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First collision block-lists out now. How painful will they be for new gTLDs?

Kevin Murphy, October 19, 2013, Domain Registries

ICANN has published the name collision block-lists for the first four new gTLDs, and they making pretty interesting reading.

The four registries in question will be required to block between 104 and 680 unique second-level domains from their gTLDs if they want to use the fastest path to delegation on offer.

The four gTLDs with lists published this morning are: .сайт (Russian “.site”), .онлайн (Russian “.online”), شبكة. (Arabic “.web”) and .游戏 (Chinese “.games”).

These were the first four new gTLDs with signed Registry Agreements. ICANN seems to be following the order contracts were signed, rather than the official prioritization number.

So what’s on the lists?

Gibberish

The first thing to note is that, as expected, ICANN has helpfully removed invalid strings (such as those with underscores) and gibberish Google Chrome strings from the lists, greatly reducing their size.

The block-lists are based on Day In The Life Of The Internet data, which recorded DNS root queries for applied-for gTLDs over 48-hour periods between 2006 and 2013.

According to ICANN, “a significant proportion” of the DITL queries were for the nonsense 10-character strings that Chrome generates and sometimes accidentally sends to the public DNS.

Because these “appear to present minimal risk if filtered from the block lists”, ICANN has made an effort to automatically remove as many as possible, while acknowledging it may not have caught them all. The human eye is good at spotting meaningless strings, software is not so adept.

All four lists still contain plenty of gibberish strings, according to this human eye, but mostly they’re not of 10 characters in length.

IDNs

All four lists published today are for non-Latin domain names and are presumably expecting their registries to be mostly populated with IDN.IDN domain names.

As such, the impact of their mostly Latin block-lists may be even smaller than it first appears.

For example, if we look at the list for .сайт, which has 680 strings to block, we discover that only 80 of them are IDNs (beginning with xn--). I assume they’re all, like the gTLD, in Cyrillic script.

I haven’t decoded all of these strings from Punycode and translated them from Russian, but the fact is there’s only 80 of them, which may not be unduly punitive on CORE Association’s launch plan.

At the other end of the spectrum, Donuts will only have to block 13 IDN strings from its .游戏 (Chinese .games) gTLD, and the ASCII strings on its list are mostly numeric or gibberish.

There’s very probably some potentially valuable generic strings on these lists, of course, which could impact the landrush purse, but it’s beyond this monoglot’s expertise to pick them out.

Trademarks

A small number of Latin-script brands appear on all four lists.

Donuts will have to block nokia.游戏, htc.游戏 and ipad.游戏 in its Chinese “.games”, for example. CORE will have to block iphone.сайт and brazzersnetwork.онлайн. DotShabaka Registry will have to block شبكة.redbull.

The impact of this on the registries could be minimal — a few fewer sunrise sales, assuming the brand owner intended to defensively register.

If the blocked brand was a potential launch partner it could be much more annoying and even a launch-delaying factor. It’s not yet clear how registries and brand owners will be able to get these names unblocked.

Bear in mind that registries are not allowed to activate these domains in any sense for any use — they must continue to return NXDOMAIN error responses as they do today.

I’m sure ipad.游戏 (“ipad.games”) could have some value to Apple — and to Donuts, in the unlikely event it managed to persuade Apple to be an anchor tenant — but it’s no longer available.

ICANN will deliver full mitigation plans for each gTLD, which may often include releasing blocked names to their ‘rightful’ owner, but that’s not expected for some months.

Generic terms

A number of generic dictionary terms are getting blocked, which may prove irksome for those registries with long lists. For example, CORE will have to block photo.сайт and forum.сайт.

So far, .онлайн has by far the longest list of ASCII generics to block — stuff like “football”, “drinks”, “poker” and “sex”. Even weirdness like “herpesdating” and “musclefood”.

As it’s an IDN, this might not be too painful, but once ICANN starts publishing lists for Latin gTLDs we might start seeing some serious impact on registries’ ability to sell and market premium domains.

Shurely shome mishtake

There are a few strings on these lists that are just weird, or are likely to prove annoying to registries.

All four of these gTLDs are going to have to block “www” at the second level, for example, which could impact their registry marketing — www.tld is regularly used by TLD registries.

It is going to be really problematic if “www” shows up on the block-lists for dot-brand registries — many applicants say “www.” is likely to be the default landing page for their dot-brand.

The only string that ICANN says it won’t put on any block-list is “nic”, which was once the standard second-level for every TLD’s registry web site but doesn’t really have mass recognition nowadays.

The block-lists also include two-letter strings, most of which correspond to ccTLDs and all of which are already banned by the base Registry Agreement for precisely that reason.

There’s no reason for these two-letter names to be on the lists, but I don’t see their presence causing any major additional heartaches for registries.

So is this good news or what?

As the four block-lists to be released so far are for IDN gTLDs, and because I don’t speak Chinese, Arabic or Russian, it’s a difficult call today to say how painful this is going to be.

There are plenty of reasons to be worried if you’re a new gTLD applicant, certainly.

Premium names will be taken out of play.

You may lose possible anchor tenants.

Your planned registry-use domain names may be banned.

If you’re a dot-brand, you’d better start thinking of alternatives to “www.”.

But the block-lists are expected to be temporary, pending permanent mitigation, and they’re so far quite small in terms of meaningful strings, so on balance I’d say so far it’s not looking too bad.

On the other hand, nothing on the published lists jumps out at me like a massive security risk, so the whole exercise might be completely pointless and futile anyway.

Donuts and Uniregistry sign more new gTLD contracts

Kevin Murphy, October 19, 2013, Domain Registries

ICANN has signed eight more Registry Agreements with new gTLD applicants, six of them with Donuts.

Donuts’ newly contracted gTLDs are .photos, .recipes, .limo, .domains, .coffee and .viajes (.travel in Spanish).

Uniregistry, meanwhile, signed an RA for .gift and Luxury Partners signed for .luxury.

As you might expect from these portfolio applicants, they’re all expected to be open, unrestricted registries.

Ralph Lauren can’t have .polo, panel rules

Kevin Murphy, October 17, 2013, Domain Policy

Ralph Lauren’s application for the dot-brand .polo is likely at an end, after the International Chamber of Commerce ruled that it would infringe the rights of polo players.

The Community Objection to the gTLD was filed by the US Polo Association, the governing body of the sport in the US, and supported by the Federation of International Polo, along with seven national and 10 regional US-based polo associations.

The FIP letter was crucial in ICC panelist Burkhard Hess’ decision to find against Ralph Lauren, persuading him that there was “substantial opposition” from a “clearly delineated” polo-playing community.

The word “polo” was often used in straw man arguments when the new gTLD program and its objection mechanisms were being designed. Who gets .polo? Ralph Lauren? Volkswagen? Nestle? The sport?

Well, now we know: according to the ICC, the sport will probably trump any dot-brand.

The precedent might be bad news for Donuts and Famous Four Media, which are facing Community Objections from the international governing bodies of rugby and basketball on .rugby and .basketball.

However, none of those applications are for dot-brand spaces.

Under the Community Objection rules, the objector has to show that the gTLD would harm its interests is delegated.

In the case of .polo, the panelist found detriment largely due to the fact that Ralph Lauren’s plan was for a single-registrant space from which the sports associations would be excluded.

With open, unrestricted .basketball and .rugby applications, it’s likely to be much harder for the objectors to prove that the gTLDs would damage the sport.

.shopping ruled confusingly similar to .shop

Kevin Murphy, October 17, 2013, Domain Registries

An International Centre for Dispute Resolution panelist has ruled that .shop and .shopping are too confusingly similar to coexist on the internet.

The panelist was Robert Nau, the same guy who ruled that .通販 and .shop are confusingly similar.

Again, the objector is .shop applicant Commercial Connect, which filed String Confusion Objections against almost every new gTLD application related to buying stuff online.

The defendant in this case was Donuts, via subsidiary Sea Tigers LLC.

Here’s the key part of the decision:

the concurrent use of “shopping”, the participle, and the root word “shop”, in gTLD strings will result in probable confusion by the average, reasonable Internet user, because the two strings have sufficient similarity in sound, meaning, look and feel. The average Internet user would not be able to differentiate between the two strings, and in the absence of some other external information (such as an index or guidebook) would have to guess which of the two strings contains the information the user is looking to view.

The adopters of the applicable standard of review for string confusion hypothetically could have allowed an unlimited number of top level domain names using the same root, and simply differentiate them by numbers, e.g., <.shop1>, <.shop2>, <.shop3>, etc., or other modifiers, including pluralization, or other similar variations of a root word, or other modifiers before or after the root word. While that might allow for increased competition, as argued by Applicant, it would only lead to a greater level of confusion and uncertainty among average, reasonable Internet users. Accordingly, the Applicant’s argument that the concurrent use of a root word and its participle version in a string increases competition is not persuasive in this context, and is rejected.

So far, Commercial Connect has lost 15 of the 21 SCOs it filed, against strings as weird as .supply and .shopyourway. Four cases remain open.

There are nine applicants for .shop, including Commercial Connect. Uniregistry has also applied for .shopping, but did not receive an objection.

Name collision block-lists to be published this week

Kevin Murphy, October 17, 2013, Domain Registries

ICANN will begin to publish the lists of domains that new gTLD registries must block at launch as early as this week, according to an updated name collisions plan released last night.

Registries that have already signed contracts with ICANN will be given their block-lists “before the end of this week”, ICANN said.

Registries that were not able to sign contracts because they’d been given an “uncalculated risk” categorization will now be invited, in priority order, to contracting.

The base Registry Agreement itself has been updated — unilaterally — to include provisions requiring registries to block second-level names deemed risky when they are delegated.

For each contracted gTLD, ICANN will provide what it’s calling a SLD Collision Occurrence Assessment, which will outline the steps registries need to take to mitigate their own collision risk.

It is also expected to contain a list of SLDs that have been seen on the Day In The Life Of The Internet data sets, collected from root server operators over 48-hour periods between 2006 and 2013.

Using previous years’ DITL data is news to me, and could potentially greatly expand the number of SLDs — already expected to be in the thousands in many cases — that registries are obliged to block.

“Most” new gTLD applicants are expected to be eligible for what ICANN calls an “alternative path to delegation”, in which the registry simply blocks the SLDs on an ICANN-provided list, gets delegated, and deals with the SLD Collision Occurrence Assessment at a later date.

Here’s how ICANN described the timetable for this:

For Registry Operators with executed registry agreements the Assessments and SLD lists will be posted to the specific TLD’s registry agreement page on the ICANN website. The first of these will be available before the end of this week.

In the coming weeks ICANN will post the alternative path eligibility assessments and SLD lists for all applied-for gTLDs.

In other words, if you haven’t already signed a contract there’s not yet a firm date on when you’ll find out how many — and which — names you’re expected to block, or even if you’re eligible for the alternative delegation path.