Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Amazon snubs ICANN auction to win .coupon privately

Amazon has won the new gTLD .coupon, after Minds + Machines withdrew its application this week.

I understand that the two-way contention set was settled privately via a third party intermediary, possibly via some kind of auction, with M+M ultimately being paid off to withdraw its bid.

.coupon was the only ICANN-managed “auction of last resort” scheduled for July, following the $600,000 sale of .信息 last week.

The next batch of ICANN auctions is now not due to happen until August, unless of course ICANN rejigs its schedule in light of the .coupon settlement.

It’s not clear why Amazon has suddenly decided it prefers the idea of a private commercial settlement after all, but it appears to be good news for M+M, which will see the majority of the cash.

However, it could be related to the fact that .coupon, and dozens of other Amazon new gTLD applications, recently made the switch from being “closed generics” to more inclusive proposals.

Amazon had originally intended that itself and its subsidiaries would be the “only eligible registrants” for .coupon, but in March it changed the application, among many others.

Now, Amazon talks in vague terms about .coupon names being available to “eligible trusted third parties”, a term that doesn’t seem ready to define before the TLDs are actually delegated.

It seems to me, from Amazon’s revised applications, that .coupon and its other gTLDs will be locked down tight enough that they could wind up being effectively closed generics after all.

When Amazon publishes its first eligibility requirements document with ICANN, I expect members of the Governmental Advisory Committee will be watching closely.

.hotel avoids auction with CPE win

A new gTLD applicant backed by the hotel industry has won a Community Priority Evaluation, meaning it gets to automatically win the .hotel contention set without going to auction.

If the decision stands, no fewer than six rival applicants for the string — including the likes of Donuts, Radix, Famous Four and Minds + Machines — are going to have to withdraw their applications.

It’s a bit of a shocker.

The CPE winner is HOTEL Top-Level-Domain, which scored 15 out of 16 available points in the CPE. The minimum required to vanquish all foes is 14 points.

The company will have spent a fair bit of cash fighting the CPE, but nothing compared to the millions of dollars an auction for .hotel would be likely to fetch.

Crucially, where HOTEL prevailed was on the “Nexus” criterion — demonstrating a link between the string and the community supporting the application — where four points are available.

In the first four CPE results to come through, back in March, each applicant scored a 0 on Nexus and none scored more than 11 points overall.

Dot Registry, which failed four CPEs (.inc, .llc, .corp and .llp) this week, also repeatedly flunked on this count.

HOTEL, however, scored a 3.

Rival applicants such as Donuts and M+M had argued that HOTEL’s stated community failed to take into account smaller hoteliers, such as bed and breakfast owners.

But the CPE panelist decided that the application did not “substantially overreach”:

The string nexus closely describes the community, without overreaching substantially beyond the community. The string identifies the name of the core community members (i.e. hotels and associations representing hotels). However, the community also includes some entities that are related to hotels, such as hotel marketing associations that represent hotels and hotel chains and which may not be automatically associated with the gTLD. However, these entities are considered to comprise only a small part of the community. Therefore, the string identifies the community, but does not over-reach substantially beyond the community, as the general public will generally associate the string with the community as defined by the applicant.

There’s no formal appeals mechanism for CPE, but rival applicants could try their luck with more general ICANN procedures such as Requests for Reconsideration.

HOTEL Top-Level-Domain is a Luxembourg-based entity, founded in 2008 to apply for the gTLD, backed by about a dozen international hotelier associations, including the International Hotel and Restaurant Association.

The IHRA counts 50 major hotel chain brands among its members and claims to be officially recognized by the UN for its lobbying work on behalf of the hospitality industry.

HOTEL intends to keep the .hotel gTLD restricted “initially” to only hotels as defined in the international standard ISO 18513.

Registrants will be verified against hotel industry databases. This will happen post-registration, but before the domain name can be activated in the DNS.

In other words, unless you’re a member of the hotel industry, you won’t be getting to use a .hotel domain name. Domainers are apparently not wanted.

All .hotel names will also be checked a year from registration to ensure that they have a web site displaying relevant content. Redirection to other TLDs may be allowed.

I was so convinced that the CPE was designed in such a way that it would be failed by all the applicants which had applied for it, I bet $50 (to go to an applicant-nominated charity) that none would.

If HOTEL wants to let me know which charity they want the $50 to go to, I’ll get it donated forthwith. I’m just glad I didn’t offer to eat my underwear.

Three more dot-brands dumped

Two companies have yanked three bids for dot-brand new gTLDs this week.

The German financial advisor Allfinanz Deutsche Vermögensberatung withdrew its applications for .allfinanzberatung and .allfinanzberater, which mean Allfinanz “advice” and “advisers”.

As well as being a bit of a mouthful, they both appear to be unnecessary given that the company also applied for .allfinanz by itself. That application has passed evaluation and is still active.

Meanwhile, in Finland, one of the world’s biggest elevator/escalator manufacturers, KONE, has withdrawn its equally unfathomable application for .kone.

Roughly 55 dot-brand applications have been withdrawn to date. Hundreds remain.

Afilias loses $600,000 auction for Chinese “.info”

The results of the first “auction of last resort” in the new gTLD program are in, and it’s a bit of a head-scratcher.

Afilias lost out to rival applicant Beijing Tele-info Network Technology in the ICANN-backed auction for .信息 which means “info” or “information” in Chinese.

The winning bid was $600,000, ICANN said.

That money goes into a special ICANN fund, which will be put to some kind of unspecified purpose (to be determined by the ICANN community) at a later date.

It seems like quite a low price. Given what little we know about new gTLD auctions conducted privately, over a million dollars seems to be pretty standard for a gTLD.

It also strikes me as odd that Afilias wasn’t willing to shell out over $600,000 for a gTLD that could take a localized version of its existing .info brand into the world’s largest market.

It’s the only contention set to be settled by ICANN auction so far. The next will take place July 9, and will see Minds + Machines take on Amazon for .coupon.

The third, which will see 22 strings hit the block, will take place August 6.

RADAR to be down at least two weeks after hack

ICANN expects its RADAR registrar database to be offline for “at least two weeks” following the discovery of a security vulnerability that exposed users’ login names and encrypted passwords.

ICANN seems to have been quick to act and to disclose the hack.

The attack happened last weekend and ICANN was informed about it by an “internet user” on Tuesday May 27, according to an ICANN spokesperson. RADAR was taken offline and the problem disclosed late May 28.

The spokesperson added that “we do not believe the user is affiliated with a current or previously accredited registrar.”

ICANN isn’t disclosing the nature of the vulnerability, but said RADAR will be offline for some time for a security audit. The spokesperson told DI in an email:

It will be at least two weeks. It is more important to complete a thorough security assessment of the site than to rush this process. First of all, we’re keeping the system offline until we complete a thorough audit of the system. We are also currently engaged in a security review of all systems and procedures at ICANN to assess and implement ongoing improvements as appropriate.

RADAR is a database used by registrars to coordinate stuff like emergency contacts and IP address whitelisting for bulk Whois access.

The downtime is not expected to impact registrants, according to ICANN. The spokesperson said: “Nothing that occurred has raised any concerns that registrants could or would be adversely affected.”