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Did GMO flunk evaluation on 27 gTLDs? CentralNic takes over the whole lot

Did would-be new gTLD registry services provider GMO Registry fail its ICANN technical evaluations?

The Japanese company has made a deal that will see CentralNic take over the back-end operations for all 27 of the applications it was signed up to service, it has emerged.

In a letter, provided by GMO to ICANN last week as part of its sweeping application change requests, CentralNic says:

CentralNic Ltd has entered into a contract with GMO Registry, Inc. (GMO) to provide backend gTLD registry services for their generic top-level domains.

The letter (pdf) goes on to enumerate the 10 critical technical functions — basically everything from EPP to DNSSEC to registrar management — that CentralNic will be taking over.

The letter seems to have been attached last week to change requests for each of the 27 applications for which the DI PRO database lists GMO as the back-end registry provider.

That list includes big dot-brands such as .toshiba, .sharp and .nissan, generics such as .shop and .mail, and city TLDs including .tokyo and .osaka. Even the original dot-brand, .canon, and GMO’s own .gmo are switching back-ends.

The requested changes certainly seem to explain why GMO has yet to pass any of its Initial Evaluations (as we noted on Twitter a couple weeks back) despite having prioritization numbers as low as 111.

GMO parent GMO Internet may not be widely known outside of Japan, but it’s a pretty big deal. The company had 2012 revenue of about JPY 75 billion ($730 million) and it owns a top-ten registrar, Onamae.

Per ICANN rules, the change request switching the applications to CentralNic back-ends are open for public comment for 30 days.

ICANN to water down contract powers with “Public Interest Amendments”

Kevin Murphy, March 27, 2013, Domain Registries

ICANN has made a few tweaks to its proposed unilateral-right-to-amend powers in order to fend off open hostility from registries, registrars and new gTLD applicants.

The organization is set to announce “Public Interest Amendments”, a rebadged version of its hugely unpopular proposals for the Registry Agreement and Registrar Accreditation Agreement.

As previously reported, ICANN wants to be able to change both contracts in future, if there’s a “substantial and compelling need”, even if it does not have the majority support of the affected companies.

CEO Fadi Chehade has reportedly indicated that he won’t be budged on the need for some method for ICANN to make emergency changes to the contracts.

And during last night’s new gTLD applicants webinar, he made it clear that the RA and RAA will delay the launch of new gTLDs if registries and registrars cannot agree to ICANN’s terms.

But according to documentation seen by DI today — actually a flowchart of how the amendment process would work — these terms are going to be watered down, giving more power to commercial stakeholders.

Apart from the new Pubic Interest Amendment name, there appear to be three big changes.

First, there would be a way for registrars and/or registries to make a late-stage counter-proposal to the ICANN board if they didn’t like the look of a proposed amendment.

Second, any issues that fell within the so-called “picket fence” — the list of pre-agreed topics for which ICANN is allowed to make binding policy — would have to go into a formal GNSO Policy Development Process first.

Only if the PDP failed to reach consensus would the ICANN board of directors be able to step in and attempt to legislate unilaterally.

A practical effect of that would be to give contracted parties ample opportunity to delay amendments — possibly by years — that they weren’t happy with.

Third, PIAs would only cover changes designed to “ensure competition & consumer choice and promote consumer access to fair business practices” and explicitly “not to change ICANN fees, Consensus Policy Spec., or mechanism to change PIA process”.

This would prevent ICANN unilaterally amending the contract to make its amendment powers even stronger in future, which had been one criticism of the proposed process.

“The board’s ability to introduce an amendment is very tightly defined and limited in scope, so it’s only used in extreme cases and under very strict conditions,” Chehade said last night.

It appears — though I can’t be certain — that ICANN has also decided that the full board of directors, including those with identified conflicts of interest, would be able to participate in votes on PIAs.

That would mean registry and registrar representatives to the board would get to vote on amendments affecting their stakeholder groups.

Chehade is currently explaining all of this to a cautiously optimistic Registry Stakeholder Group on a conference call, and I believe more information is due to be published later this week.