Jiangsu Bangning Science & Technology, the .top registry, is blaming a typo for a Facebook executive’s claim that it wanted $30,000 or more for facebook.top.
Information provided to the ICANN GNSO Council by Facebook domain manager Susan Kawaguchi yesterday showed that .top wanted RMB 180,000 (currently $29,000) for a trademarked name that previously had been blocked due to ICANN’s name collisions policy.
But Mason Zhang, manager of the registry’s overseas channel division, told DI today that the price is actually RMB 18,000 ($2,900):
We were shocked when seeing that our register price for TMCH protected names like Facebook during Exclusive Registration Period is changed from “eighteen thousand” into what is written, the “one hundred and eighty thousand”.
I think that might be a type mistake from our side, and we checked and we are certain that the price is CNY EIGHTEEN THOUSAND.
The 18,000-yuan sunrise fee is published on the registry’s official web site, as I noted yesterday.
The registry email sent to Facebook is reproduced in this PDF.
I wondered yesterday whether a breakdown in communication may to be blame. Perhaps I was correct.
While $3,000 is still rather high for a defensive registration, it doesn’t stink of extortion quite as badly as $30,000.
Still, it’s moderately good news for Facebook and any other company worried they were going to have to shell out record-breaking prices to defensively register their brands.
More Chinese weirdness, or just plain old trademark owner extortion?
The registry for the new gTLD .top is asking Facebook to cough up $35,000 in order to defensively register one of its trademarks as a .top domain — probably facebook.top — according to a Facebook executive.
The registry’s demand — which some are cautiously likening to “extortion” — is linked to the release of name collision domains in .top, which is due to start happening today.
Nanjing, China-based registry Jiangsu Bangning Science & Technology runs the .top gTLD.
It has been in general availability since November 18 and currently has just shy of 40,000 names in its zone file, making it the 16th-largest new gTLD.
I haven’t checked whether they’re all legitimate buyer registrations, but given the shape the new gTLD industry is in right now I have my doubts.
From today, Jiangsu Bangning is running a month-long “Exclusive Registration Period”, according to ICANN records.
But Facebook domain manager Susan Kawaguchi today complained on an ICANN GNSO Council call that the registry had asked for $4,500 for a Sunrise period registration and now wants an extra RMB 180,000 ($30,000) because the desired domain is on its collisions block-list.
UPDATE: The registry says the price is just RMB 18,000. It blames a typo for the error.
I don’t know for sure what domain Facebook wants — I’ve reached out to Kawaguchi for clarification — but I rather suspect it’s facebook.top, which appeared on the list of 30,205 name collisions that Jiangsu Bangning was obliged by ICANN to block.
Name collisions are domains that were already receiving traffic prior to the launch of the new gTLD program. ICANN forces registries to block them for a minimum of 90 days in order to mitigate potential security risks.
According to the registry’s web site, Sunrise registrations cost RMB 18,000 per name per year. That’s about $3,000 a year for a defensive registration, a ridiculously high sum when compared to most new gTLDs.
There’s no mention on its site that I can find of the additional RMB 180,000 collision release fee, but Kawaguchi forwarded an email to the GNSO Council that strongly suggests that trademark owners with brands on the .top collisions list face the inexplicable extra $30,000.
Sunrise prices, just like regular general availability prices, are not controlled by ICANN in new gTLDs.
There are no rules I’m aware of governing pricing for collision names, nor am I aware of any registry costs that could justify a $30,000 fee to register one. A premium generic string may be worth that much, but asking that amount for a trademark smacks of extortion.
So, assuming this isn’t just a breakdown of communication, is the registry trying to screw Facebook in a targeted fashion, knowing it has deep pockets and a cybersquatting target painted on its back, or is it applying a $30,000 fee to every domain coming off its collisions list this week?
Facebook isn’t the only big tech company with its primary trademark on the list — Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Amazon also appear on it, along with many other famous brands.
Kawaguchi said she’s taken her complaint to ICANN Compliance.
The corporate brand protection registrar MarkMonitor was reportedly hacked yesterday by the group calling itself the Syrian Electronic Army, in an unsuccessful attempt to take out Facebook.
While MarkMonitor refused to confirm or deny the claims, the SEA, which has been conducting a campaign against high-profile western web sites for the last couple of years, tweeted several revealing screenshots.
One was a screen capture of a DomainTools Whois lookup for facebook.com, which does not appear to have been cached by DomainTools.
— SyrianElectronicArmy (@Official_SEA16) February 5, 2014
Another purported to be a cap of Facebook’s control panel at the registrar.
— SyrianElectronicArmy (@Official_SEA16) February 6, 2014
The SEA tweeted more caps purporting to show it had access to domains belonging to Amazon and Yahoo!.
In response to an inquiry, MarkMonitor rather amusingly told DI “we do not comment on our clients — including neither confirming nor denying whether or not a company is a client.”
This despite the fact that the company publishes a searchable database of its clients on its web site.
The attackers were unable to take down Facebook itself because the company has rather wisely chosen to set its domain to use Verisign’s Registry Lock anti-hijacking service.
Registry Lock prevents domains’ DNS settings being changed automatically via registrar control panels. Instead, registrants need to provide a security pass phrase over the phone.
Facebook has become the first company to win a Uniform Rapid Suspension complaint.
The case, which dealt with the domain facebok.pw, took 37 days from start to finish.
This is what the suspended site now looks like:
The URS was designed for new gTLDs, but .PW Registry decided to adopt it too, to help it deal with some of the abuse it started to experience when it launched earlier this year.
Facebook was the first to file a complaint, on August 21. According to the decision, the case commenced about three weeks later, September 11, and was decided September 26.
I don’t know when the decision was published, but World Trademark Review appears to have been the first to spot it.
It was pretty much a slam-dunk, uncontroversial decision, as you might imagine given the domain. The standard is “clear and convincing evidence”, a heavier burden than UDRP.
The registrant did not respond to the complaint, but Facebook provided evidence showing he was a serial cybersquatter.
The decision was made by the National Arbitration Forum’s Darryl Wilson, who has over 100 UDRP cases under his belt. Here’s the meat of it:
IDENTICAL OR CONFUSINGLY SIMILAR
The only difference between the Domain Name, facebok.pw, and the Complainant’s FACEBOOK mark is the absence of one letter (“o”) in the Domain Name. In addition, it is well accepted that the top level domain is irrelevant in assessing identity or confusing similarity, thus the “.pw” is of no consequence here. The Examiner finds that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s FACEBOOK mark.
NO RIGHTS OR LEGITIMATE INTERESTS
To the best of the Complainant’s knowledge, the Respondent does not have any rights in the name FACEBOOK or “facebok” nor is the Respondent commonly known by either name. Complainant has not authorized Respondent’s use of its mark and has no affiliation with Respondent. The Domain Name points to a web page listing links for popular search topics which Respondent appears to use to generate click through fees for Respondent’s personal financial gain. Such use does not constitute a bona fide offering of goods or services and wrongfully misappropriates Complainant’s mark’s goodwill. The Examiner finds that the Respondent has established no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name.
BAD FAITH REGISTRATION AND USE
The Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Domain Name was registered on or about March 26, 2013, nine years after the Complainant’s FACEBOOK marks were first used and began gaining global notoriety.
The Examiner finds that the Respondent has engaged in a pattern of illegitimate domain name registrations (See Complainant’s exhibit URS Site Screenshot) whereby Respondent has either altered letters in, or added new letters to, well-known trademarks. Such behavior supports a conclusion of Respondent’s bad faith registration and use. Furthermore, the Complainant submits that the Respondent is using the Domain Name in order to attract for commercial gain Internet users to its parking website by creating a likelihood of confusion as to the source, sponsorship or affiliation of the website. The Examiner finds such behavior to further evidence Respondent’s bad faith registration and use.
The only remedy for URS is suspension of the domain. According to Whois, it still belongs to the respondent.
Read the decision in full here.
Are Internationalised Domain Names really useful, or just a way for an ASCII-focused internet governance community to feel better about itself?
Beyond all the hoopla about ICANN’s 2009 program to enable countries to operate their own non-Latin script internet suffixes (aka the “IDN ccTLD Fast Track”), what should really matter is the Internet user.
Yes, those sitting in ICANN meeting rooms at the time, listening to the hyperbole about how the internet was now going truly global probably felt like they were feeding the hungry and bringing peace to the world. But do people actually use IDNs?
I will admit that at the time, I was dubious. Of course, saying so in ICANN circles would have been akin to wearing a “Camembert is bad” t-shirt in the streets of Paris: poor form! But still, I couldn’t help ask myself if having a single one-language system unite the world was actually such a bad thing?
“How would you like it if the Internet had been invented in China and you had to use their alphabet,” was the usual rebuke I got if I ever dared to doubt out loud. And there really is no arguing with that. If the internet was Chinese, I’d want the Mandarin version of ICANN to roll out IDNs pretty sharpish.
Nonetheless, can the usefulness of IDNs still be questioned?
Facebook in Latin
Talking to a local internet expert whilst attending last week’s excellent Domain Forum in Sofia, Bulgaria, the answer would seem to be a surprising yes.
“Why would kids in this country use IDNs,” I was told when I suggested that, surely, Bulgaria must be excited about the prospect of natural language web addresses. “What worries the authorities here is the fact that kids are using Latin scripts so much on social media sites that they don’t even know how to write in Cyrillic anymore! So even if they could use IDN web and email addresses, why would they? They want to communicate like everyone else does on Facebook.”
In truth, Bulgaria’s view may be skewed by the horrible experience it’s had with ICANN’s IDN Fast Track. The country was refused its own IDN country code due to a perceived similarity with another TLD that no-one in Bulgaria really feels is warranted. But not all potential IDN users feel they are useless. Neighbors in Russia tell of a different IDN experience.
The Russian registry saw stunning initial take-up when it opened the IDN .РФ (.RF for Russian Federation) to general consumption on November 11, 2010. Registration volumes were explosive, with almost 600,000 names registered in the first month. Strong growth continued for a year, hitting a peak of 937,913 registered names in December 2011.
But the following month, that number fell off a cliff. Total registrations dropped to 844,153 in January 2012. “Initial registrations were driven in part by speculators,” explains ccTLD .RU’s Leonid Todorov. “But when people saw they couldn’t make huge profits on the domains, they started letting them go.”
Even so, .РФ remains a real success. Although November 2012 figures show a year on year decline of 8.63%, the TLD still sports a whopping 845,037 names.
At 66%, .РФ has a slightly lower renewal rate than ASCII Russian equivalent .ru (73%), probably because of those day-one speculators, but it remains widely used. Current delegation figures (i.e. the number of domain names that are actually used for email or websites) stand at a commendable 70% and have not stopped rising since .РФ opened in 2010 with a 45% delegation rate.
The Cyrillic Russian domain sees a vast predominance of personal use, with 77% percent of domains being registered by individuals. “Russians care deeply about their national identity,” says my Bulgarian friend when I suggest that IDNs do seem to matter in some Cyrillic-using countries. “To them, Dot RF is a matter of national pride.”
So IDNs may not really be all that different from ASCII domain names, with take-up depending on perceived use or value. Europe’s IDN experience seems to confirm this, as European registry EURid’s Giovanni Seppia explained in Sofia.
He revealed that since EURid introduced IDNs on December 11, 2009, registrations reached a peak of around 70,000 (a mere fraction of the 3.7 million names currently registered in the .eu space) before dropping off quite sharply.
Why? Well .eu IDNs may not hold much potential for real use or investment value for Europeans. Although web use is possible with IDNs, software primarily designed for an ASCII-only world does not always make it easy.
Email capability would be a real boost, but so far only the Chinese seem to have enabled it for their local script domains. The Chinese registry recently announced this, without giving details on how the use of all-Chinese character email addresses has been implemented or which email clients support IDNs.
Whatever the technology, countries which combine national pride and a character set far removed from our own probably see more desire for IDNs. With two years of hindsight, Russia obviously loves its IDN. And as other countries like China bring more elaborate IDN capabilities online, demand should grow and force even this IDN skeptic to recognize the new character(s) of the internet.
This is a guest post written by Stéphane Van Gelder, strategy director for NetNames. He has served as chair of the GNSO Council and is currently a member of ICANN’s Nominating Committee.