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In a first for new gTLDs, Aquitaine dumps geo bid

Kevin Murphy, February 5, 2015, Domain Registries

The authority for the French region of Aquitaine has become the first applicant for a geographic new gTLD to pull its application apparently of its own accord.

Région d’Aquitaine’s bid for .aquitaine was withdrawn today, despite the fact that the applicant was already in the contracting stage with ICANN.

A handful of other geographic gTLD applications have been withdrawn previously, but only due to disputes between the applicant and the governments of the regions they wanted to represent.

.aquitaine is the first would-be geographic gTLD to be pulled after passing through the evaluation stage of the program.

Aquitaine is one of France’s 27 formal regions, with a population of over three million.

500 new gTLDs now live, a new one added every day

Kevin Murphy, February 5, 2015, Domain Registries

ICANN delegated its 500th new gTLD from the 2012 application round this week.

The honor of the landmark delegation went to .ntt, the dot-brand applied for by Japanese telco NTT, which hit the root two days ago.

Since then, a further six new gTLDs — including .canon, the first announced dot-brand — have been delegated under the program.

In the past 12 months, 374 new gTLDs have been added to the DNS root. That’s obviously more than one a day on average.

Yet ICANN is probably still not even half-way through the program — the maximum number of delegated strings that could be produced is still a little over 1,300.

A large majority of the remaining undelegated strings are dot-brands or otherwise single-registrant spaces. Currently, just 18 brands (under a strict Spec 13 definition) have gone live.

Back in evaluation! Tata dot-brand bid falls foul of Morocco

Kevin Murphy, February 5, 2015, Domain Registries

Tata Group, the Indian conglomerate, is to see its application for .tata head back into evaluation, after the Moroccan government denied it had given its approval for the bid.

ICANN told the company this week that .tata will have to be reviewed by the Geographic Names Panel for a third time.

Tata, as well as the name of the 150-year-old, $100 billion-a-year company, is also the name of a tiny Moroccan province (pop. 121,618) that is a protected geographic term under the new gTLD program’s rules.

Tata needed to get a letter of endorsement or non-objection from the relevant Moroccan authorities in order to pass the Geographic Names Panel review.

The company apparently had secured such a letter, when last July .tata became the final new gTLD application to pass through evaluation.

However, senior officials at Morocco’s industry of trade started kicking up a fuss last September, denying any such non-objection had been given.

In exchanges of letters with ICANN over the last few weeks, Morocco has elaborated. It now claims the letter provided by Tata to the panel referred to trademark protection of the Tata brand under Moroccan law and did not specifically not object to .tata.

The original letter (pdf) was sent by the Moroccan Office for Industry and Intellectual Property (OMPIC). It’s in French, so it’s hard for me to comment with much confidence either way even with a translation, but it seems to say that no Moroccan law would forbid the .tata application.

Now, OMPIC director Adil El Maliki has told ICANN (pdf) that there was no intention to confer non-objection. Another letter from the ministry of trade says the same.

ICANN has accepted the government’s explanation and has thrown .tata back at the evaluation process, where it is basically now at the mercy of the Moroccan government.

It’s not the first time there’s been some (charitably) confusion in government agencies about endorsements for new gTLD applications. DotConnectAfrica’s bid for .africa had backing from an African Union representative at first, which was subsequently withdrawn.

Other “geographic” gTLDs have found it’s easiest to throw money at the problem. Tata Group’s best hope for .tata now might be to build Tata province a new school.

.cancerresearch — a role model for dot-brands?

Kevin Murphy, February 4, 2015, Domain Registries

.cancerresearch went live today with an interesting, and possibly unique to date, take on the new gTLD concept.

It’s technically not a dot-brand under ICANN rules, but there are no firm plans to start selling registrations to third parties yet and the people running it are pointing to it as a possible model from which dot-brands could draw inspiration.

The registry, the charitable Australian Cancer Research Foundation, is working heavily with back-end provider ARI Registry Services and has recruited the ad agency M&C Saatchi for the promotion.

It’s reserved about 80 .cancerresearch domain names for its own “promotional purposes” — permissible under ICANN rules — and gone live today with a handful of web sites designed to raise awareness about and funds for cancer research.

I say it looks possibly unique because, despite the multiple domains in play, it basically looks and feels like one web site.

Start at home.cancerresearch, click a link entitled “Donate” and you’ll be taken to donate.cancerrresearch. Click a link about lung cancer, you’ll go to lung.cancerresearch. There’s another link to theone.cancerresearch, soliciting donations.

Unless you’re looking at the address bar in your browser, you’d be forgiven for assuming you’re on the same web site. The sites on the different domains are using the same style, same imagery, and are obviously part of the same campaign.

That’s not particularly innovative, of course. Redirecting users to other domains within the same web site experience happens all the time. But I don’t think I’ve seen it done before with a new gTLD. Navigation-wise, it seems to have a degree of novelty.

Tony Kirsch, head of global consulting at ARI, said that what the ACRF is doing could “help give dot-brand holders struggling with a wait-and-see approach a real example of what can be done”.

.cancerresearch isn’t a dot-brand under ICANN’s strict Specification 13 rules, however. It’s more like an unofficial ‘closed generic’ at this point.

The gTLD is launching today — with mainstream media coverage — without a confirmed Sunrise date. Right now, nobody apart from the registry can own a domain there.

And while Kirsch told DI that .cancerresearch will be available to third parties, he also said that there will be strict eligibility requirements. Those requirements are still “TBD”, however.

There are also no accredited registrars for the gTLD at this point, he confirmed.

Two legit registrars held to account for lack of abuse tracking

Kevin Murphy, January 26, 2015, Domain Registrars

ICANN Compliance’s campaign against registrars that fail to respond to abuse reports continued last week, with two registrars hit with breach notices.

The registrars in question are Above.com and Astutium, neither of which one would instinctively bundle in to the “rogue registrar” category.

Both companies have been told they’ve breached section 3.18.1 of their Registrar Accreditation Agreement, which says: “Registrar shall take reasonable and prompt steps to investigate and respond appropriately to any reports of abuse.”

Specifics were not given, but it seems that people filed abuse reports with the registrars then complained to ICANN when they did not get the response they wanted. ICANN then was unable to get the registrars to show evidence that they had responded.

Both companies have until February 12 to come back into compliance or risk losing their accreditations.

Domain investor-focused Above.com had over 150,000 gTLD domains on its books at the last official count. UK-based Astutium has fewer than 5,000 (though it says the current number, presumably including ccTLD names, is 53,350).

It’s becoming increasingly clear that registrars under the 2013 RAA are going to be held to account by ICANN to the somewhat vague requirements of 3.18.1, and that logging communications with abuse reports is now a must.