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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.