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ZADNA CEO suspended for “hybrid misconduct”

The CEO of South Africa’s ccTLD registry has reportedly been suspended amid claims of “acts of misconduct”.

According to reports in the local tech press, Vika Mpisane was suspended in early December and has been subject to a delayed disciplinary process since January.

“Mr Vika Mpisane was suspended for serious hybrid acts of misconduct including mismanagement of ZADNA funds and others,” ZADNA chair Motlatjo Ralefatane told MyBroadband.

While details are rather thin on the ground, there are local rumors that some of the allegations relate to Mpisane’s salary and bonuses.

Ralefatane reportedly said that forensic accounting investigations are ongoing.

ZADNA, the ZA Domain Name Authority, is a non-profit organization and official ccTLD manager for .za. It answers to the South African government, but is not funded by it. It should not be confused with ZACR, the commercial entity that actually runs the .za registry on ZADNA’s behalf.

Mpisane has come under increased scrutiny this week as it turns out he is running unopposed for the Southern Africa seat on the board of AFRINIC, the Regional Internet Registry responsible for handing out IP addresses on the continent, apparently without ZADNA’s knowledge.

According to MyBroadband, Ralefatane believes Mpisane should not be representing that he has ZADNA’s support for his run.

His CV (pdf), posted to the AFRINIC web site in April, states that he is the current CEO of ZADNA, with no reference to his suspension.

Ralefatane reportedly added that she is not sure if AFRINIC or ICANN are aware of the allegations against him. They are now.

Mpisane is still listed on ZADNA’s web site as its CEO, also with no reference to the suspension.

His bio on the site reads, in its entirety (errors from the original): “The voice of reason and wisdom An outstanding leader with passion about the internet and what is has to offer. He walks the talk and talks the talk”.

Brand kills off gTLD that is actually being USED

Two more companies have told ICANN they’ve changed their minds about running a dot-brand gTLD, including the first example of a TLD that is actually in use.

Dun & Bradstreet has said it no longer wishes to launch .duns, and Australian insurance company iSelect has had enough of .iselect.

Both companies filed to voluntarily terminate their ICANN registry agreements in March, and ICANN published its preliminary decision to allow them to do so this week.

While business data provider D&B never got around to using .duns, .iselect has had dozens of active domains for years.

The company started putting domains in its zone file about three years ago and had over 90 registered names at the last count, with about a dozen indexed by Google. That’s a quite a lot for a dot-brand.

It is using domains such as home.iselect, news.iselect and careers.iselect as redirects to parts of its main corporate site, while domains such as gas.iselect, creditcards.iselect and health.iselect send customers to specific product pages.

They all redirect to its main iselect.com.au site. There are no web sites as far as I can tell that keep visitors in the .iselect realm.

I’m pretty certain this is the first example of a voluntary contract termination by a dot-brand that is actually in active use.

There have been 52 such terminations to date, including these two latest ones, almost all of which have been dot-brands that never got out of the barn door.

That’s over 10% of the dot-brands that were delegated from the 2012 gTLD application round.

Time for some more ICANN salary porn

Kevin Murphy, June 3, 2019, Domain Policy

ICANN has filed its tax return for its fiscal 2018, so it’s once again that time of the year in which the community gets to salivate over how much its top staffers get paid.

The latest form 990, covering the 12 months to June 30, 2018, shows that the top 21 ICANN employees were compensated to the tune of $10.3 million, an average of $492,718 each.

That’s up about 4% from $9.9 million in the previous year, an average across the top 21 staffers of $474,396 apiece.

These numbers include base salary, bonuses, and benefits such as pension contributions.

Employee compensation overall increased from $60 million to $73.1 million.

The biggest earner was of course CEO Göran Marby, who is now earning more than his immediate predecessor Fadi Chehadé but a bit less than last-but-one boss Rod Beckstrom.

Marby’s total compensation was $936,585, having received a bonus of almost $200,000 during the year. His base salary was $673,133.

The number of staffers receiving six-figure salaries increased from 159 in fiscal 2017 to 183 — about 44% of its estimated end-of-year headcount.

Towards the end of the reported year, as ICANN faced a budget crunch, many members of the ICANN community had called on the organization to rein in its spending on staff.

ICANN says it targets compensation in the 50th to 75th percentile range for the relevant industry.

The top five outside contractors in the year were:

  • Jones Day, ICANN’s go-to law firm. It received $5.4 million, down from $8.7 million in 2017.
  • Zensar Technologies, the IT consultancy that develops and supports ICANN software. It received $3.7 million.
  • IIS, the Swedish ccTLD registry, which does pre-delegation testing for new gTLDs. It received $1.3 million.
  • Iron Mountain, the data escrow provider. It received $1.1 million.
  • Infovity, which provides Oracle software support. It received $1 million.

The return shows that ICANN made a loss of $23.9 million in the year, on revenue that was down from $302.6 million to $136.7 million.

The primary reason for this massive decrease in revenue was the $135 million Verisign paid for the rights to run .web, at an ICANN last-resort auction, in ICANN’s fiscal 2017.

The tax form for 2018 can be found here (pdf) and 2017’s can be found here (pdf).

These 27 companies have ditched the .com for their dot-brand

Earlier today, I listed what I believe might be the top 10 dot-brand gTLDs with the most active web sites, but noted that it was probably a rubbish way to gauge the success of the dot-brand concept.

As a follow-up, I thought I’d figure out which brands have taken the bold step of ditching the .com and made their dot-brand their primary web destination.

I found 27 TLDs, which is simultaneously not a lot and easily twice as many as I was expecting.

The most-popular second-level string was “home”, with 12 examples. The string “global” occurs five times on the list.

I did this research manually with Google and a list of 275 dot-brands — anything with Spec 13 in its contract and more than two domains in its zone file — culled from my database.

To get on this list, at least one of the following had to be true:

  • The dot-brand was the top hit on Google when searching for the brand in question.
  • The .com redirects to the dot-brand.

Sometimes I had to factor out Google’s enormously irritating habit of localizing results, which would prioritize a .uk domain, particularly in the case of automotive brands.

On a few occasions, if I could not be certain whether the “official” primary site was in a ccTLD or the dot-brand, I used the brand’s Wikipedia page as a tie-breaker.

Some entries on the list may be a bit debatable.

I’m not sure whether .barclays should be there, for example. There’s little doubt in my mind that barclays.co.uk is the site that the majority of Barclays’ banking customers use, but barclays.com redirects visitors to home.barclays, so it fits my criteria.

In general, I’ve erred on the side of caution. If the top search result was for the brand’s .com, it was immediately ruled out, no matter how enthusiastic a dot-brand user the company otherwise appeared to be.

Here’s the list. Please let me know if you think I’ve missed any.

TLDBrand2LD
bnpparibasBNP Paribasgroup
bradescoBanco Bradesco S.A.banco
canonCanon Inc.global
cernEuropean Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)home
cuisinellaSALM S.A.S.ma
dhlDeutsche Post AGlogistics
fageFage International S.A.home
hisamitsuHisamitsu Pharmaceutical Co.,Inc.global
ipirangaIpiranga Produtos de Petroleo S.A.portal
komatsuKomatsu Ltd.home
kpmgKPMG International Cooperativehome
locusLocus Analytics LLChome
neustarNeuStar, Inc.home
pictetPictet Europe S.A.group
pioneerPioneer Corporationglobal
praxiPraxi S.p.A.praxi
sandvikSandvik ABhome
saxoSaxo Bank A/Shome
schmidtSALM S.A.S.home-design
senerSener Ingeniería y Sistemas, S.A.ingenieriayconstruccion
toyotaToyota Motor Corpglobal
warmanWeir Group IP Limitedhome*
weberSaint-Gobain Weber SAhome
weirWeir Group IP Limitedglobal

Twenty-seven gTLDs is not a great many, of course, considering that some dot-brands have been delegated for half a decade already.

It’s about half as many as have already torn up their ICANN registry agreements, and it represents less than 6% of the new gTLDs that my database says have Spec 13 in their contracts.

But I reiterate that this is not a list of companies using their dot-brands but rather of those apparently putting their .com firmly in the back seat to their dot-brand.

These are the 10 most-used dot-brands

It occurred to me recently that my regular coverage of companies that choose to abandon their unused dot-brand gTLDs may have created a misleading impression that the dot-brand portion of the new gTLD program has been a big old waste of time.

I make no apologies for this. As a news guy, I look for deviations from the norm — “man bites dog” stuff — when deciding what to write about, and that quite often means reporting what could be considered Bad News.

When companies do adopt their dot-brands in a big way, they tend to do it rather quietly and almost always in a foreign language, so the news doesn’t usually cross my radar until long after it has ceased to be timely.

But it is true that the background noise of dot-brands is that quite a lot of them are being actively used to varying degrees, and I’m feeling some sense of obligation to report on that activity too, despite it being thoroughly un-newsworthy.

So here I present an unofficial list of the top 10 most-used dot-brands.

It’s based on how many active web sites I’ve found in each of the 460-odd dot-brand gTLDs I regularly spider.

I count a “dot-brand” as any gTLD that has Specification 13 in its ICANN contract, and here I’m defining an active web site to exclude redirects to sites in other, off-brand TLDs.

The numbers may not be precisely accurate today, because sites come and go, but I think they’re a decent guide.

I’m also fairly certain that “number of active web sites” is an absolutely terrible way to compare and rank dot-brands, but if nothing else I think the metric is a good indicator of enthusiasm for dot-brands (by the brand, if not necessarily its customers).

Here goes.

.seat — SEAT, S.A.

Spanish car manufacturer SEAT had 532 active .seat web sites at my last count, the vast majority of which appear to be template-driven brochureware sites named after and designated to the company’s authorized dealers across Europe.

The domain bradys.seat, for Dublin-based dealer Brady’s, is a rare example of an English-language version of the site.

I call the sites “brochureware” because, while it does appear to be possible to buy a car via these sites, you are invariably redirected to SEAT’s local ccTLD site before you get to this stage of the transaction.

SEAT itself does not appear to use .seat domains for its own web sites, preferring instead to use local ccTLDs.

SEAT is a subsidiary of Germany-based Volkswagen Group.

.lamborghini — Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

The second brand on the list is another car maker and another Volkswagen subsidiary, Italy-based Lamborghini. It had 145 active .lamborghini web sites at my last count.

Like sister-company SEAT, Lamborghini’s dot-brand is most-often used by its official dealers across the world, also using identikit, non-transactional templates.

Unlike SEAT, which grants its dealers domains matching their brands, dealer .lamborghini domains are in almost all cases geographic. For example, the German dealer MAHAG gets the domain munich.lamborghini.

Lamborghini has some domains for its own non-dealer use, such as home.lamborghini and contact.lamborghini, but these redirect to its .com site so I have not counted them here.

.bmw — Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft

BMW also makes cars, but it’s not owned by VW. Its dot-brand, .bmw, had 83 live sites at my last count.

While the ownership may differ, the strategy does not. Most .bmw sites appear to be template-driven dealer sites.

BMW also has a few branded call-to-action domains, such as missiontomars.bmw and enjoytheride.bmw, but these redirect outside of .bmw.

While researching this TLD, I also found my first-ever example of an expired dot-brand domain, at productgeniusclips.bmw. Of course, one of the benefits of a dot-brand is that nobody else will be able to register this name when it drops.

.weber — Saint-Gobain Weber SA

We seem to be looking at an example here of a company that missed out on good domains to similarly named companies in different industries and is compensating with a dot-brand.

There are several companies in the world called Weber, and I had to do a double-take when I realized that this one is the “world leader in industrial mortars”.

It’s a concrete company, owned by 354-year-old French multinational Saint-Gobain.

It appears to be the first example on this list of a company that is using its dot-brand for its primary web site.

When I search for Weber from here in the UK, the first result for this particular company is uk.weber. It’s former domain in the UK seems to have been netweber.co.uk, which now redirects to the dot-brand.

A barbecue maker also called Weber, which owns weber.com, currently has far better search engine rankings from where I’m sitting.

Mortar-making Weber’s list of .weber domains are primarily two-character country-codes, but it also has a few generic terms that point to resolving web site wecare.weber, a domain that matches one of its slogans.

.bnpparibas — BNP Paribas

BNP Paribas is the world’s eighth-largest bank and one of several companies to wholeheartedly throw its weight behind the dot-brand concept.

It ditched its .fr and .net domains in 2015, instead pointing its retail banking customers in France to mabanque.bnpparibas. It also uses group.bnpparibas as its primary corporate web site.

Both of those domains are in the top 100,000 most-visited domains worldwide, according to Alexa data.

It had 62 active .bnpparibas sites at my last count, many of which appear to be fully-developed sites dedicated to groups such as shareholders and enterprise customers. There are also country-focused sites such as usa.bnpparibas and informational sites such as history.bnpparibas.

.abbott — Abbott Laboratories, Inc.

Abbott is a $30 billion-a-year healthcare company with 57 sites in its .abbott gTLD. It’s the only US-based company on this list.

The company appears to have a hybrid strategy when it comes to its dot-brand. While it has many active sites, it also has many redirects to sites in off-brand TLDs.

The domain shop.abbott bounces visitors to abbottstore.com, for example, while fully fledged product-specific sites such as transfusion.abbott, pediasure.abbott and diabetescare.abbott all remain in .abbott.

Google searches for the term “abbott” track this hybrid approach, returning a mixture of URLs in dot-brand and off-brand TLDs.

Abbott has yet to make the leap to using .abbott for its primary web sites, which remain in ccTLDs and .com.

.leclerc — A.C.D. LEC Association des Centres Distributeurs Edouard Leclerc

This huge “hypermarket” retail chain will no doubt be a household name to my French readers, but it’s a new one to this rosbif.

Leclerc logoInterestingly, the company has been called E.Leclerc — with the dot — since it was founded by Edouard Leclerc in 1949. This is apparently the logo it was using from its foundation until 2012, when it made most of the letters lower-case. This was of course the same year it applied for the .leclerc gTLD.

As you might imagine, the domain e.leclerc was a no-brainer.

The cool thing about the domain is that if somebody “searches” for the brand in their browser’s navigation bar, the browser will actually resolve it as a domain and take them straight to the retailer’s web site, avoiding the Google SERPs advertising tax that many companies feel obliged to pay.

The uncool, maddening flipside is that e.leclerc bounces visitors to e-leclerc.com, which seems like a huge missed trick in terms of branding.

That said, Leclerc does have a number of non-redirect .leclerc web sites that focus on specific product groups, such as technology, culture and homecare.

This could turn out to be the model Amazon eventually uses, if/when it gets its .amazon gTLD.

.bradesco — Banco Bradesco S.A.

Banco Bradesco is a Brazilian bank with almost $62 billion of annual revenue.

Like BNP Paribas, it’s ditched its old TLDs in favor of its dot-brand, and now uses banco.bradesco as its primary web site. The .com and .com.br both redirect to the .bradesco.

There’s also lots of redirecting internal to the TLD, with a few dozen brand/product .bradesco domains pointing back to banco.bradesco pages.

.aquarelle — Aquarelle.com

Aquarelle.com Group is a French flower delivery company, an early mover in the e-commerce world that has been using aquarelle.com since 1997. It operates in several European countries.

It has not made the leap away from the .com domain that has been its brand for the last 22 years, but it does use .aquarelle for a variety of creative purposes.

art-floral.aquarelle, for example, offers bouquet-making video tutorials. Sites such as chocolats.aquarelle act as promo pages for specific products that can be bought at the .com site. It also appears to be running a transactional web site for a third-party retailer, Darty, at darty.aquarelle.

.fage — Fage International S.A.

Finally, yoghurt! Or, as my US English spell-checker insists, “yogurt”.

Fage is brand I’ve never heard of, of a product I despise, but I gather it’s one of Greece’s most recognizable dairy brands.

It’s another example of a company that has thrown itself fully behind its dot-brand.

Before it applied for .fage, it was using fage.gr for its primary web site. Now, that domain redirects to greece.fage. The matching .com is owned by an unrelated entity.

It’s also the only example on this top 10 list of a dot-brand using “home” at the second level as its primary domain.

Other domains include various translations of the word “recipe”, which redirect internally to other .fage sites.