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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.