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New TLD guidebook could be finalized at ICANN retreat

Kevin Murphy, June 21, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN’s Draft Applicant Guidebook for new TLDs could become the Final Applicant Guidebook at an ICANN retreat before the next ICANN meeting.

Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush said at a press conference here in Brussels earlier that a private two-day board retreat this year, focused entirely on new TLDs, could “clear up any remaining issues” with the DAG.

I believe he was referring to the ICANN board’s scheduled September 24-25 retreat, although he may have had something else in mind.

Dengate Thrush said that we should not expect the board to pass as many resolutions relating to the DAG at the end of the Brussels meeting as it did at the end of Nairobi three months ago.

But he still expects DAG v4 will be the final draft published before the guidebook is finalized.

“The reality is that there are a number of overarching issues where the community has to reach consensus, and it’s difficult for us to put time limits on the community,” he said.

A few minutes ago, during an open mic session on new TLDs, Jon Nevett of Domain Dimensions questioned whether there should be a special ICANN meeting, before the retreat, to give the community a chance to help with the finalization process.

The ICANN Brussels schwag bag – full details

Kevin Murphy, June 20, 2010, Gossip

I’ve just landed at ICANN 38, in the really rather lovely setting of the Mont des Arts in Brussels.

Either I’m lost, or it’s a bit quiet at the moment, so I thought I’d get the most important news out of the way first – what’s in the schwag bag?

A heck of a lot more than the last ICANN meeting I attended, in Mar Del Plata, Argentina three five years ago.

Consider this a disclosure statement – I am now forever beholden to all of these companies, in no particular order:

  • T-shirt (Hanes) from ICANN.
  • T-shirt (Fruit of the Loom) from RegistryPro.
  • Empty Belgian chocolate bag from Iron Mountain (visit the booth for the choccie, presumably).
  • Fan with party invite printed on it from GMO (dotShop).
  • Pen from .CO Internet.
  • Keyring (foam) from dns.be.
  • Pen from Nic.ru.
  • Belgian chocolate box (full) from Centr.
  • Keyring (metal) from PIR (slogan: “PracticeSafeDNS.org”)
  • Badge/button (small) from .quebec.
  • Badge/button (huge) from ICM Registry (slogan: “Yes to .XXX”)
  • Bumper sticker from .quebec.
  • Notebook from PIR (.org “Celebrating 25 years”)
  • Playing cards (one-way backs) from Ausregistry.
  • “Multi-purpose retractable lock” from SIDN.
  • USB Flash drive (4GB) from Afnic.
  • Notebook from .eu.
  • A good-sized tree’s worth of flyers, booklets and sales pitches from the meeting’s sponsors – very strong contingent of new TLD players and consultancies.
  • The bag itself is sponsored by Afilias.

I heard a rumor that ICM was giving away .xxx vuvuzelas, but if they were they appear to have already run out.

Register.com sold at a $65 million loss

Register.com has been acquired by web hosting company Web.com for $135 million, substantially less than the $200 million Vector Capital paid for it five years ago.

Web.com said the acquisition will help it access new small business customers for lead generation, to cross-sell its existing products.

The company’s customer base will increase by over 400% to more than one million customers, Web.com said. The combined firm will have annual revenue of $180 million.

Register.com was one of the first five ICANN-accredited registrars. It failed as a public company, and after years of financial wrangling was finally taken private by Vector in 2005.

Vector specializes in buying up troubled companies and turning them around, but it doesn’t appear to have increased the value of this particular asset over the last five years.

Will ICANN punt .xxx in Brussels?

Is ICANN set to delay approval of the proposed .xxx top-level domain – again – in Brussels?

That’s my reading of ICANN’s latest document concerning ICM Registry’s long-running and controversial battle for a porn-only TLD.

This week, ICANN submitted its summary of the public comment period that ran to May 10. It’s a fair bit shorter than the one Kieren McCarthy compiled for ICM last month.

As usual, it’s written in a fairly neutral tone. But, if you’re feeling conspiratorial, the mask does slip on occasion, perhaps giving a sense of where the .xxx application could head next.

The ICANN summary occasionally breaks from reporting what a commenter actually said in order to highlight a potential problem they did not address.

Example (my emphasis):

Only two commenters directly addressed the question of further interaction with the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) on the .XXX sTLD Application. Both of those commenters were against seeking any further input from the GAC outside of any public comment period. Neither of these commenters – nor any other – addressed the potential violation of the ICANN Bylaws that could result from the Board’s failure to properly consider the advice of the GAC

This suggests, to me, that the ICANN board will be receiving advice to the effect that further GAC input needs to be forthcoming before it can move forward with .xxx.

If this is the case, the GAC might have to produce some advice before next Friday’s board meeting if ICM has any hope of getting back around the negotiating table prior to Cartagena in December.

That’s not the only reason to believe ICANN may punt .xxx again, however. Elsewhere in the report, we read (my emphasis again):

For those in favor of proceeding with the .XXX sTLD Application, many created an alternative option – that ICM and ICANN should proceed to a contract right away. There was substantial discussion on this point in the ICM submissions. Few commenters addressed the technical realities identified within the Process Report ‐ that prompt execution of the agreement negotiated in 2007 is not feasible.

The Process Report referenced says that it is not possible to go straight into contract talks because ICM first applied for .xxx more than six years ago.

This has been a bone of contention. ICM points to .post, which was applied for at the same time as .xxx and only approved late last year, as proof that the passage of time should be no barrier.

But ICANN president Rod Beckstrom doesn’t buy that comparison. He wrote to ICM (pdf) at the end of March noting that .post was backed by the International Postal Union, whereas .xxx is “sponsored” by IFFOR, an organization created by ICM purely to act as its sponsor.

In that letter, Beckstrom talks about due diligence to make sure ICM and IFFOR still satisfy financial and technical criteria, and a review of whether .xxx “can still satisfy the requisite sponsorship criteria”.

I’ll admit that I’m breaking out the crystal ball a bit here, and I’ve been wrong before, but I don’t think it’s looking great for ICM in Brussels.

ICANN creates DNSSEC root keys

Kevin Murphy, June 17, 2010, Domain Tech

ICANN took the penultimate step towards adding DNSSEC to the root of the domain name system, during in a lengthy ceremony in Virginia yesterday.

The move means we’re still on track to have the DNSSEC “trust anchor” go live in the root on July 15, which will make end-to-end validation of DNS answers feasible for the first time.

DNSSEC is an extension to the DNS protocol that enables resolvers to validate that the DNS answers they receive come from the true owner of the domain.

Yesterday, ICANN generated the Key Signing Key for the root zone. That’s one of two keys required when adding DNSSEC to a zone.

The KSK is used to sign the DNSKey record, the public half of a key pair used to validate DNS responses. It has a longer expiration date than the Zone Signing Key used to sign other records in the zone, so its security is more important.

The videotaped ceremony, held at a facility in Culpeper, Virginia, was expected to take six hours, due to a lengthy check-list of precautions designed to instil confidence in the security of the KSK.

ICANN said:

During the ceremony, participants were present within a secure facility and witnessed the preparations required to ensure that the so-called key-signing-key (KSK) was not only generated correctly, but that almost every aspect of the equipment, software and procedures associated with its generation were also verified to be correct and trustworthy.

Ten hand-picked independent observers were present to bear witness.

ICANN expects to perform the ceremony four times a year. The second will be held at a backup facility in California next month.