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Chehade talks up split from US oversight

Kevin Murphy, October 28, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade used his keynote address at the newdomains.org conference this morning to discuss his plans to divorce the organization from US governmental oversight.

With a split from the US recurring theme in his recent speeches, Chehade nevertheless warned that there were risks that such a move could create a dangerous governance vacuum.

“The current ICANN contract that gives the US government a unique role in the root management function is not sustainable,” he said. “It’s just not sustainable.”

That seems to be a reference to the IANA contract, in which the US has essentially a veto on ICANN’s decisions regarding root zone changes such as new gTLD delegations.

“I think we need to think together how we grow from that and how we globalize that contract,” he said. “But we need to be very careful about creating a vacuum or uninteded consequences that would destabilize the root of the internet.”

While Chehade noted that a split from the US has always been envisaged, he said that the revelations about US internet surveillance made by NSA defector Edward Snowden has provided a catalyst to speed it up.

When Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff recently called for a “multilateral” (read: inter-governmental, (read: ITU)) approach to internet governance, Chehade and an ICANN team traveled to Brazil to persuade her to instead focus on the creation of a “multistakeholder” model instead.

There’s now a “coalition” of the “I*” groups (ICANN, IETF, etc), big-name companies such as Disney, and governments such as Brazil, focused on creating multistakeholder solutions to problems — such as spam and cyber-bullying — that are not in ICANN’s purview Chehade said.

There’s a multistakeholder meeting planned for April or May next year (I’ve heard both dates), to be hosted by Brazil, that will look at internet governance post-Snowden.

This meeting is about “allowing ICANN to not expand its remit”, according to Chehade. He said: “We don’t want to expand our remit.”

What we seem to be looking at here is the creation for a new organization, of which ICANN could be a member, that will allow stakeholders to coordinate responses to tricky cross-border internet problems.

While ICANN seems to be taking the leading role in its creation, it doesn’t sound like ICANN is trying to get into issues beyond naming and addressing, judging by Chehade’s speech this morning

Chehade also talked up ICANN’s support for the domain name industry.

He admitted that ICANN has caused a lot of problems for new gTLD applicants over the course of the gTLD program, but promised that this will change, with ICANN taking a more “background” role.

“You need less risk and more stability from the ICANN side,” he said. “You have suffered for a long time from a lot of instability, a lot of unknowns.”

Increased automation, internationlization and professionalism from ICANN will serve this goal, he said.

ICANN’s compliance department, he added, should “not be the policeman for the industry but be customer service for the registrants”, he said.

Six more gTLD contracts signed

Kevin Murphy, October 28, 2013, Domain Registries

ICANN signed six more new gTLD Registry Agreements on Friday, bringing the week’s total to eight.

Donuts added .cab, .computer and .support to its rapidly expanding portfolio of generics, while its partner United TLD (Demand Media) added .dance.

GMO Registry, which had teething troubles during Initial Evaluation before switching back-end providers, signed a contract for the Japanese geographic .nagoya.

Finally, Spanish clothing company Punto Fa, S.L., trading as MANGO, got the dot-brand .mango.

ICANN now has 72 new gTLD RAs, the first four of which have gone live.

ICANN signs contracts for .wang and .democrat

Kevin Murphy, October 25, 2013, Domain Registries

The new gTLD applicants behind .wang and .democract are the latest to sign Registry Agreements with ICANN.

Demand Media’s United TLD is behind .democrat, while .wang was applied for by small Chinese portfolio applicant Zodiac Holdings. Both were uncontested applications.

Both are to be open gTLDs.

For .democrat, Demand expects names to be registered by anyone who identifies themselves as a democrat. There were no objections, and to the best of my knowledge no explicit support, from “Democrat” parties

.wang is a weird one.

It’s the Latin-script transliteration of the Chinese character 网, which means “net”. Zodiac couldn’t apply for the Chinese because it’s a single character, which are not yet allowed under ICANN rules.

I understand that 网 is often used by Chinese speakers to mean “network” or “website”, but I don’t know how commonly the ASCII “wang” is used instead. Seems like a stretch.

It also of course is a common Chinese surname and a juvenile euphemism for “penis”.

ICANN helps bust Russian child porn ring

Kevin Murphy, October 24, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN recently helped break up a Russian child pornography ring.

That’s according to a remarkable anecdote from CEO Fadi Chehade, speaking during a session at the Internet Governance Forum in Bali, Indonesia today.

The “investigative effort” took “months” and seems to have entailed ICANN staff sifting through company records and liaising with law enforcement and domain name companies on three continents.

Here’s the anecdote in full:

We participated in a global effort to break down a child pornography ring.

You think: what is ICANN doing with a child pornography ring? Well, simple answer: where does child pornography get put up? On a web site. Where’s that web site hosted? Well, probably at some hosting company that was given the web site name by a registrar that is hopefully a registrar or reseller in the ICANN network.

We have a public responsibility to help with that.

We have some of the smartest people in the world in that space.

It took us months to nail the child pornography ring.

It took us through LA to Panama. We had to work with the attorney general of Panama to find the roots of that company. One of our team members who speaks Spanish went into public company records until he found, connected — these are investigative efforts that we do with law enforcement — then we brought in the registrars, the registries… and it turned out that this ring was actually in Russia and then we had to involve the Russian authorities.

ICANN does all of this work quietly, in the background, for the public interest.

Wow.

At first I wasn’t sure what to make of this. On the one hand: this obviously excellent news for abused kids and ICANN should be congratulated for whatever role it took in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

On the other hand: is it really ICANN’s job to take a leading role in covert criminal investigations? Why are ICANN staffers needed to trawl through Panamanian company records? Isn’t this what the police are for?

ICANN is, after all, a technical coordination body that repeatedly professes to not want to involve itself in “content” issues.

Session moderator Bertrand de La Chappelle, currently serving out his last month on the ICANN board of directors, addressed this apparent disconnect directly, asking Chehade to clarify that ICANN is not trying to expand its role.

In response, Chehade seemed to characterize ICANN as something of an ad hoc coordinator in these kinds of circumstances:

There are many topics that there is no home for them to be addressed, so ICANN gets the pressure. People come to us and say: “Well you solve this, aren’t you running the internet?”

We are not running the internet. We do names and numbers. We’re a technical community, that’s what we do.

But the pressure is mounting on us. So it’s part of our goal to address the larger issues that we’re not part of, is to frankly keep us focused on our remit. In fact, ICANN should become smaller, not bigger. It should focus on what it does. The only area we should get bigger in is involving more people so we can truly say we’re legitimate and inclusive.

The bigger issues and the other issues of content and how the internet is used and who does what, we should be very much in the background. If there is a legal issue, if we are approached legally by an edict of a court or… if it’s a process we have to respond to it.

We don’t want to be instigating or participating or leading… we don’t, we really don’t.

A desire to make ICANN smaller doesn’t seem to tally with the rapid expansion of its global footprint of hubs and branch offices and the planned doubling of its staff count.

Indeed, the very next person to speak on today’s panel was Chehade’s senior advisor and head of communications Sally Costerton, who talked about her team doubling in size this year.

I don’t personally subscribe to the idea that ICANN should be shrinking — too much is being asked of it, even if it does stick to its original remit — but I’m also not convinced that it’s the right place to be be carrying out criminal investigations. That’s what the cops are for.

On day one, Donuts in breach of new gTLD contract

Kevin Murphy, October 24, 2013, Domain Registries

Ooops! Donuts accidentally broke the terms of its first new gTLD Registry Agreement last night, just hours after its first string, .游戏, was delegated to the DNS root.

If you’ve been following the name collisions debate closely, you’ll recall that all new gTLD registries are banned from activating any second-level domains for 120 days after they sign their contracts:

Registry Operator shall not activate any names in the DNS zone for the Registry TLD (except for “NIC”) until at least 120 calendar days after the effective date of this agreement.

For the first four gTLDs to go live, that clock doesn’t stop ticking until November 12.

And yet, last night, Donuts activated donuts.游戏, apparently in violation of its new contractual obligations with ICANN.

The name was live and resolving for at least an hour. Donuts pulled it after we asked a company executive whether it might be a breach of contract.

I don’t think it’s a big deal, and I doubt ICANN needs to take any action.

Chalk it down to the understandable ebullience that naturally accompanies finally getting delegated to the root after such a long and painful evaluation process.

The 120-day rule was also a late amendment to Specification 6 of the RA, added by ICANN just seven days before .游戏 was delegated and over three months after Donuts signed the original contract.

It’s designed to address the potential for collisions between second-level domains in new gTLDs and names used on internal networks that already have working SSL certificates.

The no-activation window was chosen to match the 120-day period that the CA/Browser Forum gives its certificate authority members to revoke clashing certificates.

It seems unlikely donuts.游戏 will have caused any security issues during the brief period it was alive.