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Malaysia to get new Arabic ccTLD

Kevin Murphy, August 23, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s board of directors is set to approve مليسيا., the Arabic name for Malaysia, at a meeting next week.

Delegation of the internationalized country-code top-level domain is listed on the board’s consent agenda for next week’s meeting, meaning it’s likely to be a case of simply rubber-stamping the decision.

It will be the 40th IDN ccTLD to enter the root, not including test zones, under ICANN’s Fast Track program.

With the notable exception of Russia’s .РФ, IDN ccTLDs have been commercially underwhelming.

The redelegation of Rwanda’s .rw, currently delegated to NIC Congo/Interpoint SARL, is also on ICANN’s board consent agenda for the August 28 meeting.

There are no issues related to the new gTLD program on the agenda.

GAC demands appeal of IDN ccTLD bans

Kevin Murphy, July 2, 2012, Domain Policy

The Governmental Advisory Committee has slammed ICANN’s decisions to reject at least three non-Latin ccTLDs because they might pose security risks.

Remarkably, the GAC has also asked ICANN to “urgently reconsider” the rulings, which were made to mitigate the risk of phishing attacks and other types of domain name abuse.

In its official post-Prague communique, published over the weekend, the GAC tells ICANN that the way it decides whether to approve IDN ccTLDs has been “too conservative”.

While the letter does not single out any specific ccTLDs, I understand that the advice was formulated primarily at the behest of the European Union and Greece, which have both had IDN ccTLD applications rejected on the grounds of confusing similarity.

The Prague communique (pdf) states:

The GAC is of the view that decisions may have erred on the too-conservative side, in effect applying a more stringent test of confusability between Latin and non-Latin scripts than when undertaking a side by side comparison of Latin strings.

It goes on to ask ICANN to publish its criteria for evaluating the similarity of IDN ccTLDs, to create an appeals process, to publish its rationales for rejecting bids, and to revisit old decisions.

The communique states, as formal GAC Advice:

Recently refused IDNs, particularly those nominated by public or national authorities should be urgently re-considered in light of the above considerations.

This request instantly loses the GAC credibility points, in my view, casting it as little more than another special interest group focused on the goals of its members first and internet security second.

To be clear, the GAC is appealing ICANN decisions that were designed to prevent phishing.

Greece’s application for .ελ,was rejected by ICANN last year due to its visual similarity with .EA, a non-existent – but potential future – ccTLD.

While there’s not much on the public record about the European case, I understand Eurid’s bid for a Greek version of .eu was blocked because it looks too much like Estonia’s EE.

Bulgarian IDN supporters have also been very vocal the last couple of years in opposition to ICANN’s decision to forbid .бг due to its alleged resemblance to Brazil’s .br.

While decent arguments can and have been made that some of these rulings were a little on the silly side, it’s hard to argue that they were made without the best of intentions.

The GAC has promised to write to ICANN with “further reflections on the methodology that should be followed when evaluating two character IDNs”.

The GAC as a technical regulator? That letter should make for some interesting reading.

ICANN won’t say who rejected Bulgarian IDN

Kevin Murphy, February 17, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has declined to name the people responsible for rejecting .бг, the proposed Cyrllic country-code domain for Bulgaria.

Security consultant George Todoroff filed a Documentary Information Disclosure Policy request with ICANN a month ago, asking for the names of the six people on the DNS Stability Panel.

That’s the panel, managed by Interisle Consulting Group, that decided .бг looks too much like Brazil’s .br to be safely introduced to the internet.

But Todoroff found out today that his DIDP request was declined. ICANN said that it does not have records of the panelists’ names and that even if it did, it would not release them.

The information could contain trade secrets or commercially sensitive information and could compromise decision-making, ICANN said. These are all reasons to reject DIDP requests.

It’s pretty clear the Bulgarians are not going to quit pressing for .бг any time soon, despite being advised to give up by ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom recently.

The application for .бг was made under ICANN’s IDN ccTLD Fast Track program, which has approved a couple dozen non-Latin ccTLDs, and rejected one other.

Todoroff wrote an article for CircleID in November 2010 explaining why he thinks .бг is not dangerous.

Did Kazakhstan just screw up somebody’s new gTLD plans?

Kevin Murphy, February 10, 2012, Domain Registries

ICANN has approved a new country-code top-level domain for the nation of Kazakhstan.

The new .қаз, which is “kaz” is Cyrillic, will be delegated to the “Association of IT companies of Kazakhstan”, according to a resolution passed by ICANN’s board of directors this week.

But did this move just cause problems for a new gTLD applicant?

One cultural/geographic gTLD that was proposed back in 2009 is .kab, for the Kabylia region of Algeria and the Kabyle language and people.

It’s easy to see how kab/KAB and .қаз could be considered confusing during a string similarity review, though ICANN’s laughable Sword tool only gives them a visual similarity score of 49%.

The .kab application currently has a dead web site, so it’s quite possibly one of the many new gTLD projects that fizzled out during ICANN’s repeated delays launching the program.

Verisign to apply for a dozen new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, January 27, 2012, Domain Registries

Verisign plans to apply to ICANN for about 12 new generic top-level domains, according to the executive in charge of registry services.

“We intend to do about 12. Most of those will be transliterations of .com,” senior vice president Pat Kane said on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call yesterday.

This does not mark a significant change of strategy – the company has been open about its intention to apply for internationalized domain name variants of .com for over a year – but I believe it’s the first time it’s put a number on it.

It will be interesting to see which gTLDs – if any – Verisign will go for which are not .com IDNs.

My view is that it would make more sense for the company to apply for potentially high-volume .com competitors, such as .web or .blog. It has the capacity, the channel and the cash.

Smaller niche gTLDs may not be worth the distraction and risk, and would be better suited to dedicated registries that can concentrate on more focused marketing.

In any event, we’re going to see some major consolidation in the new gTLD space four or five years from now, and Verisign could well vacuum up cash-making registries at that time.

CEO Jim Bidzos also said on the call that Verisign has been retained to provide the registry for “several” dot-brand applications, but that it will not see any material revenue until 2013.

The major event for 2012, he noted, is the renewal of the .com Registry Agreement with ICANN, which expires at the end of November.

Verisign is already “engaging” with ICANN on this, Bidzos said.

This contract will be posted for public comment and sent to the US Department of Commerce for approval.

I’m expecting controversy, particularly if the contract continues to allow Verisign to increase prices.

It’s going to be harder for Verisign to argue that it needs the extra cash to invest in its infrastructure if it’s also leveraging that infrastructure to win lucrative dot-brand contracts.