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ICANN tests emergency registry with dead dot-brand

Kevin Murphy, January 27, 2016, Domain Registries

ICANN is running a test of its Emergency Back-End Registry Operator program, using the dead dot-brand gTLD .doosan as its guinea pig.

Doosan Group, a large Korean conglomerate, decided to kill off its gTLD, .doosan, last September. ICANN revealed the news in October.

The dot-brand had never been put to productive use and really only ever had nic.doosan live.

As it’s a dot-brand, it’s protected by the part of the Registry Agreement that prevents it being transferred to another registry operator.

Rather than letting the gTLD slip away into the night, however, ICANN is taking it as an opportunity to test out its EBERO system instead. ICANN says:

Simulating an emergency registry operator transition will provide valuable insight into the effectiveness of procedures for addressing potential gTLD service interruptions. Lessons learned will be used to support ICANN’s efforts to ensure the security, stability and resiliency of the Internet and the Domain Name System.

EBERO is the process that is supposed to kick in when (or if, I guess) a gTLD with a significant number of third-party registrations goes out of business and no other registry wants to take it over.

The EBERO provider takes over the running of the TLD’s critical functions for a few years so it can be wound down in an orderly fashion, giving registrants enough time to migrate to other TLDs.

Nominet, one of the designated EBERO operators, has taken over .doosan for this test, which is only a temporary measure.

Its IANA record was updated today with Nominet named as the technical contact and ICANN as the sponsor and administrator. Its name servers have switched over to Nominet’s.

Right now, www.nic.doosan resolves to ICANN’s EBERO web page. The non-www. version doesn’t seem to do anything.

ICANN said it will provide updates when the test is over.

Baidu, China’s Google, gets its dot-brand gTLD

Kevin Murphy, January 5, 2016, Domain Registries

Chinese web giant Baidu had its dot-brand gTLD, .baidu, go live in the DNS root zone today.

With the extraordinary amount of focus on China in the domain industry currently, this could be one of the dot-brands to watch in 2016.

There are no active domain names in .baidu just yet, but we will likely see nic.baidu put to some use or another over the coming days.

Unusually for a dot-brand gTLD, Baidu’s contract with ICANN does not contain specifications 9 or 13, which allow dot-brands to operate differently to regular gTLDs.

This suggests an open registration policy under which any registrar can sell .baidu domains to any registrant.

However, Baidu’s original gTLD application spells out quite a different plan, focused primarily on trademark protection. It says:

All available second-level strings of .BAIDU (e.g. example .BAIDU) will be initially allocated only to limited number of eligible registrants and for internal corporate business purposes. BAIDU plans to adopt this approach and expects to maintain it for 3 years from the launch of the “.BAIDU” registry service. Such approach will be regularly evaluated and adjusted if appropriate and necessary. Depending a various internal and external factors, including market demand and user expectation, BAIDU may consider a phased roll-out approach for a broader commercial marketplace but will do so after the conclusion of the initial 3-year period.

I wouldn’t expect .baidu to launch properly any time soon.

Not only is the company probably going to want to get its dot-brand contractual protections in place, it’s also showed no huge enthusiasm for making its way through the new gTLD delegation process so far.

It signed its ICANN contract January 8 last year, meaning this week was pretty much the latest date it could permissibly go into the root.

Like most dot-brands, it’s been dragging its feet, in other words.

Baidu is the leading web property in China, dwarfing even Google in terms of search market share locally.

Tata’s bid for .tata gTLD scuppered by Morocco

Kevin Murphy, December 20, 2015, Domain Registries

Tata Group, the humongous Indian conglomerate, has been told its flagship application for a dot-brand gTLD has been refused.

ICANN on Friday changed the status of the application for .tata from “On Hold” to “Will Not Proceed”, a limbo state that is usually expected to lead to the application being withdrawn.

It is believed that Tata’s row with Morocco is to blame.

While Tata Group is a 150-year-old, $100 billion-a-year company, Tata is also a province of Morocco with a population of about 120,000.

Under the rules of the ICANN new gTLD program, the string “tata” is therefore a protected geographic name, for which the applicant needs to show the unequivocal support or non-objection of the relevant government.

Tata was the last applicant to pass its ICANN evaluation, when in July 2014 it finally managed to pass its Geographic Names Review on the basis of a letter from a Moroccan official.

However, in September last year the Moroccan’s government’s digital economy minister denied that the letter indicated support for .tata.

This February, ICANN threw Tata back into a Geographic Names Review, where the onus was on the company to prove that it really did have support.

That support has evidently not been forthcoming.

Morocco has indicated in letters to ICANN that it may want the .tata gTLD itself in future.

Tata unit Tata Motors has already been delegated the dot-brand gTLD .tatamotors.

.apple goes live

Kevin Murphy, November 4, 2015, Domain Registries

Apple’s .apple new gTLD was delegated today.

It’s going to be a strict dot-brand gTLD, in which only Apple can register domain names, but could wind up being highly influential.

While .apple now appears in the DNS root zone, no second-level names (not even nic.apple) are yet resolving.

Should Apple actually use its new TLD in a prominent way, it would be good news for the visibility of new gTLDs internationally.

The company has sold hundreds of millions of devices over the last decade or so.

But the company has a spotty history of paying attention to domain names, regularly launching products without first securing matching domain names.

It did recently adopt a .news domain name for one of its apps, however.

.apple could wind up being purely defensive, at least in the near term.

Apple’s 2012 application to ICANN describes its plans in literally one sentence, repeated five times:

Apple seeks to obtain the new .apple gTLD in order to provide consumers with another opportunity to learn about Apple, and its products and services.

Apple division Beats Electronics, which makes headphones, also had its dot-brand, .beats, delegated today.

Should brands get a new gTLD round to themselves? Twitter thinks so

Kevin Murphy, October 20, 2015, Domain Policy

Twitter wants to get its hands on some new gTLDs but doesn’t want to wait.

Having missed the first round of new gTLD applications back in 2012, the company is now keen on getting .twitter and other strings both branded and generic.

“We’re interest in round two,” Twitter trademark counsel Stephen Coates said as ICANN’s business constituencies met the board of directors today.

“We have several interesting opportunities to develop around that space,” he said. “We are interested in both brands and generics.”

The problem for Twitter, and every other would-be gTLD applicant, is that ICANN isn’t even talking in broad terms about when the next round will be.

The absolute minimum that must happen is that ICANN must complete a review of round one, focusing on “Competition, Consumer Trust and Consumer Choice”. This CCT review is mandated by ICANN’s Affirmation of Commitments with the US government.

Almost three years after the first round opened, the volunteer team that will carry out the CCT review has not even been assembled yet.

There are a number of other factors that may or may not wind up on the critical path — such as reviews of rights protection mechanisms and security and stability at the DNS root.

Coates said he would like a “bifurcated” review process leading to two separate second application rounds.

“I would advocate for bifurcating the review process, which I think is very important, especially around RPMs,” he said. “But also bifurcating the round process, treating dot-brands differently than generic names.”

I think this outcome is unlikely.

Application rules that give preference to one type of application over another invite exploitation. It happened in the 2003 sponsored TLD round and it’s happening with “community” and “Specification 13” applications in the current round too.

First dot-brand gTLD calls it quits

Kevin Murphy, October 9, 2015, Domain Registries

The South Korean industrial conglomerate Doosan has decided to formally abandon its new dot-brand gTLD, the first to do so.

The news was announced by ICANN this evening, as part of the launch of a new web page for tracking gTLD contract termination requests.

Doosan is a bloody big company with multiple billions of annual revenue, in no danger of going out of business any time soon, so it seems the termination is simply due to a lack of interest.

The .doosan gTLD is not subject to the dot-brand provisions in Specification 13 — it actually signed its contract a week or so before Spec 13 was finalized — but ICANN has determined that the string should not be transitioned to a new registry.

Intellectual property rights and the fact that nobody else owns any .doosan names figured heavily in the decision.

Even though Doosan signed its Registry Agreement in April 2014, got delegated a year ago, and has been available to use since mid-March, the company never created any domains other than the obligatory nic.doosan (which no longer resolves for me).

The termination is subject to public comment until November 9.

Dozens of dot-brands finally sign ICANN contracts

Kevin Murphy, August 5, 2015, Domain Services

Dot-brand gTLD applicants that were playing wait-and-see with ICANN’s contracting process signed Registry Agreements in droves last week.

At least 67 new RAs were signed in the last three days of July, on or around the ICANN’s July 29 deadline, ICANN’s web site shows.

This means that there are still about 50 applicants that have not pulled the trigger and may have to apply for an 60-day last-chance extension.

A week before the deadline, roughly 170 brands had still not signed contracts.

The July 29 deadline was put in place for dot-brands last year due to delays creating Specification 13 of the RA, which gives brands special opt-out clauses dealing with things like sunrise periods.

Those that have still not obtained RAs are expected to be flagged as “Will Not Proceed” and will have to apply to ICANN for the extension under its Application Eligibility Reinstatement process.

Neustar becomes “world’s largest registry” with $87m ARI buy

Consolidation in the domain name industry continued last night with Neustar’s $87 million acquisition of Bombora Technologies, the holding group for ARI Registry Services and AusRegistry.

Bombora CEO Adrian Kinderis told DI that the deal makes Neustar the “biggest registry services back-end provider on the market”, as measured by the number of TLDs on its platform, which now weighs in at over 400.

Kinderis and Neustar registry VP Sean Kaine said that the acquisition — conceived as so many deals are, Kinderis joked, in a “drunken ICANN bar” — is not so much about consolidation and more about growth opportunities.

Neustar will be able to cross-sell its suite of identity, security and marketing services, which Bombora does not offer, into ARI’s 100+ TLD client base. It will also be able to pitch ARI’s consulting services to its own clients.

Neustar also gets a “beachhead” in the Asia-Pacific region. While Bombora may not be a hell of a lot closer to Asia than Neustar, it’s in a much more convenient time zone.

Neustar currently faces the losing about half of its annual revenue — some $475 million — due to the loss of its contract to administer telephone number portability in North America.

That contract has been won by Ericsson, but Neustar has sued the US Federal Communications Commission in an attempt to keep it.

The Bombora acquisition won’t exactly fill the gap. The company had $20.6 million in revenue in 2014 and is expected to contribute $8 million to Neustar’s top line in 2015.

The deal is for AUD 118 million, which works out to roughly USD 87 million. Kinderis and business partner Simon Delzoppo will be the primary beneficiaries — between them they held a majority shareholding in Bombora.

The deal includes all of the company’s subsidiaries: ARI, AusRegistry and new gTLD operators such as dotShabaka.

ARI clients will notice a change of branding — the ARI and Bombora brands are to go almost immediately — but no technical changes at first.

“We’re going to continue to operate two registry systems right now,” Kaine said.

One business where there will be even less visible change is AusRegistry, which operates .au.

The AusRegistry brand is staying and .au will continue to be run in Australia, per the terms of the company’s contract with ccTLD policy overseer auDA.

“The .au contract is very important to Bombora,” Kinderis said. “If we had thought there would be any negative impact to that contract we would not have embarked on a deal.”

Kinderis, whose new job title has yet to be agreed, said he expects to take a “prominent role” in Neustar’s registry business. He said he expects to stay with the company “for a long time yet”.

“I want to see Neustar snapping at the heels of Verisign and I’d love to be able to contribute to that,” he said. “We’ve been punching above our weight and now we’re one of the heavyweights.”

As deadline looms, over 100 dot-brands still in contract limbo

With the minutes ticking down to the deadline for scores of dot-brands to sign registry agreements with ICANN, over 100 have not, according to ICANN’s web site.

New gTLD applicants had until July 29 to sign their contracts or risk losing their deposits.

I reported a week ago that roughly 170 would-be dot-brands had yet to sign on the dotted line, and my records show that only 35 have done so in the meantime.

Another four applications have been withdrawn.

One of the newly contracted parties is Go Daddy, which signed an RA for .godaddy last week. Others include .nike, .comcast and .mitsubishi.

Unless we see a flood of new contracts published over the next day or two, it seems likely well over 100 strings will soon be flagged as “Will Not Proceed” — the end of the road for new gTLD applications.

That may not be the final nail in their coffins, however.

Last week, ICANN VP Cyrus Namazi said that applicants that miss today’s deadline will receive a “final notice” in about a week. They’ll then have 60 days to come back to the process using the recently announced Application Eligibility Reinstatement process.

Flood of wait-and-see dot-brands expected this week

ICANN expects to sign as many as 170 new gTLD contracts with dot-brand applicants over the coming week.

Dot-brands that have been treading water in the program to date are up against a hard(ish) July 29 deadline to finally sign a Registry Agreement with ICANN.

VP of domain name services Cyrus Namazi told DI today that ICANN expects most of the backlog to be cleared in the next couple of weeks.

“The end of the July is a bit of a milestone for the program as a whole,” Namazi said. “A substantial number of contracts will be signed off and move towards delegation.”

“I think within a short period after the end of July most of these will be signed off,” he said.

There are currently 188 applications listed as “In Contracting” in the program. Namazi and myself estimate that roughly 170 are dot-brands, almost all of which have July 29 deadlines.

Namazi said that ICANN has planned for a last-minute rush of “hundreds” of applicants trying to sign contracts in the last month.

The July 29 deadline for dot-brands was put in place because of delays creating Specification 13 of the RA — that’s the part that allows dot-brands to function as dot-brands, by eschewing sunrise periods for example.

For most dot-brand wannabes, it was already an extension of nine months or more from their original deadline.

But it seems inevitable that some will miss the deadline.

Namazi said that those applicants that do miss the deadline will receive a “final notice” about a week later, which gives the applicant 60 days to come back to the process using the recently announced Application Eligibility Reinstatement process.

That creates a new deadline in early October. Applicants that miss that deadline might be shit outta luck.

“They’ll essentially just sit in a bucket that will not be proceeding,” Namazi said. “We don’t have a process to reactivate beyond that.”

So why are so many dot-brand applicants leaving it so late to sign their contracts?

The answer seems to be, essentially: lots of them are playing wait-and-see, and they still haven’t seen.

They wanted to see how other dot-brands would be used, and there’s not a lot of evidence to draw on yet. The number of dot-brands that have fully shown their cards could be counted on your fingers. Maybe even on just one hand.

“Some of them have a different level of enthusiasm for having their own TLD,” Namazi said. “Some of them don’t have their systems or process in place to accept or absorb a new TLD. Some of them don’t even know what to do with it. There may have been some defensive registrations in there. There were probably expectations in terms of market development for new TLDs that have gone a bit slower than some people’s business plans called for.”

“That has probably made some of the large brands more hesitant in terms of rushing to market with their new TLDs,” he said.