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Judgment day for .xxx and .jobs

Kevin Murphy, August 5, 2010, Domain Registries

ICANN’s board of directors will today meet to decide the fate of the .xxx and .jobs top-level domains.

ICM Registry will find out whether its contract to run .xxx will have to face a potentially lengthy review by ICANN’s notoriously slow-footed Governmental Advisory Committee.

Employ Media will find out whether it will be allowed to relax its registration rules to allow non-company-name .jobs domains.

If the board decides no further GAC intervention is needed, ICM will be on a fast track to having its TLD considered for delegation in Cartagena this December.

If Employ Media’s proposal is rejected, it faces more years in the wilderness of managing a registration base in the low tens of thousands.

I have a track record of lousy predictions, but I’m going to go out on a limb again and make a low-confidence prediction that both registries are going to get what they want.

I’m not sure if it’s been noted before, but there are some strong similarities between the two TLDs and their proposals.

In the case of .xxx, some of the main opponents of the domain have been the adult industry itself. With the .jobs liberalization, the loudest outcry has come from jobs boards.

Both are essentially cases of a registry proposing something that makes good business sense for itself, but which is not necessarily what a significant portion of its would-be constituents want.

In the case of ICM, lack of support from the porn business was what originally killed off the application (at least, that was the official line), a decision that ICANN was recently forced to reverse if not recant.

In the case of .jobs, ICANN’s recent summary and analysis of the well-attended public comment period, which the board will be given prior to voting, may be a telling.

Most of the opposition to the .jobs deal was organized by the International Association of Employment Web Sites, which itself sent a long letter spelling out precisely why it thinks the scheme is bogus.

Of the 2,600 words IAEWS submitted, ICANN’s summary and analysis document quotes just two sentences, one of which is this:

“Neither human resources professionals employed in corporate human resources (‘HR’) departments nor executive search/staffing firms [which are part of the .JOBS community] are eligible for membership in IAEWS.”

The quote is pulled from the introduction of the IAEWS letter, rather than the substance of its objection, and the text in square brackets is ICANN’s own insertion.

I can’t think of any reason that text is worth quoting other than in order to dilute the significance of the IAEWS’ arguments against the .jobs liberalization.

Indeed, the document uses more wordage to describe the nature of the IAEWS letter-writing campaign than it does the content of its letters, which can’t look good for the IAEWS.

Employ Media’s response to the IAEWS letter is quoted at greater length, particularly the bit where it compares its own plans to the new gTLD program.

While they claim that the addition of occupation, industry and geographical identifiers at the second level within the .JOBS sTLD will lead to increased confusion within the marketplace, it is hard to reconcile this argument to ICANN’s extensive public policy work and implementation plan in connection with the new gTLD process. The same fundamental economic basis for going forward with the whole new gTLD initiative also applies to this .JOBS RSEP request; these issues should not be re debated and should not delay or deny approval of the .JOBS RSEP request.

If you’re an ICANN board member, aware of how much of ICANN’s credibility is tied up with the new TLD program, can you really argue with that?

Of course, board and staff don’t always agree, so I may be way off the plot here, but it seems to me that .jobs is likely to very soon become a considerably more open namespace.

VeriSign may settle CFIT lawsuit

Kevin Murphy, August 4, 2010, Domain Registries

VeriSign’s chief executive has not ruled out settling its potentially damaging lawsuit with the Coalition For ICANN Transparency out of court.

During the company’s second quarter earnings call earlier this week, Mark McLaughlin was asked whether there was a way the lawsuit could be made to go away, settling investor nerves.

His response: “It is an option that could be pursued.”

CFIT, backed by Momentous.ca, claims that VeriSign’s .com and .net no-bid contracts with ICANN, including the price increases they allow, are anti-competitive.

If VeriSign loses the case, it could face the loss of its .com and .net monopolies, which makes me think it will certainly seek to settle the case before that becomes a risk.

VeriSign currently has to decide whether to request a review at the Supreme Court, or go to the District Court for trial. It has until October 7 to make its call.

Also during Monday’s earnings call, McLaughlin addressed the growth opportunities VeriSign is looking at, following its renewed focus on the domain name business.

Asked whether the introduction of new TLDs would affect .com and .net growth, McLaughlin said:

I think it’s positive… just related to .com and .net, with the introduction of new TLDs there’s an expectation it just brings more people to the market and we generally do better when more people show up to the market. And the second thing, we intend to participate in some of those ourselves, so we see growth opportunities for us.

He also confirmed again that VeriSign will seek to launch non-ASCII internationalized versions of its existing TLD base, which includes .com, .net, tv and .name.

As Andrew Allemann noted yesterday, he also declared the pay-per-click-based speculative registration market essentially “dead”.

New UDRP provider headed by “ace cyber lawyer”

Kevin Murphy, July 30, 2010, Domain Policy

A new Indian group appears to have applied to become ICANN’s fifth approved UDRP provider.

The New Delhi-based Indian Technology Mediation & Arbitration Center is headed by ICANN veteran Pavan Duggal, who describes himself as “India’s ace cyber lawyer”.

ITMAC has 18 wannabe panelists listed on its web site, some of whom are said to have previously mediated domain name disputes for the World Intellectual Property Organization and Asian Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre.

The outfit says it will be able to mediate disputes in a dozen or so Indian languages, as well as English, and would be able to handle internationalized domain names.

The base price for a single-domain, single-panelist case would be INR 106,000, roughly $2,279 at today’s exchange rates.

That’s actually almost quite a lot more expensive than WIPO, say, which charges $1,500 for an equivalent service. Quite surprising really – one lakh goes a lot further in India than in the US.

ICANN’s board of directors has the item “Receipt and Posting for Public Comment of the Application to be a New UDRP Provider” on the agenda for its meeting next Thursday.

(Via Managing Internet IP)

.XXX domain contract could get approved next Thursday

The application for the porn-only .xxx top-level domain is on the just-published agenda for ICANN’s board meeting next Thursday.

The line item reads merely “ICM Registry Application for .XXX sTLD”, but I’m told that ICM and ICANN staff have already negotiated a new contract that the board will be asked to consider.

If the board gives it the nod, it would keep the .xxx TLD on track for possible delegation at ICANN’s Cartagena meeting in early December, meaning sales could begin as early as the first quarter 2011.

According to last month’s Brussels resolution, the board has to first decide whether the contract complies with previous Governmental Advisory Committee advice, or whether new advice is required.

If ICM jumps that hurdle, the contract will be published for public comment (fun fun fun) for three weeks to a month, before returning to the board for a vote on delegation.

Also on the agenda for the August 5 board meeting is the issue of whether to give Employ Media the right to liberalize its .jobs TLD and start accepting generic domain registrations.

In the HR industry, the .jobs debate has been just as loud as the .xxx controversy was in the porn business. Some companies think the changes would be unfair on existing jobs sites.

There are a few other intriguing items on next Thursday’s agenda.

The board will discuss the “International Dimension of ICANN”, “Data & Consumer Protection” and “UDRP Status Briefing”, all of which strike me as rather enigmatic, among other topics.

The UDRP item may refer to the ongoing debate about whether ICANN needs to have contractual relations with its UDRP providers.

Browser makers brush me off on DNSSEC support

Kevin Murphy, July 29, 2010, Domain Tech

A couple of weeks back, I emailed PR folk at Microsoft, Mozilla, Google and Opera, asking if they had any plans to provide native support for DNSSEC in their browsers.

As DNS uber-hacker Dan Kaminsky and ICANN president Rod Beckstrom have been proselytizing this week at the Black Hat conference, support at the application layer is the next step if DNSSEC is to quickly gain widespread traction.

The idea is that one day the ability to validate DNSSEC messages will be supported by browsers in much the same way as SSL certificates are today, maybe by showing the user a green address bar.

CZ.NIC has already created a DNSSEC validator plugin for Firefox that does precisely that, but as far as I can tell there’s no native support for the standard in any browser.

These are the responses I received:

Mozilla: “Our team is heads down right now with Firefox 4 beta releases so unfortunately, I am not going to be able to get you an answer.”

Microsoft:
“At this stage, we’re focusing on the Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview releases. The platform preview is a developer and designer scoped release of Internet Explorer 9, and is not feature complete, we will have more to share about Internet Explorer 9 in the future.”

Google: No reply.

Opera: No reply.

In 11 years of journalism, Apple’s PR team has never replied to any request for information or comment from me, so I didn’t bother even trying this time around.

But the responses from the other four tell us one of two things:

  • Browser makers haven’t started thinking about DNSSEC yet.

Or…

  • Their PR people were just trying to brush me off.

I sincerely hope it’s the former, otherwise this blog post has no value whatsoever.