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Did Roussos pull off the impossible? Google, Donuts, Radix all drop out of .music race

Google won’t be the registry for the .music gTLD.

The company, along with pure-play registries Donuts and Radix, late last week withdrew their respective applications from the .music contention set, leaving just three possible winners in the running.

Those are Amazon, MMX, and DotMusic, the company run by long-time .music fanboy Constantinos Roussos.

As I blogged last week, applications from Domain Venture Partners and Far Further have also been withdrawn.

I suspect, but do not know for a fact, that the contention was settled with a private deal, likely an auction, recently.

The logical guess for a winner would be Amazon, if only because of the nexus of its business to the music industry and the amount of money it could throw at an auction.

But I’m beginning to suspect that DotMusic might have prevailed.

The company appears to have recently revamped its web site, almost as if it’s gearing up for a launch.

Comparing the current version of music.us to versions in Google’s cache, it appears that the site has been recently given a new look, new copy and even a new logo.

It’s even added a prominent header link inviting prospective resellers to sign up, using a form that also appears to have been added in the last few weeks.

These changes all seem to have been made after the crucial ICANN vote that threw out the last of DotMusic’s appeals, March 14.

Are those the actions of an applicant resigned to defeat, or has Roussos pulled off the apparently impossible, defeating two of the internet’s biggest companies to one of the industry’s most coveted and controversial strings?

Participants in gTLD auctions typically sign NDAs, so we’re going to have to wait a bit longer (probably no more than a few days) to find out which of the remaining three applicants actually won.

Looks like .music is finally on its way

The hard-fought battle for .music appears to be over.

I’m not yet in a position to tell you which of the eight applicants for the new gTLD has been successful, but I can tell you some of those who were not.

Two applicants have this week withdrawn their bids, an almost certain sign that the contention set has been privately settled.

The first applicant to ditch its bid was dot Music Ltd, an application vehicle of Domain Venture Partners (we used to call this outfit Famous Four Media, but that’s changed).

The other is .music LLC, also known as Far Further.

We can almost certainly expect all but one of the remaining applicants to withdraw their applications over the coming days.

Applicants typically sign NDAs when they settle contention privately, usually via an auction.

Far Further was one of two unsuccessful “community” applicants for .music. It had the backing of dozens of music trade groups, including the influential Recording Industry Association of America. Even Radiohead’s guitarist chipped in with his support.

Evidently, none of these groups were prepared to fund Far Further to the extent it could win the .music contention set.

The .music contention set has been held up by the continuing protestations of the other community applicant, DotMusic Limited, the company run by long-time .music cheerleader Constantinos Roussos.

After DotMusic lost its Community Priority Evaluation in 2016, on the basis that the “community” was pretty much illusory under ICANN rules, it started to complain that the process was unfair.

The applicant immediately filed a Request for Reconsideration with ICANN.

.music then found itself one of several proposed gTLDs frozen while ICANN conducted an outside review of alleged irregularities in the CPE process.

That review found no impropriety in early 2018, a verdict DotMusic’s lawyer dismissed as a “whitewash”.

It has since stalled the process several times with requests for information under ICANN’s Documentary Information Disclosure Policy, and more RfRs when those requests were denied.

But this series of appeals finally came to an end March 14, when ICANN’s board of directors finally ruled against DotMusic’s 2016 RfR.

That appears to have opened up the .music set for private resolution.

So who won? I don’t know yet, but the remaining applicants are: DotMusic itself, Google, Amazon, MMX, Donuts and Radix.

There are certainly two very deep-pocketed companies on that list. Could we be looking at Google or Amazon as the new proprietors of .music?

If either of those companies has won, prospective registrants might find they have a long wait before they can pick up a .music domain. Neither of these giants has a track record of rushing its new gTLDs to market.

If the victor is a conventional gTLD registry, we’d very probably be looking at a launch in 2019.

.music applicant caught using bogus Wikipedia page

Kevin Murphy, August 10, 2015, Domain Registries

DotMusic Limited, the .music applicant founded by Constantine Roussos, is using a highly suspicious Wikipedia page in its attempt to win the .music contention set.

The applicant and many supporters have been citing the Wikipedia “music community” page in support of DotMusic’s ongoing Community Priority Evaluation, despite the fact that the page draws text, without citation, from DotMusic’s own application.

The Wikipedia page was created October 21, 2014, just two weeks after rival .music applicant Far Further spectacularly failed in its own Community Priority Evaluation bid.

In March this year, DotMusic cited (pdf) a November 26 version of the Wikipedia page in whole in a controversial application change request.

Three of its supporters (Jeunesses Musicales International, International Society of Music Education, and International Federation of Musicians) have cited the Wikipedia article in DotMusic-drafted letters sent to ICANN.

An early version of the sign-and-submit form letter DotMusic is encouraging supporters to send to ICANN included the Wikipedia reference (this one, for example) but it appears to have been removed from form comments sent after the end of July.

Its web site currently says that its definition of “music community” is “confirmed by Wikipedia”.

In fact, the Wikipedia page pulls lots of its language from DotMusic’s 2012 new gTLD application, as represented in the table below.

WikipediaDotMusic
Music community is defined as a logical alliance of interdependent communities that are related to music,  The Community is a strictly delineated and organized community of individuals, organizations and business, a “logical alliance of communities of a similar nature (“COMMUNITY”)”
The music community shares a cohesive and interconnected structure of artistic expression, with diverse subcultures and socio-economic interactions between music creators, their value chain, distribution channel and fans subscribing to common ideals.  The Community and the .MUSIC string share a core value system of artistic expression with diverse, niche subcultures and socio-economic interactions between music creators, their value chain, distribution channel, and ultimately engaging fans as well as other music constituents subscribing to common ideals.
Under such structured context music consumption becomes possible regardless whether the transaction is commercial and non-commercialUnder such structured context music consumption becomes possible regardless whether the transaction is commercial and non-commercial

The phrase “logical alliance” originates in the ICANN Applicant Guidebook, as part of the CPE rules.

But that still leaves two sentences that appear to have been only lightly edited after being taken wholesale from the DotMusic application.

The Wikipedia page does not refer to domain names or ICANN, nor does it cite DotMusic as a source, despite the fact (per a Google search) that phrases such as “socio-economic interactions between music creators” have only ever appeared in .music’s application.

That’s unusual, because the citations in the article, many of which are to weighty, barely comprehensible scholarly works, give the impression of a well-researched and well-sourced piece.

Only one Wikipedia editor, known by the handle Dr. Blofeld, has contributed anything of substance to the page. Three others have provided cosmetic edits.

While a prolific editor since 2006, the closest he had previously come to writing an article about music were his contributions to a page about a green Versace dress once worn by singer Jennifer Lopez, according to Blofeld’s user page.

He seems to be much more interested in nature, architecture and film (including James Bond films, naturally).

On wonders why he had the sudden urge to scratch-build a 375-word article about the “music community”, having evidently read a dozen academic works on the topic, that fails to cite DotMusic’s application as the source of some of the text.

In summary, the evidence points towards the article being created solely for the purpose of assisting DotMusic towards a CPE victory that would save it the seven-figure sum .music is likely to fetch if it goes to auction.

There are eight applicants for .music in total.

Dirty tricks claimed in .music fight

Kevin Murphy, April 22, 2015, Domain Registries

A .music hopeful has tried to add over 300 pages of documents to its new gTLD application, apparently in an effort to leapfrog competitors, and its rival community applicant is far from happy.

DotMusic Limited submitted the change request (pdf) in order to add some Public Interest Commitments to its .music bid.

Rival .Music LLC now claims that it is “outrageous and unfair for ICANN to allow this applicant to abuse the PIC process in this way” and has filed a Request for Reconsideration.

Of the eight .music bidders, these two companies are the only formal “community” applicants.

Under the rules of the new gTLD program, community applicants can avoid having to fight an auction if they win a strict Community Priority Evaluation.

To avoid confusion: DotMusic Limited is the applicant led by Constantine Roussos; .Music LLC (aka Far Further) is led by John Styll.

Far Further fought a CPE last year but lost in spectacular fashion, scoring just 3 out of the 16 available points, a long way shy of the 14 points required for a pass.

The Roussos applicant has now submitted eight new proposed Public Interest Commitments — things it promises to do to protect registrants and rights holders — as an addendum to its application.

That’s pretty standard stuff.

What’s unusual are the 308 pages of additional “clarifications” that seek to explain how the proposed PICs relate to its original application.

They’re not changes to the application, technically speaking, but they are a way to get hundreds of extra pages of content into the public record ahead of DotMusic’s own CPE.

According to Styll, this latest gambit is nothing more than an attempt to score more CPE points. He told ICANN:

the 308 additional pages of “clarifications” contain wording that clearly utilizes learnings from previous CPE results (including our own), in violation of ICANN policy

Complicating matters, it turns out that Far Further tried to make some substantive changes to its application back in May 2014, but had the request declined by ICANN “in order to be fair to other applicants”.

That was prior to ICANN’s publication of guidelines governing change request, Styll says.

Because of this alleged discrepancy between how the two competing change requests were handled, Far Further wants a second crack at the CPE for its own application.

Its RfR (pdf) asks ICANN to reverse its May 2014 decision, allow its change request, throw out the original results of its CPE and refer the CPE to a new Economist Intelligence Unit panel for a full reevaluation.

Failing that, it wants ICANN to throw out the 308 pages of “clarifications” submitted by DotMusic.

Both applicants have the written support of dozens of music industry groups.

There’s some crossover, but Far Further’s backers appear to me to be a little more “establishment” than DotMusic’s, including the likes of the Recording Industry Association of America.

The other, non-community applicants are Amazon, Google, Donuts, Radix, Famous Four Media and Entertainment Names.

With Google and Amazon in the mix, if it goes to auction, .music could easily be an eight-figure auction along the lines of .app, which sold to Google for $25 million.

In my view, winning a CPE is the only way DotMusic has a chance of getting its hands on .music, short of combining with another applicant.

Music industry gets its ass handed to it by gTLD panel

Kevin Murphy, October 7, 2014, Domain Registries

The music industry-backed application for the new gTLD .music today suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of a Community Priority Evaluation panel.

The Far Further (.music LLC) application scored a pitiful 3 out of 16 possible points in the evaluation, missing the required 14-point passing threshold by a country and western mile.

CPE is a way for applicants representing genuine communities to avoid an auction. If one applicant in a contention set wins a CPE, all the others must withdraw their applications.

But in this case the CPE panel went so far as to accuse the applicant of attempting to get its hands on a nice generic string by creating a new community, rather than by representing an existing one:

The Panel determined that this application refers to a proposed community construed to obtain a sought-after generic word as a gTLD. Moreover the applicant appears to be attempting to use the gTLD to organize the various groups noted in the application documentation, as opposed to applying on behalf of an already organized and cohesive community.

The application was backed by dozens of music industry trade groups and (by inference) thousands of their member associations and millions of individual members, spread over 150 countries.

But that wasn’t enough to persuade the CPE panel that “music” is even a “community” within the meaning of the ICANN new gTLD program’s Applicant Guidebook:

While the Panel acknowledges that many of the members in the proposed community share an interest in music, the AGB specifies that a “commonality of interest” is not sufficient to demonstrate the requisite awareness and recognition of a community among its members.

The panel pointed to the existence of legions of amateur musicians — estimated at 200 million — that do not identify with the community as defined in Far Further’s new gTLD application, which is restricted to the four million or so members of the application’s backers.

The panel found therefore that “there is no entity mainly dedicated to the entire community as defined by the applicant, nor does the application include reference to such an organization”.

The very fact that the Far Further application included reference to 42 trade groups, covering different facets of the music industry, seems to have counted against it. One overarching body dedicated to “music” in its entirety may have been enough to win the applicant some points.

The fact that the panel decided the community did not exist had a knock-on effect in other parts of the evaluation.

Has the community been around for a long time? No, because the community doesn’t exist. Is it a big community? No again, because the community doesn’t exist. And so on.

The only places Far Further managed to pick up points were on its registration policies, where it had promised to restrict registration to certain community members, and on community endorsement.

There are eight applicants for .music in total. One other, regular DI commenter Constantine Roussos’ DotMusic Limited, is also a Community application that is eligible for CPE.

It’s always seemed highly improbable that any .music applicant could pass CPE, but it’s looking even less likely for DotMusic after today’s result for Far Further.

.music, it seems, is heading to auction, where it is likely to fetch big bucks.

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