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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.

Time for .bloomberg after Twitter hoax?

Could the fake Bloomberg story about Twitter being acquired act as an impetus for the company to activate its mostly dormant dot-brand gTLD?

Twitter shares yesterday reportedly spiked as much as 8% on the “news” that it was the target of a $31 buyout bid.

The story was published on bloomberg.market, a cybersquatted domain hosting a mirror of the real Bloomberg web site.

While it was reportedly quite sloppily written, it nevertheless managed to convince at least one US cable news network to run with it, one reporter even tweeting the bogus link to his followers.

The story was quickly outed as a fake and within a few hours Rightside, the .market registry as well as owner of its registrar, eNom, suspended the domain for breaching its terms of service.

Rightside wrote in a blog post:

it pains us so greatly that, in the early stages when so many people are forming their first impressions of the new TLD program, these numerous positive examples are sometimes overshadowed by the malicious practices and behaviors of a very small group of people.

Bloomberg’s not at fault here, of course. No company should be expected to defensively register its trademark in every one of the 1,000+ TLDs out there right now.

But could the hoax persuade it to do something of substance with its .bloomberg gTLD, perhaps taking a leaf out of the BNP Paribas playbook?

Bloomberg has been populating its dot-brand with hundreds of domains since May — both the names of its products and keywords related to industries it’s known for covering — but currently they all seem to redirect to existing web sites in .com or .net.

It’s long been suggested by proponents of new gTLDs that dot-brands can act as a signal of legitimacy on the web, and that’s the attitude banks such as Barclays and BNP Paribas seem to be taking right now.

Could .bloomberg be next?

Slacker dot-brands get ICANN reprieve

Wannabe dot-brands that dawdled and lost the chance to sign a new gTLD registry agreement with ICANN have been given a second shot.

ICANN yesterday introduced a new Application Eligibility Reinstatement process that will enable applicants to change their application status from the dead end of “Will Not Proceed”.

To demonstrate they really are committed to signing a contract, eligible applicants will have to submit a tonne of information about things such as their failure bond, pre- and post-delegation technical plans and registrar onboarding.

As we reported back in January, there were 12 applications belonging to 10 applicants that had simply drifted into limbo for failing to sign a contract by their respective deadlines.

There are 45 applications in “Will Not Proceed” status, but only the ones that timed out in contracting are eligible for the new process, obviously.

Barclays confirms move away from .com to new gTLD

Barclays has become one of the first major companies to explicitly confirm it will dump traditional gTLDs and ccTLDs in favor of its new dot-brands.

The $25 billion-a-year bank said it will “transfer its online assets to proprietary domain names — .barclays and .barclaycard — away from the traditional location-specific .com and .co.uk web addresses.”

The transition is a “long-term” play, but it’s started already, with “non-transactional” parts of its web site already using the two new gTLDs.

Basically, we’ve entered the brochureware phase of the dot-brand evolution.

home.barclays already mirrors barclays.com — both are simultaneously live right now — but the online banking service remains at barclays.co.uk.

In a May 11 press release that seems to have slipped under everyone’s radar last week, Barclays chief security officer Troels Oerting, until a few months ago cyber-crime chief at Europol, said:

The launch of the .barclays and .barclaycard domain names creates a simplified online user experience, making it crystal clear to our customers that they are engaging with a genuine Barclays site.

This clarity, along with the advantages of controlling our own online environment, enables us to provide an even more secure service, which we know is of utmost importance to our customers, and ultimately serves to increase trust and confidence in Barclays’ online entities.

This is precisely what advocates of dot-brands pitched as the benefits of the new gTLD program.

While many applicants stated similar plans in their gTLD applications, I think there’s been a degree of skepticism about whether they would follow through.

Barclays’ moves are happening faster than I expected — the .barclays gTLD was delegated in January — showing a degree of enthusiasm.

The charitable Australian Cancer Research Foundation in February launched sites under its .cancerresearch (not technically a dot-brand), while Hong Kong conglomerate CITIC Group has already experimented with a shift from .com to .citic.

In related news, the non-branded .bank gTLD opened for its sunrise period today.

.cancerresearch — a role model for dot-brands?

Kevin Murphy, February 4, 2015, Domain Registries

.cancerresearch went live today with an interesting, and possibly unique to date, take on the new gTLD concept.

It’s technically not a dot-brand under ICANN rules, but there are no firm plans to start selling registrations to third parties yet and the people running it are pointing to it as a possible model from which dot-brands could draw inspiration.

The registry, the charitable Australian Cancer Research Foundation, is working heavily with back-end provider ARI Registry Services and has recruited the ad agency M&C Saatchi for the promotion.

It’s reserved about 80 .cancerresearch domain names for its own “promotional purposes” — permissible under ICANN rules — and gone live today with a handful of web sites designed to raise awareness about and funds for cancer research.

I say it looks possibly unique because, despite the multiple domains in play, it basically looks and feels like one web site.

Start at home.cancerresearch, click a link entitled “Donate” and you’ll be taken to donate.cancerrresearch. Click a link about lung cancer, you’ll go to lung.cancerresearch. There’s another link to theone.cancerresearch, soliciting donations.

Unless you’re looking at the address bar in your browser, you’d be forgiven for assuming you’re on the same web site. The sites on the different domains are using the same style, same imagery, and are obviously part of the same campaign.

That’s not particularly innovative, of course. Redirecting users to other domains within the same web site experience happens all the time. But I don’t think I’ve seen it done before with a new gTLD. Navigation-wise, it seems to have a degree of novelty.

Tony Kirsch, head of global consulting at ARI, said that what the ACRF is doing could “help give dot-brand holders struggling with a wait-and-see approach a real example of what can be done”.

.cancerresearch isn’t a dot-brand under ICANN’s strict Specification 13 rules, however. It’s more like an unofficial ‘closed generic’ at this point.

The gTLD is launching today — with mainstream media coverage — without a confirmed Sunrise date. Right now, nobody apart from the registry can own a domain there.

And while Kirsch told DI that .cancerresearch will be available to third parties, he also said that there will be strict eligibility requirements. Those requirements are still “TBD”, however.

There are also no accredited registrars for the gTLD at this point, he confirmed.

Fatal timeout? A dozen dot-brands procrastinating to death

Kevin Murphy, January 7, 2015, Domain Registries

Over a dozen new gTLD applications have been iced because the applicants couldn’t or wouldn’t talk to ICANN about signing contracts before their deadlines.

Volvo and PricewaterhouseCoopers are among the 13 dot-brand applicants whose $185,000+ investments could vanish in a puff of smoke because they can’t bring themselves to sign on the dotted line, I’ve discovered.

The following gTLD applications, filed by 10 different companies, are no longer active because of contracting problems:

.select, .compare, .axis, .origins, .changiairport, .nissay, .lamer, .clinique, .pwc, .volvo, .amp, .招聘 (Chinese “.recruitment”), .wilmar

They’re all uncontested applications. They’re also all, with the exception of .招聘, envisaged having single-registrant policies (dot-brands, in other words).

All had their apps flagged by ICANN as “Will Not Proceed” in the new gTLD process late last year, having failed to sign or start negotiating their Registry Agreements in time.

Under program rules, applicants originally had nine months from the day they were invited to contract with ICANN in which to sign their RAs.

After protests from dot-brand applicants planning to sign up for so-called “Spec 13” code of conduct exemptions, ICANN last June gave such applicants an extension until July 2015, as long as they hit a September 1 deadline to respond to ICANN’s overtures.

Applicants that did not request an extension had an October 29 deadline to sign their RAs.

According to an ICANN spokesperson, a failure to hit such “interim milestones” disqualifies applicants from signing RAs.

It’s not entirely clear from the Applicant Guidebook how applicants can extricate themselves from this limbo state without withdrawing their applications, but ICANN assures us it is possible.

“Will not Proceed is not a final status,” the spokesperson cautioned. “But they are currently not eligible to sign the RA with ICANN. But if that status changes, we’ll update it accordingly on the site.”

Withdrawals would qualify the applicants for a 35% refund on their application fees, he confirmed.

First live dot-brand switches back to .com

Kevin Murphy, December 10, 2014, Domain Registries

CITIC Group, which became the first company to dump .com for its new dot-brand gTLD, has switched back to .com.

CITIC, a massive Chinese conglomerate, switched from citic.com to limited.citic in September, but a DI commenter noticed that it’s now back to using citic.com.

Google searches for “citic” were returning the new gTLD as the top hit for the Citic Limited, now it’s back to citic.com.

The domain limited.citic is not currently resolving to a web site for me.

Other brands are still actively using their dot-brand gTLDs, but Citic was the only one I’m aware of that decided to replace its .com.

Richemont pulls two dot-brand bids

Kevin Murphy, December 2, 2014, Domain Registries

Luxury goods company Richemont has withdrawn two of its original 14 new gTLD applications.

The company, which has been a vocal supporter of dot-brand gTLDs, pulled its bids for .netaporter and .mrporter this week.

Mr Porter and Net A Porter are fashion retail web sites for men and women respectively.

It’s not clear why these two bids have been withdrawn — the company isn’t commenting — but it’s certainly not a signal that Richemont is abandoning the new gTLD program completely.

The company has already entered into ICANN contracts for six dot-brands including .cartier, .montblanc and .chloe.

It has another five applications — four generics and one brand — that are still active: .手表 (“.watches”), .珠宝 (.jewelry), .watches, .jewelry and .jlc.

It has previously withdrawn an application for .love.

$10 million to move to a dot-brand? Quebec says “non”

Kevin Murphy, November 17, 2014, Domain Registries

One of the biggest hypothetical barriers to the adoption of dot-brand gTLDs has always been the likely cost of migration, but until now nobody’s really thrown around any figures.

The Government of Quebec has decided against rebranding to the forthcoming .quebec gTLD, saying the migration would cost it CAD 12 million ($10.6 million), according to local reports.

The Canadian Press press reported over the weekend that Quebec will still to its existing gouv.qc.ca addresses and therefore save itself a bundle of cash at a time when austerity measures are in place.

The timing of the revelation is unfortunate for PointQuebec, the .quebec registry, which is due to go to general availability tomorrow.

The application for .quebec, a protected geographic string under ICANN rules, was made with the support of the Canadian province.

The decision by the government is not a death sentence for the gTLD, but it is the loss of a significant anchor tenant at the worst possible moment.

It also highlights what we all already knew — for a large organization, changing your domain name is complicated and expensive.

Not only do myriad IT systems need to be migrated to the new domain, you also need to think about things as trivial as letter heads and signage.

The cost of such a switch is a key reason we’re unlikely to see many dot-brand owners making a full-scale switch to their new gTLD in the short term.

OVH to give away 50,000 new gTLD names for free

Kevin Murphy, October 1, 2014, Domain Registries

France-based registrar OVH is to make up to 50,000 domain names in its new gTLD .ovh available for free.

According to its web site and a bulletin send to customers today, the regular price of £2.69 ($4.35) will be waived for the first year and renewal pricing will be discounted.

The first 20,000 names registered will renew at £1.01 ($1.63), the remaining 30,000 names will renew at £2.03 ($3.29). There will be a limit of five domains per customer.

While “free” is not an unusual business model in the new gTLD round, .ovh is noteworthy for several other reasons.

It’s the first “dot-brand” new gTLD to accept registrations from third parties, for starters.

It’s also the only live dot-brand belonging to an accredited domain name registrar.

The restrictions on the gTLD also raise eyebrows — in order to register a name in .ovh, you need an OVH customer number.

So while the .ovh names should in theory be available via third-party registrars, such registrars would have to capture the OVH customer number of their own customers — or encourage their own customers to become OVH customers — in order to process the registration.

Unsurprisingly, there’s no mention of any approved third-party registrars on the official .ovh web site.

General availability begins at 1000 UTC Wednesday October 2.

Thanks to Andrew Bennett for the tip.