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ICANN asks .jobs registry to explain itself

Kevin Murphy, October 20, 2010, Domain Registries

ICANN has asked .jobs registry manager Employ Media to clarify its plan to lift restrictions on who can register names in its top-level domain.

The ICANN board committee which handles Reconsideration Requests – essentially ICANN’s first-stop appeals court – has sent the registry a list of 13 questions (pdf), apparently distilled from a much longer list (pdf) supplied by the .JOBS Charter Compliance Coalition.

Employ Media wants to be able to start allocating premium generic .jobs domain names to companies via an RFP process and possibly auctions, dropping the rule which states that only companyname.jobs domains are permitted in the TLD.

ICANN’s board of directors approved the company’s plan in August, and Employ Media opened its RFP process shortly thereafter. Then the Compliance Coalition filed its Reconsideration Request.

This ad-hoc coalition comprises a number of employment web sites, such as Monster.com, and the Newspapers Association of America, which believe Employ Media’s plans fall outside its remit and could pose a competitive threat.

It’s common knowledge that the registry was planning to allocate a big chunk of premium real estate to the DirectEmployers Association, which wants to run a massive jobs board called universe.jobs, fed traffic by thousands of generic industry or geographic .jobs names.

Essentially, the Coalition’s questions, echoed by the Board Governance Committee, seem to be a roundabout way of asking whether this violates the .JOBS Charter, which limits the registrant base to corporate human resources departments.

Notably, the BGC wants to know when a universe.jobs promotional white paper (pdf) was produced, how much input Employ Media had in it, and whether the ICANN board got to see it before making its decision.

(A bit of a ludicrous question really, given that the BGC is comprised of four ICANN directors)

It also wants to know which purported “independent job site operators” have welcomed the Employ Media plan (a situation reminiscent of the recent unsuccessful calls for ICM Registry to disclose its .xxx supporters.)

The BGC’s Question 9 also strikes me as interesting, given that it does not appear to be inspired directly by the Coalition’s list of questions:

Please state whether Employ Media took any steps to prevent or interfere with any entity or person’s ability to state its position, or provide information, to the Board regarding amendment of the .JOBS Registry Agreement before or during the 5 August 2010 Board meeting.

I’m now beginning to wonder whether we may see a rare reversal of an ICANN board decision based on a Reconsideration Request.

Monster.com slams .jobs plan

Kevin Murphy, September 17, 2010, Domain Registries

Monster.com and the US Chamber of Commerce have ripped into Employ Media’s plans to liberalize the .jobs top-level domain, with Monster calling the plan “anti-competitive”.

Both organizations have over the last two days said they support the ICANN Reconsideration Request I reported on here.

Essentially, they want ICANN’s board to reverse the decision that would allow Employ Media, the .jobs registry, to start leasing thousands of .jobs domains to whichever company offers it the best deal.

Monster said (pdf) this:

The Board has, without proper consideration and deliberation, consented to the privatization and capture of a sponsored top-level domain (“sTLD”) by a single registrant or small group of registrants.

The jobs boards market is pissed that Employ Media has already made it pretty obvious that it plans to lease thousands of premium domains to the DirectEmployers Association.

Monster claims that the ICANN decision to allow the registry to start accepting “non-company-name” registrations violates the original .JOBS Charter, which limited the registrant pool to companies that wanted to advertise their own vacancies at “company.jobs” URLs.

The company says that the move could create “serious consequences for ICANN’s credibility” as it rolls out new TLDs, on the basis that it sets a bad precedent for ostensibly restricted “community” TLDs:

ICANN will be viewed as willing to tolerate sweeping, unauthorized changes to community based TLDs with no regard for the representations made during the application process.

Monster also says that the board’s decision “has broad anti-competitive implications that were not examined by staff”.

The US Chamber of Commerce, which has previously opposed TLD expansion in principle, has also chipped in (pdf) with its opposition, echoing Monster’s thoughts and adding that the proposed .jobs expansion fails to protect IP rights.

Opponents pick holes in .jobs auction plan

Kevin Murphy, September 6, 2010, Domain Registries

A coalition of jobs web sites has accused Employ Media of trying to violate its own charter with its proposal to open up the .jobs namespace to all-comers.

The newly formed .JOBS Charter Compliance Coalition wants ICANN to reverse its approval of the proposal, which would largely liberalize the .jobs domain.

The ad hoc group, made up of dozens of organizations including the International Association of Employment Web Sites, Monster.com and the Newspapers Association of America, wrote:

ICANN is sanctioning a registry operator’s decision to disregard the commitments contained in its charter, which is the fundamental basis upon which the sTLD was awarded.

ICANN approved Employ Media’s “phased allocation program” last month. It allows the company to loosen its previously restrictive policies on who can register domain names and for what purposes.

The first phase of the program, a request for proposals, has already launched. It would assign premium generic .jobs domains to companies willing to offer interesting business partnerships.

It’s seen by some as an obvious smokescreen for Employ Media to hand thousands of domains to the DirectEmployers Association, which plans a huge free jobs portal called Universe.jobs.

The new Coalition is against this plan, and has submitted a paper (pdf) to ICANN claiming to show how the RFP proves Employ Media wants to violate its sponsorship charter.

Its argument seems to boil down to the fact that the charter limits registrations to active human resources professionals, and that the DEA, like members of the Coaltion, does not fall into that strictly defined category.

The document was filed as an addendum to the Coalition’s reconsideration request, which itself was filed with ICANN last month before the Employ Media RFP was published.

.jobs landrush beauty contest opens

Kevin Murphy, August 28, 2010, Domain Registries

Employ Media has made a request for proposals from companies that want to apply for generic .jobs domain names, to predictable criticism.

ICANN recently permitted the company to start selling non-“company name” .jobs domains, and the RFP is the first phase of its plan.

It basically constitutes a landrush process, albeit one that makes .cn registrations seem laissez faire, and in which you don’t actually get to “own” any domain names at the end.

To apply, companies have to present Employ Media with a business plan and a list of their desired domains, among other information.

The registry appears to be reluctant to talk about the money side of things, other than the non-refundable $250 application fee.

The closest thing in the RFP to an outstretched palm appears to be this paragraph:

Employ Media’s role is to make .JOBS domain names available to those interested in serving the needs of the International HR management community as set forth in the .JOBS Charter. Describe how your proposal will contribute to Employ Media’s role in a manner that reflects the value (financial, services or otherwise) of the proposed .JOBS domains.

The CollegeRecruiter.com blog, and some reader comments, suggest that the registry has been asking potential applicants for “creative” ideas, including revenue sharing deals, and then threatening legal action when such overtures are recounted in public fora.

CollegeRecruiter’s CEO Steven Rothberg was one of the leading opponents of the .jobs liberalization plan.

The only organization I’m aware of that is on record intending to respond to the RFP is the DirectEmployers Association, which intends to apply for thousands of generic domains under its controversial universe.jobs plan.

Want thousands of free .jobs domains? Now’s your chance

Kevin Murphy, August 11, 2010, Domain Registries

Employ Media wants to hear from companies interested in registering .jobs domain names in bulk, at the start of its recently approved landrush process.

The company has set up a web site to handle expressions of interest of “high level business concepts on how these domain names could be developed either individually or in bulk”.

Before now, .jobs domains have been limited to the name of the company registering them. IBM, for example, uses ibm.jobs to bounce to its HR pages.

Employ Media applied to ICANN to liberalize the namespace, allowing the registration of the names of professions and places, and was successful over the objections of many existing jobs boards.

From the press release:

“We believe accepting EOI’s will facilitate dialog with potential RFP applicants. We’re particularly interested in hearing ideas comprising a bulk number of domains,” states Tom Embrescia, Chairman of Employ Media. “Up to now, we’ve only allowed company names such as www.Applebees.jobs and www.UnionPacific.jobs. Now we are looking for ideas for how companies can easily and uniformly distribute their jobs and related information to user-intuitive sites such as www.Chicago.jobs, www.sales.jobs, and www.restaurant.jobs.”

Right now, the company is only looking for 150-word outlines of business ideas. The RFP period will begin shortly after the EOI period closes on August 24 (less than two weeks from now).

Employ Media already has plans in place with the DirectEmployers Association to launch universe.jobs, a free jobs portal using thousands of premium .jobs domains as entry points.

It remains to be seen how concrete these plans are, although the two outfits have already run a “beta test” of the scheme, so I’m guessing they’re quite firm.

If you fancy your chances, the RFP site is RFP.jobs.

There are at least two filthy domain hacks I intend to apply for. All I need to do is think of a way I can pretend they benefit the global HR community, which is an unfortunate prerequisite.

.jobs gets its landrush windfall

Kevin Murphy, August 6, 2010, Domain Registries

Is .jobs the newest generic top-level domain?

ICANN has approved changes to Employ Media’s .jobs registry contract, meaning the company is now free to start auctioning off premium generic .jobs domain names to the highest bidder.

The decision paves the way for the company to implement its deal with the DirectEmployers Association, under which the DEA plans to use thousands of geo.jobs and industry.jobs domains as portals to a massive free jobs board.

Currently, .jobs domains are only available in the format companyname.jobs, and there have been only about 15,000 registrations. The new contract removes that restriction.

Under the changes, whatever domains are left after the DEA takes its chunk could be auctioned, and then .jobs could be opened up to essentially any registration.

The .jobs contract still restricts who can register domains, however, to so-called Qualified Applicants.

That’s defined like this (my emphasis):

A qualified applicant (“Qualified Applicant”) is a person who is (a) a member of SHRM; or (b) engaged in human resource management practices that meet any of the following criteria: (i) possess salaried‐level human resource management experience; (ii) are certified by the Human Resource Certification Institute; or (iii) are supportive of the SHRM Code of Ethical and Professional Standards in Human Resource Management, as amended from time to time (the “Code”).

Looks like a check-out check-box to me.

ICANN’s resolution was made over the strong objections of many jobs web sites and the International Association of Employment Web Sites.

DirectEmployers calls shenanigans on .jobs outcry

The DirectEmployers Association has gone on the offensive in the continuing battle over the .jobs liberalization, accusing its detractors of conducting an “astroturf” campaign.

Bill Warren, founder and executive director of the DEA, has filed comments to ICANN here.

He accuses the International Association of Employment Web Sites of conducting “nothing less than a smear campaign using modern day technology such as e-mail, blogs, and twitter”.

He’s referring to the scores of letters and emails that have arrived at ICANN over the last week, criticizing .jobs registry Employ Media’s proposal to drop the rule that only company names are allowed in the .jobs namespace.

Jobs sites, in particular, are pissed that Employ Media plans to hand over tens of thousands of premium generic .jobs domains to the DEA to use as gateways to a massive new jobs board, rather than open them up for general registration.

If you currently run a jobs site at NewYorkJobs.com or NursingJobs.com, for example, you would be unable to register NewYork.jobs or Nursing.jobs.

The DEA would likely own both of these domains, along with thousands of others, a situation described by one commenter as a “big giant SEO scam“.

Warren’s letter generally avoids discussing the merits of this plan, instead focusing on attacking its critics’ tactics.

the overwhelming majority of opposing comments – and we’ve reviewed each – clearly indicate no review of the substantial body of work that comprises the RSEP [Registry Services Evaluation Process] submission by Employ Media

It’s true that the majority of the letters include at least some form text created by Steven Rothberg of CollegeRecruiter.com, one of the key individuals behind the IAEWS campaign.

The letters are generally less spammy than similar letter-writing campaigns conducted during the recent .xxx controversy, however, with many writers attempting to add their own two cents.

(Speaking of .xxx, Warren claims that IAEWS has hired the same lawyer who represented .xxx registry ICM. I’m guessing he means Becky Burr of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, but I’m waiting for confirmation of that)

Warren believes that the Society of Human Resource Management, the sponsor and policy-maker for the .jobs domain, “managed a policy development process to arrive at a bottom up, consensus recommendation in the interests of the specific community .jobs exists to serve”.

According to ERE.net, the HR news site that has been doing a far better job of reporting this story than me, this SHRM policy council has been pretty much asleep at the wheel, and may even have been captured. Warren himself apparently used to chair it.

Personally, as somebody with no horse in this race, I merely find it distasteful that Warren is complaining so vehemently about jobs boards having their say in the ICANN process, when the SHRM process deliberately excluded their opinions from its outreach.

The SHRM survey (pdf) filed in support of the .jobs proposal specifically says: “Consultants were also not included in this universe, so that companies specializing in providing job search engines/job boards could not distort the responses from practicing HR professionals.”

The Employ Media proposal to change its contract has already passed an ICANN competition review, so I’m not sure there are any documented ways it can be killed off under the RSEP, although the board will still have to vote on it.

Jobs boards slam plan to open up .jobs

Providers of online jobs boards have started to complain to ICANN about plans by registry manager Employ Media to liberalize the .jobs sponsored top-level domain.

It’s rare that an ICANN public comment period attracts a decent amount of comment from outside the usual suspects, but this controversial proposal seems to be heading that way.

Employ Media wants to amend its registry contract to remove the restriction that limits .jobs registrations to the corporate name of employers, a key component of its original commitments.

This has naturally enough stirred debate in the HR community, which now appears to have divided itself into two camps – employers for the changes and jobs boards strongly against.

Several HR professionals with large companies including IBM, BT and Intercontinental Hotels have already filed brief messages with ICANN in support of the .jobs proposal.

Now, the counterargument is being made by a few operators of employer-independent jobs boards, including CollegeRecruiter.com and SalesGravy.com.

The Employ Media proposal would allow it to fulfil its deal with the DirectEmployers Association, which plans to lease thousands of geographic and industry domains.

The DEA plan would essentially be a single jobs site with thousands of domains acting as entry points to vertical listings. Want a job in Chicago? Type in chicago.jobs.

Importantly – and this may explain why HR folk like it – the site would be ad-supported and free for employers to list their openings.

Naturally, existing listings sites see this as an unacceptable competitive threat.

Steve Rothberg, CEO of CollegeRecruiter.com, said in his comment that Employ Media “went out of its way” to avoid getting feedback from existing jobs sites.

The results of an Employ Media survey submitted as part of its application to ICANN make that point pretty clearly.

Todd Goldstein, founder of AccountingJobsToday.com, observed in his comment that the proposal would dilute Employ Media’s original commitment to be “a place for employers” and accused the registry of trying to “route around” its promises to ICANN.

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