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Five gTLDs fail the geo test, but .banque passes IE

Kevin Murphy, September 6, 2013, Domain Registries

Five new gTLD applications failed their Initial Evaluation this week after being ruled “geographic”, according to results just published by ICANN.

The big name failure is Tata Group, the $100 billion-a-year Indian conglomerate, which had its bid for .tata put on hold because (presumably) its name matches the name of a tiny Moroccan province.

TUI AG, a €17.5 billion-a-year Germany-based travel group, also failed to pass the geo test with its bid for .tui, which matches the name of province of Burkina Faso.

Both of these applications were highlighted in our July 2012 article “20 new gTLD applications that think they’re not geographic, but are”.

Guangzhou YU Wei Information Technology failed on geographic grounds with three applications which match the names of Chinese provinces: .深圳, .佛山 and .广州.

Under ICANN rules, if your string matches a name of an administrative region of a country, you need support or a letter of non-objection from that country’s government.

All three applicants now have Extended Evaluation to try again to secure this support.

Also today, Gexban’s application for .banque got a passing IE score. It’s uncontested but has outstanding Governmental Advisory Committee advice standing in the way of contracting with ICANN.

While ICANN formally closed its IE process last week, it’s still mopping up the stragglers. Today, 23 applications remain in Initial Evaluation.

No, ICANN isn’t moving to Switzerland

Kevin Murphy, September 6, 2013, Domain Policy

There’s a rumor going around this morning that ICANN is planning to up sticks from its US base in California and become subject to Swiss jurisdiction instead.

While this would be a huge change for ICANN, which has been tethered to the US government since its formation in 1998, it’s almost certainly not what’s happening.

The rumor emerged following CEO Fadi Chehade’s speech at the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum in Korea yesterday, during which he talked about setting up a “legal structure” in Switzerland.

Addressing long-standing criticisms that ICANN is too US-centric, he discussed the recent creation of “hub” offices in Istanbul and Singapore, then said:

You heard me announce recently in Durban that ICANN, for the first time, is setting up a legal structure in Switzerland. That means that ICANN is going to seek to become an international organization that is serving the world, not just as a private corporation in California. These are important fundamental steps that we are exploring in order for ICANN to take a new global posture.

That ICANN wants a Swiss presence is not news. At the Durban meeting in July Chehade said publicly that ICANN had opened an “engagement center” in Geneva, headed by his senior adviser Tarek Kamel.

But the version of the Chehade quote doing the rounds on mailing lists today capitalizes “International Organization”, which arguably changes the meaning and makes his remarks seem more profound.

A capitalized “International Organization” can mean one of two legal structures: either an International Non-Governmental Organization or an Intergovernmental Organization.

That would, indeed, imply a change of jurisdiction. ICANN is currently, legally, a California non-profit corporation.

However, if Chehade just said “international organization” with no implied upper-case letters, it just means it’s an organization with offices and legal entities internationally.

I think this is closer to the truth, and so do People In A Position To Know whom I’ve run this by this morning.

It’s important to note that ICANN’s Affirmation of Commitments with the US government forces it to stay headquartered in the US:

ICANN affirms its commitments to: … remain a not for profit corporation, headquartered in the United States of America with offices around the world to meet the needs of a global community;

While Chehade has expansionist plans on a scale beyond any of his predecessors, it seems unlikely that these include breaking the AoC, incurring the wrath of the US government.

UPDATE: ICANN has provided DI with the following statement:

ICANN is not currently planning to set up a headquarters office in Switzerland. We will have an engagement center in Geneva, along with others scattered around the world but our three main hubs, as Fadi has previously announced, will be in L.A., Istanbul and Singapore.

Teething troubles for TMCH testing

Kevin Murphy, September 5, 2013, Domain Registries

With the first new gTLD delegation likely just a matter of weeks away, registries and registrars are reporting problems getting access to the Trademark Clearinghouse for testing purposes.

ICANN launched an OT&E (operational test and evaluation environment) for companies to test their systems against the IBM-run TMCH back-end last week, but few have so far managed to get in.

Some registrars have been denied access because they have not yet signed the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement.

While that’s a prerequisite for selling new gTLD domains, some say it should not also be a barrier to testing their TMCH implementation before they decide to sign on the dotted line.

At least one registrar that has actually signed the 2013 RAA also says it has been denied access.

Meanwhile, several back-end applicants and back-end registry providers have reported that they too have been told they can’t access the OT&E until they’ve signed the 2013 RAA.

Registries are of course not obliged to sign any RAA in order to act as registries.

Others say they’ve received the credentials needed to access the OT&E but that they don’t work.

ICANN has blamed a mix-up in its workflow for the registries getting blocked, something it expects to get fixed quickly. It’s also looking into the complaints from registrars.

The TMCH is the database that registries and registrars will use to validate trademarks during sunrise periods, and to check for possible cybersquatting during the first few months of launch.

Public Suffix List to get monthly new gTLD updates

Kevin Murphy, September 3, 2013, Domain Registries

New gTLDs are set to be added to the widely used Public Suffix List within a month of signing an ICANN registry agreement, according to PSL volunteer Jothan Frakes.

This is pretty good news for new gTLD registries.

The PSL, maintained by volunteers under the Mozilla banner, is used in browsers including Firefox and Chrome, and will be a vital part of making sure new gTLDs “work” out of the box.

If a TLD doesn’t have an entry on the PSL, browsers tend to handle them badly.

For example, after .sx launched last year, Google’s Chrome browser returned search results instead of the intended web site when .sx domain names were typed into the address/search bar.

It also provides a critical security function, telling browsers at which level they should allow domains to set cookies.

According to Frakes, who has been working behind the scenes with other PSL volunteers and ICANN staff to get this process working, new gTLDs will usually hit the PSL within 30 days of an ICANN contract.

Due to the mandatory pre-delegation testing period, new gTLDs should be on the PSL before or at roughly the same time as they are delegated, with plenty of time to spare before they launch.

The process of being added to the PSL should be fairly quick for TLDs that intend to run flat second-level spaces, according to Frakes, but may be more complex if they plan to do something less standard, such as selling third-level domains, for example.

Browser makers may take some time to update their own lists with the PSL updates. Google, with its own huge portfolio of applications, will presumably be incentivized to stay on the ball.

Economist replaces de La Chapelle on ICANN board

Kevin Murphy, September 3, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN’s board of directors is to see one new member in November, with economist Bruno Lanvin replacing former French civil servant Bertrand de La Chapelle.

The changes were among several appointments announced by ICANN’s Nominating Committee yesterday.

NomCom has decided to keep previous appointees Cherine Chalaby, who’s head of the New gTLD Program Committee, and Erika Mann, the former MEP who now runs Facebook’s Brussels office.

Lanvin is currently executive director of the European Competitiveness Initiative and the Global Indices projects at INSEAD, a business school, but he spent 20 years of his career with the United Nations.

Outgoing director de La Chapelle was France’s Governmental Advisory Committee representative before his appointment to the board in 2010. He, Mann and Chalaby have initial three-year terms ending in November.

It’s not known if de La Chapelle, one of ICANN’s most vocal and active directors, had nominated himself for a second term.