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Amazon and Google deal on .talk, .play, .drive and others

Google and Amazon have started making deals to settle their new gTLD contention sets.

Google won three contention sets against Amazon this week, judging by the latest withdrawals, while Amazon won two.

Amazon won .talk and .you after Google, the only other applicant, withdrew.

Neither company appears to have a “You” brand, unless you count YouTube, but the .talk settlement strongly suggests that Google Talk, the company’s instant messaging client, is on the way out.

When Google applied for .talk in 2012 it intended to give Talk users custom domains to act as a contact point, but in 2013 Google started to indicate that it will be replaced as a brand by Google Hangouts.

The withdrawal seems to suggest that the existence of a gTLD application, a relatively small investment, is not an overwhelming factor when companies consider product rebranding.

I wonder what effect a live, active TLD will have on similar decisions in future.

But Google won the two-horse races for .dev and .drive and after Amazon withdrew its applications.

Google has a product called Google Drive, while Amazon runs Amazon Cloud Drive. Both companies have developer programs, though Google’s is arguably the more substantial of the two.

Google has also won .play — Google Play is its app store — after Amazon, Radix and Star Registry’s withdrawals. Amazon does not have a Play brand.

Google has also withdrawn its application for .book, leaving six remaining applicants, including Amazon, in the contention set.

I don’t currently know whether these contention sets were settled privately or via a third-party auction.

Famous Four wins .party gTLD contest

Kevin Murphy, April 11, 2014, Domain Registries

Famous Four Media has won the .party new gTLD contention set after coming to a private agreement with the only other applicant for the string, Oriental Trading Company.

Financial details of the arrangement were not disclosed.

Oriental Trading is a supplier of party goods that intended to run the gTLD as closed, single-registrant namespace.

But Famous Four expects the open .party registry to be used for parties in the social gathering and political senses of the word.

It now has 13 uncontested applications and 44 more outstanding.

In related news, Minds + Machines today announced that it intends to take at least three of its applications — .garden, .property, and .yoga — at a private auction April 22 managed by Applicant Auction.

Donuts buys out rival .place gTLD applicant

Kevin Murphy, March 31, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts has won the .place new gTLD contention set after paying off rival applicant 1589757 Alberta Ltd.

The deal, for an undisclosed sum, was another “cut and choose” affair, similar to deals made with Tucows last August, in which the Canadian company named its price to withdraw and Donuts chose to pay it rather than taking the money itself.

1589757 Alberta has withdrawn its application for .place already.

The deal means Donuts now has 165 new gTLDs that are either live, contracted or uncontested.

Right Of The Dot gets legal opinion: new gTLD auctions not illegal

Kevin Murphy, April 4, 2013, Domain Services

Right Of The Dot, one of the companies hoping to offer contention set resolution services to new gTLD applicants, has published a legal opinion arguing that auctions are not inherently illegal.

The document was issued in response to Uniregistry’s claim that the US Department of Justice has refused to give auctions a green light under antitrust law.

ROTD hired the law firm Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, including a partner with DoJ experience, to draft the statement.

It’s aimed at lawyers, primarily, but the gist of it is that simply participating in an auction is not illegal in and of itself — participants would have to collude in some other way too.

It states:

The finding of an antitrust violation necessarily would depend on a showing that the private auction unreasonably restrained interstate trade or commerce.

The question comes down to the conduct of the parties to an auction, be it a private auction or an ICANN Last Resort Auction.

If the parties to an auction, engage in collusion such as price fixing and/or bid rigging, it constitute per se violations of Section 1 of the Sherman Act.

It’s not the auction provider that creates a violation it’s the action of the parties to an auction and those actions can take place in an ICANN Last Resort auction.

In other words, there’s no difference between an ICANN-run auction, in which ICANN gets paid, and a private auction in which the participants and the auctioneer get paid, according to these lawyers.

Uniregistry’s argument as I understand it, on the other hand, is that simply participating in an action that could constitute illegal collusion, because ICANN ends up out of pocket.

Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

I think the only person who could answer that, in light of the DoJ’s refusal to intervene, would be a judge. We’re unlikely to get an answer unless somebody sues somebody.

Mystery web site proposes new gTLD “string change” system

Kevin Murphy, March 27, 2013, Domain Registries

Somebody out there is bummed that they can’t afford to win their new gTLD contention set.

A new web site, StringChange.org, is planning to petition ICANN to allow new gTLD applicants to change the string they’ve applied for, for an extra $100,000 fee.

It’s not clear who’s behind the proposal, which was sent to every new gTLD applicant via email today. The page is unsigned and the domain is registered behind Whois privacy.

The site states:

We are proposing that ICANN allow the option of a “String Change” to applicants in contention, allowing these applicants, if they so choose, to change their string to another string and rewrite the appropriate parts of their applications. In doing so, these applicants would relinquish the right to their original string that is in contention, and be assessed a reevaluation fee of $100,000.

Many applicants would choose this over going to auction, being outbid, and never having the opportunity to launch a TLD and implement their business models. This also creates fairness for smaller groups to have the opportunity to launch and operate a TLD, especially when they are currently up against corporate giants such as Amazon or Google.

It goes on to say that a special “String Change round” of applications would begin in 2014, restricted to applicants who don’t fancy their chances punching it out with Google at auction in 2013.

The system would enable applicants that do not want to change their strings to get to market earlier, the site reckons.

It’s soliciting email addresses for its ICANN petition.

Good idea? Bad idea? Mediocre satire? Cheap attempt to see which applicants have gotten cold feet?