Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

NameJet and Afternic sign another gTLD launch

Kevin Murphy, April 3, 2013, Domain Services

NameJet and Afternic will provide launch auctions and premium name distribution for the .build gTLD, should it be approved, the two companies have announced.

The deal was inked with applicant Plan Bee LLC, which is affiliated with Minardos Group, a construction company.

The two companies will handle auctions under the sunrise and landrush phases, according to a press release.

It’s the second such deal to be announced by the Afternic/Namejet partnership to date, after WhatBox’s .menu. The companies are also working with Directi’s .pw registry.

Plan Bee has also applied for .expert and .construction, but these are both contested so there’s less certainty that they’ll end up approved.

The applicant reckons it will be able to bring .build to market in the fourth quarter of this year.

With a prioritization number of 1,049 in ICANN’s queue, this may prove optimistic, depending on how the remaining portions of the program — such as predelegation testing and contracting — pan out.

ICANN selects new gTLD backup providers

Neustar, Nominet and CNNIC have been picked to provide backup registry services for new gTLDs that fail.

ICANN has named the three companies as Emergency Back-End Registry Operators for the new gTLD program.

They’ll be responsible for taking over the management of any new gTLD that goes out of business, putting registrants at risk of losing DNS resolution and registry functions.

The idea is that the EBERO(s) would be paid out of funds placed in escrow by gTLD applicants, in order to gracefully wind down any failed TLD over the space of a few years.

In reality, I doubt there’s going to be much call for their services; M&A activity is a more likely outcome for gTLDs that fail to meet their sales expectations.

ICANN highlighted the geographic diversity of the three companies (Nominet is British, Neustar American and CNNIC Chinese) as a stability benefit of its selections.

The three were chosen from 14 respondents to an RFI published last year.

The absence of an EBERO was one of the shortfalls of the new gTLD program highlighted by Verisign in its recent letter warning ICANN about perceived security and stability risks.

While ICANN has acknowledged that the EBEROs are unlikely to be ready to roll before the first new gTLDs start to launch, it has noted that they don’t need to be.

If any new gTLD catastrophically fails during the first few months of launch, it will reflect extremely poorly on the financial and technical evaluations applicants have been undergoing for the last nine months.

ICANN tones down power grab in new gTLD contract

Kevin Murphy, April 2, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN has published a new version of its Registry Agreement for new gTLD operators that waters down the controversial unilateral right to amend provisions.

The revised RA, available for review here, makes it harder for ICANN to force new rules on registries without their consent, at least when compared to the version published in February.

The Special Amendment process is designed to allow ICANN to change the contract when it’s in the public interest.

DI outlined the changes to the process last week.

While most of the changes we described have in fact made it to the published RA, we were wrong on one count: despite what we reported, ICANN directors with conflicts of interest will not be able to vote.

That means representatives of registries and registrars won’t get a say when the board discusses their contracts.

A couple of other significant changes are apparent:

  • Concessions to dot-brand registries. It would now be harder for ICANN to redelegate a dot-brand to another operator if the registry abandons its gTLD. ICANN has never had any intention of doing so, of course, but the relative lack of safeguards have been making dot-brand applicants nervous for years. Now, existing intellectual property rights would be taken into consideration during redelegation decisions.
  • More secrecy. There’s a new section on “confidential information”, along with references to it sprinkled throughout, designed to protect trade secrets registries may disclose to ICANN.

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade is expected to play hard-ball on these changes, according to recent reports.

Because registries get a perpetual right of renewal, and because it’s uncertain how the power balance will hang in policy-making, ICANN believes it would be irresponsible to sign an RA that does not give it the right to step in an protect the public interest in future.

Governments expand gTLD objection shortlist

Kevin Murphy, April 2, 2013, Domain Policy

With the start of its meetings in Beijing just a couple of days away, ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee has handed out clues as to which new gTLDs it might object to.

The GAC says that 20 specific bids have already been put forward by one government as potential recipients of GAC Advice, but that there are nine broad categories of concern.

Some of the categories seem to obviously apply to certain narrow types of gTLD, while others are broad enough to catch almost any bid the GAC doesn’t like the look of.

Any application that receives adverse GAC Advice at the end of the Beijing meeting faces, at the very least, a prolonged approval process along the lines of what .xxx had to endure.

The worst-case scenario is rejection of the bid by the ICANN board of directors.

These are the GAC’s categories, along with some educated guesses about which strings they could apply to:

  • “Consumer protection” — could apply to anything, depending on how well-lobbied the GAC has been by a particular interest group. Any gTLD that could implausibly be argued to increase the risk of counterfeiting may show up here. A liberal interpretation could well capture .music or sports-related strings.
  • “Strings that are linked to regulated market sectors, such as the financial, health and charity sectors” — Dozens of applications, such as those for .lawyer, .doctor, .health .bank, and .charity — will fall into this category.
  • “Competition issues” — This most likely applies to applications for category-killer dictionary words where the applicant is already a dominant player in the relevant market, such as Google’s bid for .search or Amazon’s for .book.
  • “Strings that have broad or multiple uses or meanings, and where one entity is seeking exclusive use” — Again, this could apply to the many controversial “closed” gTLD applications.
  • “Religious terms where the applicant has no, or limited, support from the relevant religious organisations or the religious community” — I suspect that the the Vatican’s application for .catholic is less at risk than a Turkish company’s bid for .islam. Any Islam-related domains are likely to fail the “support” test, given the lack of centralized control over the religion.
  • “Minimising the need for defensive registrations” — A category that seems to have been specially created for .sucks.
  • “Protection of geographic names” — Most probably will be used to kill off DotConnectAfrica’s application for .africa and Patagonia Inc’s application for .patagonia. But will Amazon’s dot-brand bid also fall foul?
  • “Intellectual property rights particularly in relation to strings aimed at the distribution of music, video and other digital material” — If the GAC buys into the lobbying and believes that an unrestricted .music or .movie gTLD would increase piracy, expect objections to some of those bids. The GAC doesn’t have to provide a shred of evidence to support its Advice at first, remember, so this is not as ludicrous a possibility as it sounds.
  • “Support for applications submitted by global authorities” — This is a newly added category. If the GAC is proposing to submit advice in support of one application in a contention set, there’s no mechanism ICANN can use to ensure that he supported applicant wins the set. The Advice may turn out to be useless. Certain sports-related applications are among those with “global authority” backing.
  • “Corporate Identifier gTLDs” — Not, as this post originally speculated, dot-brands. Rather, this applies to the likes of .inc, .corp, .llc and so on.
  • “Strings that represent inherent government functions and/or activities” — Expect military-themed gTLDs such as .army and .navy to feature prominently here. Could also cover education and healthcare, depending on the government.

The GAC also plans to consider at least 20 specific applications that have been put forward as problematic by one or more governments, as follows:

Community name where the applicant does not have support from the community or the government: 1

Consumer protection: 2

Name of an Intergovernmental Organisation (IGO): 1

Protection of geographic names: 9

Religious terms: 2

Strings applied for that represent inherent government functions and/or activities: 3

Support for applications submitted by global authorities: 2

ICANN plans to formally approve the first batch of new gTLDs, with much ceremony, at an event in New York on April 23, but has said it will not approve any until it has received the GAC’s Advice.

The GAC is on the clock, in other words.

While it’s been discussing the new gTLDs on private mailing lists since last year’s Toronto meeting, it’s already missed at least self-imposed deadline. The information released today was due to be published in February.

While the ICANN Beijing meeting does not officially begin until next Monday, and the rest of the community starts its pre-meeting sessions at the weekend, the GAC starts its closed-session meetings this Thursday.

Chehade promises to cure herpes

Kevin Murphy, April 1, 2013, Gossip

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade has promised to find a cure for herpes by the end of the year.

Delivering an impromptu keynote speech at the National STD Prevention Conference in Atlanta today, Chehade also apologized for the continuing existence of the pernicious viral infection, which he blamed on predecessor Rod Beckstrom.

“I came here to listen,” he told an audience of confused gynecologists. “And I’ve heard what you have said. Herpes simplex is a problem, I know this now. I’m on your side.”

“I therefore commit ICANN to curing herpes by the end of the year.”

“But we can’t do this alone,” he continued. “I therefore call on all stakeholders to work together on this important initiative.”

He added that the ICANN board of directors reserves the right to create its own cure and implement a mandatory vaccination program, should the community fail to come to agreement.

Chehade’s speech came at the tail end of a tiring outreach tour that has seen him address community members from all corners of the globe.

But reaction from the assembled physicians, epidemiologists and obstetricians was enthusiastic.

“He said everything I wanted to hear,” one beaming attendee told DI after Chehade’s 20-minute standing ovation died down. “Who knew Eugene Levy knew so much about herpesviridae?”

“I’ve no idea who that guy is,” said another delegate. “He just kinda wandered on stage and started talking. But I like him a lot.”

Herpes is an aggressive sexually transmitted viral infection, symptomized primarily by unsightly, weeping sores on the lips and genitals.

Some ICANN community members have already questioned whether finding a cure is within ICANN’s narrow technical mandate.

“This is mission-creep, pure and simple,” academic or something Milton Mueller blogged. “The cure for herpes, along with All Other Things, should be subject to free market forces.”

Mueller pointed to Chehade’s surprise appearance last week at the National Congress of Theoretical Physicists, during which he committed ICANN to preventing the heat death of the universe, as further evidence that ICANN is acting outside its remit.

Members of the domain name industry also expressed outrage.

Donuts, which has applied for .herpes, claimed Chehade’s speech threatened to interfere with its business model.

“If ICANN cures herpes, who’s going to defen… who’s going to register a .herpes domain name?” CEO Paul Stahura said.

The trademark community cautiously welcomed Chehade’s plans, but said they did not go far enough to protect rights holders.

“For too long, herpes has caused irritation for many in the IP community,” said Intellectual Property Constituency chair Kristina Rosette. “Not to mention widespread squatting problems.”

But ICANN should take care to protect the rights of HerpesTM, a popular brand of canned soup in Latin America, she added.

Meanwhile, DotConnectAfrica pointed to a throwaway line in Chehade’s speech as unambiguous proof of an illegal conspiracy against its .africa bid involving ICANN, DI, the Freemasons, the Illuminati, the Rosicrucians, the Bilderberg Group and the Ku Klux Klan.