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African brands wiped off the map as ICANN flips the kill switch on 10 gTLDs

Ten dot-brand gTLDs may never see the light of day, after ICANN sent termination notices to the applicants.

The move means that the number of African-owned dot-brand gTLDs to go live in the current round will be precisely zero.

The 10 affected gTLDs are .naspers, .supersport, .mzansimagic, .mnet, .kyknet, .africamagic, .multichoice, .dstv and .gotv, which were applied for by four South African companies, and .payu, which came from a Dutch firm.

In each case, the applicant had signed a Registry Agreement with ICANN in early 2015, but had failed to actually go live in the DNS within the required 12-month window.

All had deadlines in February or March but failed to meet even extended deadlines.

The condemned gTLDs make up more than half of the total applications originating in Africa.

Of the original 17 African applications, only ZACR’s .joburg, .capetown and .durban city gTLDs have actually been delegated.

Another application, the generic .ummah from Ummah Digital of Gambia, was withdrawn in 2013.

The League of Arab States’ .arab and عرب. are both currently in pre-delegation testing, having signed ICANN contracts in November.

The remaining two applications are both for .africa, which is currently stuck in litigation.

We’re looking at a maximum of six African-owned gTLDs, of a possible 16, going live in the 2012 round.

ICANN was criticized back in 2012 for not doing enough to raise awareness of the new gTLD program, criticisms that have been raised again recently as the community starts to seriously look at how things can be improved for the next round.

UPDATE: This article originally stated that .ummah was a dot-brand application. It was not. The text has been corrected accordingly.

Two more dot-brands self-terminate

Kevin Murphy, April 29, 2016, Domain Registries

The dot-brand dead-pool is now up to three gTLDs.

FLSmidth, which supplies machinery to the cement industry, and Emerson Electric, which also makes industrial machinery, have both decided that they don’t need their new gTLDs.

The affected gTLDs are .flsmidth and .emerson.

Both companies have filed cursory notices of termination with ICANN, indicating that they no longer wish to have a new gTLD Registry Agreement.

Neither company has yet received a preliminary determination from ICANN, a step that will lead to a month-long public comment period before the contracts are terminated.

In Emerson’s case, .emerson has not been delegated so there will be no impact on the number of TLDs in the root.

FLSmidth’s dot-brand has been live since September 2014, but the company never made the transition away from its .com.

While registry reports show that six domains have been registered, its latest zone file shows only the obligatory nic.flsmidth domain is active.

The first new gTLD to cop out was .doosan, the dot-brand for Korean conglomerate Doosan. It took over four months from filing its notice last October to the TLD being retired.

Amazon files appeal on rejected .amazon domain

Kevin Murphy, March 3, 2016, Domain Policy

Amazon has appealed the rejection of its proposed .amazon new gTLD.

The company this week told ICANN that it has invoked the Independent Review Process, after 18 months of informal negotiations proved fruitless.

Amazon’s .amazon application was controversially rejected by ICANN in May 2014, due to advice from the Governmental Advisory Committee.

The GAC, by a consensus, had told ICANN that .amazon should be rejected.

South American nations that share the Amazonia region of the continent had said the string was “geographic” and should therefore be unavailable to the US-based company.

The word “Amazon” is not protected by ICANN’s geographic string rules, because “Amazon” is not the name of a region, and was only rejected due to governmental interference.

The GAC’s decision came only after the US, which had been preventing consensus in order to protect one of its biggest native internet companies, decided to step aside.

Amazon has been in ICANN’s Cooperative Engagement Process — an informal set of talks designed to avoid the need for too many lawyers — since July 2014.

Those talks have now ended and Amazon has told ICANN that an IRP is incoming, according to ICANN documentation published on Tuesday (pdf).

The IRP documents themselves have not yet been published by ICANN.

UPDATE: This article originally incorrectly stated that the US withdrew its objection to the GAC consensus on .amazon after the IANA transition was announced. In fact, it did so several months prior to that announcement.

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.