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First anti-gay gTLD opponent emerges

Kevin Murphy, July 30, 2012, Domain Policy

The first public objections have been filed against applications for the .gay generic top-level domain.

Abdulaziz Al-Zoman reckons .gay shouldn’t be allowed because being gay is “against the law and public morality” in many countries, according to a comment that he filed against all four .gay applications.

Here’s the whole comment:

ICANN is dealing and playing a very strong role in worldwide public policies. It sets global public Internet-related policies that effect many worldwide societies and communities with verity of values and cultures. Therefore, ICANN MUST adhere and respect these cultures and values and not to impose its own “western” culture and values to other communities.

If “gay” is an accepted activity in USA it does not mean it is also accepted or welcomed elsewhere. ICANN should not enforce western culture and values into other societies. It should not ignore other society’s values. If the new gTLD programs had been limited to the United States, the homeland of ICANN, then it might be accepted to have the applied-for gTLDs strings (.gay). In spite of this, even if these strings (.gay) represent a permitted western standard of expressions, ICANN should not impose it globally upon the rest of the world. ICANN should not ignore the fact that activities related to this string are considered criminal act or unlawful in some parts of the world. Furthermore, ICANN should stick to GAC principles that call for respecting the sensitivity regarding terms with national, cultural, geographic and religious significance.

The applied-for gTLD string (gay) is not welcomed in many societies and communities and is against the law and public morality. ICANN should work for the benefit of all societies. It should not indulge itself in prompting and expanding western culture on the Internet. If it is really desired and needed in the ICANN home community (USA), then it can be provided under the .us TLD (e.g., gay.us) but not in the worldwide root space.

Al-Zoman appears to be referring to Saudi society, which has about as slim a grasp on morality as you’ll find anywhere in the world.

Sadly, his comments are likely a precursor to a battle within ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee over whether a formal GAC objection to .gay should be filed.

This is Big Question stuff.

Should ICANN operate according to the internet’s principles of openness, fairness and inclusion, or should it make its decisions based on demands emerging from medieval, theocratic backwaters?

You can probably guess what my opinion is.

DotConnectAfrica responds to DI .africa rant

DotConnectAfrica has published a lengthy retort to DI’s recent post about the (probably) contested .africa gTLD, in which I accused DCA of being disconnected from reality.

You can read my original post here and the DCA response here.

According to DCA, DI’s post was “unprofessional, unwarranted, and sub judice to the ICANN evaluation process”, because it pointed out that Uniforum’s competing bid for .africa stands the best chance of being approved by ICANN.

Having read DCA’s response, I stand by what I wrote.

Geographic gTLDs are governed by special rules at ICANN. They need government support. Nobody disputes this.

In the case of .africa, which covers a lot of countries, support or non-objection from 60% of the relevant governments is required. I don’t think anyone is disputing this either.

Uniforum’s application has this March 2012 letter (pdf) from the African Union Commission, which provides the AUC’s explicit, unambiguous, exclusive support to Uniforum.

Uniforum also claims to have individual support from the required 60% of nations, though I have not seen documentary evidence of this.

DotConnectAfrica, on the other hand, has a August 2009 letter from AUC chair Jean Ping, which expresses support for the DCA application.

It is this 2009 letter that DCA is relying upon to pass the geographic support test in the ICANN evaluation process. In its latest blog post, DCA said, addressing DI:

If you state openly in your Blog that our 2009 endorsement that we got from the African Union Commission does not count, then you are obviously playing the same game that was started by our detractors who have been trying all along to deny and invalidate our hard-won endorsement in order to frustrate DCA’s chances of applying for DotAfrica. It is our sacred responsibility to make sure that our early-bird endorsement from the African Union Commission counts.

In response, all I can say is: “Good luck.”

The Uniforum letter of support, which is more recent by almost three years, states that it is “the only formal endorsement provided by the African Union and its member’s states with regard to dotAfrica.”

On the other hand, the DCA letter of support was “categorically” retracted by the African Union in this May 2011 communication.

The only possible interpretation of this, in my mind, is that Uniforum has African Union backing and that DCA does not.

Unless there’s some obscure nuance of African politics that I’ve failed to comprehend, I don’t think there’s a thing DCA can do to change that fact.

It sucks for DCA, but that’s the way it is.

As for DCA’s insinuations that DI’s position has somehow been bought, I’ll just say for the record that no opinion that has ever been expressed on DI has ever been paid for by a third party.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve probably turned down somewhere in the region of $20,000 from various parties who wanted me to give them favorable coverage in exchange for payment.

That’s just not how things work around here.

New gTLD winners could be named June 2013

Kevin Murphy, July 30, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has sketched out a tentative timetable for the evaluation of its new generic top-level domain applications that would see the first successful gTLDs appear over a year from now.

But the plan has little meat on its bones, and ICANN has admitted that it still doesn’t know exactly how the evaluation process is going to pan out.

In a new call for comments, ICANN confirmed that all 1,930 applications are going to be evaluated at the same time, and that the evaluators have already started work.

The winners and losers from Initial Evaluation, ICANN said, could be announced June or July 2013.

This would mean that the first new gTLDs would start going live on the internet “in late third quarter of 2013, six months later than originally expected”, ICANN said.

But which successful applications would start hitting the root first is still wide open to debate.

The idea that the applications would be processed in batches of 500 or thereabouts, is now pretty much dead. That’s been obvious since digital archery was killed off, but it’s now confirmed.

ICANN said it has a “tentative project plan” that “foresees the processing of applications in a single batch, and simultaneous release of results” about a year from now.

But with “batching” dead, we now have a “metering” problem.

Hypothetically, as many as 1,409 unique gTLD applications could emerge successfully from evaluation at the same time, in June or July next year.

That’s the theoretical ceiling; in reality the number will be substantially reduced by withdrawals, objections and contention.

But before any of them can go live the applicants need to negotiate and/or sign registry agreements with ICANN and undergo formal pre-delegation technical testing. That creates two bottlenecks at ICANN in its legal and IANA departments.

ICANN now wants to know how to “meter” successfully evaluated applications, to smooth out the roll-out so that no more than 1,000 new gTLDs are delegated in any given year.

An idea that emerged in Prague was to order applications according to how “clean” they were, as measured many clarifying questions the evaluators had to ask the applicants. But that idea has now been dismissed as “unworkable”, ICANN said.

ICANN’s board of directors had promised to make about three weeks after the Prague meeting – a deadline that passed over a week ago – but it’s now turning to the community for ideas.

Before August 19, it wants to know:

1. Should the metering or smoothing consider releasing evaluation results, and transitioning applications into the contract execution and pre-delegation testing phases, at different times?

a. How can applications be allocated to particular release times in a fair and equitable way?

b. Would this approach provide sufficient smoothing of the delegation rate?

c. Provide reasoning for selecting this approach.

2. Should the metering or smoothing be accomplished by downstream metering of application processing (i.e., in the contract execution, pre-delegation testing or delegation phases)?

a. How can applications be allocated to a particular timing in contract execution, pre-delegation testing, or delegation in a fair and equitable way?

b. Provide reasoning for selecting this approach.

3. Include a statement describing the level of importance that the order of evaluation and delegation has for your application.

My hunch based on conversations in Prague is that the majority answer to question 1 will be “No” and that the majority answer to question 2 will be “Yes”, but that’s just a hunch at this point.

ICANN to get $8 million more from new .com deal

Verisign will pay ICANN roughly $8 million more per year in fees under its new .com registry agreement, CEO Jim Bidzos told financial analysts last night.

Under the new deal, approved by ICANN last month, the company pays ICANN a $0.25 fee for every .com registration-year, renewal or transfer, instead of the lump sums it paid previously.

That’s going to work out to about $25 million in 2013, Bidzos said on Verisign’s second-quarter earnings call last night, compared to about $17 million under the old arrangement.

The new agreement continues to give the company the right to increase its price by 7% a year in most years, of course, so it’s not all bad news for Verisign investors.

The deal is currently under review by the US Department of Commerce and Bidzos said he expects it to be approved before November 30, when the current contract expires.

.sx denies .sex gTLD objection rumor

Kevin Murphy, July 26, 2012, Domain Services

The CEO of SX Registry has denied rumors that the company already plans to object to the two .sex new gTLD applications, but has not yet ruled out such a move.

The company runs Sint Maarten’s new ccTLD, .sx, and gossip at the ICANN meeting in Prague last month suggested that an objection or two against .sex might be made on confusing similarity grounds.

The rumors were fueled in part by SX Registry’s sexy launch marketing.

But in a recent email to DI, Normand Fortier wrote:

At this time SX Registry is still reviewing the impact of various gTLD applications and contrary to some published rumors, has not taken any official position or decision regarding a future course of action.

Existing ccTLD operators are allowed to file String Confusion Objections against gTLD applications, if they feel there’s a risk of confusion if the gTLD is approved.

And .sx/.sex is far from a unique case.

In fact, of the 375 applications for three-letter gTLDs in the first round, 304 have only one character variance with one or more existing ccTLDs, according to DI PRO’s string similarity analysis.

ICANN’s Sword algorithm, which compares the visual similarity of strings, gives .sex a score of 57% against .sx.

I’ve checked every three-character gTLD application against every existing ccTLD and found dozens of proposed gTLDs with much higher similarity scores when compared to ccTLD strings.

The full results are available to DI PRO subscribers over here.