphy, August 6, 2010, Domain Registries

ICANN has awarded five more non-ASCII top-level domains under its internationalized domain name fast-track process for country-code TLD managers.

Palestine, Tunisia and Jordan will all shortly receive delegations for Arabic-script versions of their existing ccTLDs. They join previous recipients including Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Palestine gets فلسطين, Tunisia gets تونس and Jordan gets الاردن.

These apparently translate as “Falasteen”, “Tunis” and “al-Ordan”, respectively, and are presumably more useful to Arabic speakers than .ps, .tn and .jo.

Because they’re all Arabic, the dots appear to the right of the TLD, rather than the left.

The Occupied Palestinian Territory is, of course, a fringe case when it comes to ccTLDs.

But long ago, IANA made it a matter of policy that it would make no decision about which country or territory deserves its own ccTLD.

If it’s on the ISO 3166-1 list, which is overseen by the UN, it’s in. Palestine was added to that list in 1999, and was awarded .ps by ICANN/IANA in 2000.

The .ps registry is sponsored by the Palestinian National Authority’s telecoms ministry.

ICANN has also resolved to delegate Thailand the IDN ccTLD .ไทย and Sri Lanka both .ලංකා and .இலங்கை.

Interestingly, these two TLDs were approved as part of yesterday’s board meeting’s consent agenda.

The three Arabic names were approved separately, preceded by this:

RESOLVED (2010.08.05.13), the Board IANA Committee is directed, in coordination with ICANN’s CEO, to create improvements to the processes and new guidelines for implementation of the IDN ccTLD Fast Track process.

The .CO launch, by the numbers

The .co top-level domain is now live and open for general registrations, following a well-planned and self-evidently successful launch period.

The TLD is the country-code for Colombia, but it’s being sold as a generic alternative to .com by .CO Internet.

Here’s the story of the launch, explained with numbers:

27,000 – approximate number of active .com.co registrations made before the start of 2010, under the previous, much more restrictive regime (source).

5,000 – roughly how many of these .com.co registrants chose to participate in sunrise grandfathering, which would allow them to grab the equivalent .co domain before anybody else (source).

100 – number of brands on .CO Internet’s Specially Protected Marks List. These 100 companies, selected by Deloitte, had their brands placed on a registry-reserved list during the launch period.

83 – brands on the SPML who had chosen to register their .co names by the time the sunrise closed (source). Companies on the SPML who continue to decline their domain will see their brand released back into the pool.

10 – registrars initially approved to take .co registrations. Many more companies are selling the domains, but they’re all acting as resellers for these 10. More registrars will be approved in future.

225 to 335 – price in US dollars of a sunrise registration for trademark holders (source).

11,000 – approximate number of sunrise registrations

1,500 – approximate number of rejected sunrise applications (source)

27,905 – applications made during the landrush (source)

451 – landrush applicants applying for 10 or more domains

2,523 – domains receiving more than one landrush application. These domains will now be offered at auction. (source)

133 – number of countries where landrush applicants resided

350– Fortune 500 companies that have registered their trademarks under .co as of today

81,000 – the price in US dollars of the first .co domain to be auctioned, the single-letter e.co. The domain sold on Sedo to Bookmarks.com on June 10 (source)

350,000 – price in US dollars of the biggest seller to date, the single-letter o.co. The domain was sold to Overstock.com, directly by the registry, earlier this week. (source)

91,613 – registrations in the first 12 minutes of general availability, which started at 6pm UTC yesterday. (source)

216,159 – currently active registrations as of 10am UTC today, 16 hours into general availability (source)

? – number of .co domains still active July 22, 2011.

Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add your data to the list.

Chinese TLDs now live, broad adoption achieved in just seven days

Check it out: 教育部。中国.

That’s one, but by no means the only, of the first live, fully Chinese-script domain names. It’s China’s Ministry of Education.

Previously, it had been announced that the .中国 internationalized country-code TLD would not go live until August.

But on Friday CNNIC said that 90% of China’s ministries have got their .中國 domains already, along with 95% of news websites, 90% of universities and 40% of China’s Top 500 enterprises.

Not only was that level of adoption achieved very quietly, it was also achieved very quickly. According to IANA, .中國 was delegated just seven days earlier, on July 9.

IANA also reports that .中國, the IDN for Hong Kong went live on July 12. Taiwan’s .中國 was delegated on July 14.

All of these Chinese-script TLDs were approved by ICANN’s board at the conclusion of the Brussels meeting last month.

It’s perhaps not surprising that ICANN did not broadly announce the latest delegations. It got burnt for pre-empting Arab nations’ publicity when the first IDN TLDs went live in May.

I wonder whether this will help CNNIC reverse the trend of declining registrations in its namespace. According to the latest statistics, the .cn has halved in size over the last year.

Tuvalu not happy with VeriSign deal

The government of the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu feels it’s getting a raw deal under its current contract with .tv registry manager VeriSign.

According to Radio New Zealand International, Tuvalu finance minister Lotoala Metia said VeriSign pays “peanuts” for the right to run the .tv namespace:

We are negotiating but we are tied because of the agreement that was signed before us. We cannot negotiate for an increase until 2016. Counter offers have been made but they are not acceptable to the government of the day. So we have to stick to our guns now. They’re giving us peanuts.

VeriSign, and its predecessor registry, run .tv under lease as a generic TLD. It is of course Tuvalu’s country-code. By GDP, Tuvalu is one of the poorest nations in the world.

The RNZI article reports that Tuvalu receives $2 million per year from VeriSign. That’s possibly sourced from the CIA World Factbook, which estimated that amount for 2006.

Yet the CIA also says that Tuvalu receives $1 million per quarter, based on a 12-year, $50 million deal that started in 2000.

For all these facts to be true, the deal must have been renegotiated at some point since it was originally signed.

Bulgaria to file ICANN reconsideration appeal over rejected IDN ccTLD

Bulgaria is to appeal ICANN’s rejection of .бг, the Cyrillic version of its existing country code top-level domain, .bg.

Technology minister Alexander Tsvetkov said that the Bulgarian government will file a reconsideration request with ICANN, according to a DarikNews.bg interview.

The requested IDN ccTLD .бг was rejected because it looks quite a bit like Brazil’s existing ASCII ccTLD, .br, which could create confusion for Brazilians.

ICANN/IANA does not talk openly about ccTLD delegation issues. As far as I know, .бг is the only IDN ccTLD on the current fast-track program to be rejected on string-similarity grounds.

The Darik News interview, via Google Translate, reports Tsvetkov saying he “believes that this domain is the best way for Bulgaria” and that the government “will ask for reconsideration”.

Asked about the clash with Brazil, he said Bulgaria “will not quit” in its pursuit of its first-choice ccTLD.

Brazil has not been silent on the issue.

During the meeting on Tuesday between the ICANN board and its Governmental Advisory Committee, Brazil’s representative praised ICANN for rejecting .бг:

Brazil would like to express its support to the recent board’s decision about avoiding graphic similitude between new country codes and current country codes in Latin. This is particularly important inasmuch as any graphic confusion might facilitate phishing practices and all the problems related to it.

Many thanks to the Bulgarian reader who referred me to this Darik News interview.

For any other Bulgarians reading this, the interview also appears to contain lots of other really juicy information not related to domain names. Check it out.

Kredit.com sells for a fraction of Kredit.de

Kevin Murphy, June 15, 2010, Domain Sales

Kredit.com, which means “credit.com” in German, has been sold via Sedo for a fraction of the price that Kredit.de sold for about 18 months ago.

Sedo reported today that the domain changed hands recently for €220,000, which works out to $271,000 at today’s exchange rates.

For comparison, the German ccTLD equivalent, kredit.de, went for €892,500 in December 2008, also via Sedo. At the time, that amount translated to $1.25 million.

A generic ccTLD selling for roughly 5x the .com is a fairly uncommon occurrence, perhaps demonstrating how strong the .de namespace is locally. I can’t imagine such a wide discrepancy in valuations between a generic .com and .co.uk.

Kredit.com was originally registered in 1996. It’s currently parked, with an Irish address listed in the Whois.

ICANN’s Sword algorithm fails Bulgarian IDN test

ICANN has released version 4 of its new TLD Draft Applicant Guidebook (more on that later) and it still contains references to the controversial “Sword” algorithm.

As I’ve previously reported, this algorithm is designed to compare two strings for visual similarity to help prevent potentially confusing new TLDs being added to the root.

The DAG v4 contains the new text:

The algorithm supports the common characters in Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, Devanagari, Greek, Japanese, Korean, and Latin scripts. It can also compare strings in different scripts to each other.

So I thought I’d check how highly the internationalized domain name .бг, the Cyrillic version of Bulgaria’s .bg ccTLD, scores.

As you may recall, .бг was rejected by ICANN two weeks ago due to its visual similarity to .br, Brazil’s ccTLD. As far as I know, it’s the only TLD to date that has been rejected on these grounds.

Plugging “бг” into Sword returns 24 strings that score over 30 out of 100 for similarity. Some, such as “bf” and “bt”, score over 70.

Brazil’s .br is not one of them.

Using the tool to compare “бг” directly to “br” returns a score of 26. That’s a lower score than strings such as “biz” and “org”.

I should note that the Sword web page is ambiguous about whether it is capable of comparing Cyrillic strings to Latin strings, but the new language in the DAG certainly suggests that it is.