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ICANN won’t vote on new gTLDs for another year

Kevin Murphy, September 24, 2021, Domain Policy

Those of you champing at the bit for an opportunity to apply for some more new gTLDs have a longer wait ahead of you than you might have hoped, following a vote of the ICANN board of directors last week.

The board has asked ICANN staff to kick off the latest — but not last — stage of the long-running runway to the next application window, but it will take around 10 months and cost millions.

On September 12, the board gave CEO Göran Marby $9 million from the 2012 round’s war chest and told him to kick off the so-called Operational Design Phase of the New Generic Top-Level Domain Subsequent Procedures Policy Development Process (SubPro).

What this means is that ICANN will take the community-created policy recommendations approved by the GNSO Council in January and try to figure how they specifically could be implemented, before the board decides whether they should be implemented.

The ODP will “assess the potential risks, anticipated costs, resource requirements, timelines, and other matters related to implementation” the board resolution states.

For example, while the SubPro final report calls for an outreach campaign prior to opening the application window, the ODP scoping document (pdf) asks what materials would be needed to be produced and how much they would cost.

The scoping paper comprises dozens and dozens of questions like this, over 15 pages. I started counting them but got bored.

ICANN chair Maarten Botterman said the ODP will provide the board “with relevant materials to facilitate the Board’s determination whether the recommendations are in the best interest of the ICANN community or ICANN”.

While the resolution says the ODP should be completed “within 10 months”, that clock starts ticking when the Marby “initiates” the process, and that does not appear to have happened.

Given that, and ICANN’s habitual tardiness, I’d guess we’re looking at closer to a year before the Org has a document ready to put before the board for consideration.

With all the other stuff that needs to happen following the board’s approval, we’re probably talking about a 2024 application window. That would be 12 years after the last round and 11 years later than the next round was originally promised.

ICANN now has half a billion bucks in the bank after huge pandemic profits

Kevin Murphy, September 23, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN, the non-profit organization with the limited technical mandate, now has over half a billion dollars in the bank, after the affects of the coronavirus pandemic boosted funding and slashed costs.

The Org ended June 2021 with cash and investments of $521 million, up $40 million over the preceding 12 months.

While some of this gain can be attributed to investment gains, the majority chunk comes from ICANN largely misjudging the length and impact of pandemic-related restrictions.

Expenses were $10 million lower than budget, because all three ICANN meetings during the year were held online, where they cost about half a million bucks a pop, about $3 million lower than in-person gatherings.

ICANN had budgeted for its 2021 meetings to take place face-to-face in venues around the world, but governmental travel restrictions made this impossible.

The Org saved well over half a million dollars in director expenses alone.

On the top half of the financial statement, the numbers also show a failure to predict how much the pandemic would be generally a boon, rather than a burden, to the domain name industry.

ICANN received $142 million in funding during the year, which was $12 million ahead of budget and $1 million more than it received in fiscal 2020.

Dead dot-brands top 100. Here’s the list and breakdown

Kevin Murphy, September 22, 2021, Domain Registries

The list of dot-brand gTLDs that have had their ICANN registry contracts torn up has now topped 100.

SC Johnson, the big American cleaning products company, has informed the Org it no longer wishes to run .afamilycompany, .duck, .glade, .off, .raid, and .scjohnson.

Regular readers will know that I’ve been keeping a running tally of dot-brand terminations for the last several years, and according to that tally that number is now 101.

But it’s a bit more complex than that, so I thought I’d use the occasion of this milestone to provide a more substantial breakdown.

ICANN has records for 104 dot-brands either being terminated by ICANN or asking to be terminated of their own accord.

The number of registry-initiated termination requests is 90. These are typically gTLDs that were never used, or were experimented with and then abandoned. A smaller number relate to brands that were discontinued following mergers or product end-of-life, rendering the dot-brand pointless.

ICANN initiated the other 14 terminations, mostly because the registry operator got cold feet during the pre-delegation testing phase, before going live, but also in one instance for non-payment of fees and in two cases whatever the hell this is.

Six of the registry-initiated transfer requests were withdrawn before being fully processed. Of those, three (.boots, .mobily, and its Arabic translation) went on to be terminated anyway.

Two registries filed for self-termination then changed their minds and committed auto-genericide by selling their contracts — for .bond and .sbs — to discounting portfolio registry ShortDot instead.

One dot-brand, .case, withdrew its December 2020 termination request and appears to still be active.

Thirteen termination requests are currently in the system but have not yet been fully processed.

Five dot-brand gTLD contracts — .observer, .quest, .monster, .select, .compare — were sold to other registries to be repurposed as open generics. You could add .cyou to that list, depending on how you define a dot-brand.

One gTLD that was originally a generic — .moto — made the move in the other direction to become a dot-brand.

Here’s the list of dot-brands that have either requested a termination, or been terminated.

TLD/RegistryInitiated ByStatus
.active (Active Network, LLC)RegistryTerminated
.afamilycompany (Johnson Shareholdings, Inc.)RegistryPending
.africamagic (Electronic Media Network (Pty) Ltd)ICANNTerminated
.aigo (aigo Digital Technology Co, Ltd.)iCANNTerminated
.blanco (BLANCO GmbH + Co KG)RegistryTerminated
.bnl (Banca Nazionale del Lavoro)RegistryTerminated
.bond (Bond University Limited)RegistryWithdrawn
.boots (The Boots Company PLC)RegistryTerminated
.boots (The Boots Company PLC)RegistryTerminated
.cartier (Richemont DNS Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.case (CNH Industrial N.V.)RegistryWithdrawn
.caseih (CNH Industrial N.V.)RegistryTerminated
.ceb (The Corporate Executive Board Company)RegistryTerminated
.chloe (Richemont DNS Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.chrysler (FCA US LLC.)RegistryTerminated
.dabur (Dabur India LimitedRegistryPending
.dodge (FCA US LLC.)RegistryTerminated
.doha (Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA)RegistryTerminated
.DOOSAN (Doosan Corporation)RegistryTerminated
.dstv (MultiChoice (Proprietary) Limited)iCANNTerminated
.duck (Johnson Shareholdings, Inc.)RegistryPending
.duns (The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation)RegistryTerminated
.dwg (Autodesk, Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.emerson (Emerson Electric Co.)RegistryTerminated
.epost (Deutsche Post AG)RegistryTerminated
.esurance (Esurance Insurance Company)RegistryTerminated
.everbank (EverBank)RegistryTerminated
.FLSMIDTH (FLSmidth A/S)RegistryTerminated
.fujixerox (Xerox DNHC LLC)RegistryTerminated
.glade (Johnson Shareholdings, Inc.)RegistryPending
.goodhands (Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Company)RegistryTerminated
.gotv (MultiChoice (Proprietary) Limited)iCANNTerminated
.honeywell (Honeywell GTLD LLC)RegistryTerminated
.htc (HTC Corporation)RegistryTerminated
.iinet (Connect West Pty)RegistryTerminated
.intel (Intel Corporation)RegistryTerminated
.iselect (iSelect Ltd)RegistryTerminated
.iveco (CNH Industrial N.V.)RegistryTerminated
.iwc (Richemont DNS Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.jcp (JCP Media, Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.jlc (Richemont DNS Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.kyknet (Electronic Media Network (Pty) Ltd)iCANNTerminated
.ladbrokes (Ladbrokes International PLC)RegistryTerminated
.lancome (L'Oréal)RegistryTerminated
.liaison (Liaison Technologies, Incorporated)RegistryTerminated
.lixil (LIXIL Group Corporation)RegistryPending
.lupin (Lupin Limited)RegistryTerminated
.mcd (McDonald's Corporation)RegistryTerminated
.mcdonalds (McDonald's Corporation)RegistryTerminated
.meo (MEO Servicos de Comunicacoes e Multimedia, S.A.)RegistryTerminated
.metlife (MetLife Services and Solutions, LLC)RegistryTerminated
.mnet (Electronic Media Network (Pty) Ltd)iCANNTerminated
.mobily (GreenTech Consultancy Company W.L.L.)RegistryWithdrawn
.mobily (GreenTech Consultancy W.L.L.)iCANNTerminated
.montblanc (Richemont DNS Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.mopar (FCA US LLC.)RegistryTerminated
.movistar (Telefónica S.A.)RegistryTerminated
.mtpc (Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation)RegistryTerminated
.multichoice (MultiChoice (Proprietary) Limited)iCANNTerminated
.mutuelle (Fédération Nationale de la Mutualité Française)RegistryTerminated
.mzansimagic (Electronic Media Network (Pty) Ltd)iCANNTerminated
.nadex (Nadex Domains, Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.naspers (Intelprop (Proprietary) Limited)iCANNTerminated
.nationwide (Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company)RegistryTerminated
.newholland (CNH Industrial N.V.)RegistryTerminated
.off (Johnson Shareholdings, Inc.)RegistryPending
.onyourside (Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company)RegistryTerminated
.orientexpress (Orient Express)RegistryTerminated
.pamperedchef (The Pampered Chef, Ltd.)RegistryTerminated
.panerai (Richemont DNS Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.payu (MIH PayU B.V.)iCANNTerminated
.piaget (Richemont DNS Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.qvc (QVC, Inc)RegistryPending
.raid (Johnson Shareholdings, Inc.)RegistryPending
.rightathome (Johnson Shareholdings, Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.rmit (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology)RegistryPending
.sapo (MEO Servicos de Comunicacoes e Multimedia, S.A.)RegistryTerminated
.sbs (SPECIAL BROADCASTING SERVICE CORPORATION)RegistryWithdrawn
.scjohnson (Johnson Shareholdings, Inc.)RegistryPending
.scor (SCOR SE)RegistryTerminated
.shriram (Shriram Capital Ltd.)RegistryTerminated
.spiegel (SPIEGEL-Verlag Rudolf Augstein GmbH & Co. KG)RegistryTerminated
.srt (FCA US LLC.)RegistryTerminated
.starhub (StarHub Ltd)RegistryTerminated
.statoil (Statoil ASA)RegistryTerminated
.supersport (SuperSport International Holdings Proprietary Limited)iCANNTerminated
.swiftcover (Swiftcover Insurance Services Limited)RegistryPending
.symantec (Symantec Corporation)RegistryTerminated
.telecity (TelecityGroup International Limited)RegistryTerminated
.telefonica (Telefónica S.A.)RegistryTerminated
.theguardian (Guardian News And Media Limited)iCANNTerminated
.uconnect (FCA US LLC.)RegistryTerminated
.vista (Vistaprint Limited)RegistryTerminated
.vistaprint (Vistaprint Limited)RegistryTerminated
.warman (Weir Group IP Limited)RegistryTerminated
.xperia (Sony Mobile Communications AB)RegistryTerminated
.zippo (Zadco Company)RegistryTerminated
xn--3oq18vl8pn36a (Volkswagen (China) Investment Co., Ltd.)RegistryPending
xn--estv75g (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited)RegistryTerminated
xn--kpu716f (Richemont DNS Inc.)RegistryTerminated
xn--mgbb9fbpob (GreenTech Consultancy Company W.L.L.)RegistryWithdrawn
xn--mgbb9fbpob (GreenTech Consultancy W.L.L.)iCANNTerminated
xn--pbt977c (Richemont DNS Inc.)RegistryTerminated
xn—4gq48lf9j Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.RegistryTerminated

Volkswagen drives IDN dot-brand off a cliff

Kevin Murphy, September 13, 2021, Domain Registries

Volkwagen has decided it no longer wishes to run its Chinese-script dot-brand gTLD.

The car-maker’s Chinese arm has asked ICANN to terminate its contract for .大众汽车 (.xn--3oq18vl8pn36a), which has been in the root for five years.

It’s the standard terminating dot-brand story — the gTLD was never used and VW evidently decided it wasn’t needed.

The company also runs .volkswagen, and that’s not used either, but ICANN has yet to publish termination papers for that particular string.

Fellow German car-maker Audi is one of the most prolific users of dot-brands. Its .audi gTLD has over 1,800 registered domains, most of which appear to be used by its licensed dealerships.

.volkwagen is the 95th terminated dot-brand and the seventh terminated internationalized domain name gTLD.

CTO Conrad quits ICANN

Kevin Murphy, September 13, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN chief technology officer David Conrad will leave the Org at the end of the month, ICANN said Friday.

No reason was given for the departure, neither was Conrad’s destination, should there be one, disclosed.

He’s been CTO since 2014. Before that, he was a VP there from 2005 to 2010.

He’ll be temporarily replaced by long-time ICANN staffer John Crain, currently chief security, stability, and resiliency officer, while ICANN carries out a formal recruitment drive.

MMX to return GoDaddy cash to investors

Kevin Murphy, September 13, 2021, Domain Registries

Former new gTLD portfolio registry Minds + Machines (MMX) said Friday that it has started returning most of its recent GoDaddy windfall to shareholders.

It has launched a tender offer to buy back £58 million ($80 million) worth of shares, after selling off its wedge of 20-odd ICANN contracts to the registrar giant.

The offer price is 9.6p ($0.13) per share. MMX said that’s a premium of 12.9% on its September 8 closing price and 13.1% over the average between August 11 and September 8.

It’s roughly the same price shares were trading for at the start of 2012, when ICANN opened the last new gTLD application window, but substantially lower than its peak when it started making new gTLD money a couple years later.

The proposal does not cover all of its shares; over 31% will remain in shareholder hands after the tender offer expires October 1.

The company has about $110 million in cash right now, and expects to spend $24 million of that on the GoDaddy transition, taxes, employee payments, professional services and the like, as it winds down over the fourth quarter.

MMX will retain its listing on AIM in London after the wind-down of operations, making it a vessel for a potential reverse-takeover, in which another company (not necessarily in the domains business) could back into it for an easier way into the public markets.

The company sold its registry portfolio to GoDaddy for about $120 million, and has wound down its registrars.

DropCatch raises antitrust concerns about Donuts’ Dropzone proposal

Kevin Murphy, September 8, 2021, Domain Registrars

TurnCommerce, the company behind DropCatch.com and hundreds of accredited domain name registrars, reckons Donuts’ proposed Dropzone service would be anticompetitive.

Company co-founder Jeff Reberry has written to ICANN to complain that Dropzone would introduce new fees to the dropping domains market, raising the costs involved in the aftermarket.

He also writes that Donuts’ ownership of Name.com, a registrar that DropCatch competes with in the drop market, would have an “unfair competitive advantage” if Dropzone is allowed to go ahead:

Donuts is effectively asking every entity in the ICANN ecosystem to bear the costs of introducing a new service with no benefit outside of a financial benefit to itself, while forcing all registrars to spend more money and resources to register available domain names.

Donuts is proposing Dropzone across its whole portfolio of 200+ gTLDs. It’s a parallel registry infrastructure that would exist just to handle dropping domains in more orderly fashion.

Today, companies such as TurnCommerce own huge collections of shell registrars that are used to ping registries with EPP Create commands around the time valuable domains are going to delete.

Under Dropzone, they’d instead submit create requests with the Dropzone service, and Donuts would give out the rights to register the domains in question on a first-come, first-served basis.

While ICANN had approved a similar request from Afilias before it was acquired by Donuts, the Dropzone proposed by Donuts has one major difference — it proposes a new fee for accessing the system.

No details about this fee have been revealed, which has TurnCommerce nervous.

Donuts is asking for Dropzone via the Registry Services Evaluation Process and ICANN has not yet approved it.

Reberry says ICANN should consult with the relevant governmental competition authorities before it approves the proposal.

You can read Reberry’s letter here (pdf) and our original article about Dropzone here.

ICANN could get the ball rolling on next new gTLD round this weekend

Kevin Murphy, September 7, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN may be about to take the next step towards the next round of new gTLD applications at a meeting this Sunday.

On the agenda for the full board of directors is “New gTLD Subsequent Procedures Operational Design Phase (ODP): Scoping Document, Board Resolution, Funding and Next steps”.

But don’t quite hand over all your money to an application consultant just yet — if ICANN approves anything this weekend, it’s just the “Operational Design Phase”.

The ODP is a new piece of procedural red tape for ICANN, coming between approval of a policy by the GNSO Council and approval by the board.

It is does NOT mean the board will approve a subsequent round. It merely means it will ask staff to consider the feasibility of eventually implementing the policy, considering stuff like cost and legality.

CEO Göran Marby recently said the ODP will take more than six months to complete, so we’re not looking at board approval of the next round until second-quarter 2022 at the earliest.

Most registrars fail ICANN abuse audit

Kevin Murphy, August 26, 2021, Domain Registrars

The large majority of accredited registrars failed an abuse-related audit at the first pass, according to ICANN.

The audit of 126 registrars, representing over 90% of all registered gTLD domains, founds that 111 were “not fully compliant with the [Registrar Accreditation Agreement’s] requirements related to the receiving and handling of DNS abuse reports”.

Only 15 companies passed with flying colors, ICANN said.

A further 92 have already put in place changes to address the identified concerns, with 19 more still struggling to come into compliance.

The particular parts of the RAA being audited require registrars to publish an abuse email address that it monitored 24/7 and to take action on well-founded cases of abuse within 24 hours of notification.

The results of the audit, carried out by ICANN Compliance and KPMG, can be found here (pdf).

Bizarre redactions in Pirate Bay founder’s ICANN registrar ban

Kevin Murphy, August 26, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN has finally published a complaint from Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde, who has been banned from owning an accredited registrar, but it’s full of bizarre redactions that serve only to make it look like the Org is hiding something.

You may recall that Sunde said in March that ICANN had rejected his application to have his registrar, Sarek, formally accredited.

He told DI that it happened because ICANN was worried he’d be a “pain in the ass” due to his previous association with the Pirate Bay file-sharing site and his criminal conviction for copyright infringement.

Not long after speaking to us, he filed a formal complaint with ICANN, which ICANN, five months later, published this week.

There’s not much in the complaint (pdf) that we have not already reported, but what’s notable is the amount of unnecessarily redacted text.

ICANN seems chiefly concerned with poorly obfuscating the identity of the staffer with whom Sunde was dealing on, and who ultimately rejected, his accreditation application.

The Org goes to the extent of redacting gender pronouns, so the reader can’t tell whether the person in question is male or female.

But the information that remains unredacted in the very same sentence is more than sufficient to identify the staffer concerned.

I’ve even been on national TV mentioning [NAME REDACTED] that I talked to today, regarding [PRONOUN REDACTED] failure to disclose the 3200 comments that was against the price cap removal of .ORG in [PRONOUN REDACTED] summary report for ICANN regarding the case.

The person who compiled the comment summary on the .org price caps issue, a public document (pdf), was Russ Weinstein, who’s also the guy in charge of registrar accreditation matters.

What possible benefit could be had from obfuscating his identity? And if doing so is so important, why do it in such an incompetent way?

The document also appears to redact the names of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Swedish prog-rocker Björn Afzelius, both in the context of well-reported news stories mere seconds away in a search engine.

Reference to Sunde’s own criminal convictions, which are also well-reported and he has never been shy about addressing, also appear to be redacted.

For avoidance of doubt, I’m not saying that ICANN is hiding anything sinister, nor am I saying Sunde’s complaint has merit, but this redaction-happy attitude serves only to make the Org appear less transparent than it really should be.

If these redactions are attempts to hide personally identifiable information under ICANN’s privacy policy, they failed miserably on pretty much every count, even after five months.

This is privacy theater, created by people who don’t know the first thing about privacy.

ICANN has yet to respond Sunde’s complaint.