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Momentum offers free new gTLD show passes

Kevin Murphy, July 10, 2014, Domain Services

Momentum Events is offering brands a free pass to its upcoming Digital Strategy & DotOps Congress in Amsterdam.

The deal is only open to companies that have not already applied for a new dot-brand gTLD. Each eligible company gets one free pass for the two-day event. Additional tickets start at $299.

For applicants and others the standard price is $599 per person. That’s about half the price of previous conferences in the series, which is now in its fifth incarnation.

Previous shows have taken place in New York and London.

Confirmed speakers for Amsterdam include executives from Philips, Goodyear, Coke and Google. From the domain world, Afilias, doMEn, Donuts and Dot Luxury are due to talk.

DI, which is a nominal media sponsor of the show, may also be on a panel.

The shows were previously called the Digital Strategy & New gTLD Congress, but Momentum has switched out “New gTLD”, which perhaps caused non-domain folks’ eyes to glaze, for “DotOps”.

No, I don’t know what that means either.

The conference will take place at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Amsterdam, Netherlands from September 18 to 19.

Slow start for .christmas with under 500 sales

Uniregistry’s latest new gTLDs .christmas and .blackfriday seem to have stumbled out of the gates, both amassing fewer than 500 registrations in their first full day of general availability.

In today’s zone files, .christmas has 501 names and .blackfriday has 445. Those numbers include dozens of sunrise registrations. They both went to GA on Tuesday afternoon UTC.

As you might expect, the .christmas zone comprises a mix of brands and generic words and phrases related to retail and travel. It’s a similar state of affairs in .blackfriday.

What there do not appear to be are large numbers of product categories registered, suggesting that domainers feel that the new gTLDs fail Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling’s own Toilet Paper Test.

That’s where one judges the potential popularity of a TLD by putting the string “toiletpaper” at the second level.

Domainer Mike Berkens appears to have picked up a handful of decent-looking names, including santatracker.christmas (NORAD’s Santa tracker got 19.58 million unique visitors last year) and whatiwantfor.christmas.

Schilling himself paid $90,000 — half the price of a new gTLD application fee — for blackfridaysales.com back in 2010. In November 2009, Kevin Ham’s blackfriday.com purportedly took 18 million visitors.

Neither Uniregistry TLD appears to be available currently at Go Daddy, despite the two companies’ reported distribution deal.

.christmas and .blackfriday are notable because they’re the first TLDs to launch that are tied to specific calendar dates. Those dates are of course several months away.

I have a feeling that it may prove tough to build up sustainable buzz for these TLDs.

Even if they’re used by big brands in marketing campaigns this year, which is of course by no means assured, it’s still going to take another year to figure out whether they’ve captured the imagination of their target markets.

In an industry of long plays, these could be two of the longer ones.

Pinyin to beat IDN? .wang ready to overtake .在线

The .wang gTLD has seen great success, relatively, in its first week of general availability, crossing the 30,000 mark yesterday and entering the top 10 new gTLDs by registration volume.

At its current rate of growth, the Zodiac Holdings domain is going to overtake .在线, the highest-ranking Chinese gTLD so far, this week.

.wang went to GA June 30. After its initial spike, it’s added one to two thousand names per day and, with 31,011 names today, currently sits at 9th place in the new gTLD program’s league table.

That’s a whisker behind TLD Registry’s .在线 (“.online”), which had a strong start when it launched at the end of April but has since plateaued at around 33,000 names, adding just a handful each day.

A skim through the zone files reveals that the vast majority of the names in .wang appear to be, like .wang itself, Pinyin — the official Latin-script transliterations of Chinese-script words.

.wang, which would be “网” in Chinese script, means “net”.

To pluck a couple of names from the zone at random, I see tanpan.wang, which could mean something like “negotiation.net” and xingshi.wang, which may or may not mean “shape.net”.

I suspect that many of the registered domains are personal names rather than dictionary words. Wang is a popular surname in China.

The vast majority of the names also appear to be registered via China-based registrars, some of which are promoting the TLD strongly on their home pages.

There certainly appears to be a lot of domainer activity in .wang, but I haven’t seen anything yet to suggest a massive orchestrated effort that would throw out the numbers considerably.

Either way, I find it fascinating that a Latin transliteration of a Chinese word seems set to out-perform the actual Chinese IDNs currently on the market.

ICANN puts porn gTLDs on hold for no good reason?

Kevin Murphy, July 4, 2014, Domain Policy

In a decision that seems to have come out of nowhere, ICANN has effectively put bids for three porn-themed new gTLDs on hold.

In a June 21 meeting, the board’s New gTLD Program Committee discussed .adult, .sex and .porn, calling them “sensitive strings”.

While it passed no resolution, I understand that ICANN legal staff is delaying the signing of contracts for at least one of these gTLDs while the NGPC carries out its talks.

It’s a surprising development, given that the three strings are not subject to any Governmental Advisory Committee advice, are not “Community” applications, and have not been formally objected to by anyone.

The report from the NGPC meeting acknowledges the lack of a GAC basis for giving the strings special treatment (emphasis added):

The Committee engaged in a discussion concerning applications for several adult-oriented strings in the current round of the New gTLD Program, including .ADULT, .PORN, and .SEX. The applications propose to serve the same sector as the .XXX sponsored TLD. Staff noted that the applications were not the subject of GAC advice, or any special safeguards, other the safeguards that are applicable to all new gTLDs. The Committee considered how the safeguards in the new gTLD Program compare to the safeguards that were included in the .XXX Registry Agreement. The Committee requested staff prepare additional briefing materials, and agreed to discuss the matter further at a subsequent meeting.

This begs the question: why is ICANN giving .porn et al special treatment?

What’s the basis for suggesting that these three strings should be subject to the same safeguards that were applied to .xxx, which was approved under the 2003 sponsored gTLD round?

.porn, .sex and .adult were were applied for under the 2012 new gTLD program, which has an expectation of predictability and uniformity of treatment as one of its founding principles.

Who decided that .sex is “sensitive” while .sexy is not? On what basis?

Is it because, as the NGPC report suggests, that the three proposed gTLDs “serve the same sector” as .xxx?

That wouldn’t make any sense either.

Doesn’t .vacations, a contracted 2012-round gTLD, serve the same sector as .travel, a 2003-round sponsored gTLD? Why wasn’t .vacations subject to additional oversight?

Is it rather the case that the NGPC is concerned that ICM Registry, operator of .xxx, has applied for these three porn strings and proposes to grandfather existing .xxx registrants?

That also wouldn’t make any sense.

.sex has also been applied for by Internet Marketing Solutions, a company with no connection to .xxx or to the 2003 sponsored gTLD round. Why should this company’s application be subject to additional oversight?

And why didn’t .career, which “serves the same sector” as the sponsored-round gTLD .jobs and was applied for by the same guys who run .jobs, get this additional scrutiny before it signed its contract?

It all looks worryingly arbitrary to me.

US winemakers rebel against their government

Kevin Murphy, July 3, 2014, Domain Policy

Groups representing thousands of US winemakers have come out against .wine and .vin, bringing their government’s position on the two proposed new gTLDs into question.

Seven regional associations, representing close to 2,000 wineries, issued a statement last night raising “strong objections” to the gTLDs with “non-existent to grossly insufficient safeguards”.

The joint statement says:

If granted to unscrupulous bidders, second-level domain names such as napavalley.wine or wallawalla.wine could be held in perpetuity by a company or individual that has never seen a vineyard, cultivated fine wine grapes or made a single bottle of wine.

It’s the first mass objection from US winemakers, but they join colleagues from France, Spain and other European Union nations in their opposition to a .wine that does not respect geographic indicators (GIs).

It also makes the US delegation to ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee look rather out of touch with the very companies it professes to be looking out for.

At the ICANN 50 meeting in London last week, US rep Suzanne Radell told the GAC:

The three U.S. wineries that our colleagues in Europe have cited as being privy to the exchanges between the European wine industries and the applicants are, in fact, just three U.S. wineries. If I may emphasize, the United States has thousands and thousands of wineries who are quite interested in this matter and do not support the European model of GI protection. So let’s just please put that to bed.

The US winery groups now objecting comprise almost 2,000 wineries. According to Wikipedia, the US has fewer than 3,000 wineries.

We’re looking at a two-thirds majority objection from the US wine-making industry here.

“The coalition of American quality wine regions representing nearly 2,000 U.S. wineries clearly contradicts Radell’s testimony in London on June 22,” the groups said.

The groups also have Californian congresspeople Anna Eshoo and Mike Thompson on their side. As we reported yesterday, Eshoo has already written to ICANN to urge it to kill off .wine.

The big questions are: will this be enough to change the position the US takes to the GAC in future, and will that help the GAC find consensus on anti-.wine advice?

Australia and Canada have also been vocal opponents of the European demands in the past. They’d need to change their minds too, in order for the GAC to find a new consensus.

Without a GAC consensus, the .wine and .vin applicants have little to worry about.