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.co enters pricey global sunrise

Kevin Murphy, April 26, 2010, Domain Registries

Trademark holders can from today apply for their brands as .co domain names, even if they do not do business in Colombia.

The second stage of .CO Internet’s sunrise period allows owners of non-Colombian trademarks to apply for their domains through one of 10 chosen launch registrars.

Prices vary from $225 with OpenSRS to $335 through Dotster, with most deals comprising non-refundable application fees plus first-year registration. Go Daddy is charging $299.99 and Network Solutions is charging $279.99.

With the possible exception of .xxx, I’ve got a suspicion that this could be one of the last “generic” TLD launches with such expensive sunrise periods.

It’s quite possible there could be pricing pressure if ICANN quickly approves a few hundred new gTLDs next year. If each charges ~$300 for a pre-launch, it could cause some some registrants to rethink their defensive registration strategies.

The .co sunrise ends June 10. General availability begins July 20.

Kurds seek new cultural gTLD

Kevin Murphy, April 26, 2010, Domain Registries

A Kurdish company will apply to ICANN for a .kurd or .kur top-level domain to represent cultural Kurds.

The application will join the likes of .cat, and expected gTLD applications including .scot, .cym, .bzh, and .gal, which promise representation to “cultural”, but non-geographic, user bases.

The potential community for .kurd is around 35 million people, according to Wikipedia, over three times the size of the international Catalan community represented by .cat.

While many Kurds live in middle-eastern nations such as Iran and Iraq, there are almost 14 million living in Turkey, likely soon to be part of the European Union, according to the CIA World Factbook.

I’ve been told that a non-profit cultural gTLD needs only about 10,000 registrations to stay afloat; this seems easily achievable.

The dotKurd application has a web site and a Twitter feed.

The brains behind the TLD is a German-resident software developer called Aras Noori. He recently wrote to ICANN chief Rod Beckstrom, outlining his plan.

Porn group starts anti-XXX campaign

Kevin Murphy, April 15, 2010, Domain Registries

Now that the Christians appear to have quietened down, the adult entertainment industry has unleashed its own letter-writing campaign aimed at crippling ICM Registry’s bid for the .xxx TLD.

The Free Speech Coalition has started urging its members to lobby ICANN with emails demanding that the .xxx proposal is rejected.

The front page of its web site started carrying the call to action earlier today, already resulting in over a dozen form complaints.

The anti-porn complaints that have flooded ICANN’s forums for the last week focussed largely on the alleged harmful effects of porn, and will probably be politely ignored.

But unlike the Christians, the FSC has read the background documents – which request comments on how ICANN should process ICM’s application – and its letters are therefore on-topic

They urge ICANN to “Adopt Option #3” by agreeing with the dissenting minority view of the Independent Review Panel that recently ruled ICANN was unfair to reject ICM back in 2007.

“Regardless of the option chosen, I ask that ICANN continue to consider the widespread opposition of the sponsored community in any further decisions concerning a .XXX sTLD,” the letters add.

The campaign is not unexpected, but it won’t make ICANN’s board of directors’ decision any easier. After all, .xxx is ostensibly a “sponsored” TLD, and a significant voice within its potential customer base does not appear to want it.

There may also be other power games at play.

ICM president Stuart Lawley claimed during his IRP cross-examination in September that the FSC had offered to support ICM in 2003, but only if it could control the sponsoring organization and collect the associated $10 per domain per year.

The ICANN comment period runs until May 10. The FSC’s own comments, from boss Diane Duke, are here.

.jobs aiming to become a gTLD by the back door?

Employ Media, the company behind the sponsored TLD .jobs, looks like it’s making a play to become a significantly more open gTLD.

The company has proposed a substantial relaxation of its registration policies, based on what may be a loophole in its ICANN registry contract.

Currently, the .jobs namespace is one of the most restrictive TLDs. Only company names can be registered, and registrants have to be approved HR professionals at those companies.

As you might imagine, it’s been phenomenally unsuccessful from a business point of view, with only about 15,000 domains registered since it went live five years ago.

Employ Media now wants to be able to register “non-companyname” domains, and is to apply to its sponsorship body, the Society for Human Resource Management, for permission.

At least, that’s what it looks like. The documents posted over at policy.jobs are pretty opaque.

Indeed, as ERE.net points out, the “proposed amendment” to its charter reads more like a claim that no amendment is required.

The company appears to be pursuing a business model whereby it could auction off (continue reading)

UK domains get government oversight

With the passing of the Digital Economy Bill last night, the UK government has created powers to oversee Nominet, the .uk registry manager, as well as any new gTLD that is “UK-related”.

The Bill would allow the government to replace a registry if, in its opinion, the registry’s activities tarnish the reputation or availability of UK internet services.

It also allows the minister to apply to a court to alter the constitution of a registry such as Nominet.

The legislation was created in response to concerns that the registry could be captured by domainers, following a turbulent few years within Nominet’s leadership.

Nominet has since modified its constitution to make this unlikely, and is now of the position that the government will have no need to exercise its new powers.

The Bill does not name Nominet specifically, but rather any domain registry that is “UK-related”.

An internet domain is “UK-related” if, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, the last element of its name is likely to cause users of the internet, or a class of such users, to believe that the domain and its sub-domains are connected with the United Kingdom or a part of the United Kingdom.”

This almost certainly captures the proposed .eng, .scot and .cym gTLDs, which want to represent the English, Scots and Welsh in ICANN’s next new gTLD round.