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Donuts makes weird investment in startup

Donuts has made a surprising investment in a company that makes geolocation technologies.

The new gTLD registry operator announced yesterday that it has something called Donuts Labs, through which it will make “strategic investments” in “similar” companies.

Its first investment is in California tech startup GeoFrenzy, which operates in the emerging “geofences” space.

A geofence is a virtual perimeter around a defined geographic location.

Basically, GeoFrenzy has divided the world up into square-centimeter chunks and stores data about who owns these chunks in a registry database.

Using the GPS service you’ll find in all modern mobile devices, apps using the technology can figure out when you walk into or out of a registered, fenced-off area, triggering some behavior.

Such services are believed to have applications ranging from logistics to advertising. One example on the GeoFrenzy web site says that its database and software could be used to keep drones out of restricted airspace.

The terms of the deal with were not disclosed, but it’s surprising news for a couple of reasons.

First, Donuts appears to have cash to throw around on pet side-projects at a time when one would assume, as an early-stage company itself, it would be more focused on growing its fledgling new gTLD business.

Second, the press release makes out that there are technology synergies between the companies.

GeoFrenzy CEO Sean Eilers is quoted as saying: “Their expertise in managing a highly scalable registry and their experience with innovative DNS technologies makes Donuts an ideal fit as an investor and strategic partner.”

But to the best of my knowledge Donuts doesn’t have any experience managing a highly scalable registry. It outsources all of that kind of thing to Rightside, doesn’t it?

Donuts says it will be making more, similar investments in future.

.shop lawsuit falling to pieces

Kevin Murphy, April 29, 2016, Domain Policy

Commercial Connect’s lawsuit against ICANN appears to be on its way out, as ICANN claims the .shop applicant has “abandoned” the case.

The company sued ICANN in January in an attempt to prevent .shop gTLD being sold off via an ICANN last-resort auction.

It failed, and the auction raised a $41 million winning bid from GMO Registry.

It transpired that the company didn’t bother telling its lawyer that it had signed an agreement not to sue when it applied for .shop, and the lawyer jumped ship less than two weeks after the complaint was filed.

The lawyer told the court the waiver had been “buried among thousands and thousands of documents on a USB drive” and that he hadn’t noticed it before filing the suit.

In a court filing (pdf) yesterday, ICANN said that Commercial Connect had failed to secure a new lawyer, had failed to formally serve ICANN with the complaint, and had missed its April 25 deadline to argue against ICANN’s motion to dismiss the case.

For these reasons, it said, the case should be chucked.

Commercial Connect applied for .shop in 2000 and again in 2012 and has used every appeals mechanism and legal tool at its disposal in order to disrupt competing bids.

GMO’s .shop is currently in pre-delegation testing.

Two more dot-brands self-terminate

Kevin Murphy, April 29, 2016, Domain Registries

The dot-brand dead-pool is now up to three gTLDs.

FLSmidth, which supplies machinery to the cement industry, and Emerson Electric, which also makes industrial machinery, have both decided that they don’t need their new gTLDs.

The affected gTLDs are .flsmidth and .emerson.

Both companies have filed cursory notices of termination with ICANN, indicating that they no longer wish to have a new gTLD Registry Agreement.

Neither company has yet received a preliminary determination from ICANN, a step that will lead to a month-long public comment period before the contracts are terminated.

In Emerson’s case, .emerson has not been delegated so there will be no impact on the number of TLDs in the root.

FLSmidth’s dot-brand has been live since September 2014, but the company never made the transition away from its .com.

While registry reports show that six domains have been registered, its latest zone file shows only the obligatory nic.flsmidth domain is active.

The first new gTLD to cop out was .doosan, the dot-brand for Korean conglomerate Doosan. It took over four months from filing its notice last October to the TLD being retired.

.web has an auction date

Kevin Murphy, April 29, 2016, Domain Registries

The .web gTLD will go to auction July 27, according to ICANN.

The organization released an updated auction schedule (pdf) on Wednesday night that also slates .kids/.kid for an auction on the same day.

Both auctions have confusing “indirect contention” elements, where two strings were ruled confusingly similar.

With .web, it’s lumped in with Vistaprint’s application for .webs, which lost a String Confusion Objection filed by Web.com.

Under ICANN rules, .webs is confusingly similar to to Web.com’s .web, but not to the other six .web applications.

This means that Vistaprint and Web.com basically are fighting a mini contention set auction to see who gets their applied-for gTLD.

If Web.com wins the auction for .web, Vistaprint cannot have .webs. However, if any other .web applicant wins, Vistaprint can go ahead with .webs.

Either way, there will be a .web delegated this year. Google, Donuts, Radix, Afilias, Schlund Technologies, Nu Dot Co are all contenders.

In the case of .kids/.kid, the one applicant for .kid — Google — won SCOs against DotKids Foundation and Amazon by default because both .kids applicants failed to respond to the complaints.

DotKids Foundation recently lost a Community Priority Evaluation, enabling the auction to go ahead.

Because Google is in contention with both .kids applicants, only one of the two strings will ultimately be delegated — .kids and .kid will not coexist.

The only other scheduled auction right now is that of .doctor, which is planned for May 25. Radix, Donuts and The Medical Registry will fight it out in this rather less complex battle.

It’s worth noting that if any of these contention sets unanimously choose to resolve their differences via private auction, none of the ICANN auctions will go ahead.

The .web gTLD could go live in 2016

Kevin Murphy, April 27, 2016, Domain Registries

The new gTLD .web could be coming to the internet sooner than expected after two of the remaining barriers to delegation disappeared.

Following the withdrawal last week of an application for the plural .webs, an auction for .web could happen in the next couple of months, enabling a go-live date possibly in 2016.

.web, often considered the most desirable truly generic gTLD, has had a rough time of it in the 2012 ICANN new gTLD program.

There were seven applications for the string. Google, Web.com, Donuts, Radix, Afilias, Schlund Technologies, Nu Dot Co all applied.

The registrar Web.com (owner of Network Solutions, Register.com, et al) appears to be especially keen to get the domain, given that the string more or less matches its brand.

It perhaps should have been a straightforward auction shoot-out.

But, complicating matters, bespoke printing firm Vistaprint had filed two applications — one vanilla, one “community” based — for the plural version of the string, “.webs”.

Vistaprint runs a website development service called Webs.com. It’s the plural of the Web.com brand.

Web.com wasn’t happy about Vistaprint’s .webs applications, so it filed String Confusion Objections against both, arguing that .web and .webs were too confusingly similar to co-exist on the internet.

While there are now many examples of plurals and singulars living together (see .auto/s, .fan/s and .gift/s), the registrar won both of its SCO complaints, meaning Vistaprint’s two applications and the seven .web applicants were lumped together into the same contention set.

If two strings are in the same contention set, only one can survive to be ultimately delegated to the DNS.

Vistaprint appealed the SCO decisions, first with a Request for Reconsideration to the ICANN board (predictably unsuccessful) and then with an Independent Review Process complaint.

While the IRP was being mulled over, .web was in limbo.

The IRP was unsuccessful. The IRP panel ruled in October that ICANN had not violated its bylaws in accepting the SCO panel’s decision.

But it gave ICANN a nudge, suggesting that perhaps it could give Vistaprint leave to appeal the original SCO determinations via another mechanism.

In early March, the ICANN board proper decided that:

the Vistaprint SCO Expert Determination is not sufficiently “inconsistent” or “unreasonable” such that the underlying objection proceedings resulting in the Expert Determination warrants re-evaluation.

The board said that the .web/.webs contention set should be processed as normal; in other words: go to auction.

That removed the first barrier to the .web/.webs auction going ahead.

The second barrier was the fact that Visaprint had file two applications for .webs — one regular, one “community”.

By self-identifying as a “community”, Vistaprint qualified for the Community Priority Evaluation. A winning CPE means all competing applications — including the .web applications in this case — would be eliminated.

While the CPE process is far from perfect, I think the chances of Vistaprint winning would be pretty slim.

Perhaps Vistaprint agreed with me. Whatever the thought process, the company has withdrawn its “community” application. The withdrawal was reflected on the ICANN web site at the weekend, according to the little birds at DI PRO.

What this means is that the seven .web applications and Vistaprint’s remaining, non-community .webs application will be going to auction together.

It could be a private auction, where the proceeds are divvied up between the losers, or an ICANN “last resort” auction, where ICANN gets all the money.

Either way, the winning bidder is likely to pay a LOT of cash for their chosen string.

GMO Registry paid $41 million for .shop back in January. I’d be flabbergasted if .web wasn’t eight figures too.

If Vistaprint offers to pay more money for .webs than Web.com wants to pay for .web, Web.com will be eliminated from the race and Vistaprint will get .webs.

In that scenario, the remaining six .web applicants fight it out for control of the gTLD.

However, if Vistaprint loses against Web.com then all of the seven .web applicants fight it out at auction.

Depending on the identity of the winner and the timing of auctions and pre-delegation testing, it could slip into the root and possibly even become available before the end of the year.

That’s assuming no more surprises, of course.

UPDATE: This post originally incorrectly described the rules of the .web/.webs auction. It was updated with a correct explanation at 2120 UTC.