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New gTLD zones top five million names

Kevin Murphy, April 22, 2015, Domain Registries

There are now more than five million new gTLD domain names live in the DNS.

That’s according to zone files collated by ICANN, which I’m told show 5,002,252 names across the 597 new gTLD registries providing data.

That works out to a mean of 8,378 domains per TLD, a median of 1,254.

The largest zone file is .xyz, with 877,450 names. There’s at least 100 new gTLDs with only one domain in their zones.

Due to the way ICANN’s Centralized Zone Data Service works (or doesn’t work) with access rights expiring on a pretty much daily basis, it’s virtually impossible for a third party such as DI to count up zone file numbers across every new gTLD with 100% daily accuracy.

Today, DI PRO reports a count of 4,999,024 names.

The total number of zone file domains in this post was provided by ICANN, which does not have the same CZDS restrictions as the rest of us.

As .stream is won, ICANN’s auction list empties

Kevin Murphy, April 22, 2015, Domain Registries

.stream has become the latest new gTLD contention set to be settled prior to its ICANN auction, leaving ICANN’s auction schedule looking barren.

Famous Four Media beat Hughes Satellite Systems to the string, which was due to auction May 27.

The four strings scheduled for bidding April 29 — .living, .fun, .map and .search — were also recently settled.

All that remains on ICANN’s schedule is the controversial .game/.games contention set, which will employ a unique process designed for contention sets created by inconsistent singular/plural string confusion rulings.

The five .game applicants and one .games applicant (Donuts) are still due to hit the block May 20.

A couple dozen other gTLDs are still pending ICANN auction but do not have set dates due to various challenges and disputes.

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.

Warren Buffett party firm beats Google to .fun

Kevin Murphy, April 20, 2015, Domain Registries

An 80-year-old seller of party supplies, owned by Warren Buffett, has won the rights to the new gTLD .fun, after the other two applicants withdrew.

Oriental Trading Company plans to operate the gTLD as a “restricted” space where only the company and its partners can register, according to its application.

Quite why this isn’t on hold as a “closed generic”, I don’t know.

The application states .fun will be:

an authoritative Internet space for OTC, its affiliates and partners where OTC can develop an unlimited number of domain names dedicated and relevant to “fun” and to provide Internet users with content, services and products they need, while being assured of brand authenticity.

The other two applicants were Google and Dot Strategy. Both applications have now been withdrawn.

OTC sells balloons, party hats, banners and such. It was acquired by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway in 2012 after filing for bankruptcy protection.

In other withdrawal news, games maker Konami today became the latest company to dump its plans for a dot-brand, in this case .konami.

ICANN in “fact-finding” mode over potential .sucks breach

Kevin Murphy, April 13, 2015, Domain Registries

ICANN is playing its cards close to its chest when pressed on what it thinks Vox Populi may have done wrong with its .sucks launch pricing and policies.

The organization told DI in a statement that it is currently “fact-finding”, and will not speculate on what parts of the Registry Agreement may have been breached.

ICANN on Thursday reported Vox Pop to the US and Canadian trade regulators, asking them to judge whether the registry’s $2,000 sunrise fee broke any laws.

Its Intellectual Property Constituency reckons the launch, which also places thousands of trademarks on permanent, high-priced “Sunrise Premium” list amounts to nothing more than a “shakedown” of brand owners.

Vox Pop CEO John Berard told DI last week that the referral to the US Federal Trade Commission, despite that fact that the company and its owners are Canadian, amounted to “appeasement” of the IPC.

In response, ICANN told DI in a statement:

The registry is offering domain name registrations to registrants located in jurisdictions around the world. It¹s possible that a registry’s activities could violate the law in the registry’s own jurisdiction; it is also possible that a registry’s activities could violate the law in the jurisdiction of a registrar or registrant where the registry offers domain name registrations. In this case, the IPC letter was signed by an attorney based in New York City, and ICANN thought it appropriate to ask both U.S. and Canadian authorities to consider the IPC allegations.

ICANN seems to be saying on the one hand that registries are beholden to the laws of wherever their registrants are based and on the other hand that the jurisdiction of the IPC’s current president, Greg Shatan, somehow has a bearing on what laws gTLD registries are obliged to obey.

I await correction from more knowledgeable readers, but I don’t think either of those statements is accurate.

If the latter is true, then perhaps the IPC should in future elect its leaders from only the countries with the most trademark-friendly regimes.

In ICANN’s letters to the FTC and IPC, the organization said it was “evaluating other remedies”. From the context, it seems that ICANN is thinking it could initiate some kind of compliance action against .sucks regardless of the what governmental regulators say.

Asked to explain this, ICANN told DI:

We¹re currently doing some fact-finding and analysis to assess whether there has been any breach by the registry of its obligations, and, based on the results of that analysis, we will try to determine what remedies, if any, may be available. Obviously, it will depend on all the facts and circumstances. Beyond that, since we haven¹t finished that evaluation process it would be inappropriate to speculate about possible remedies.

That’s not saying much, but it leaves the door open for ICANN Compliance to do something even if the FTC and Office of Consumer Affairs deem that no laws have been broken.

One possible “breach” that has been floated relates to the differential pricing created by the Sunrise Premium list. However, my take on this is that, under the new gTLD contracts, it’s not massively different to other kinds of premium pricing program.

Differential pricing protections only apply to renewal fees. If the registrant is told at the point of sale that their renewal fees will be high, that enables registries to put different fees on different domains.

There have also been theories put forward about ICANN’s motivation for referring .sucks to regulators.

The idea that ICANN can defer to the FTC and others on legal matter is not entirely new. In cases where registries intend to merge, ICANN is allowed under its contracts to refer the deals to regulators before approving them.

But this is the first time ICANN has referred new gTLD pricing to competition authorities.

Is it a case of ICANN ass-covering?

ICANN is taking unique fees worth up to $1 million extra from Vox Populi and, as I wrote two weeks ago, the optics of this are bad for ICANN, which could look like it is profiteering from .sucks.

ICANN has explained that the extra fees related to entities that were owned by Vox Pop parent Momentous, the Canadian registrar that had many subsidiaries go out of business owing ICANN a tonne of cash.

By punting the IPC’s complaint to regulators, ICANN could deflect criticism that it is not doing enough to protect rights holders and registrants while avoiding having to make a tricky decision itself.

Regardless, the FTC referral and the fact that ICANN is charging Vox Pop special fees sends a strong message that ICANN does not trust the registry one bit.