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Afilias to apply for Chinese .info

Kevin Murphy, November 8, 2011, Domain Registries

Afilias has announced that it plans to apply for the traditional and simplified Chinese script equivalents of .info under ICANN’s new generic top-level domains program.

The company becomes the last of the Big Three registries to give a glimpse into its new gTLD strategy.

VeriSign has said it wants transliterations of .com in multiple scripts, while Neustar has said it plans to apply for its own dot-brand, .neustar.

Afilias did not disclose the exact strings it wants in its announcement. There was no mention of .mobi, which the company also runs.

According to the last official count, there are close to 7.9 million registered .info domains. Marketing director Roland LaPlante said in September that about 19% host unique web sites.

Some IDNs fly, while some fail

Kevin Murphy, August 14, 2011, Domain Registries

Russia may have witnessed a domain name boom this year with the launch of .РФ last November, but other internationalized domain names are proving far from popular.

Jordan’s الاردن. country-code top-level domain has taken only about 150 registrations since its launch last October, according to a report in the Jordan Times.

The poor showing has been attributed to both a lack of awareness and a lack of demand. The article quotes Mahmoud Al Kurdi, sales and marketing manager at regional presence provider Virtuport:

If a person does not even know how to type the address of a certain website in English letters, he or she can type in Arabic letters on Google and search for the website. I see no point in typing address in Arabic letters. It is not convenient.

The sentiments are echoed in the article by other local experts, while the registry, the National Information Technology Centre, said it is planning a marketing campaign to drum up interest.

There could be other reasons for slack adoption – Jordan’s IDNs costs $140 for the first two years and $35 per year thereafter. There are also strict rules governing who can register.

Meanwhile in Russia, .РФ had taken 855,751 registrations by June 30, according to the registry’s first-half 2011 report, following its scandal-tinged launch eight months earlier.

Russia is of course substantially larger than Jordan – which has a population smaller than that of London – with ten times as many internet users as Jordan has citizens.

PIR sets its sights on .ngo

Kevin Murphy, August 1, 2011, Domain Registries

The .org registry hopes to add .ngo – for Non-Governmental Organization – to its stable of top-level domains, when ICANN opens its new gTLD program next year.

It may well face competition for the domain, however.

It’s quite difficult to narrowly define what an NGO is, but the Public Internet Registry plans to adopt a fairly broad definition that will give it potentially “millions” of new registrants.

“We’re looking at global, regional, and local NGOs, we’re engaging with all of them,” said PIR chief Brian Cute. “This acronym is something that these organizations strongly identify with.”

Cute said PIR has letters of support from some NGOs already, but is not prepared to disclose the identities of its supporters just yet.

Many NGOs are based in emerging markets – according to Wikipedia, India has as many as 3.3 million of them. PIR hopes to encourage domain growth in developing nations, Cute said.

With that in mind, we’re probably not looking at super-premium pricing, though PIR is not talking specific details of its plan yet.

It will be a self-designated “community” application, meaning it will qualify for a Community Priority Evaluation in the event that ICANN receives more than one bid for .ngo.

When a CPE kicks in, applications are scored against a number of criteria and have to get 14 out 16 points in order to win a contested gTLD without going to auction.

Those 14 points are not easy to win, however. Even .ngo, with its commonly understood meaning, may be a hard call.

As it happens, there is already potentially one other .ngo bidder.

The British charity Article 25 has been pondering a .ngo application since 2008, according to its web site at dotngo.net.

That initiative seems to have roughly similar goals to PIR — global, restricted, non-profit — and VeriSign seems to have been engaged as a possible registry services provider.

PIR plans to stick to its existing back-end infrastructure provider, Afilias.

As a community application, it will be a “closed domain”, Cute said. Unlike .org, there will be eligibility criteria to pass before you’re allowed to register a domain name.

PIR also plans to apply for internationalized domain name transliterations of .org, in Chinese, Hindi, Cyrillic and Arabic, Cute said.

Here‘s the site for the application.

Could .om become the next typo TLD?

Will Oman’s .om domain follow in the footsteps of .co? Or .cm? Or neither?

The country-code top-level domain is set to be transferred to a new manager following an ICANN vote this coming Thursday.

The redelegation is one item on a unusually light agenda for the board’s July 28 telephone meeting. It’s on the consent agenda, so it will likely be rubber-stamped without discussion.

The domain is currently assigned to Oman Telecommunications Company, but the new owner is expected to be the national Telecommunications Regulatory Authority or an affiliated entity.

The Omani TRA was given authority over the nation’s domain names by Royal Decree in 2002.

It has already successfully had the Arabic-script ccTLD .عمان approved by ICANN for use as an internationalized domain name, but the IDN has not yet been delegated.

AusRegistry International this March won a $1.3 million contract with the TRA to provide software and services for the .om and .عمان registries.

At the time, the TRA said it planned to market both Latin and Arabic extensions to increase the number of domain registrations.

The .om ccTLD is of course a .com typo, like .co and .cm, but squatting is not currently possible due to its strict registration policies.

Only Omani entities may register .om domains today, and only third-level domains (such as example.com.om and example.net.om) may be registered. Domains may not be resold.

I have no particular reason to believe this situation will change under new stewardship, but it will certainly be worth keeping an eye on the TLD for possible policy changes.

When Cameroon’s .cm opened up, it implemented a widely vilified blanket wildcard in an attempt to profit from .com typos.

Colombia’s .co of course took the responsible route, disowning wildcards and embracing strong anti-squatting measures, even if its mere existence was still a headache for some trademark owners.

Russian firm fined millions over domain land-grab

RU-Center, Russia’s largest domain name registrar, will have to repay 240 million rubles ($8.6 million) for grabbing thousands of domain names and auctioning them during the .РФ landrush.

The company could also be fined up to 75% of its 2009 revenues for breaking competition law, according to a statement from the country’s Federal Antimonopoly Service.

When .РФ was launched by the .ru registry launched last November, it offered domain names on a first-come first-served basis, without the premium landrush period offered by other TLDs.

RU-Center took this opportunity to register 60,000 domains in its own name and sell them off to the highest bidder, essentially bringing the landrush to the registrar level.

Some ccTLD Coordination Center council members, responsible for setting the launch policies, had ownership interests in RU-Center either directly or through family members, according to FAS.

The registrar is currently being acquired by a company called RBC.

Three more countries get IDNs

Kevin Murphy, April 24, 2011, Domain Registries

Citizens of Algeria, Morocco and Serbia will soon be able to use domain names in their local Arabic and Cyrillic-based languages, after ICANN approved internationalized domain names for the three nations.

The three new ccTLDs are الجزائر (meaning “Al Jazair” for Algeria), المغرب (“al-Maghrib”, for Morocco) and .срб (“srb” for Serbia).

ICANN’s board approved the requests at a meeting on Thursday. They could enter the domain name system’s root in as little as 10 days, though delegations usually take longer.

There are now 37 IDN ccTLDs in IANA’s database of top-level domains, covering 27 countries.

On Thursday, ICANN also approved the redelegation of North Korea’s ASCII ccTLD, .kp, to an entity called Star Joint Venture Company.

North Korean domain to change hands

Kevin Murphy, April 15, 2011, Domain Registries

ICANN is set to redelegate .kp, the country-code top-level domain for North Korea, when its board of directors meets next week.

It’s less than four years since .kp was first created. In September 2007, IANA delegated the ccTLD for the first time to the Korea Computer Center, a Pyongyang-backed governmental organization.

The technical side of the registry is currently handled by KCC Europe, a German company, but while some .kp domains still resolve, the official registry web site has been offline for months.

The redelegation is part of the ICANN board’s consent agenda. This means that, barring surprises, it will simply be rubber-stamped with no substantive discussion.

Because ccTLD redelegations are handled in private, we won’t know who the new registry manager is until after the handover happens and the IANA report is published.

In other ccTLD news, ICANN may also create three new internationalized domain name ccTLDs, for Serbia (.срб ), Algeria (الجزائر) and Morroco (المغرب).

Those delegations are part of the board’s regular agenda for its April 21 meeting, and will be discussed.

New Russian TLD hits 800,000 domains mark

Russia’s Cyrillic internationalized domain name, .РФ, received its 800,000th registration last night, according to the registry.

Coordination Center for TLD RU said this puts it 15th place in terms of European ccTLDs, pushing past the Czech Republic’s .cz in the rankings.

That’s pretty good going for an IDN TLD of interest primarily only to citizens of one country, a ccTLD which didn’t exist until early November 2010, less than five months ago.

It’s probably even larger than .co, which I believe has yet to reach the 700,000 domains mark.

The Russian Federation has almost 60 million internet users, 43% penetration, according to InternetWorldStats. That’s about 10 times more than the Czechs.

Greek IDN blocked due to non-existent domain

Greece’s request for .ελ, a version of .gr in its local script, was rejected by ICANN because it looked too much like .EA, a non-existent top-level domain, it has emerged.

Regular readers will be familiar with the story of how Bulgaria’s request for .бг was rejected due to its similar to Brazil’s .br, but to my knowledge the Greeks had not revealed their story until this week.

In a letter to the US government, George Papapavlou, a member of ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee, called the process of applying for an IDN ccTLD “long and traumatic”.

He said that Greece had to jump through “completely unnecessary” hoops to prove its chosen string was representative of the nation and supported by its internet community, before its application was finally rejected because it was “confusingly similar” to a Latin string.

“IANA has no right to question languages or local Internet community support. Governments are in the position of expressing their national Internet communities,” Papapavlou wrote.

The capital letters version of .ελ (ΕΛ) was considered to be confusingly similar to the Latin alphabet letters EA. The possibility of such confusion for a Greek language speaker, who uses exclusively Greek alphabet to type the whole domain name or address, to then switch into capital letters and type EA in Latin alphabet is close to zero. After all, there is currently no .ea or .EA ccTLD.

That’s true. There is no .ea. But that’s not to say one will not be created in future and, due to the way ccTLD strings are assigned, ICANN would not be able to prevent it on stability grounds.

Papapavlou called for “common sense” to be the guiding principle when deciding whether to approve an IDN ccTLD or not.

That is of course only one side of the story. Currently, ICANN/IANA does not comment on the details of ccTLD delegations, so it’s the only side we’re likely to see in the near future.

AusRegistry chalks up third Arabic domain win

AusRegistry International has announced it has been picked to provide the back-end registry for عمان., the Arabic-script internationalized domain name for Oman.

It’s the company’s third IDN ccTLD contract in the region, following on from Qatar’s forthcoming قطر. and the United Arab Emirates’ already-live امارات.

The company’s press release suggests to me that it’s a software/support deal, rather than a full-blown hosted back-end registry solution.

AusRegistry said it will “provide Domain Name Registry Software and supporting services for the establishment of a new Domain Name Registry System”.

It has previously announced back-end deals for ASCII ccTLDs including .qa and .ae, and manages Australia’s .au, which recently passed the two million domains milestone.

The deal with Oman, which AusRegistry said was competitively bid, also encompasses .om, the nation’s regular ccTLD.

While ICANN approved Oman’s chosen string under its IDN ccTLD Fast Track program back in October, it has not yet been delegated to the DNS root zone.

With the approval of Ukraine’s Cyrillic ccTLD last week, 25 territories have had their choice of local-script ccTLD given the nod under the program.