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auDA rejects domaining ban but approves second-level domains

Kevin Murphy, April 16, 2019, Domain Policy

Australian ccTLD registry auDA has rejected a proposal that would have essentially banned domainers from the .au space.

In response to recommendations of its Policy Review Panel, auDA management said that the PRP “has not provided any evidentiary material” that so-called “warehousing” is harmful.

It further concluded that the policies proposed for monitoring and rooting out suspected domainers would disproportionately increase compliance costs for both registrants and auDA itself.

In management’s response (pdf) to the PRP, auDA wrote that the ban would make investors second-class citizens when compared to powerful trademark owners:

The warehousing prohibition appears to disproportionately target domain investors as the licence portfolios or holdings of trademark and brand owners will be excluded under the PRP proposal. This proposal elevates the rights of trademark and other intellectual property owners over other licence holders in the .au domain, which may give rise to issues of market power and anti-competitive practices. Management believes that further information is required to assess whether the net benefit to the community of prohibiting warehousing in respect of a class of registrants outweighs the competition issues. For these reasons Management believes that there should be no change to the existing policy position.

It added:

Management does not support the PRP recommendation for a resale and warehousing prohibition for the reasons set out earlier. The proposed test for determining whether a registrant has contravened the resale and warehousing prohibition will increase compliance costs for registrants and administration, monitoring and enforcement costs for auDA. These costs may be disproportionate to the risk or severity of the harm to the community from warehousing and the cost of a licence in the .au domain.

Not only did it decide not to crack down on domainers, but auDA also plans to make their lives a little easier by updating current eligibility policy to explicitly state that parking, or “monetization”, is permitted.

To ensure there is no ambiguity or reliance on interpreting ‘content’, auDA management has recommended an additional allocation criteria can be applied to com.au and net.au which would include that a domain name could be used for the purpose of pay-per-click or affiliate web advertising/ lead generation, or electronic information services including email, file transfer protocol, cloud storage or managing Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

It’s a comprehensive win for domainers, such as those represented by the Internet Commerce Association, which had been outraged by the PRP’s findings.

It’s less good news when it comes to the perhaps more controversial plans to allow direct, second-level registrations under .au.

auDA has decided to go ahead with these longstanding plans, which domainers worry will promote confusion and dilute the value of their third-level .com.au portfolios.

The new draft plans (pdf) for the launch of 2LDs would see existing 3LD registrants given “priority status” to register the exact-match 2LD.

There would be a six-month application window for registrants to lodge their claims, beginning October 1 this year.

If the .com.au version and .org.au version, for example, were owned by different parties, the registrant with the earliest registration date would have priority.

After the application window closed, any unclaimed domains would be made available on a first-come, first-served basis.

These rules, and all the results of auDA’s response to the PRP, are open for public comment until May 10.

ICA opposes Aussie domaining ban

Kevin Murphy, April 10, 2019, Domain Policy

The Internet Commerce Association has weighed in to the debate about whether domain investing should be effectively banned in Australia’s .au ccTLD.

Naturally enough, the domainer trade group opposes the ban, saying that investment is a natural part of any market, and very probably supplying the registry with millions of dollars of revenue.

The comments came in a letter to auDA (pdf) from ICA general counsel Zak Muscovitch in response to auDA’s latest policy review proposals, which I reported on two weeks ago, that propose to further crack down on “warehousing”.

auDA wants to ban the practice of registering domains “primarily” for resale or warehousing, clarifying the current rule that prohibits registering “solely” for resale (which is easily evaded by, for example, parking).

A set of indicators would be used to zero in on offenders, such as observing the registrant’s history of selling or offering to sell domains, the existence of an auction listing for the domain, or the fact that the registrant owns more than 100 .au names.

But ICA reckons the effort is misguided and could even be damaging to auDA’s finances, pointing out that it and its registrars likely receive millions of dollars from the registration and renewal of speculative domain names.

Muscovitch’s letter goes on to question whether the policy review panel that came up with the proposals did any research into the potential economic impact of banning domain investment, pointing out that in some cases to seize domainers’ portfolios could wipe out a family’s life savings.

ICA also questions whether the panel has sufficiently thought through how enforceable its proposed rules would be, given the additional complexity introduced into the system.

The policy review paper is still open for comments, but if you want to chip in you’d better be quick. The comment period ends at 1700 AEST Friday, which is 0700 UTC.

Australia likely to BAN domaining

Kevin Murphy, March 27, 2019, Domain Registries

Domain investors will soon be no longer welcome in Australia’s .au, if proposed policy changes are approved.

Registrants who own more than 100 names and cannot prove they’re not a domainer will have their names deleted, under the recommendations of an Policy Review Panel appointed by Aussie ccTLD registry auDA this week.

The practice of vacuuming up domains for resale has long been against auDA policy, but the rules have been perceived as weak, easily worked around, and have been rarely enforced.

The current policy states: “A registrant may not register a domain name for the sole purpose of resale or transfer to another entity.”

But domainers have successfully argued that by parking their speculative domains, resale is no longer the “sole” purpose of the registration.

That loophole would be closed under the PRP’s recommendations. If approved by auDA, the rule would be changed to:

A registrant is prohibited from registering any open 2LD domain name for the primary purpose of (a) resale, (b) transfer to another entity, or (c) warehousing.

The PRP noted that it had received input “that registering domain names for resale increases the cost of doing business, increases the scarcity of names, and that registering domain names for the purpose of resale adds no real value to the internet name space.”

Registrants with 100-strong portfolios of “acronyms, dictionary words, or common phrases” would be singled out for review, as would registrants who are seen to engage in the resale of their domains.

Registrants who have “solicited the sale of the domain name or offered the domain name for sale to another for valuable consideration in excess of documented out-of-pocket costs” or who have sold more than six domains in six months, would also be presumed domainers.

Being found to be “warehousing”, domainers would no longer be eligible to their names.

They’d need to show “clear and convincing evidence” that the domain in question was not registered for resale in order to keep their names.

It’s a fairly comprehensive ban on domaining, in other words.

While there may well be workarounds — such as owning matching trademarks or selling shell companies rather than merely the domains — I can’t think of any that would wouldn’t be overly burdensome or costly in the vast majority of cases.

The PRP has also recommended the introduction of opening up .au to direct, second-level registrations, much like the UK, New Zealand and others have over the last several years.

Domainers also hate this, as it could dilute the value of their investments.

The PRP’s final report is now open for public comment until April 12.

After receiving these comments, auDA expects its board to provide a response April 15, which itself will be open for public comment until May 10.

Domaining Europe moves to the Netherlands

Kevin Murphy, December 2, 2015, Domain Services

Domaining Europe conference will be held in the Netherlands for the first time in 2016.

Organizers say the venue will be the Grand Hotel Amrâth Kurhaus in The Hague, which is about an hour by train from Amsterdam’s Schipol airport.

Since its inception, Domaining Europe has been held in Valencia, Spain.

The plan for 2016 is to hold the conference May 29 to 31, two days after the TheNextWeb Europe conference ends in Amsterdam.

If 41% of .co is parked, how many domains will expire today?

Today is the one-year anniversary of the .co top-level domain entering general availability.

As you may recall, .co got off to a flying start, selling about 100,000 names in its first half hour and over 200,000 registrations during its first day.

The question is: how many of those domains will start expiring today and drop over the next few months?

A recent HosterStats survey, from June 1, apparently found that approximately 41% of the 593,622 .co domains it was able to detect were presumed parked.

The survey was not exhaustive, as .CO Internet reports over one million registered .co domains today, and HosterStats acknowledged that its breakdown may differ from the actual numbers.

Still, the data suggests that .co is likely just as heavily speculated as other TLDs, and that some short-term speculators will let their domains expire over the coming days and weeks.

HosterStats’ John McCormac wrote in a comment on an earlier DI post:

What typically happens just after a Landrush anniversary is that the percentage of PPC in a new TLD falls as many speculative domains that could not be flipped or monetised are dropped. The developed websites percentage increases but getting development started in a new TLD is a slow process and takes a few years.

Of course, .CO Internet is all about encouraging development. It has pumped millions into marketing the TLD as somewhere for entrepreneurs to get a good name for their sites.

But with a substantial base of speculative registrations, it seems inevitable that .CO is going to take a hit today, as the first-wave land-grab begins to die out.

I’m not sure whether this will massively impact the number of domains .CO Internet reports, however.

My estimate is that .co currently stands at over 1.1 million domains. It grew from around 600,000 in late December to one million in May, according to registry publicity.

Even if it starts to lose tens of thousands of speculative domains this week, I don’t think .CO will have to stop saying it has more than a million registrations any time soon.

The company does not publish its exact numbers. Chief executive Juan Calle has stated that he thinks registration volume is a poor metric for judging the “success” of a TLD.

UPDATE: The original version of this article stupidly used the word “drop” quite a lot, when “expire” was the more correct word.

Domainers get there before the dictionary

Kevin Murphy, August 19, 2010, Domain Sales

The new third edition of the Oxford Dictionary of English contains more than 2,000 new words, according to reports today, but it looks like domainers will find slim pickings.

For every neologism the dictionary now defines, you’ll find a .com equivalent that was registered years ago, in some cases over a decade ago.

Here are some newly official generic dictionary words, along with the earliest date I could find for their original .com registration.

SoftSkills – May 1996
Turducken – June 1997
ExitStrategy – August 1998
ChillPill – December 1999
CarbonCapture – May 2000
Cheeseball – August 2000
Vuvuzela – May 2004
PayWall – June 2004
Frenemy – February 2005
Defriend – June 2005
Staycation – November 2005
Bromance– April 2006
Microblogging – April 2007
Deleveraging – April 2007
TweetUp – June 2007
Overleveraged – July 2007
ToxicDebt – September 2007
QuantitativeEasing – November 2008
Catastrophizing – April 2009

Not all of these were registered by domainers, of course. Some are in use, though plenty are currently parked or marked for sale.

The Oxford dictionaries cover primarily UK English. Some of these words, like “cheeseball” or “turducken” are Americanisms that clearly saw some lag crossing the Atlantic.