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First new gTLD contracts signed

Donuts, an ARI Registry Services subsdiary and CORE this morning became the first new gTLD applicants to sign registry contracts with ICANN.

The ceremonial signing took place live on stage at the opening ceremony of ICANN 47, the week-long public meeting in Durban, South Africa.

ARI CEO Adrian Kinderis signed on behalf of شبكة. applicant International Domain Registry. The string is Arabic for “.web” and transliterates as “.shabaka”. It is 3 in the program’s evaluation queue.

In an ARI press release, Go Daddy CEO Blake Irving confirmed that Go Daddy will carry .shabaka.

Donuts CEO Paul Stahura signed for .游戏, the Chinese-language “.games”, which had prioritization number 40.

It was not immediately clear which contracts Iliya Bazlyankov, chair of CORE’s executive committee, signed. CORE has applied for three internationalized domain name gTLDs with high priority numbers.

(UPDATE: Bazlyankov has been in touch to say: “We signed the .сайт (site) and .онлайн (online) contracts which had numbers 6 and 9 in the priority”.)

Representatives of Go Daddy, MarkMonitor, Momentous, Mailclub and African registrar Kheweul.com also joined ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade on stage to sign the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement.

The event marks the beginning of the contract signing phase of the new gTLD program, an important milestone.

For applicants without outstanding objections, contention or Governmental Advisory Committee advice, signing a contract means only pre-delegation testing and the final transition to delegation remains.

IAB gives dotless domains the thumbs down

Kevin Murphy, July 11, 2013, Domain Tech

The Internet Architecture Board believes dotless domain names would be “inherently harmful to Internet security.”

The IAB, the oversight committee which is to internet technical standards what ICANN is to domain names, weighed into the debate with an article apparently published yesterday.

In it, the committee states that over time dotless domains have evolved to be used only on local networks, rather than the internet, and that to start delegating them at the top level of the DNS would be dangerous:

most users entering single-label names want them to be resolved in a local context, and they do not expect a single name to refer to a TLD. The behavior is specified within a succession of standards track documents developed over several decades, and is now implemented by hundreds of millions of Internet hosts.

By attempting to change expected behavior, dotless domains introduce potential security vulnerabilities. These include causing traffic intended for local services to be directed onto the global Internet (and vice-versa), which can enable a number of attacks, including theft of credentials and cookies, cross-site scripting attacks, etc. As a result, the deployment of dotless domains has the potential to cause significant harm to the security of the Internet

The article also says (if I understand correctly) that it’s okay for browsers to interpret words entered into address bars without dots as local resources and/or search terms rather than domain names.

It’s pretty unequivocal that dotless domains would be Bad.

The article was written because there’s currently a lot of talk about new gTLD applicants — such as Google, Donuts and Uniregistry — asking ICANN to allow them to run their TLDs without dots.

There’s a ban in the Applicant Guidebook on the “apex A records” that would be required to make dotless TLDs work, but it’s been suggested that applicants could apply to have the ban lifted on a case by case basis.

More recently, ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee has stated almost as unequivocally as the IAB that dotless domains should not be allowed.

But for some reason ICANN recently commissioned a security company to look into the issue.

This seems to have made some people, such as the At Large Advisory Committee, worried that ICANN is looking for some wiggle room to give its new gTLD paymasters what they want.

Alternatively, ICANN may just be looking for a second opinion to wave in the faces of new gTLD registries when it tells them to take a hike. It was quite vague about its motives.

It’s not just a technical issue, of course. Dotless TLDs would shake up the web search market in a big way, and not necessarily for the better.

Donuts CEO Paul Stahura today published an article on CircleID that makes the case that it is the browser makers, specifically Microsoft, that are implementing DNS all wrong, and that they’re objecting to dotless domains for competitive reasons. The IAB apparently disagrees, but it’s an interesting counterpoint nevertheless.

Next new gTLD auction set for August 13

Innovative Auctions today announced that its second new gTLD auction is scheduled for August 13 and that several companies have already signed up to participate.

The news follows the settlement of the first round of auctions, which saw $9.01 million shared between losing applicants and Innovative for the rights to six new gTLD strings.

“[A]ll of the participants from this auction who have additional strings in contention have signed on to use the process to resolve their remaining contentions,” Innovative said.

That would mean Afilias, Merchant Law Group and XYZ.com, which took part in this month’s auctions, are all likely to attempt to settle their outstanding contention sets with Innovative.

That’s another roughly 40 strings on top of Donuts’ already-committed monster portfolio.

Of course, the auctions will only be able to go ahead if all of the other applicants in each contention set also agree to participate, which in some cases will be a non-starter.

The money from the first auctions has already been distributed to the losing applicants, according to Innovative.

Demand Media commits Designs.com to new gTLDs

Demand Media has announced a new web publishing service that it says is designed specifically for new gTLD registrants, at the category-killing domain Designs.com.

Designs.com will provide users with tools to quickly build web sites for their new domains, with no coding experience required, according to the site.

Conceptually, there’s nothing new about selling do-it-yourself web site building services alongside domain names of course; they’ve been around for over a decade.

But Demand says it’s tailoring the product to niche gTLDs, promoting certain features depending on the gTLD string in which the customer has bought. From a press release:

“A consumer using .FAN needs features related to sharing, ‘liking’ and growing a community, while a professional using .ARCHITECT needs features related to a strong visual portfolio and self-promotion,” explained Nick Nelson, general manager of Designs.com for Demand Media. “Until today, tools and templates have been designed for no-one in particular. New gTLDs are for specific audiences, so we must have tools that create a web presence with the same tailored approach, making the website and web address inseparable.”

It’s exactly the kind of marketing effort that new gTLDs are going to need if they’re going to be successful, particularly if they’re targeting greenfield opportunities such as small business owners.

Based on the little we know today, it almost sounds like innovation.

The Designs.com service will be made available via partnering registrars, according to the company. We can only assume that eNom and Name.com are a shoo-ins.

On the registry side, there’s nothing stopping the company adding the service to pretty much every new gTLD for which, as a registrar, it is accredited.

Demand has 26 active new gTLD applications and has rights to buy into about 100 of Donuts’ gTLDs, should they be approved by ICANN and win their contention sets.

Donuts loses five of the first six new gTLD auctions

Kevin Murphy, June 13, 2013, Domain Services

The full results of the first six new gTLD auctions are now known. Donuts lost five of them, raising millions of dollars in the process.

Here are the winners of last week’s auctions, which were managed by Innovative Auctions:

Five of the six were a two-way battles between Donuts, which has applied for 307 gTLDs, and one other applicant. Each of the losing applicants has now withdrawn its application with ICANN.

The exception is .club, a three-way fight that included Merchant Law Group. Neither losing application has been withdrawn with ICANN yet, but the result it well-known.

Innovative revealed last week that the round raised $9.01 million in total. The winning bids for each auction were not disclosed.

Given that Donuts managed to lose five out of the six, it’s a fairly safe assumption that most of that money will have gone into its war chest, which can be used in future auctions.

Of the five applications it has now withdrawn, only .red had already passed its Initial Evaluation, so the company will have also clawed back a $130,000 ICANN refund on each of the other four.

The auctions mean that we now know with a high degree of certainty which companies are going to be running these six gTLDs.

Most of them have not yet passed IE, but with the success rate so high to date I wouldn’t expect to see any failures. None of them are subject to objections or direct GAC Advice.