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Richemont kills off two more dot-brands

Luxury goods maker Richemont has decided to ditch two more of its dot-brand gTLDs.

The company has asked ICANN to terminate its registry contracts for .chloe and .montblanc, according to documents published by ICANN late last week.

Chloe is a fashion brand; Mont Blanc sells pens, jewelery and such.

No reason was given for either termination. Registries are allowed to self-terminate their Registry Agreements for any reason, given 180 days notice.

In both cases, ICANN has already agreed not to transfer the gTLD to a new operator. That’s a special privilege dot-brands get in their RAs.

Neither gTLD ever progressed beyond a single nic.brand placeholder page

Four additional Richemont dot-brands — .piaget, .iwc, .cartier, .panerai — have also been live for two years or more but are in identical states of disuse.

Richemont also runs .watches, .手表 and .珠宝 (Chinese for “watches” and “jewelry” respectively) which have been in the DNS for over 18 months but do not yet have any published launch plans.

The company was a somewhat enthusiastic early adopter of the new gTLD concept, providing speakers to industry events well before the application window opened back in 2012.

It applied for 14 strings in total, 10 of which eventually went live. It dumped two of its dot-brands before contract-signing and lost two auctions for generic strings.

Both .chloe and .montblanc are expected to be removed from the DNS in October.

There are now 22 new gTLDs that have voluntarily terminated their RAs.

Iran reported to Ombudsman after new gTLD conspiracy theory

Kevin Murphy, May 17, 2017, Domain Policy

ICANN’s Ombudsman has stepped in to resolve a complaint from the Iranian government that it was being “excluded” from discussions about the next phase of the new gTLD program.

Kavouss Arasteh, Iran’s Governmental Advisory Committee representative, earlier this month accused the leadership of the New gTLD Subsequent Procedures Working Group of deliberately scheduling teleconferences to make them difficult for him to attend.

He said the 0300 UTC timing of a meeting made it “painful” for European volunteers to participate (though it’s 0730 in Tehran).

When WG co-chair Avri Doria said that the time had been selected to avoid clashes with other working groups and declined his request, Arasteh said in an email: “If you insist, I interpret that this is an effort to EXCLUDE GAC TO ATTEND THE PDP.”

In other words, he was accusing the WG leaders of trying to exclude governments from helping to develop the rules of the new gTLD program.

Doria responded that she took the tone of the remarks as “abusive”, adding:

since my motives have been attacked and since I have been accused of trying to prevent GAC participation, I have no choice other than to turn this issue over to the Ombudsman.

The only other alternative I can think of is to accept the fact that I am incapable of co-chairing this group and step down.

Fellow co-chair Jeff Neuman chipped in with a detailed explanation of how, in the global ICANN community, there usually isn’t a time of day that is not inconvenient to at least some volunteers.

(It’s sometimes possible to hear snoring on these calls, but that’s not always due to the time of day.)

Today, Ombudsman Herb Weye responded to Doria’s complaint, saying that it has been “resolved” between the two parties. He wrote:

Without going into detail I am pleased to advise the working group that this complaint has been resolved and that I can bear witness to a unanimous demonstration of support for the leadership of the working group.

I would like to highlight the professional, “human” approach taken by all involved and their willingness to communicate in a clear, respectful and objective manner. This cooperative atmosphere allowed for a timely discussion and quick resolution.

Aratesh has for some time been one of the most vocal and combative GAC reps, noticeably unafraid to raise his voice when he needs to make his point.

He recently publicly threatened to take his concerns about ICANN’s policy on two-character domains to the International Telecommunications Union if his demands were not met.

Let’s all have a nosey at how much ICANN staff get paid

Kevin Murphy, May 16, 2017, Domain Policy

It’s that time of year again when ICANN publishes its US tax returns and we all get to have a good old nosey at how much its top brass get paid.

Figures for fiscal 2016 — so, basically a year out of date — came out this week and they show some senior executives got big pay boosts.

Overall, the return shows that the 17 highest-paid ICANN staffers received a total of $7.3 million in a combination of salary and bonuses, or about $429,000 on average, in the year.

That’s an increase of $603,000 on fiscal 2015 or $488,000 if you don’t count the bonuses.

I’m only counting the 17 named executives who appear in both the FY15 and FY16 returns, and I’m not counting non-executive directors.

Three of these executives received pay rises, not including bonuses, in excess of $100,000. While most top staff saw pay increases below 5%, raises of 21%, 34%, 44% and even 58% were recorded.

Four of them received bonuses of $125,000 or more.

One of the 17 saw his compensation go down. I’m guessing that might be an exchange rate fluctuation.

CEO Fadi Chehade, who left three quarters of the way through the fiscal year, still took home $854,000 in salary and bonuses, up from $737,000 in FY15. His successor’s compensation does not figure into the FY16 numbers.

ICANN has 155 staff members making over $100,000 a year, the return shows, up from 132 the previous year. That means more than half of ICANN’s total staff is in six-figure territory.

ICANN’s pay policy is to set compensation at the 50th to 75th percentile of the “relevant market”, which I assume is the technology sector rather than the not-for-profit sector, in order to stay competitive when hiring.

Its FY16 tax return can be downloaded here (pdf) and the FY15 one is here (pdf).

ICANN’s origin story is well worth a watch

Kevin Murphy, May 10, 2017, Domain Policy

The story of how ICANN was born is being told through an ongoing series of video interviews.

The ICANN History Project went live late last week with an initial batch of eight videos on the theme of ICANN’s relationship with the US government, from before ICANN’s inception in 1998 to more recent developments such as the IANA transition.

There are several hours of interviews to watch so far, covering many of the key figures in ICANN over the last 20 years.

We have the likes of “Father of the Internet” Vint Cerf, “Father of ICANN” Ira Magaziner, “Godmother of ICANN” Becky Burr and “Second Cousin of Usenet” Fadi Chehade (sorry).

Three of ICANN’s four chairs to date are interviewed, along with two of its six CEOs.

From the USG side, recently departed assistant secretary at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Larry Strickling gets half an hour in the warm seat.

It’s fronted by Brad White, ICANN’s head of comms for North America, who says he’s trying to approach the project from a journalistic perspective.

Before he fell to the Dark Side, he was a TV reporter for many years, as will become quickly apparent.

I must admit I’ve only managed to watch half of the videos so far, but from what I’ve seen they’re pretty damn good. Don’t expect PR fluff or self-congratulatory circle-jerky.

The interviewees all seem to talk pretty frankly about what was going on around the time of ICANN’s formation in the quagmire of bloodthirsty partisan hackery over the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, a stirring from the International Telecommunications Union, and Jon Postel’s hacking of the entire DNS.

All worth a listen, if you’re an ICANN nerd.

Subtitled versions of each are available in each of the UN languages.

It’s slightly disappointing that ICANN’s original CEO Mike Roberts and chair Esther Dyson aren’t among the first batch of interviews (Dyson, particularly, has emerged as a critic of ICANN since her departure in 2000) but I gather the project is ongoing and more content will be posted as it’s completed.

The videos are supplemented by documentation that speaks to the same topics as the interviews. As far as I can tell, it’s all public info already, but it’s nice to see it collected in one place.

The project can be found here.

.gay, .music and others in limbo as ICANN probes itself

Kevin Murphy, May 8, 2017, Domain Policy

Several new gTLD applicants have slammed ICANN for conducting an investigation into its own controversial practices that seems to be as opaque as the practices themselves.

Seven proposed new gTLDs, including the much-anticipated .music and .gay, are currently trapped in ICANN red tape hell as the organization conducts a secretive probe into how its own staff handled Community Priority Evaluations.

The now broad-ranging investigation seems have been going on for over six months but does not appear to have a set deadline for completion.

Applicants affected by the delays don’t know who is conducting the probe, and say they have not been contacted by anyone for their input.

At issue is the CPE process, designed to give genuine “community” gTLD applicants a way to avoid a costly auction in the event that their choice of string was contested.

The results of the roughly 25 CPE decisions, all conducted by the independent Economist Intelligence Unit, were sometimes divergent from each other or just baffling.

Many of the losers complained via ICANN’s in-house Requests for Reconsideration and then Independent Review Process mechanisms.

One such IRP complaint — related to Dot Registry’s .inc, .llc, .llp applications — led to two of the three-person IRP panel deciding last July that ICANN had serious questions to answer about how the CPE process was carried out.

While no evidence was found that ICANN had coached the EIU on scoring, it did emerge that ICANN staff had supplied margin notes to the supposedly independent EIU that had subsequently been incorporated into its final decision.

The IRP panel majority wrote that the EIU “did not act on its own in performing the CPEs” and “ICANN staff was intimately involved in the process”.

A month or so later, the ICANN board of directors passed a resolution calling for the CEO to “undertake an independent review of the process by which ICANN staff interacted with the CPE provider”.

Another month later, in October, the Board Governance Committee broadened the scope of the investigation and asked the EIU to supply it with documents it used to reach its decisions in multiple controversial CPE cases.

A couple of weeks ago, BGC chair Chris Disspain explained all this (pdf) to the applicants for .music, .gay, hotel, .cpa, .llc, .inc, .llp and .merck, all of which are affected by the delay caused by the investigation.

He said that the investigation would be completed “as soon as practicable”.

But in response, Dot Registry and lawyers for fellow failed CPE applicant DotMusic have fired off more letters of complaint to ICANN.

(UPDATE: Dot Registry CEO Shaul Jolles got in touch to say his letter was actually sent before Disspain’s, despite the dates on the letters as published by ICANN suggesting the opposite).

Both applicants note that they have no idea who the independent party investigating the CPEs is. That’s because ICANN hasn’t identified them publicly or privately, and the evaluator has not contacted the applicants for their side of the story.

DotMusic’s lawyer wrote (pdf):

DotMusic’s rights are thus being decided by a process about which it: (1) possesses minimal information; (2) carried out by an individual or organization whose identity ICANN is shielding; (3) whose mandate is secret; (4) whose methods are unknown; and (5) whose report may never be made public by ICANN’s Board.

He added, pointedly:

The exclusion of directly affected parties from participation eerily reproduces the shortcomings of the EIU evaluations that are under scrutiny in the first place.

Dot Registry CEO Shaul Jolles, in his letter (pdf), quoted Disspain saying at a public forum in Copenhagen this March that a blog post addressing the concerns had been drafted and would be published “shortly”, but wasn’t.

He suggested the investigation is “smoke and mirrors” and, along with DotMusic, demanded more information about the investigator’s identity and methods.

It does strike me as a looking a bit like history repeating itself: ICANN comes under fire for non-transparently influencing a supposedly independent review and addresses those criticisms by launching another non-transparent supposedly independent review.

No matter what I feel about the merits of the “community” claims of some of these applicants, it has been over five years now since they submitted their applications and the courtesy of transparency — if closure itself its not yet possible — doesn’t seem like a great deal to ask.