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Your first look inside ICANN’s new global HQ

Kevin Murphy, June 20, 2012, Gossip

After over a decade, ICANN moved its global headquarters from the LA suburb of Marina Del Rey to a new location a few miles down the road in Playa Vista this week.

Now, thanks to the magic of Facebook, I can bring you the exclusive first photograph from inside the building.

Methane Alarm

Playa Vista, it turns out, already had substantial build-ups of methane before ICANN showed up.

I can’t help but feel that the new tenants can only exacerbate things.

It’s well known to environmentalists that bovine flatus is a leading cause of atmospheric methane. I sincerely hope that Playa Vista’s ecology can handle its new influx of concentrated bullshit.

ARI: digital archery is a lottery and we can prove it

Kevin Murphy, June 19, 2012, Domain Policy

ARI Registry Services has tested ICANN’s digital archery system and concluded that it’s little better than a “lottery”.

The company today released the results of a network latency test that it conducted earlier this month, which it says proves that applicants in North America have a “significant advantage” over others in securing a place in ICANN’s first new gTLD evaluation batch.

ARI basically tried to figure out how important the geographic location of the applicant is on digital archery.

It concluded that the further away you were, there was not only more network latency, as you would expect, but also that the latency became less predictable, making archery less about skill and more about luck.

According to the company (with my emphasis):

The conclusion is simple; the closer an applicant is to the ICANN Data Centre in Virginia, the greater likelihood of repeatable results, allowing a significantly higher chance of calibrating the network latency and thus setting a low Digital Archery time. It is therefore a significant advantage being located as close as possible to ICANN’s Digital Archery target or employing an organisation who is.

It is ARI’s contention that the frequency and size of network changes seen in networks outside North America mean the greatest influence on an applicant’s Digital Archery shot is luck. The further one is from North America, the greater the influence luck has on an applicant’s Digital Archery shot. Those applicants without the resources to access systems or representative organisations within North America are to all intents and purposes, playing a lottery, hoping that latency remains consistent between their calibration tests and their actual shot. The applicant’s ability to influence this game of chance reduces the further they are from North American networks.

While it might read for the most part like a technical white paper, make no mistake: this is a strongly political document.

By putting this information out there and linking it directly to the legally scary word “lottery”, ARI knows that it is putting ICANN in a very uncomfortable position.

The reason ICANN settled upon the digital archery system in the first place — rather than the preferred option of random selection — was because gambling is illegal in California and the organization’s lawyers were worried about nuisance lawsuits.

ARI has, essentially, just given fodder to the kinds of legal vultures that will be thinking about such lawsuits anyway.

The company is one of the strongest opponents of digital archery. In a recent interview with DI, CEO Adrian Kinderis called for batching to be scrapped in favor of a single evaluation period of 10 to 12 months.

You can read ARI’s 19-page report here.

Three more digital archery services launch

Kevin Murphy, June 19, 2012, Domain Services

Surely the market must be saturated by now?

With a little over a week left before ICANN shuts down its digital archery new gTLD batching mechanism, three more companies are vying for applicants’ business.

We’ve received three press releases from newcomers this week, which I believe brings the total to eight.

Of course, it’s looking somewhat possible that digital archery will prove to be irrelevant, should ICANN decide to abandon batching altogether next.

In no particular order, these are the new ones:

Timestamp Technology

American. Affiliated with Nations Media Partners, Timestamp says it will offer applicants a 150% refund if it fails to get them into the first batch. It costs $20,000 for a single application.

MySingleShot

Bulgarian. Affiliated with Uninet. Says 90% of its shots come within 10ms of target. It’s a software play, with licenses selling for $1,000. If you want somebody to take the shot for you, it’s an extra $100 per TLD.

Digital Archery Hotshots

British. Run by Vladimir Shadrunov, a former Telnic executive now gTLD consultant. Fees not disclosed on the web site, but claims to have a “guaranteed lowest price”.

Delays likely as governments demand gTLD timetable rethink

Kevin Murphy, June 19, 2012, Domain Policy

If you think you’ll be able to launch your new generic top level domain in the first quarter of 2013, you can pretty much forget it.

The Governmental Advisory Committee told ICANN yesterday that it does not think it will be able to provide advice on new gTLD applications until April 2013 at the earliest.

It’s also told ICANN to seriously reconsider its controversial digital archery program and the whole gTLD application batching concept.

The current timetable calls for GAC Early Warnings – the “headsup” stage for applicants – to be submitted concurrently with the public comment period, which runs through August 12.

The more substantial GAC Advice on New gTLDs period is meant to track with the regular objection window, which is expected to close about seven months from now, in January 2013.

Now the GAC says it won’t be able to meet either of those deadlines.

In a letter to ICANN chairman Steve Crocker, GAC chair Heather Dryden gave applicants several excellent reasons to believe that the Applicant Guidebook’s timetable will not be met:

the GAC has identified several benefits from having a single Early Warning period in relation to all applications (these relate to efficiency, consistency, and timeliness). On this basis, the GAC advises the Board that it is planning to issue any Early Warnings shortly after the Toronto ICANN meeting, in October 2012.

Given the delays to the gTLD application process, the timing of upcoming ICANN meetings, and the amount of work involved, the GAC advises the Board that it will not be in a position to offer any advice on new gTLD applications in 2012. For this reason, the GAC is considering the implications of providing any GAC advice on gTLD applications. These considerations are not expected to be finalised before the Asia-Pacific meeting in April 2013.

The bold text was in the original, indicating that this is official GAC advice that should not be ignored.

Given the bigger picture, with the looming threat of the ITU’s big summit in December, ICANN is likely to be extra receptive to governmental advice.

Readers will notice that Dryden isn’t saying that the GAC will provide its objections before April 2013, merely that it won’t have finished thinking about the “implications” of such advice before April 2013.

What this means for the gTLD evaluation timeline is anyone’s guess. I expect more clarity will be requested during ICANN’s public meeting in Prague next week.

These two pieces of timing advice have the effect of focusing ICANN’s mind on the more immediate problem of application batching.

The GAC seems to be backing calls from registries and intellectual property interests to scrap the batching concept and the ramshackle “digital archery” system.

Dryden wrote (pdf):

the GAC is concerned that the potential risks associated with the digital archery and batching mechanisms may outweigh the benefits. In light of ICANN’s decision to initiate digital archery on 8 June 2012, the GAC advises the Board to consult with the community as a matter of urgency to consider ways to improve its assessment and delegation processes in order to minimise the downside risks and uncertainty for applicants.

In line with the concerns raised by the community, this should include a focus on competition and fairness with delegation timing.

Far be it from me to suggest that the GAC picked its revised advice deadlines strategically, but they do seem to fit quite nicely into a batchless Initial Evaluation period that lasts about a year, as some community members have recently proposed.

Those who were paying attention during the panel discussion portion of Reveal Day last week will have noticed me and a couple of audience members putting Cherine Chalaby, chair of ICANN’s board new gTLDs committtee, on the spot about batching.

Chalaby confirmed that the committee – which has the powers of the board when it comes to new gTLDs – wants to hear from the community about batching during the Prague meeting.

The trick, he indicated, is to be able to reconsider batching without simply relocating it to the pre-delegation phase of the program, which will probably be next year.

“We will listen to alternatives and we will think about it, there’s no doubt, you have to be open minded about it,” he said.

My sense is that if opponents of batching want to have a shot at getting it killed off, they’re going to have to present a strong case – with a fully considered alternative – during their face-to-face with the ICANN board of directors on Monday.

Moaning and whining isn’t going to cut it this time, ICANN is going to want to see dates, delegation models, the works.

ICANN CEO to be announced Friday

Kevin Murphy, June 18, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN will reveal the identity of its new CEO at a press conference this coming Friday.

But there’s a rumor going around that he or she is not expected to actually join the organization until September.

ICANN has just issued a press release stating that it will hold a news conference in Prague at 1600 local time (1400 UTC) during which Rod Beckstrom’s replacement will take questions from reporters.

People have been asking me for months if I know who it is and I have to say I haven’t got a clue.

The latest rumor doing the rounds, however, is that whoever has been selected will not actually take the helm until later this year.

I’ve heard September from some sources and October from others, but ICANN is currently declining to confirm or deny the rumor.

Beckstrom announced his departure from ICANN a year ago. His contract expires at the end of the month and is not expected to be extended.