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ICANN names Göran Marby new CEO

Kevin Murphy, February 9, 2016, Domain Policy

ICANN has its sixth CEO in its 18-year history.

Swedish telecoms regulator Göran Marby will take on the job in May, two months after incumbent Fadi Chehade leaves.

Marby

Marby is currently director-general of the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority, which regulates telecommunications and the internet in Sweden. It’s a government job.

He’s been in that role since 2010, and was reappointed to the role in November (when, presumably, he was already interviewing with ICANN).

He’s not an ICANN insider, telling a press conference yesterday that he has worked with ICANN participants but does not himself have a history of participating.

Marby, like Chehade, has a background as a technology entrepreneur. He founded, managed, then sold the security company AppGate, which made network security appliances.

Attention was immediately drawn yesterday to a July 2015 article from Swedish national broadcaster Sverige Radio, in which several sources demanded Marby’s resignation.

These telco industry sources said Marby had an “unprofessional” and “aggressive” management style that did not inspire confidence in the industry he regulates.

One journalist interviewed for the piece said Marby had threatened and physically intimidated him during an interview.

At the time, Marby would not talk to Sverige Radio. However, during yesterday’s press conference he seemed to characterize the claims as sour grapes.

He said that the allegations had come from executives at regulated companies at a time when PTS had just made a decision requiring them to invest more heavily in their networks, which they weren’t happy about.

He said that the PTS staff, board, union, and then the Swedish government had backed him, noting his November reappointment to the role.

Technically, he’s the first European ICANN CEO (M Stuart Lynn was a Brit by birth, but had gone septic by the time he was employed by ICANN) but Crocker said that this fact was not particularly relevant to his hiring.

He’s going to move to Los Angeles, from his current home in Stockholm.

Chehade is due to leave March 15. Marby starts in May.

ICANN Global Domains Division president Akram Atallah will be interim CEO for the interregnum, as he was between Rod Beckstrom leaving and Chehade starting.

Chehade makes case for insider CEO in frank assessment of failings

Kevin Murphy, June 22, 2015, Domain Policy

Outgoing ICANN CEO has made a case for his successor to be somebody already intimately familiar with the ICANN community.

His remarks, which stopped short of explicitly recommending an insider take over his position when he leaves next March, came during a frank self-assessment of his shortcomings in the job at ICANN 53 in Buenos Aires yesterday.

“There are many things I could have done better or done differently,” Chehade said before an audience of Generic Names Supporting Organization members.

He freely confessed to jumping headlong into the job before he fully understood ICANN as a community; how it functions and where the real power is supposed to be wielded.

The key example of that, he said, was the creation of some of the rules now in use at the Trademark Clearinghouse.

“I meant well, I intended well, but I broke every process in the system,” he said. “I didn’t know, and I really didn’t realize that I didn’t until later.”

That’s a reference to late 2012, when Chehade convened a series of secretive, invitation-only community meetings that gave the Intellectual Property Constituency yet another chance to have rights protection mechanisms strengthened.

Chehade famously even asked participants to not even live-tweet during the discussions, it was not webcast, and recordings of (some of) the sessions were not published until DI filed a Documentary Information Disclosure Process request.

These “strawman” meetings culminated in the IPC being given the “Trademark+50” mechanism, which allows variations on trademarks to be protected, and the Non-Commercial Users Constituency to claim its voice had been under-represented and largely ignored.

For this reason and others, Chehade now says his successor had better have “very very good preparation and orientation”.

“Spending about seven minutes with the prior CEO before I took this job is not something I recommend,” he said, apparently a reference to time spent with his predecessor, Rod Beckstrom.

“This is a very complex job, and a very layered role, and I had no orientation to speak of,” he said. “If he or she is not someone who knows this community, this person better have a lot of orientation.”

He described how it took him some time to get to grips with the idea that he’s not a CEO in the conventional sense, able to make changes at will and answerable only to the board of directors.

“I am not a CEO,” he said. “There are types of CEO and this is a servant CEO job. Until you get that you keep hitting walls.”

He also described the job as “a politician without a flag” and “community facilitator”.

His biggest regret, he said, was failing to immediately realize that the facilitator function was the most important part of the job.

It took a clash last year about accountability being a key part of the IANA transition for him to realize this, he said.

“I hope you will all contribute in finding a person who will serve you well from day one, not like me, who from day one will arrive understanding all the parts of this,” he said.

Whether he intended it or not, this sounds like Chehade would err towards hiring an ICANN community veteran as his successor.

He said his replacement should be somebody who “knows all the things I learned, hopefully on day one, or on month one. Or on year one, but not three years in.”

It should be noted that Chehade turned down the chance to be a part of the team that will choose his successor.

Chehade’s position appears to diametrically opposed that of his predecessor. During Beckstrom’s tenure as “outgoing” CEO, he explicitly recommended an outsider take over the role.

“I hope that the person who replaces me will be of the highest integrity and has no recent or current commercial or career interests in the domain industry, because ICANN’s fairness, objectivity and independence are of paramount importance to the future of the internet,” Beckstrom said in October 2011.

Beckstrom’s remarks came as ICANN came under intensified scrutiny over perceived conflicts of interest.

Peter Dengate Thrush had recently come to the end of his tenure as ICANN chair, pushing through the (premature?) approval of the new gTLD program in his last few days on the job and joining applicant Minds + Machines just a few weeks later.

Chehade’s remarks yesterday come as ICANN is in a different position.

When he leaves next March, ICANN will either be freshly decoupled from its oversight relationship with the US government, or will be on the verge of it.

It won’t be an easy time for a new CEO to take over, trying to steer the organization under a fresh, untested set of governance principles.

When it comes to “insiders” with intimate knowledge of ICANN, there are a few community members not already on ICANN staff I could imagine pitching themselves for the CEO’s job.

But there’s also the possibility of an internal hire.

Remember, one of Chehade’s first actions upon taking the job was to hire the two other people who had been on the board’s final shortlist — Tarek Kamel and Sally Costerton.

Kamel, once a controversial minister in Mubarak’s Egyptian government, is currently Chehade’s senior advisor for government engagement.

Costerton was London-based EMEA CEO at the public relations agency Hill & Knowlton. Today, she’s the senior advisor for global stakeholder engagement. She maintains a blog about women in leadership positions that some readers might find eye-opening in the ICANN CEO search context.

Both were considered CEO material three years ago, and both now have three years of ICANN experience to put on their job applications (if they choose to file them).

So why is Chehade leaving ICANN? The persistent rumors have him either being offered the job of his dreams elsewhere, or suffering a severe case of ICANN burnout.

But yesterday he left little doubt whether his next job, which it has been confirmed he already has lined up, would be better that his current one.

“[ICANN CEO] is a beautiful job. It is a fantastic job. It is better job that I’ve ever had, or will ever have I think. It is amazing. Lucky is the person who will take my place,” he said.

So, um, why quit?

“The next phase of ICANN requires a different person. Don’t go rehire Fadi. You don’t need another Fadi. I was there for a purpose, for a time,” he said. “I am a classic change agent CEO. I either build things from scratch… or I transform things. ICANN doesn’t need this now.”

Asked to comment on his biggest successes, Chehade deferred, saying his legacy was something to talk about at a different time.

.ceo smartens up in new promo video

Kevin Murphy, December 10, 2014, Domain Registries

Struggling to find its tone?

PeopleBrowsr has done a full 180 in its attempts to market .ceo through online commercials.

In its latest video, the company has gone for a straightforward grey-hair-in-a-suit-addresses-camera concept.

It’s a far cry from its first attempt, published a year ago but now flagged as “private” on YouTube, which comprised PeopleBrowsr staffers dicking around the office in Donald Trump masks.

It also represents an evolution from the cartoony, but much more respectable, effort from February.

“The video was produced over many months – with feedback and collaboration from over 100 of our early adopter CEOs,” the company said.

Now, .ceo is being positioned as a “business card” for CEOs that enables social networking opportunities.

The gTLD, which went to general availability in March, currently has fewer than 1,800 domains in its zone file, though PeopleBrowsr pegs its number of registrations at “almost 2,000”.

Two more years! Chehade stays at ICANN with $100,000 pay raise

Kevin Murphy, August 5, 2014, Domain Policy

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade has had his contract renewed for an extra two years with a new pay package worth up to $100,000 more than he was previously getting.

The ICANN board of directors last week approved an extension of his contract, which had not been due to expire until July next year, to June 30, 2017.

Effectively immediately, he’ll receive a new salary of $630,000 a year, with a performance-related bonus of up to $270,000 per year. That’s up 12.5% from his original salary of $560,000 and $240,000 bonus.

ICANN described the compensation as “comparable to similar positions”.

Despite the hefty bump, Chehade is still on a smaller package than his immediate predecessor, Rod Beckstrom, who was on a base salary of $750,000 with $195,000 in bonuses.

By renewing his contract a year early, ICANN avoids the kind of leadership speculation that dogged Beckstrom’s final year in the corner office.

“As we noted in the Board resolution, taking this action will help ensure the stability in leadership that is important for ICANN. It also shows the support and confidence that the Board has in Fadi,” ICANN chair Steve Crocker said in a statement.

dotBest cancels landrush

Kevin Murphy, April 17, 2014, Domain Registries

PeopleBrowsr has decided to cancel the landrush phase for its forthcoming .best new gTLD, citing “very little engagement” from registrants.

The TLD is due to go to sunrise today. Two days after it ends on May 19, it will go directly to general availability.

VP of operations Michael Deparini said in an email:

Many of our registrars have given us feedback that there has been very little engagement with the TLD Landrush Phase. We have decided to cancel Landrush.

We are excited to announce that we will open General Availability (GA) ahead of schedule to commence on May 21 at 16:00:00 GMT (12pm EST).

PeopleBrowsr is also the company behind .ceo, which launched two weeks ago with just 250 names in its first couple of days on the market — about 40% of which belonged to one cybersquatter.

.ceo currently has 798 domains in its zone, making it the fourth-smallest of the 74 new gTLDs that currently appear to be selling names.

Dodgy domainer owns 40% of .ceo’s new names

Kevin Murphy, March 30, 2014, Domain Registries

What do Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, Jeff Bezos and the Saudi royal family have in common?

Their .ceo domain names all belong to the same guy, a registrant from Trinidad and Tobago who as of last night was responsible for 40% of hand-registered .ceo domains.

Andrew Davis has registered roughly 100 of the roughly 250 .ceo names sold since the new gTLD went into general availability on March 28, spending at least $10,000 to do so.

I hesitate to call him a cyberquatter, but I have a feeling that multiple UDRP panels will soon be rather less hesitant.

Oh, what the hell: the dude’s a cyberquatter.

Here’s why I think so.

According to Whois records, Davis has registered dozens of common given and family names in .ceo — stuff like smith.ceo, patel.ceo, john.ceo, wang.ceo and wolfgang.ceo.

So far, that seems like fair game to me. There are enough CEOs with those names out there that to register matching domains in .ceo, or in any TLD, could easily be seen as honest speculation.

Then there are domains that start setting off alarm bells.

zuckerberg.ceo? zuck.ceo? oprah.ceo? trump.ceo? bezos.ceo?

Sure, those are names presumably shared by many people, but in the context of .ceo could they really refer to anyone other than Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump and Jeff Bezos?

I doubt it.

Then there are a class of names that seem to have been registered by Davis purely because they show up on lists of the world’s wealthiest families and individuals.

The domains slim.ceo, walton.ceo, and adelson.ceo match the last names of three of the top ten wealthiest people on the planet; arnault.ceo matches the name of France’s second-richest businessman.

getty.ceo, rockefeller.ceo, hearst.ceo, rothschild.ceo… all family names of American business royalty.

Then there’s the names of members of actual royalty, the magnificently wealthy Saudi royal family: alsaud.ceo, saud.ceo and alwaleed.ceo.

Still, if Davis had registered any single one of these names he could make a case that it was a good faith registration (if his name was Walton or Al Saud).

Collectively, the registration strategy looks very dodgy.

But where any chance of a good-faith defense falls apart is where Davis has registered the names of famous family-owned businesses where the name is also a well-defended trademark.

bacardi.ceo… prada.ceo… beretta.ceo… mars.ceo… sennheiser.ceo… shimano.ceo… swarovski.ceo… versace.ceo… ferrero.ceo… mahindra.ceo… olayan.ceo…

There’s very little chance of these surviving a UDRP if you ask me.

Overall, I estimate that at least half of Davis’ 100 registrations seem to deliberately target specific high net worth individuals or famous brands that are named after their company’s founder.

The remainder are generic enough that it’s difficult to guess what was going through his mind.

On his under construction web site at andrewdavis.ceo, Davis says:

I am the owner of Hundreds of the Best .CEO Domains available on the web.

My collection comprises of the Top Premium .CEO Domains (in my opinion).

My list of domains contains the First or Last names of well over 1 Billion people around the world.

I offer Email and Web Link Services on each of these sites, so that these Domains can be shared with many people around the world, particularly CEOs, Business Owners and Leaders, or those aspiring to become one.

On each of Davis’ .ceo sites, he offers to sell email addresses (eg contact@bacardi.ceo) for $10 a month and third-level domain names (eg blog.walton.ceo) for $5 a month.

A UDRP panelist is going to take this as evidence of bad faith, despite Davis’ disclaimer, which appears on each of his web sites. Here’s an example from bacardi.ceo:

This Website (Bacardi.CEO) is NOT Affiliated with, nor refers to, any Trademark or Company named “Bacardi”, that may or may not exist.

This Website does NOT refer to any Specific Individual Person(s) named “Bacardi”.

This Website aims to provide Services for ANY Person named “Bacardi”, particularly: CEOs, Business Owners and Leaders.

Bacardi.CEO is an Independent and Personal Project/Service of Andrew Davis.

I must admit I admire his entrepreneurship, but I fear he has stepped over the line into cybersquatting that a UDRP panelist will have no difficulty at all recognizing.

Davis has already been hit with a Uniform Rapid Suspension complaint on mittal.ceo, presumably filed on behalf of billionaire Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal and/or his company ArcelorMittal.

It’s not clear from the name alone whether mittal.ceo is a losing domain under URS’ higher standard of evidence, but I reckon the pattern of registrations described in this blog post would help make for a pretty convincing case that would put it over the line.

I should add, in fairness to .ceo registry PeopleBrowsr, that the other 60% of its zone, judging by Whois records, looks pretty clean. Small, but clean.

Slow start for .ceo with fewer than 400 names sold

Kevin Murphy, March 30, 2014, Domain Registries

The new .ceo gTLD has had a disappointing launch.

In the first 30 hours of general availability, which began on Friday afternoon, the TLD has managed to scrape just 378 registrations, according to the latest zone file.

That includes 100 names that were registered during the sunrise period.

Jodee Rich, CEO of PeopleBrowsr, the .ceo registry, told DI that the company sold about 40 premium names at $999 per year on the first day and that revenue for the first six hours was about $100,000.

The baseline retail price for .ceo names is $99.

There is a tiered pricing structure, and Rich said that only four out of its 40-something accredited registrars were ready to handle it, which may have impacted sales.

He added that .ceo has over 3,000 pre-registrations which he hopes to start seeing convert over the coming days.

Nevertheless, 378 domains is a poor showing by any measure.

On day one of GA, it was the eighth-fastest growing new gTLD by domain volume. Today, it’s ranked 52nd out of the 52 new gTLDs that have gone to full, baseline pricing general availability.

PeopleBrowsr tones it down in new .ceo vids

Kevin Murphy, February 20, 2014, Domain Registries

PeopleBrowsr, registry for the forthcoming .ceo gTLD, has eschewed the cringe in its new promotional videos.

No more company employees dancing around in masks to white rap; rather, straightforward animation with a voice-over explaining what .ceo is.

As I was so rude about the first (horrible, horrible) .ceo vid I feel duty bound to embed the latest, relatively boring one, too.

There’s another one here, too.

You snooze, you lose new gTLD sunrise coming soon

Kevin Murphy, January 10, 2014, Domain Registries

Trademark attorneys and brand management executives take note: January 21 will see the launch of the first first-come, first-served sunrise period we’ve seen in a new TLD in a long time.

FCFS means that domain names will be allocated to participants immediately, rather than at the end of the sunrise period.

For those responsible for acquiring domain names for mark owners — many of whom are accustomed to waiting to the last minute before submitting sunrise applications — this is a change of pace.

You snooze, you lose.

To date only Regiodot’s German geographic gTLD, .ruhr, has officially confirmed (pdf) that it intends to use a FCFS policy during its mandatory sunrise period.

That’s due to kick off on January 21.

The precise time that the sunrise will begin — important when you’re looking at a FCFS policy — does not appear to have been published yet.

UPDATE: the time has been published (see comments below this post) and it’s 1000 UTC.

Under ICANN rules, to use FCFS registries need a “Start Date” sunrise, which runs for 30 days but requires a 30-day notice period before it begins. Regiodot told ICANN about its sunrise dates December 18.

The alternative “End Date” sunrises run for 60 days, have no notice period, and domains are only allocated to mark owners — usually using auctions to settle contention — after the 60 days are over.

Other than .ruhr, only PeopleBrowsr’s .ceo has said it wants to run a Start Date sunrise. However, PeopleBrowsr will not run its sunrise on a FCFS basis, preferring the end-date allocation/auction method instead.

Is this the worst new gTLD video yet?

Kevin Murphy, November 26, 2013, Domain Registries

If you’re trying to market a new gTLD aimed solely at CEOs, and your messaging is security, credibility and authority, what’s the best medium to get that message across?

Why, it’s white rap of course! In Donald Trump masks!

That’s apparently the thought process of PeopleBrowsr, the applicant for .ceo, anyway.

The video below got its first airing during a joint PeopleBrowsr/TLDH party at ICANN 48 in Buenos Aires last week.

I was on a bio break at the time and missed the premiere, but I was assured by other party-goers that it was the most painfully awkward video ever screened at an ICANN meeting.

After PeopleBrowsr published it on YouTube today, I was not disappointed. Enjoy a true classic: