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ICANN Compliance probing Hunger Games domain

ICANN’s Compliance department is looking into whether Donuts broke the rules by activating a domain name for the forthcoming The Hunger Games movie.

Following up from the story we posted earlier today, ICANN sent DI the following statement:

We are well aware of this issue and are addressing it through our normal compliance resolution process. We attempt to resolve compliance matters through a collaborative informal resolution process, and we do not comment on what happens during the informal resolution phase.

At issue is whether Donuts allowed the movie’s marketers to launch thehungergames.movie before the new gTLD’s mandatory 90-day “controlled interruption” phase was over.

Under a strict reading of the CI rules, there’s something like 10 to 12 days left before Donuts is supposed to be allowed to activate any .movie domain except nic.movie.

Donuts provided the following statement:

This is a significant step forward in the mainstream usage of new domains. One of the core values of the new gTLD program is the promotion of consumer choice and competition, and Donuts welcomes this contribution to the program’s success, and to the promotion of the film. We don’t publicly discuss specific matters related to ICANN compliance.

I imagine what happened here is that Donuts got an opportunity to score an anchor tenant with huge visibility and decided to grasp it with both hands, even though distributor Lion’s Gate Entertainment’s (likely immovable) launch campaign schedule did not exactly chime with its own.

It may be a technical breach of the ICANN rules on name collisions — which many regard as over-cautious and largely unnecessary — but it’s not a security or stability risk.

Of course, some would say it also sets a precedent for other registries to bend the rules if they score big-brand backing in future.

Is The Hunger Games’ new .movie domain illegal?

Donuts may have launched its best new gTLD anchor tenant in violation of ICANN rules.

The company revealed earlier this week that The Hunger Games movies are using thehungergames.movie to promote the fourth and final installment of the wildly successful “trilogy”.

The domain name even features in the trailer for the film, which currently has over 1.7 million YouTube views.

But it has been claimed that Donuts activated the domain in the DNS two weeks before it was allowed to under its ICANN registry contract.

It boils down to “controlled interruption”, the controversial mechanism by which registries mitigate the risk of potentially harmful name collisions in the DNS.

Under ICANN’s rules for CI, for 90 days registries have to implement a wildcard in their zone file that redirects all domains other than nic.[tld] to 127.0.53.53 and your-dns-needs-immediate-attention.[tld].

“The Registry Operator must not activate any other names under the TLD until after the 90-day controlled interruption period has been completed,” the rules say, in bold text.

Donuts’ .movie was delegated on or around March 26, which means when thehungergames.movie was activated there were still about two weeks left on the .movie CI clock.

As far as I can tell from reading ICANN documentation on CI, there are no carve-outs for anchor tenants.

The .movie zone file has five other domains related to The Hunger Games in it — the only names other than nic.movie — but they don’t seem to resolve.

There’s no actual security or stability risk here, of course.

If .movie had used the old method of blocking a predefined list of identified name collisions, thehungergames.movie would not have even been affected — it’s not on .movie’s list of collisions.

However, if ICANN decides rules have been broken and Donuts is forced to deactivate the domain, it would be a painfully embarrassing moment for the new gTLD industry.

It can perhaps be hoped that ICANN’s process of investigating such things takes about two weeks to carry out.

I’ve contacted Donuts for comment and will provide an update if and when I receive any additional information.

The Hunger Games is first to use a .movie domain

Donuts has signed up an impressive anchor tenant for its upcoming .movie gTLD in the form of The Hunger Games series of movies.

thehungergames.movie is one of just a handful of domains in .movie, which is currently pre-sunrise, indicating that it’s a deal Donuts has negotiated directly with the film distributors.

The Hunger Games is a series of inexplicably successful science fiction adventure films, starring Jennifer Lawrence, popular with teenagers.

The first movie in the series fetched a whopping $691 million in box office receipts.

A trailer for the fourth and final movie in the series was released today, and it’s the first to carry a .movie domain.

Hunger Games

You’ll notice that the Facebook and Twitter addresses and suggested hashtags take precedence over the domain, but that’s understandable given the target demographic.

For Donuts, it’s just about the best anchor tenant it could have hoped for — a mass-market popcorn movie aimed directly at the people who will be buying their own domains in a few years.

People in the movie business will no doubt notice also, which in the short term could be more important. Sunrise starts next week.

Here’s the trailer.

Four new gTLD applications withdrawn, including one closed generic

Four new gTLD application were withdrawn overnight, including the first “closed generic” bid to be dropped since ICANN implemented a freeze on such applications.

Today’s withdrawals are:

  • .movie — Of the eight applications for this string, this Dish DBS bid was one of only two proposed with single-registrant business models. It would have undoubtedly have been captured by the current ICANN hold on closed generics.
  • .chesapeake — A dot-brand filed by Chesapeake Energy. It had already passed Initial Evaluation. While arguably a geographic string, it had not been classified as such by ICANN and had no objections or GAC advice.
  • .chk — An abbreviation of the above, matching Chesapeake’s stock market ticker symbol. It had also already passed IE and had a clear run at delegation.
  • .kerastase Yet another L’Oreal dot-brand application, the sixth of its original 14 bids to be withdrawn.

The total withdrawals to date now stands at 94, 49 of which were uncontested.

Afilias dumps .mail bid, and three other new gTLD withdrawals

Four new gTLD applications have been withdrawn so far this week, including the first to come from .info operator Afilias.

Afilias has pulled its bid for .mail — the second applicant to do so — due to the number of competitors for the string.

A spokesperson said in an email:

The company felt there were simply too many groups in contention for this domain and we’d rather focus our energy supporting and helping to grow the .POST domain, for which we are the [technical services provider].

There are now five applicants competing for the string, including Google, Amazon and Donuts, but they’re all facing objections from the United States Postal Service and the Universal Postal Union, which runs .post.

Elsewhere this week, Directi has ended its bid for .movie, a contention set with seven other bidders.

The company declined to comment on the reasons for the withdrawal, so we probably can’t entirely rule out some kind of partnership with one or more other applicants.

Today we’ve also seen the withdrawal of applications for .ltd and .inc, both belonging to a Dutch company called C.V. TLDcare. I don’t know much about these guys, other than it used OpenRegistry as its technical partner and that .inc and .ltd were its only two applications.

Interesting fact: not a single “corporate identifier” application (.llp, .corp, .ltd, .inc, .llc) has passed Initial Evaluation yet, but seven applications have been withdrawn.

It’s a controversial category, with many US state attorneys general very unhappy about any of these strings being delegated without safeguards.

The latest four withdrawals bring the total to 63.

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