Amazon has won the new gTLD .coupon, after Minds + Machines withdrew its application this week.
I understand that the two-way contention set was settled privately via a third party intermediary, possibly via some kind of auction, with M+M ultimately being paid off to withdraw its bid.
.coupon was the only ICANN-managed “auction of last resort” scheduled for July, following the $600,000 sale of .信息 last week.
The next batch of ICANN auctions is now not due to happen until August, unless of course ICANN rejigs its schedule in light of the .coupon settlement.
It’s not clear why Amazon has suddenly decided it prefers the idea of a private commercial settlement after all, but it appears to be good news for M+M, which will see the majority of the cash.
However, it could be related to the fact that .coupon, and dozens of other Amazon new gTLD applications, recently made the switch from being “closed generics” to more inclusive proposals.
Amazon had originally intended that itself and its subsidiaries would be the “only eligible registrants” for .coupon, but in March it changed the application, among many others.
Now, Amazon talks in vague terms about .coupon names being available to “eligible trusted third parties”, a term that doesn’t seem ready to define before the TLDs are actually delegated.
It seems to me, from Amazon’s revised applications, that .coupon and its other gTLDs will be locked down tight enough that they could wind up being effectively closed generics after all.
When Amazon publishes its first eligibility requirements document with ICANN, I expect members of the Governmental Advisory Committee will be watching closely.
A new gTLD applicant backed by the hotel industry has won a Community Priority Evaluation, meaning it gets to automatically win the .hotel contention set without going to auction.
If the decision stands, no fewer than six rival applicants for the string — including the likes of Donuts, Radix, Famous Four and Minds + Machines — are going to have to withdraw their applications.
It’s a bit of a shocker.
The CPE winner is HOTEL Top-Level-Domain, which scored 15 out of 16 available points in the CPE. The minimum required to vanquish all foes is 14 points.
The company will have spent a fair bit of cash fighting the CPE, but nothing compared to the millions of dollars an auction for .hotel would be likely to fetch.
Crucially, where HOTEL prevailed was on the “Nexus” criterion — demonstrating a link between the string and the community supporting the application — where four points are available.
In the first four CPE results to come through, back in March, each applicant scored a 0 on Nexus and none scored more than 11 points overall.
Dot Registry, which failed four CPEs (.inc, .llc, .corp and .llp) this week, also repeatedly flunked on this count.
HOTEL, however, scored a 3.
Rival applicants such as Donuts and M+M had argued that HOTEL’s stated community failed to take into account smaller hoteliers, such as bed and breakfast owners.
But the CPE panelist decided that the application did not “substantially overreach”:
The string nexus closely describes the community, without overreaching substantially beyond the community. The string identifies the name of the core community members (i.e. hotels and associations representing hotels). However, the community also includes some entities that are related to hotels, such as hotel marketing associations that represent hotels and hotel chains and which may not be automatically associated with the gTLD. However, these entities are considered to comprise only a small part of the community. Therefore, the string identifies the community, but does not over-reach substantially beyond the community, as the general public will generally associate the string with the community as defined by the applicant.
There’s no formal appeals mechanism for CPE, but rival applicants could try their luck with more general ICANN procedures such as Requests for Reconsideration.
HOTEL Top-Level-Domain is a Luxembourg-based entity, founded in 2008 to apply for the gTLD, backed by about a dozen international hotelier associations, including the International Hotel and Restaurant Association.
The IHRA counts 50 major hotel chain brands among its members and claims to be officially recognized by the UN for its lobbying work on behalf of the hospitality industry.
HOTEL intends to keep the .hotel gTLD restricted “initially” to only hotels as defined in the international standard ISO 18513.
Registrants will be verified against hotel industry databases. This will happen post-registration, but before the domain name can be activated in the DNS.
In other words, unless you’re a member of the hotel industry, you won’t be getting to use a .hotel domain name. Domainers are apparently not wanted.
All .hotel names will also be checked a year from registration to ensure that they have a web site displaying relevant content. Redirection to other TLDs may be allowed.
I was so convinced that the CPE was designed in such a way that it would be failed by all the applicants which had applied for it, I bet $50 (to go to an applicant-nominated charity) that none would.
If HOTEL wants to let me know which charity they want the $50 to go to, I’ll get it donated forthwith. I’m just glad I didn’t offer to eat my underwear.
Two companies have yanked three bids for dot-brand new gTLDs this week.
The German financial advisor Allfinanz Deutsche Vermögensberatung withdrew its applications for .allfinanzberatung and .allfinanzberater, which mean Allfinanz “advice” and “advisers”.
As well as being a bit of a mouthful, they both appear to be unnecessary given that the company also applied for .allfinanz by itself. That application has passed evaluation and is still active.
Meanwhile, in Finland, one of the world’s biggest elevator/escalator manufacturers, KONE, has withdrawn its equally unfathomable application for .kone.
Roughly 55 dot-brand applications have been withdrawn to date. Hundreds remain.
Minds + Machines managed to make a profit in 2013, after years of losses, due to its participation in private new gTLD auctions, some of which it “lost”.
The company today reported operating profit of £776,000 for the year to December 31, compared to a £3.07 million loss in 2012, on revenue of £4.12 million. Profit after tax was £729,000.
“Profit was primarily a result from participating three private auctions,” CEO Antony Van Couvering said in a statement.
Chairman Fred Krueger added:
As we expected, private auctions have become the key method of settling contention between applications and we have benefited from this development, as it has enabled our cash to work on a leveraged basis: the domains we have lost in private auction (for example .property and .website) have helped finance new TLDs we have acquired such as .wedding and .garden.
Minds + Machines (then Top Level Domain Holdings) said last October that it had raised £2.97 million by losing the auctions for .lawyer and .website.
Excluding the auctions, it looks like the company made just £36,000 in revenue, all of which came from its registry back-end business.
Clear-cut cases of cybersquatting seem to be among those .xyz domain names that Network Solutions has registered to its customers without their explicit request.
Some of the domains I’ve found registered in .xyz, via NetSol to the registrants of the matching .com or .net names, include my-twitter.xyz, facebook-liker.xyz and googledia.xyz.
They’re all registered via NetSol’s Whois privacy service, which lists the registrant’s “real” name in the Whois record, but substitutes mailing address, email and phone number with NetSol-operated proxies.
I think the chance of these names being paid for by the registrant is slim. It seems probable that many (if not all) of the squatty-looking names were registered via NetSol’s promotional program for .xyz.
As previously reported, NetSol has been giving away domain names in .xyz to owners of the matching .com names. Tens of thousands of .xyz names seem to have been registered this way in the last week.
The “registrants” did not have to explicitly accept the offer. Instead, NetSol gave them the option to “opt-out” of having the name registered on their behalf and placed into their accounts.
But it’s not clear how much, if any, support NetSol has received from the registry, XYZ.com. CEO Daniel Negari told Rick Schwartz, in a coy interview last week:
The Registry Operator is unable to “give away” free domain names. I never even saw the email that the registrar sent to its customers until I discovered it on the blogs.
The opt-out giveaway has also prompted speculation about NetSol’s right to register domains without the explicit consent of the registrant, both under the law and under ICANN contract.
Under the Registrar Accreditation Agreement, in order to register a domain name, registrars “shall require” the registrant “to enter into an electronic or paper registration agreement”.
That agreement requires the registrant to agree to, among many other things, the transfer or suspension of their domains if (for example) they lose a UDRP or URS case.
But that doesn’t seem to be happening with the opt-out names,
Barry Shein, president of The World, had shein.xyz registered on his behalf by NetSol on Saturday. He already owns shein.com, also registered with NetSol.
NetSol’s email informing him of the registration, which Shein forwarded to DI, reads as follows:
Dear Valued Network Solutions Customer,
Congratulations, your complimentary SHEIN.XYZ domain has arrived!
Your new .XYZ domain is now available in your Network Solutions account and ready to use. To go along with your new .XYZ domain, you have also received complimentary access to Professional Email and Private Registration for your .XYZ domain.
If you choose not to use this domain no action is needed and you will not be charged any fees in the future. Should you decide to keep the domain after your complementary first year, simply renew it like any other domain in your account.
We appreciate your business and look forward to serving you again.
Network Solutions Customer Support
Importantly, a footnote goes on to describe how NetSol will take a refusal to opt out as “continued acceptance” of its registration agreement:
Please note that your use of this .XYZ domain name and/or your refusal to decline the domain shall indicate acceptance of the domain into your account, your continued acceptance of our Service Agreement located online at http://www.networksolutions.com/legal/static-service-agreement.jsp, and its application to the domain.
So, if you’re a NetSol customer who was picked to receive a free .xyz name but for whatever reason you don’t read every marketing email your registrar sends you (who does?) you’ve agreed to the registration agreement without your knowledge or explicit consent, at least according to NetSol.
I am not a lawyer, but I’ve studied enough law to know that this is a dubious way to make a contract. Lawyers I’ve shown this disclaimer to have laughed out loud.
Of course, because each registrant already owns a matching .com, they’ve already accepted NetSol’s registration agreement and terms of service at least once before.
This may allow NetSol to argue that the initial acceptance of the contract also applies to the new .xyz domains.
But there are differences between .com and .xyz.
Chiefly, as a new gTLD, .xyz registrants are subject to policies that do not apply to .com, such as the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy.
URS differs from UDRP in that there’s a “loser pays” model that applies to complaints involving over 15 domains.
So these .xyz registrants have been opted into a policy that could leave them out of pocket, without their explicit consent.
Of course, we’re talking about people who seem to be infringing famous trademarks in their existing .com names, so who gives a damn, right?
But it does raise some interesting questions.
Who’s the registrant here? Is it the person who owns the .com, or is it NetSol? NetSol is the proxy service, but the .com registrant’s name is listed in the Whois.
Who’s liable for cybersquatting here? Who would Twitter file a UDRP or URS against over my-twitter.xyz? Who would it sue, if it decided to opt for the courts instead?