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Melbourne IT CEO calls for digital archery delay

Kevin Murphy, May 31, 2012, Domain Policy

Theo Hnarakis, CEO of top-ten registrar Melbourne IT, has asked ICANN to delay its imminent “digital archery” gTLD application batching system until a better solution can be found.

Talking to DI today, Hnarakis said he’s worried that digital archery currently favors applicants for desirable generic strings such as .web at the expense of uncontested dot-brands.

With a limited number of places per batch, and with ICANN currently promising to promote all contested applications to the batch containing the best archer, we’re potentially looking at a first batch dominated by contested gTLDs rather than dot-brands.

This, Hnarakis said, will lead to many more second-level defensive registrations by companies that have applied for dot-brand gTLDs but were placed in later batches.

“We’re going to have a situation where very many companies who said they’re going to apply [for a dot-brand] to get off the treadmill of being forced to protect their brand at the second level won’t be able to do so for a year or two years,” he said.

Without an alternative batching process, the new gTLD program risks looking like “another exercise in generating a lot of defensive registrations from brand holders”, he said.

Hnarakis has written (pdf) to the ICANN board of directors’ new gTLD program committee to express his concerns and to point out that when ICANN starts to review the program in 2014 it risks not being able to evaluate the benefits of the dot-brand concept.

He said he prefers a batching method that favors uncontested and uncontroversial strings.

By the time the new gTLD public comment period is over in August, ICANN should have a pretty good idea of which applications are controversial, he said. This would require some subjective decision-making, something ICANN has always resisted, he acknowledged.

He wants a delay to the digital archery process, which is currently scheduled to kick off next Friday, for further community discussions.

“There seems to be a broad sentiment that this isn’t this best method, but people don’t want to rock the boat because they don’t want to see any further delay,” Hnarakis said.

“I don’t care if there’s any further delay,” he said. “I just want to make sure… it’s done in a way that’s fair for all parties, brand holders particularly, and that ICANN comes out of it with some credibility.”

Melbourne IT is well-known for its digital brand management services. It has 146 new gTLD consulting clients, the vast majority of which are dot-brand applicants.

ARI confirms place in Big Four with 161 gTLD bids

ARI Registry Services has signed up to provide registry services for 161 new generic top-level domain applications.

The announcement this morning confirms that the domain name industry now has a Big Four – at least – set of dominant gTLD back-end providers.

ARI said it has signed 85 generic, 70 brand and 6 geographic gTLDs applications. CEO Adrian Kinderis said in a statement:

Non-disclosure statements restrict me from revealing our full client list at this point in time, but what I can say is that our technology will support some of the world’s largest and most recognised brands within the electronics, media, telecommunications, automotive and banking segments.

The company, part of the AusRegistry Group, was previously only known for its .au registry and some software consulting work on internationalized ccTLDs. It had expected 100 gTLD clients.

In Verisign’s most recent Securities and Exchange Commission filings, it has started identifying ARI as one of its key competitors, along with Neustar and Afilias.

Verisign is providing the back-end for 220 applications.

Neustar and Afilias have not yet announced their respective numbers. I expect both figures could quite easily be higher, but maybe not a great deal higher, than Verisign’s.

Top Level Domain Holdings also has not revealed numbers for Minds + Machines, but that’s a slightly different model due to the fact that M+M will also be the applicant in many cases.

With about 1,900 new gTLD applications filed, and barring any surprise back-end announcements, we could well be looking at hundreds of gTLD applications that propose a self-managed registry.

As new gTLDs enter a new phase, the first wave of announcements crashes

Go Daddy, Web.com and the Public Interest Registry were among the first to reveal their new generic top-level domain plans as ICANN’s new gTLD program enters the “reveal” phase.

Announcements from several companies were timed to closely coincide with the closure of ICANN’s TLD Application System at a minute before midnight UTC last night.

After a false start (false end?) on April 12, and weeks of subsequent procrastination, the end of the new gTLD application window seems to have gone off without a hitch.

We’re now entering a new phase of the program, one which is expected to hold far fewer secrets.

Between now and the official Big Reveal, currently targeted for June 13, I’m expecting a deluge of announcements from new gTLD applicants, no longer scared of encouraging competitive bids.

Any company with any hope of standing out from the crowd of almost 2,000 applications needs to make its presence felt as loudly and as early as possible.

.web

The first to do so was number-three registrar Web.com, owner of Network Solutions and Register.com, which confirmed its long-expected bid for .web shortly before midnight.

It’s one of many companies with a claim to the gTLD, in what is certain to be a fiercely fought contention set.

The firm reckons, dubiously, that it has rights due to its trademark on Web.com, which I predict will be anything but a slam dunk argument when it comes to a Legal Rights Objection.

“We believe we possess the natural platform from which to successfully market the new .WEB top level domain since we are the sole owner of the Web.com trademark as issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office,” CEO David Brown said.

I wonder what the other 300 or so owners of web.[tld] domain names think about that.

.bank and .insurance

The Association of National Bankers and the Financial Services Roundtable, both US trade groups for the banking industry, provided the first post-TAS announcement to hit my inbox, at 0006 UTC.

The groups have confirmed their joint bids for .bank and .insurance, having wisely decided against the less SEO-friendly, less intuitive .banking, .invest, .investment, and .insure.

These proposed gTLDs will be secured and restricted, but they still face the substantial risk of objections from European banking regulators.

There’s also one other unconfirmed .bank applicant.

.home and .casa

Go Daddy has also revealed its two applications, giving the scoop to Domain Name Wire. It’s applied for .home and the Spanish translation, .casa, in addition to the previously announced .godaddy.

While they look benign on the face of it, I’m expecting .home to face opposition on technical grounds.

It’s on DI PRO’s list of frequently requested invalid TLDs, due to the amount of traffic it already gets from misconfigured routers.

Go Daddy may also face competition scrutiny if it wants to act as a registry and registrar, given its overwhelming dominance of the registrar market.

Both applications are also likely to find themselves in contention sets.

.ngo and .ong

The Public Interest Registry cleverly got its .ngo and .ong bids some big-readership attention a few hours ago by letting Mashable think it was getting a scoop. Ahem.

To be fair, the .ong application – a translation of .ngo for Spanish, French and Italian markets – was news. Both will target non-governmental organizations, of which there are millions.

The .ong bid stands a reasonable chance of being challenged due to its visual similarity with .org – which PIR already manages – but ICANN’s similarity tool only gives it a score of 63%.

.cloud and .global

Finally this morning, CloudNames announced applications for .cloud and .global, two unrestricted gTLDs being pitched explicitly as alternatives to .com, .biz and .info.

“A .cloud domain will allow businesses and individuals to have their own cloud on the Internet. Likewise, a .global domain will allow businesses to secure a position on an international level,” CEO Rolf Larsen said in a statement.

They’re the first examples of both strings to be announced, but CloudNames expects them both to be contested. I suspect the buzzy .cloud will be the harder to obtain.

Olympic domain watch list shows hundreds of squats, legit names too

Kevin Murphy, May 30, 2012, Domain Policy

Lawyers for the International Olympic Committee have released a list of hundreds of domain names allegedly cybersquatting the Olympic trademark, all registered in just a couple of weeks.

But as well as showing that there are hundreds of idiots out there, the list also sheds light on substantial numbers of apparently legitimate uses of the word “olympic” by small businesses.

The insight comes from two weekly zone file monitoring reports, compiled for the IOC by Thomson Compumark, which were circulated to an ICANN working group this week.

There are about 300 domains on the lists. At first glance, it looks like the IOC has a serious problem on its hands.

According to IOC outside counsel Jim Bikoff:

These unauthorized registrations–often for pornographic, phishing, gambling or parked sites–dilute and tarnish the Olympic trademarks, and attempt to exploit for commercial gain the good will created by the Olympic Movement. The unauthorized domains already oblige the IOC and its National Olympic Committees to expend significant amounts of time and money on monitoring and enforcement activities.

Based on a perusal of the lists and a non-exhaustive, non-scientific sampling of the sites the domains lead to, I’d say a comfortable majority are fairly straightforward cases of bad faith.

I couldn’t find any porn or phishing, but most of the domains I checked either do not resolve or resolve to placeholder or parking pages. If they resolved to a developed site, it was usually a splog.

However, a non-trivial minority of the domains are being used by apparently legitimate small businesses that have absolutely no connection to sports whatsoever.

Check out, for example, olympic-grill.com, olympicautorecycling.com, olympicbuildersgc.com, olympicco.com, olympiclandscapes.com, olympicrollingshutters.com, or olympicpromotions.info.

These are domains all apparently registered in the same week, and all appear to be kosher uses of domain names (though the logo choice at olympicpromotions.info is just begging for trouble).

A fair number of the domains on the list appear to be re-registrations of domains that have previously expired, judging by historical Whois records.

One would imagine that if there was value in cybersquatting a nice-looking domain such as 2012olympicstickets.com, for example, the former squatter probably wouldn’t have let it go.

Perhaps the “best” typo I found on the list, ollympics.com, is registered to a British guy called Olly. Assuming that’s his actual name, it seems like pretty good evidence of good faith.

The IOC, incidentally, has only ever filed 15 UDRP cases, on average fewer than two per year, so claims about spending “significant amounts” on enforcement are questionable.

As TAS closes, ICANN reveals new gTLD runway

Kevin Murphy, May 30, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has confirmed plans to open up the next phase of its new generic top-level domain program next week.

The controversial “digital archery” process, used to assign priority batches to applications, will begin June 8 and end June 28, according to a statement issued in the early hours of this morning.

That means digital archery will close the same day as ICANN’s public meeting in Prague ends.

The results of the batching will not be revealed until July 11.

And ICANN has confirmed that June 13 is indeed the date for the Big Reveal, when details of all the applications will be published for public perusal, as we reported Friday.

That would make June 12 or thereabouts the deadline for getting a full $185,000 refund.

Applicants have until a minute before midnight UTC tonight to finalize their applications if they have not done so already. Then, the TLD Application System closes for at least a few years.

Surprisingly, as many as a quarter of the anticipated 2,000+ applications were not yet complete as of last night, according to ICANN.

As of today, over 500 applications remain incomplete in TAS – either a complete application has not been submitted, and/or the full fee has not been paid. If you have not completed your application, we urge you to do so in TAS as quickly as possible.

Let’s hope the upgrades ICANN made to TAS are sufficient to handle a hammering today as so many applicants log in to the system.