Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Is social media the answer to the dot-brand problem?

With many dot-brand gTLD applicants still unsure about how they will use their new namespaces, the maker of the Kred reputation service is proposing social media as the answer.

Speaking to DI today, Kred CEO Andrew Grill said that one dot-brand applicant — a bank — has already committed to use parent company PeopleBrowsr’s new Social OS platform for its gTLD.

Social OS is being marketed as a way for companies to quickly launch their own social media networks along the lines of Facebook or LinkedIn.

Dot-brands would be able to own the customer relationship and get access to much more data about their users than they get with the limited “Like”-oriented Facebook platform, Grill said.

End users would be able to use these vertical networks using their existing social media log-in credentials, he said.

The company plans to use the platform in its own gTLD, .ceo, which it has applied for uncontested.

Grill said he talked to about 100 people at the recent ICANN meeting in Durban and expects to come away with five to 10 additional customers for the Social OS platform.

While the value proposition for new gTLD owners seems fairly reasonable, in general I’m quite skeptical about the internet’s need for more social media sites.

Any such service operated by a dot-brand would have to have a fairly compelling value proposition for end users.

Grill said that a car maker, for example, could use its own gTLD social media network to keep in touch with its customers — giving them a second-level domain when they buy one of its vehicles.

A bank, meanwhile, could offer services such as customer-to-customer transaction apps for users who have second-level domains in its gTLD. If registrations were limited to existing banking customers, a greater level of security would be baked in from the start, he said.

Former ICANN VP calls bull on Beckstrom’s exit speech

Kevin Murphy, June 26, 2012, Domain Policy

If you were following DI on Twitter during the opening ceremony of ICANN 44 yesterday, you may have noticed I only tweeted one direct quote from incoming CEO Fadi Chehade.

I pulled this one line out of what was a fairly long and passionate address because I had a “hunch” what might be coming up next when outgoing CEO Rod Beckstrom took the stage for the final time.

Now, former ICANN vice president of corporate affairs Paul Levins has called out his old boss for taking credit where credit may not be due.

Beckstrom said, during his opening remarks:

My first day on the job, I was given a blank sheet of paper and I was told that the Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Commerce of the US government was not going to be renewed by ICANN.

And I was told, “You better come up with something better and you have to get it done in 90 days because the MoU is going to expire.”

Together we worked and we created the Affirmation of Commitments.

The MoU and the AoC which replaced it have been ICANN’s primary statements of legitimacy with the US government, spelling out its responsibilities to the internet community.

Levins, writing on CircleID last night, calls Beckstrom out on the statement.

We were not starting with a blank piece of paper. It’s to his credit that he allowed that to continue, but it’s not healthy to perpetuate a belief that what replaced the Joint Project Agreement — the Affirmation of Commitments (AoC) — was miraculously developed in the space of only weeks prior to the expiration of the JPA — that an accountability rabbit was pulled from the hat.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It was ultimately the result of ten years of community effort.

But in the lead up to the JPA expiry, the direct negotiating and writing team was me, Theresa Swinehart and importantly — from the Department of Commerce (DoC) — the willing, creative and sincere cooperation of Fiona Alexander and Larry Atlas the then Senior Advisor at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Communication at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

The first written draft of the AoC had been produced over the eight months prior to Beckstrom’s arrival, Levins writes.

It’s fairly well known that Levins was one of the first people to lose his job under Beckstrom, but several others who were on ICANN staff at the time have confirmed to DI that the AoC was developed as Levins says.

His op-ed doesn’t strike me, in that light, as a full case of sour grapes.

Levins, who seems to be one of the many ICANN attendees who was impressed by Chehade’s debut address yesterday, signs off his editorial with what could be considered advice to both Chehade and Beckstrom:

…truth and sincerity is what should continue to drive the AoC’s ongoing implementation. But it should also drive the corporate memory of its creation.

Humility was a personality trait that ICANN specifically asked for when it advertised the CEO’s job earlier this year.

Judging by the reactions of ICANN 44 attendees who listened to Chehade’s speech yesterday — and have met him — humility is something Chehade appears to possess in buckets.

Everybody I’ve spoken to so far is impressed with the new guy, though some have also pointed out that they felt the same way this time in 2009.

Egyptian software exec is ICANN’s new CEO

Kevin Murphy, June 22, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has named Fadi Chehade as its new CEO.

Lebanon-born Chehade is a California-based software industry executive currently CEO of Vocado, a maker of educational software.

“I’m here because I owe the internet everything I’ve achieved to date,” he said at a press conference (ongoing).

He’s not due to take over until October 1. Until then, COO Akram Atallah will hold the reins, ICANN confirmed.

Chehade has known Atallah since they were kids — they used to be in the same boy scout troop, he said — and they worked together at Core Objects, where Chehade was CEO.

ICANN chairman Steve Crocker pointed to Chehade’s role as founder of RosettaNet, a supply chain software standards consortium, as evidence of his experience of consensus-building work.

ICANN CEO to be announced Friday

Kevin Murphy, June 18, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN will reveal the identity of its new CEO at a press conference this coming Friday.

But there’s a rumor going around that he or she is not expected to actually join the organization until September.

ICANN has just issued a press release stating that it will hold a news conference in Prague at 1600 local time (1400 UTC) during which Rod Beckstrom’s replacement will take questions from reporters.

People have been asking me for months if I know who it is and I have to say I haven’t got a clue.

The latest rumor doing the rounds, however, is that whoever has been selected will not actually take the helm until later this year.

I’ve heard September from some sources and October from others, but ICANN is currently declining to confirm or deny the rumor.

Beckstrom announced his departure from ICANN a year ago. His contract expires at the end of the month and is not expected to be extended.

ICANN affirms full refunds for pissed-off gTLD applicants, silent on new CEO

Kevin Murphy, May 8, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s board of directors has approved full refunds for any new gTLD applicant that asks for one – something that the organization has already been offering for over a month.

At its two-day retreat in Amsterdam this weekend, the board’s New gTLD Program Committee resolved:

to offer to applicants a full refund of the New gTLD Application fee actually paid to ICANN if the applicant wishes to withdraw its application prior to the date that ICANN publicly posts the identification of all TLD applications.

The date of the Big Reveal, when the names of every applicant and every applied-for gTLD will be publicly posted and the refunds will no longer be available, has not yet been set.

While the resolution refers to the TLD Application System data leakage bug, the refund does not appear to be restricted to directly affected applicants. Anyone can claim it.

However, as regular DI readers know, ICANN had been offering full refunds to applicants that withdraw before the Big Reveal for weeks before the TAS bug emerged.

ICANN customer services reps told DI and at least one gTLD applicant in March that: “Applications withdrawn prior to the posting of the applied-for strings are qualified for a $180000 refund”.

ICANN said in a statement today:

We recognize that this represents an increase of only US $5000 over the refund that withdrawing applicants would otherwise receive, but we believe it is an important part of fulfilling our commitment to treat applicants fairly.

Under the terms of the Applicant Guidebook, the maximum refund available after the Reveal is $148,000.

In other news from Amsterdam…

The ICANN board has decided to let director Thomas Narten join the New gTLD Program Committee, which comprises all of the board members without new gTLD conflicts of interest.

Narten had been barred from the recently formed committee because he worked for IBM, which planned to apply for one or more new gTLDs.

But the board said he has now “mitigated the previously-identified conflict of interest with respect to the New gTLD Program”, so he gets to join the committee as a non-voting liaison.

It’s not clear from the weekend’s resolution why Narten is no longer conflicted. Two obvious possibilities spring to mind.

There was no news from Amsterdam on ICANN’s CEO hunt.

Incumbent Rod Beckstrom intends to “hand the baton” to his successor at the Prague meeting in late June, and the board already has a favored candidate lined up to replace him.

I understand that this candidate did attend the Amsterdam board retreat, albeit under a veil of secrecy lest his or her identity leak out before official confirmation.

But I also understand that the board has decided to move super-cautiously on the CEO decision, in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

ICANN gets 100 applicants for CEO job

Kevin Murphy, February 22, 2012, Domain Policy

Over 100 people have applied to be ICANN’s next CEO, according to the organization.

ICANN revealed last night that it was provided with a shortlist of 27 potential candidates by its headhunter, Odgers Berndtson, and that its board has interviewed 16 of them by phone.

The list has now been whittled down further for face-to-face interviews with the board of directors, and ICANN expects to select a winner by mid-April.

Watch out for unfamiliar faces in expensive suits during the Costa Rica meeting in March – I’m guessing this might be where some of the interviews take place.

Current CEO Rod Beckstrom plans to leave the organization when his contract expires in July. He’s on a starting salary of $750,000, which may explain why there’s been so much interest in the job.

First ICANN CEO candidate revealed

Kevin Murphy, February 8, 2012, Domain Policy

Former ICANN director Njeri Rionge has emerged as a possible candidate for the soon-to-be-vacated CEO’s job.

Rionge is a Kenyan national, described last year by Forbes.com as “one of Kenya’s most successful and revered serial entrepreneurs”.

She founded Wananchi Online, a successful ISP in East Africa, and the business consultancy Ignite Consulting.

Her candidature was revealed in an open letter posted today by Sophia Bekele, CEO of DotConnectAfrica, a likely applicant for the .africa generic top-level domain.

DCA and Rionge have severed ties due to her new CEO aspirations, according to Bekele:

At the end of 2011, Ms. Njeri Rionge had expressed to DCA Executive Director, a direct interest in competing for the soon to be vacant ICANN CEO position, and for this reason, was kindly requested by DCA to submit her resignation from the DCA Strategic Advisory Board for ethical/conflict of interest reasons.

This was done after due internal consultations with concerned parties. Accordingly, Njeri Rionge is no longer involved in DCA and DCA Registry Ltd either as a Board Member or shareholder and will not represent neither would she be affiliated with DCA in any capacity, now or in the near future.

Rionge served on the ICANN board of directors as a Nominating Committee appointee for two terms between 2003 and 2008.

While there’s a ban on current directors applying for the CEO position, I don’t believe there’s any such prohibition on former directors.

ICANN is currently interviewing would-be replacements for Rod Beckstrom, who intends to leave the organization in July after a three-year term.

No other candidates have been revealed to date.

The only other name being circulated in the rumor mill is Lesley Cowley, CEO of .uk registry Nominet and current chair of ICANN’s ccNSO, but I’ve no idea if she’s even interested.

ICANN CEO job ad in The Economist [image]

Kevin Murphy, January 6, 2012, Domain Policy

Having spent the last six months mulling over the qualities its ideal CEO would possess, ICANN has started advertising the position to a wider audience.

EconomistThis ad (click to enlarge) appears in the January 7-13 issue of The Economist.

ICANN says it is looking for “public interest-minded individual with a combination of financial management, diplomatic and organizational skills”.

The successful candidate will have “excellent management and leadership skills, positive and steady personality” and a “solid record of public, corporate, and/or academic experience at high international level”.

He or she will have to be committed to “integrity, trust, humility, technical excellence and public service”.

The salary is described as “commensurate with the scope and importance of the position”.

Rod Beckstrom, who intends to leave ICANN in July, is known to receive a base salary of $750,000 and bonuses that have bumped his total take-home to over $800,000.

Wanted: new CEO for ICANN

Kevin Murphy, December 12, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN has hired a recruiting firm and posted a job ad, officially kicking off its hunt for a CEO to replace Rod Beckstrom when he leaves next summer.

The organization has posted a candidate profile, listing 25 personal, professional, technical and governance skills that are desirable.

Candidates should have a “solid record of either/or public, corporate, academic service, at a high international level” and be able to combine “weight of personality with empathy towards others of many different backgrounds”.

They should also understand the internet’s technical protocols and have knowledge of international institutions such as the UN, according to the profile.

“Few if any candidates will of course match every single criterion listed above, but those who reach the final shortlist are expected to score very highly against them,” it states.

The Brussels-based executive search firm Odgers Berndtson has been recruited to handle applications, ICANN said.

Beckstrom himself has previously said that he thinks his replacement should come from outside the domain name industry, but this is not stated as a requirement on the profile.

ICANN directors ruled out of CEO search

Kevin Murphy, October 15, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN’s directors have been barred from applying for the soon-to-be-vacated CEO position.

The board elected a panel of directors to get the CEO search underway last Tuesday, but noted:

no current or incoming member of the Board or liaisons may be considered as a candidate for the role of the CEO for the current CEO Selection process.

A replacement for Rod Beckstrom, who announced that he will step down when his contract expires next June, will now be overseen by a special CEO Search Process Management Work Committee.

The committee will comprise: Steve Crocker, Bertrand de La Chapelle, Erika Mann Chris Disspain, Cherine Chalaby, Ray Plzak and R. Ramaraj. George Sadowsky will chair.

I had previously put at least three of those on my speculative list of “insiders” who could conceivably apply for the CEO’s job.