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Amid Ukraine crisis, Russia scared ICANN might switch off its domains

Kevin Murphy, September 19, 2014, Domain Policy

Russia is reportedly worried that the current wave of Western sanctions against it may wind up including ICANN turning off its domain names.

According to a report in the local Vedomosti newspaper, the nation’s Security Council is to meet Monday to discuss contingency plans for the possibility of being hit by internet-based sanctions.

Part of the discussion is expected to relate to what would happen if the US government forced ICANN to remove the local ccTLDs — .ru, .рф, and the discontinued .su — from the DNS root, according to Vedomosti’s source.

The paper reports, citing a source, that “officials want to control the entire distribution system of domain names in RUnet entirely”. RUnet is an informal term for the Russian-language web.

The report goes on to explain that the government’s goal is not to isolate the Russian internet, but to ensure it remains functioning within the country if its ccTLDs are cut off in the rest of the world.

Russia has been hit by sanctions from the US and Europe in recent months due to its involvement in the Ukraine crisis, but so far these have been of the regular economic kind.

Frankly, I find the possibility of the US government asking ICANN to intervene in this way — and ICANN complying — unlikely in the extreme. It would go dead against the current US policy of removing itself almost entirely from the little influence it already has over the root system.

Second last-resort gTLD auction raises $14.3m

Kevin Murphy, September 18, 2014, Domain Registries

ICANN has raised $14.3 million auctioning off three new gTLDs — .buy, .tech and .vip.

It was the second batch of “last resort” auctions, managed by ICANN and Power Auctions, in which the winning bids are placed in a special ICANN fund.

Notably, while Google participated in all three auctions, it failed to win any, setting a reassuring precedent for any smaller applicants that are set to face the deep-pocketed giant in future auctions.

.tech was the biggest-seller, fetching $6,760,000 after nine rounds of bidding.

The winner was Dot Tech LLC, which beat Google, Minds + Machines, Donuts, NU DOT CO, and Uniregistry.

.buy went to Amazon for $4,588,888, beating Google, Donuts and Famous Four Media. The bidding lasted seven rounds.

Finally, .vip sold to Minds + Machines for $3,000,888 after Google, Donuts, I-Registry and VIP Registry dropped out.

The prices are in the same ball-park as we’ve inferred from previous, private auctions managed by Applicant Auction (a company affiliated with Power Auctions).

That’s notable because the first last resort auction, for .信息, fetched just $600,000 when it sold to Amazon back in June.

As far as we can tell, last-resort auctions do not necessarily keep prices low, even though the losing bidders in this week’s auctions will have walked away empty-handed.

In private auctions, losers leave holding a share of the winner’s bid.

This week, most of the $14.3 million raised will go into a special ICANN fund.

Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s Global Domains Division said in a statement:

The proceeds from these Auctions will be separated and reserved until the Board determines a plan for the appropriate use of the funds through consultation with the community. We continue to encourage parties to reach agreements amongst themselves to resolve contention.

The ICANN community has been chatting about possible uses for auction funds for years.

Ideas such as subsidizing new gTLD applicants from poorer nations in future rounds and investing in internet infrastructure in the developing world have been floated.

DotGreen is back from the dead

Kevin Murphy, September 16, 2014, Domain Registries

DotGreen Community, a popular but unsuccessful applicant for the .green gTLD, has been resurrected to manage the marketing for the successful applicant, Afilias.

It appears that Afilias, which won .green at auction against two other applicants in late February, is essentially outsourcing the marketing of .green to DotGreen.

DotGreen withdrew its bid last October, citing the high cost of the looming auction.

DotGreen’s plan for the TLD, had it won, was to distribute some of its profits to worthy environmental causes, and that plan seems to have been brought back from the dead too.

According to a press release:

DotGreen brings additional partnerships with EarthShare, a federation comprised of the world’s leading environmental and conservation charities; and The DotGreen Foundation, a California Non-profit, 501 (c)3 Public Charity. These organizations will work together to distribute a percentage of the proceeds collected from the sales of the .green domain names to programs that work towards the advancement of sustainability worldwide.

It appears to be a unique, first-of-its-kind relationship in the new gTLD space.

Afilias remains the contracted party and will continue to run the technical infrastructure of the registry, but the heavy-lifting of actually marketing the names falls on DotGreen.

Given that DotGreen spent quite a lot of time in the run-up to the new gTLD application process building relationships with environmental groups, this could be an incredibly shrewd move by Afilias.

Afilias has not yet revealed its sunrise or general availability launch dates for .green, which was delegated in June.

No gala at ICANN 51

Kevin Murphy, September 16, 2014, Gossip

One thing ICANN’s thrice-yearly public meetings never lack is free booze, but there’s going to be a little bit less of it at ICANN 51 in Los Angeles next month.

ICANN said yesterday that the gala event, which is typically held on the Wednesday night, will not happen in LA.

ICANN veep Christopher Mondini blogged:

Historically, the gala has been organized and supported by an outside sponsor. ICANN51 will not have such a sponsor, and therefore no gala. ICANN meetings have grown to around 3,000 attendees, and so have the challenges of finding a gala sponsor.

LA is of course ICANN’s home town, hence the lack of need for a local host/sponsor company.

There have been some really spectacular galas over the years — and some not-so-great ones — so the lack of such an event this time around may be mildly disappointing to some attendees.

On the bright side (arguably), Music Night, which was introduced in the Beckstrom era but hasn’t appeared at the last few meetings, is rumored to be making a return for LA.

Usually a Tuesday-night event sponsored by PIR and Afilias, Music Night sees musically inclined ICANN community members jamming together, followed by a bit of karaoke.

Facebook has it that the ah hoc band GEMS (Global Equal Multi-Stakeholders) will be making an appearance to play a selection of bottoms-up, consensus-based classic rock numbers.

Unfortunately, personal circumstances are very probably going to keep yours truly away from ICANN 51, but gifts of whiskey sent to the usual address will of course be consumed in solidarity on the appropriate evening.

“Yes” vote would be good for .scot

Kevin Murphy, September 15, 2014, Domain Registries

The prospect of a healthy .scot gTLD would be improved if this week’s Scottish independence referendum produces a majority “Yes” vote.

People living in Scotland this Thursday get the opportunity to vote to split the country from the United Kingdom after over 300 years together.

While the No campaign seems to have been winning most of the opinion polls recently, the margin has been reportedly narrowing, and there are still large numbers of undecided voters.

Whichever way the vote goes, Dot Scot will take .scot to general availability next Tuesday.

The registry is backed by Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, the leading voice of the Yes campaign, and it seems inevitable that a Yes vote will bode much better for its business prospects.

A vote to split would no doubt create a new sense of national pride in the small majority of Yes voters, spurring registrations in that community.

But, more importantly, it will mean that .scot will become, I believe, Scotland’s de facto ccTLD.

If Scotland does vote for independence, it would not formally split from the UK until, it is planned, March 2016.

The new country would not qualify for a ccTLD until some time after that — it would first have to be recognized by the United Nations, the International Standards Organization, and then ICANN.

When it did finally get a ccTLD delegated and launched, probably in 2017, its two-character string would not have much semantic relevance to most of the world’s internet users.

The ISO 3166-1 alpha-12 list, which assigns two-character codes to countries and territories, only has three strings beginning with S — SP, SQ and SW — currently unaccounted for.

.sc belongs to the Seychelles, for example, while Sao Tome and Principe has .st and Sudan has .sd.

One alternative put forward is .ab, which could be used to represent Alba, the Scots Gaelic name for Scotland.

But it’s hardly a commonly known name outside Scotland (even in the rest of the UK) and there are only 57,000 native Scots Gaelic speakers in a Scottish population of 5.3 million.

It seems pretty clear that if .scot goes up against .ab, or any other two-character string, .scot will win in the marketplace, in much the same way as .com eclipses .us today.

That would be the case even if .scot didn’t get the three-year head start that starts next week.