Google and Microsoft seem to have settled their contention set for the .docs new gTLD, with Google emerging the victor.
Microsoft withdrew its application for .docs this week.
It’s not clear how the deal was made, but Google is known to have participated in private auctions for other strings.
Google Docs is of course Google’s office document service.
Microsoft also has a Docs service, a collaboration with Facebook at Docs.com, but it seems to have been in beta since April 2010 and, by the looks of the site, isn’t what you’d call a success.
Microsoft has abandoned its application for the .live new gTLD, leaving the erstwhile dot-brand in the hands of either Donuts or Google.
I found this quite surprising initially, as “Live” has been a core, cross-platform brand for the company, covering services such as Windows Live, Xbox Live and Office Live. The company also owns live.com.
But it recent years the brand has started to be phased out.
While Xbox Live is still a thing, Windows Live was closed down in April 2013 and Office Live seems to have suffered a similar fate in 2012, after the new gTLD application phase ended.
The withdrawal means that the .live contention set now only comprises Google’s Charleston Road Registry and a Donuts subsidiary. It’s likely headed to ICANN auction.
Unlike Microsoft, both remaining applicants propose open-registration spaces.
Will .nokia be the next withdrawal from the new gTLD program?
It seems possible, if reports about the death of the Nokia brand are to be believed.
The news blog Nokia Power User reported yesterday that Nokia the company will be renamed Microsoft Mobile following the close of the $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia by Microsoft this Friday.
The blog, which may live to regret its own choice of brand, quoted from a memo from the company to business partners, reading:
Please note that upon the close of the transaction between Microsoft and Nokia, the name of Nokia Corporation/Nokia Oyj will change to Microsoft Mobile Oy. Microsoft Mobile Oy is the legal entity name that should be used for VAT IDs and for the issuance of invoices.
However, in a blog post confirming the April 25 close date, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith did not mention a rebranding.
The domain name nokia.com will live for up to a year, he said:
While the original deal did not address the management of online assets, our two companies have agreed that Microsoft will manage the nokia.com domain and social media sites for the benefit of both companies and our customers for up to a year.
What does that mean for the .nokia gTLD application?
According to the ICANN web site, Nokia is currently “in contracting” for the dot-brand.
It would not be unprecedented if it were to withdraw its application, however. Back in February 2013, the American insurance company AIG withdrew its bid for .chartis after a rebranding.
ICANN has banned dotless gTLDs, putting a halt to Google’s plans to run .search as a dotless search service and confounding the hopes of some portfolio applicants.
ICANN’s New gTLD Program Committee, acting with the powers of its board of directors passed the resolution on Tuesday. It was published this morning. Here’s the important bit (links added):
Resolved (2013.08.13.NG02), in light of the current security and stability risks identified in SAC053, the IAB statement and the Carve Report, and the impracticality of mitigating these risks, the NGPC affirms that the use of dotless domains is prohibited.
The current version of the Applicant Guidebook bans dotless domains (technically, it bans apex A, AAAA and MX records) but leaves the door open for registries to request an exception via Extended Evaluation.
This new decision closes that door.
The decision comes a week after the publication of Carve Systems’ study of the dotless domain issue, which concluded that the idea was potentially “dangerous” and that if ICANN intended to allow them it should do substantial outreach to hardware and software makers, essentially asking them to change their products.
The Internet Architecture Board said earlier that “dotless domains are inherently harmful to Internet security.”
Microsoft, no doubt motivated in part at least by competitive concerns in the search market, had repeatedly implored ICANN to implement a ban on security grounds.
Google had planned to run .search as a browser service that would allow users to specify preferred search engines. I doubt the dotless ban will impact its application’s chances of approval.
Donuts and Uniregistry, which together have applied for almost 400 gTLDs, had also pushed for ICANN to allow dotless domains, although I do not believe their applications explicitly mentioned such services.
The Internet Architecture Board believes dotless domain names would be “inherently harmful to Internet security.”
The IAB, the oversight committee which is to internet technical standards what ICANN is to domain names, weighed into the debate with an article apparently published yesterday.
In it, the committee states that over time dotless domains have evolved to be used only on local networks, rather than the internet, and that to start delegating them at the top level of the DNS would be dangerous:
most users entering single-label names want them to be resolved in a local context, and they do not expect a single name to refer to a TLD. The behavior is specified within a succession of standards track documents developed over several decades, and is now implemented by hundreds of millions of Internet hosts.
By attempting to change expected behavior, dotless domains introduce potential security vulnerabilities. These include causing traffic intended for local services to be directed onto the global Internet (and vice-versa), which can enable a number of attacks, including theft of credentials and cookies, cross-site scripting attacks, etc. As a result, the deployment of dotless domains has the potential to cause significant harm to the security of the Internet
The article also says (if I understand correctly) that it’s okay for browsers to interpret words entered into address bars without dots as local resources and/or search terms rather than domain names.
It’s pretty unequivocal that dotless domains would be Bad.
The article was written because there’s currently a lot of talk about new gTLD applicants — such as Google, Donuts and Uniregistry — asking ICANN to allow them to run their TLDs without dots.
There’s a ban in the Applicant Guidebook on the “apex A records” that would be required to make dotless TLDs work, but it’s been suggested that applicants could apply to have the ban lifted on a case by case basis.
More recently, ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee has stated almost as unequivocally as the IAB that dotless domains should not be allowed.
But for some reason ICANN recently commissioned a security company to look into the issue.
This seems to have made some people, such as the At Large Advisory Committee, worried that ICANN is looking for some wiggle room to give its new gTLD paymasters what they want.
Alternatively, ICANN may just be looking for a second opinion to wave in the faces of new gTLD registries when it tells them to take a hike. It was quite vague about its motives.
It’s not just a technical issue, of course. Dotless TLDs would shake up the web search market in a big way, and not necessarily for the better.
Donuts CEO Paul Stahura today published an article on CircleID that makes the case that it is the browser makers, specifically Microsoft, that are implementing DNS all wrong, and that they’re objecting to dotless domains for competitive reasons. The IAB apparently disagrees, but it’s an interesting counterpoint nevertheless.