Donuts buys out rival .place gTLD applicant

Kevin Murphy, March 31, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts has won the .place new gTLD contention set after paying off rival applicant 1589757 Alberta Ltd.

The deal, for an undisclosed sum, was another “cut and choose” affair, similar to deals made with Tucows last August, in which the Canadian company named its price to withdraw and Donuts chose to pay it rather than taking the money itself.

1589757 Alberta has withdrawn its application for .place already.

The deal means Donuts now has 165 new gTLDs that are either live, contracted or uncontested.

ARI and Radix split on all new gTLD bids

Kevin Murphy, March 31, 2014, Domain Registries

Radix no longer plans to use ARI Registry Services for any of its new gTLDs, I’ve learned.

The company has already publicly revealed that CentralNic is to be its back-end registry services provider for .space, .host, .website and .press, but multiple reliable sources say the deal extends to its other 23 applications too.

I gather that the split with ARI wasn’t entirely amicable and had money at its root, but I’m a bit fuzzy on the specifics.

The four announced switches are the only four currently uncontested strings Radix has applied for.

Of Radix’s remaining active applications, the company has only so far submitted a change request to ICANN — which I gather is a very expensive process — on one, .online.

For the other 22, ARI is still listed as the back-end provider in the applications, which have all passed evaluation.

Radix is presumably waiting until after its contention sets get settled before it goes to the expense of submitting change requests.

ICANN muddles through solution to IGO conflict

Kevin Murphy, March 31, 2014, Domain Policy

ICANN may have come up with a way to appease both the GNSO and the GAC, which are at conflict over the best way to protect the names and/or acronyms of intergovernmental organizations.

At the public forum of the ICANN 49 meeting in Singapore last Thursday, director Bruce Tonkin told the community that the ICANN board will consider the GNSO’s recommendations piecemeal instead of altogether.

It will also convene a meeting of the GNSO, GAC, IGOs, international nongovernmental organizations and the At-Large Advisory Committee to help reach a consensus.

The issue, you may recall from a DI post last week, is whether the names and acronyms of IGOs and INGOs should be blocked in all new gTLDs.

The GNSO is happy for the names to be protected, but draws the line at protecting acronyms, many of which are dictionary words or have multiple uses. The GAC wants protection for both.

Both organizations have gone through their respective processes to come to full consensus policy advice.

This left ICANN in the tricky situation of having to reject advice from one or the other; its bylaws did not make a compromise easy.

By splitting the GNSO’s 20 or so recommendations up and considering them individually, the ICANN board may be able to reconcile some with the GAC advice.

It would also be able to reject bits of GAC advice, specific GNSO recommendations, or both. Because the advice conflicts directly in some cases, rejection of something seems probable.

But ICANN might not have to reject anything, if the GAC, GNSO and others can come to an agreement during the special talks ICANN has in mind, which could happen as soon as the London meeting in June.

Even if those talks lead to nothing, this proposed solution does seem to be good news for ICANN perception-wise; it won’t have to blanket-reject either GNSO or GAC policy advice.

This piecemeal or ‘scorecard’ approach to dealing with advice hasn’t been used with GNSO recommendations before, but it is how the board has dealt with complex GAC advice for the last few years.

It’s also been used with input from non-GNSO bodies such as the Whois Review Team and Accountability and Transparency Review Team.

Judging by a small number of comments made by GNSO members at the public forum on Thursday, the solution the board has proposed seems to be acceptable.

ICANN may have dodged a bullet here.

The slides used by Tonkin during the meeting can be found here.

Slow start for .ceo with fewer than 400 names sold

Kevin Murphy, March 30, 2014, Domain Registries

The new .ceo gTLD has had a disappointing launch.

In the first 30 hours of general availability, which began on Friday afternoon, the TLD has managed to scrape just 378 registrations, according to the latest zone file.

That includes 100 names that were registered during the sunrise period.

Jodee Rich, CEO of PeopleBrowsr, the .ceo registry, told DI that the company sold about 40 premium names at $999 per year on the first day and that revenue for the first six hours was about $100,000.

The baseline retail price for .ceo names is $99.

There is a tiered pricing structure, and Rich said that only four out of its 40-something accredited registrars were ready to handle it, which may have impacted sales.

He added that .ceo has over 3,000 pre-registrations which he hopes to start seeing convert over the coming days.

Nevertheless, 378 domains is a poor showing by any measure.

On day one of GA, it was the eighth-fastest growing new gTLD by domain volume. Today, it’s ranked 52nd out of the 52 new gTLDs that have gone to full, baseline pricing general availability.

EU buys more time for .wine talks after surprise GAC objection

Kevin Murphy, March 27, 2014, Domain Policy

The ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee deposited a shock fly into the wine-related gTLD ointment tonight, asking ICANN to delay approval of .wine and .vin on a technicality.

ICANN’s board of directors had at the weekend basically approved the two new gTLDs, over the objections of the European Union, but the GAC today said the board’s decision hadn’t followed the rules.

In its communique (pdf) issued at the end of the just-concluded ICANN 49 meeting in Singapore, the GAC said: “In the final deliberation of the Board there appears to be at least one process violation and procedural error”.

The procedure in question is the part of the ICANN bylaws that says the GAC “shall have an opportunity to comment upon any external advice received prior to any decision by the Board.”

The GAC therefore advises:

That the Board reconsider the matter before delegating these strings.

The GAC needs to consider the above elements more fully. In the meantime concerned GAC members believe the applicants and interested parties should be encouraged to continue their negotiations with a view to reach an agreement on the matter.

The only “external advice” referenced in the ICANN decision on .wine was the legal opinion (pdf) of French law professor Jerome Passa.

Reading between the lines (I have not yet listened to all of the GAC’s public deliberations this week, so I’m speculating) it seems Passa’s opinion was not provided to the GAC before the ICANN board made its call.

I’m further assuming that the EU or one of its member states spotted the bylaws provision about external advice notice and cunningly used it to revive the .wine debate.

The GAC has declined to object to .wine and .vin because countries such as the US and Australia disagree with the EU’s position on the international law governing geographic indicators such as “Champagne”.

But no matter what other GAC members think about the European demands GI protections, it would have been very hard for them to argue in favor of an ICANN board decision that violated process.

Even if there’s very little chance of rustling up a consensus objection against these two gTLDs, the EU seems to have successfully added delay to the approval process, giving it leverage over the applicants.

I’m impressed.

While this may not change the eventual outcome, it at least buys the EU more time to negotiate with the .wine and .vin applicants about protection for geographic indicators.

This apparent oversight, coupled with the controversy this week about rights protection mechanisms for intergovernmental organizations, makes me wonder whether ICANN’s legal department might need a refresher course on the ICANN bylaws.

Or maybe, more likely, the bylaws are just such a bloody mess that even the smartest guys in the room can’t keep track of them any more.