Donuts, an ARI Registry Services subsdiary and CORE this morning became the first new gTLD applicants to sign registry contracts with ICANN.
The ceremonial signing took place live on stage at the opening ceremony of ICANN 47, the week-long public meeting in Durban, South Africa.
ARI CEO Adrian Kinderis signed on behalf of شبكة. applicant International Domain Registry. The string is Arabic for “.web” and transliterates as “.shabaka”. It is 3 in the program’s evaluation queue.
In an ARI press release, Go Daddy CEO Blake Irving confirmed that Go Daddy will carry .shabaka.
Donuts CEO Paul Stahura signed for .游戏, the Chinese-language “.games”, which had prioritization number 40.
It was not immediately clear which contracts Iliya Bazlyankov, chair of CORE’s executive committee, signed. CORE has applied for three internationalized domain name gTLDs with high priority numbers.
(UPDATE: Bazlyankov has been in touch to say: “We signed the .сайт (site) and .онлайн (online) contracts which had numbers 6 and 9 in the priority”.)
Representatives of Go Daddy, MarkMonitor, Momentous, Mailclub and African registrar Kheweul.com also joined ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade on stage to sign the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement.
The event marks the beginning of the contract signing phase of the new gTLD program, an important milestone.
For applicants without outstanding objections, contention or Governmental Advisory Committee advice, signing a contract means only pre-delegation testing and the final transition to delegation remains.
ICANN is looking for new homes for approximately 67,000 domain names, after a decision by Momentous to dump 85 of its domain name registrar accreditations.
The accreditations were used primarily for drop-catching, according to an email sent to registrars last Friday, and each has between 200 and 3,000 gTLD domains under management.
While most affected domains are recently caught drops, there may be some regular registrants scattered throughout the customer base, according to ICANN.
Momentous, owner of Pool.com, announced that it was getting rid of its drop-catching registrars in an email to customers late last year, as several domainer blogs reported at the time.
Pool plans to “refocus its business away from an emphasis on the secondary market”, the email said.
The company wanted to consolidate all of the domains in its NameScout registrar with the transfer fees waived, but ICANN declined its request, according to the email.
Some customers are not happy with how Pool has handled the situation.
The domainer “Acro” is currently pursuing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau in Momentous’ native Canada, according to a recent blog post.
The 85 accreditations are due to expire January 10. Registrars wishing to take over the portfolios had a deadline of this afternoon to express an interest with ICANN.
The CEO of Momentous’ .sucks new gTLD applicant reckons smart brands will embrace the cheeky concept.
I chatted to John Berard, CEO of Momentous subsidiary Vox Populi Registry, this afternoon for a piece in The Register, and he reckons .sucks isn’t the money-grubbing scam many people will say it is.
“If some people think this is just a way to get registration money out of corporations, then those people are either unaware or are being short-sighted about their marketing effectiveness,” he said.
Berard believes smart companies nowadays are embracing social media interactions as a way to improve their marketing, and that .sucks will be a way to facilitate that.
That said, the policies governing .sucks are still not clear.
Momentous is also applying for .design, .rip and .style.
Companies applying to ICANN for “dot-brand” top-level domains are among those signing up for Pool.com’s new digital archery service, according to Rob Hall, CEO of parent Momentous.
The company launched its Digital Archery Engine last month, not too long after ICANN confirmed its controversial method of batching new gTLD applications for processing.
Now, Pool is receiving interest from not only mass-market generic string applicants, but also dot-brands.
“It’s a wider swath of TLDs that I thought originally,” said Hall. “At first I thought for sure the generics and the domains that might be in competition.”
“It’s amazing to me that a lot of people out there are saying the brands don’t care, the brands are doing this just defensively, the brands couldn’t care less about going first… but a lot of them do,” he said.
“A lot of them are saying ‘I want to be in that first batch’, which I wouldn’t have necessarily expected,” he added.
He said he had no idea what the motivations are for these brands.
“Our job is to get them in the first batch, not to ask them why they want to be there,” he said.
Hall said it wasn’t clear how many clients Pool would eventually sign up to the service, but said he expects it to be definitely much more than 50.
ICANN’s digital archery system – which will batch applicants according to which can most accurately send a message over the internet to a target time – was poorly received by most people.
Unsurprisingly, Hall is not one of those people.
Pool is one of several companies that have been competing to register expiring domain names for the better part of a decade, so its systems have been fine-tuned for sending messages over the internet quickly.
While the big registries such as .com use the EPP protocol, some of the registries Pool interacts with use HTTP, which seems to be ICANN’s preferred option for digital archery.
Hall said Pool aims for latency of less than 6 milliseconds. Its servers are positioned topologically close to registries – typically one or two hops – and the software measures monitors network conditions.
“The key is being able to detect what is the latency and to predict it, then factor that into the engine to say ‘When do I fire?’,” he said.
He does not anticipate the CAPTCHAs or other Turing tests presenting a problem – Pool would simply bring a human into the equation.
The Digital Archery Engine is not cheap. If Pool gets you into the first batch, you’re $25,000 out of pocket. If you’re in the top half of batches (batch three of five counts as top half) it’s $10,000.
The company was singled out recently by ICANN’s Intellectual Property Constituency as an “insider” exploiting the digital archery system as a “revenue extraction opportunity”.
A letter highly critical of the system from IPC chair Steve Metallitz said:
This arcane and seemingly arbitrary batching method will also reinforce the widespread impression that all ICANN procedures are dominated by “insiders” with contractual relationships to ICANN, who will surely know best how to manipulate this initiative to their own benefit, or that of their paying customers. It is difficult to reconcile such an outcome with ICANN’s obligation to act in the public interest.
Hall said was happy for the free advertising. “I’d like to thank them,” he said.
But he said Pool isn’t “manipulating” anything.
“They’ve called this ‘digital archery’,” he said. “It’s a game to see who’s best at it. That’s what they’ve designed. We’re not gaming anything. And we’re not offering this to insiders, we’re offering this to everyone.”