Brands are Pool.com’s surprise digital archery clients

Kevin Murphy, May 17, 2012, Domain Services

Companies applying to ICANN for “dot-brand” top-level domains are among those signing up for Pool.com’s new digital archery service, according to Rob Hall, CEO of parent Momentous.

The company launched its Digital Archery Engine last month, not too long after ICANN confirmed its controversial method of batching new gTLD applications for processing.

Now, Pool is receiving interest from not only mass-market generic string applicants, but also dot-brands.

“It’s a wider swath of TLDs that I thought originally,” said Hall. “At first I thought for sure the generics and the domains that might be in competition.”

“It’s amazing to me that a lot of people out there are saying the brands don’t care, the brands are doing this just defensively, the brands couldn’t care less about going first… but a lot of them do,” he said.

“A lot of them are saying ‘I want to be in that first batch’, which I wouldn’t have necessarily expected,” he added.

He said he had no idea what the motivations are for these brands.

“Our job is to get them in the first batch, not to ask them why they want to be there,” he said.

Hall said it wasn’t clear how many clients Pool would eventually sign up to the service, but said he expects it to be definitely much more than 50.

ICANN’s digital archery system – which will batch applicants according to which can most accurately send a message over the internet to a target time – was poorly received by most people.

Unsurprisingly, Hall is not one of those people.

Pool is one of several companies that have been competing to register expiring domain names for the better part of a decade, so its systems have been fine-tuned for sending messages over the internet quickly.

While the big registries such as .com use the EPP protocol, some of the registries Pool interacts with use HTTP, which seems to be ICANN’s preferred option for digital archery.

Hall said Pool aims for latency of less than 6 milliseconds. Its servers are positioned topologically close to registries – typically one or two hops – and the software measures monitors network conditions.

“The key is being able to detect what is the latency and to predict it, then factor that into the engine to say ‘When do I fire?’,” he said.

He does not anticipate the CAPTCHAs or other Turing tests presenting a problem – Pool would simply bring a human into the equation.

The Digital Archery Engine is not cheap. If Pool gets you into the first batch, you’re $25,000 out of pocket. If you’re in the top half of batches (batch three of five counts as top half) it’s $10,000.

The company was singled out recently by ICANN’s Intellectual Property Constituency as an “insider” exploiting the digital archery system as a “revenue extraction opportunity”.

A letter highly critical of the system from IPC chair Steve Metallitz said:

This arcane and seemingly arbitrary batching method will also reinforce the widespread impression that all ICANN procedures are dominated by “insiders” with contractual relationships to ICANN, who will surely know best how to manipulate this initiative to their own benefit, or that of their paying customers. It is difficult to reconcile such an outcome with ICANN’s obligation to act in the public interest.

Hall said was happy for the free advertising. “I’d like to thank them,” he said.

But he said Pool isn’t “manipulating” anything.

“They’ve called this ‘digital archery’,” he said. “It’s a game to see who’s best at it. That’s what they’ve designed. We’re not gaming anything. And we’re not offering this to insiders, we’re offering this to everyone.”

Nominet involved in seven gTLD applications

Nominet, the .uk registry, is providing registry services for seven new generic top-level domain applications, according to CEO Lesley Cowley.

Cowley told Nominet’s Annual General Meeting today that five of the applications are for dot-brands, a Nominet spokesperson said.

The identities of the clients are currently protected by non-disclosure agreements.

The other two bids are for .wales and .cymru, which Nominet is applying for with the approval of the Welsh government.

The other big European ccTLD operator to already announce its applications, Austria’s Nic.at, said recently that it has submitted 11 applications, six of which were geographic.

ICANN names $25m gTLD objector

Kevin Murphy, May 15, 2012, Domain Policy

French international law expert Alain Pellet has been appointed Independent Objector for the first round of ICANN’s new generic top-level domain program.

Pellet has worked as a law professor at University Paris Ouest, Nanterre-La Défense since 1990, according to his 26-page resume (pdf).

He’s also represented governments at the International Court of Justice and chaired the International Law Commission of the United Nations.

With an expected 2,000-plus new gTLD applications, Pellet will command a budget of around $25 million, funded by application fees, over the three years the first round is expected to take.

Even with so many applications, I’m struggling to imagine scenarios in which so much money would be required.

The IO’s job is to object to new gTLD applications “in the best interests of global internet users”.

Pellet’s team will be limited to the Community Objection and Limited Public Interest Objection mechanisms outlined in the program’s Applicant Guidebook.

The IO is there to object when opposition to a gTLD has been raised but no formal objection has been filed by, for example, an affected community.

That the IO exists is an excellent reason to file comments on applications you’re opposed to – if no complaints are received via the public comment process, Pellet will be unable to object.

.secure applicant claims NCC stole her idea

Domain Security Company CEO Mary Iqbal claims that NCC Group took many of her ideas for a high-security .secure top-level domain following unproductive investment talks.

Iqbal is also hinting at “potential future litigation” over the issue.

The surprising claims, made in emails to DI today, follow the announcement last week that a new NCC subsidiary, Artemis Internet, will also apply to ICANN for .secure.

“NCC Group has taken many of the security measures outlined in the Domain Security Company LLC security plan and incorporated them into the NCC Group’s proposed security measures,” Iqbal said.

Artemis chief technology officer Alex Stamos, a veteran security industry technologist, has dismissed the allegations as “completely ridiculous”.

“The only reason I know she is applying is because we did some Google searches when we were putting together our announcement,” he said.

Iqbal claims she was first contacted by NCC in January this year to talk about signing up for data escrow services – one of the technical services all new gTLD applicants need.

However, she says these talks escalated into discussions about a possible NCC investment in Domain Security Company, during which she shared the company’s security and business plans.

She said in an email:

These disclosures were made based on assurances from the NCC Group that the NCC Group was not then involved with any other applications for a secure Top Level Domain. Specific assurances were also given that the NCC Group was not involved with any other potential application for a .SECURE Top Level Domain.

But Stamos said that he’s been working on .secure at NCC since late last year, and he has no knowledge of any talks about investing in Iqbal’s company.

“All I know is that she talked to one of our salespeople about escrow,” he said. “I’ve never seen a business plan or security plan.”

Emails from an NCC executive sent to Iqbal in January and forwarded to DI by Iqbal today appear to be completely consistent with a sales call.

Iqbal said she has emails demonstrating that the talks went further, but she declined to provide them “since I may have to use it in any potential future litigation”.

Stamos pointed out that if NCC was in the habit with competing with its escrow clients, it would have applied for considerably more gTLDs than just .secure.

Artemis is proposing a significant technology development as part of its .secure bid, he said: the Domain Policy Framework, which he outlines on his personal blog here.

He added that Artemis is happy to compete with other .secure applicants – he evidently expects more to emerge – but on the merits of the application rather than “spurious claims”.

Domain Security Company “already has a very troubling history of using the legal process to overcome problems that should be based on merit”, he said.

That’s a reference to the company’s almost-successful attempt to secure US trademarks on .secure and .bank, in spite of the US trademark office’s rules against granting trademarks on TLDs.

Expect more stories like this to emerge about other gTLDs after ICANN’s Big Reveal of the applicant list next month.

Whether her claims have any merit or not, Iqbal’s not the first to claim that another applicant stole her idea, and she certainly won’t be the last.

Olympics wastes more money on ICANN nonsense

Kevin Murphy, May 14, 2012, Domain Policy

International Olympic Committee lawyers have lodged an official appeal of ICANN’s latest decision to not grant it extra-extra special new gTLD protection.

The [O]Lympic Cafe, close to both DI headquarters and the London 2012(TM) Olympic(TM) Park, which apparently found a novel solution when the IOC's lackeys came knocking.The IOC last week filed a Reconsideration Request asking the ICANN board to rethink an April 10 decision that essentially ignored the latest batch of “.olympic” special pleading.

As previously reported, ICANN’s GNSO Council recently spent a harrowing couple of meetings trying to grant the Olympic and Red Cross trademarks even more protection than they already get.

Among other things, the recommendations would have protected strings confusingly similar to “.olympic” at the top level in the new gTLD program.

But a month ago the ICANN board of directors’ newly created, non-conflicted new gTLD program committee declined to approve the GNSO Council’s recommendations.

The committee pointed out in its rationale that the application window is pretty much closed, making changes to the Applicant Guidebook potentially problematic:

a change of this nature to the Applicant Guidebook nearly three months into the application window – and after the date allowed for registration in the system – could change the basis of the application decisions made by entities interested in the New gTLD Program

It also observed that there was still at that time an open public comment period into the proposed changes, which tended to persuade them to maintain the status quo.

The decision was merely the latest stage of an ongoing farce that I went into much more detail about here.

But apparently not the final stage.

With its Reconsideration Request (pdf), the IOC points out that changes to the Applicant Guidebook have always been predicted, even at this late stage. The Guidebook even has a disclaimer to that effect.

The standard for a Reconsideration Request, which is handled by a board committee, is that the adverse decision was made without full possession of the facts. I can’t see anything in this request that meets this standard.

The IOC reckons the lack of special protections “diverts resources away from the fulfillment of this unique, international humanitarian mission”, stating in its request:

The ICANN Board Committee’s failure to adopt the recommended protection at this time would subject the International Olympic Committee and its National Olympic Committees to costly and burdensome legal proceedings that, as a matter of law, they should not have to rely upon.

Forgive me if I call bullshit.

The Applicant Guidebook already protects the string “.olympic” in over a dozen languages – making it ineligible for delegation – which is more protection than any other organization gets.

But let’s assume for a second that a cybersquatter applies for .olympics (plural) which isn’t specially protected. I’m willing to bet that this isn’t going to happen, but let’s pretend it will.

Let’s also assume that the Governmental Advisory Committee didn’t object to the .olympics application, on the IOC’s behalf, for free. The GAC definitely would object, but let’s pretend it didn’t.

A “costly and burdensome” Legal Rights Objection – which the IOC would easily win – would cost the organization just $2,000, plus the cost of paying a lawyer to write a 20-page complaint.

It has already spent more than this lobbying for special protections that it does not need.

The law firm that has been representing the IOC at ICANN, Silverberg, Goldman & Bikoff, sent at least two lawyers to ICANN’s week-long meeting in Costa Rica this March.

Which client(s) paid for this trip? How much did it cost? Did the IOC bear any of the burden?

How much is the IOC paying Bikoff to pursue this Reconsideration Request? How much has it spent lobbying ICANN and national governments these last few years?

What’s the hourly rate for sitting on the GNSO team that spent weeks coming up with the extra special protections that the board rejected?

How much “humanitarian” cash has the IOC already pissed away lining the pockets of lawyers in its relentless pursuit of, at best, a Pyrrhic victory?