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ICANN washes its hands of Amazon controversy

Kevin Murphy, July 22, 2020, Domain Policy

ICANN has declined to get involved in the seemingly endless spat between Amazon and the governments representing the Amazonia region of South American.

CEO Göran Marby has written to the head of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization to say that if ACTO still has beef with Amazon after the recent delegation of .amazon, it needs to take it up with Amazon.

ACTO failed to stop ICANN from awarding Amazon its dot-brand gTLD after eight years of controversy, with ICANN usually acting as a mediator in attempts to resolve ACTO’s issues.

But Marby yesterday told Alexandra Moreira: “”With the application process concluded and the Registry Agreement in force, ICANN no longer can serve in a role of facilitating negotiation”.

She’d asked ICANN back in May, shortly before .amazon and its Japanese and Chinese translations hit the root, to bring Amazon back to the table for more talks aimed at getting ACTO more policy power over the gTLDs.

As it stands today, Amazon has some Public Interest Commitments that give ACTO’s eight members the right to block any domains they feel have cultural significance to the region.

Marby told Moreira (pdf) that it’s now up to ACTO to work with Amazon to figure out how that’s going to work in practice, but that ICANN’s not going to get involved.

Google’s .new now generally available

After many months of pre-launch registration periods, Google has taken its .new gTLD to general availability today.

Names in .new are not cheap, have strict usage restrictions, and are not available at most of the larger registrars.

You may recall that Google is doing something quite innovative with the gTLD — each .new domain must resolve to a page in which the visitor can immediately (or after logging in) create something new, such as a blog, image, spreadsheet, presentation, webcast and so on.

Over 500 domains have been claimed during sunrise and limited registration periods so far, and dozens are live and functioning according to spec already.

I’ve seen prices ranging from about $450 at Gandi to $550 at 101domain. Google Domains prices names at about $540.

Due to the high registry pricing and restrictions, many registrars do not seem to be carrying the TLD. But GA started just a few minutes ago at time of posting so it’s possible more might come online shortly.

$11 billion dot-brand blames coronavirus as it self-euthanizes

Another new gTLD you’ve never heard of and don’t care about has asked ICANN to terminate its registry contract, but it has a rather peculiar reason for doing so.

The registry is Shriram Capital, the financial services arm of a very rich Indian conglomerate, and the gTLD is .shriram.

In its termination notice, Shriram said: “Due to unprecedented Covid-19 effect on the business, we have no other option but to terminate the registry agreement with effect from 3lst March 2020.”

Weird because the letter was sent in May, and weird because Shriram Group reportedly had revenue of $11 billion in 2017. The carrying cost of a dot-brand isn’t that much.

Registries don’t actually need an excuse to terminate their contracts, so the spin from Shriram is a bit of a mystery.

Shriram had actually been using .shriram, with a handful of domains either redirecting to .com sites or actually hosting sites of their own.

It’s the 79th dot-brand to self-terminate. ICANN expects to lose 62 in the fiscal year that started three weeks ago.

Right to reply: new gTLD applicant hits back at my “delusional” comments

Kevin Murphy, July 14, 2020, Domain Policy

You may recall that I recently referred to Nameshop, a rejected new gTLD applicant, as “delusional” for attempting to get ICANN to grant it .internet to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

I’ve not really pulled my punches reporting on the company’s attempts to get its rejected applied-for string, .idn, converted to .internet over the last few years. Nameshop is fighting a losing battle, I believe, and would be best served by pulling its application and getting a full refund.

Nameshop owner Sivasubramanian Muthusamy recently asked for a right to reply, and as that seemed like an easier option than getting into a pointless decade-long argument, I obliged.

Below the break, he tries to convince me and you that I’m wrong. Other than formatting, I’ve not edited it. Read it, and draw your own conclusions. Leave a comment if you wish.


By Sivasubramanian M

This brief article is primarily in response to the Domain Incite article about the Nameshop application for the .Internet Top Level Domain, titled World’s most deluded new gTLD applicant makes coronavirus pitch, and “Just give up!” ICANN tells its most stubborn new gTLD applicant, — but it is also in response to ICANN’s treatment of the Nameshop application.

Domain Incite has graciously allowed me the space here to respond, for which I am very thankful.

In reporting on the Nameshop proposal to delegate .internet in a way that can be used as a trusted communications space during the global pandemic, Domain Incite posits:

I don’t know whether Nameshop is motivated by a genuine desire to do good — as so many are during the pandemic crisis — or a sneaky strategy to shame ICANN into giving it its string change. Either way, the plan is pure delusion.

It is difficult for me to answer your question, because that would require a self-proclamation of merit, which by definition is something conferred, not claimed. However, I must seek in some way to dispel the doubts that you have expressed.

As Domain Incite has indicated in previous articles, Nameshop’s original application was for .IDN (more about that later). Although not finalized, the “IDN” moniker included a significant
element of usefulness and some sense of purpose with regard to making the Internet more accessible to all. There was always a sense of doing good. This goal was expanded and clarified in 2012 when the application was changed to .Internet and included Public Interest Commitments (that were ahead of the PIC process).

The inspiration for the original good and the idea to serve the Covid-fighting community is derived directly from my interactions with several good men and women who live purposeful
lives unseen and unknown, some of whom are involved in the Internet Governance processes.

A “sneaky strategy” would be the last thing to move them.

At this time of the COVID pandemic, some readings that came my way and my consultations encouraged the idea of a good deed to defer the business aspects of the .Internet application
and offer to utilise the TLD space with a near total focus on being of use in managing the crisis and to further use the TLD space for collaboration on renewal, with ample involvement from the ICANN Community. This is what Nameshop has offered. There is no delusion here.

Nameshop is not making a “pitch”; this is an idea to utilise the DNS for global benefit, one of the stated, yet unrealised goals of the new gTLD program.

As to Domain Incite’s characterisations of me as “most deluded” and “most stubborn”: I might be accepted to accept those descriptions if by “deluded,” you mean that I continue to believe
in the ICANN model and its propensity for doing good, and if you mean by stubborn, it is my persistence in not letting the idea of a purposeful TLD fall by the wayside.

Does my letter (pdf) reads like one that shames ICANN or instead like one that expresses a very high opinion of ICANN and deep trust in the ICANN Community? When Domain Incite and others next consider the Nameshop application, please understand that:

  • While Nameshop’s original application for .idn (disqualifiable because it is Indonesia’s country code) might be considered a mistake, consider that Google and Donuts made the same error (although it was not an existential mistake for them). This shows that the process was Byzantine even to the intellectual elites of our space – yet harmful only to
    entities the size of Nameshop.
  • While ICANN could have easily, immediately and appropriately informed me that .idn appeared on a list, ICANN took months to do so – timely response would have enabled Nameshop to correct the error at or almost at the time the application; Nameshop learnt about .idn being an alpha3 country code from others and informed ICANN, and requested to be allowed to change the string by the “Change Request” process which became an extended part of the application process.
  • After all the delays related processes of evaluation, and gaps in review processes that stymied substantive review, ICANN invited Nameshop to enter into an IRP, a review process prohibitively expensive and burdensome to be exercised by the type of applicant the new gTLD program supposedly encouraged; we have so far engaged in the cooperative engagement process. It is not our desire to engage in adversarial litigation on this matter.
  • A few other TLD applicants were permitted to change their string, after the “reveal day”. So, this issue is not black and white, it is a situation of ICANN being fair to many others but being selectively unfair concerning the string .Internet.

Where Domain Incite cites ICANN that there was, “careful review of the application,” that review was to verify if process routines were followed on paper, but with a firm resistance to
review the substance of the issue placed before ICANN. This is made clear in the various reports ICANN submitted where the reviewing parties did not perform a substantive review
either in its Board Reconsideration or even in the Ombudsman processes.

ICANN contends that it followed the due process, but following “a process” for the sake of documentation does not mean that “due process” was accorded. As observed by the Board
Governance Committee, “the reconsideration process does not allow for a full-scale review of a new gTLD application.” All of this amounts to a process severely limited by design, severely
limited in independence, and with limited notions of accountability.

Nameshop, as the applicant for the TLD .Internet, is not a large business corporation of a size typical of ICANN’s new application process. Nonetheless, Nameshop continues to contend that
it is well within ICANN’s processes to address these very process gaps to delegate .Internet; this has been an ongoing and amicable conversation.

One of the goals of the new gTLD program was to facilitate DNS usage and DNS usage for good in new areas of the globe. Delegating .Internet to Nameshop would achieve a significant milestone in ICANN’s new gTLD program. The current global health crisis amplifies ICANN’s role several fold, and in this context, Nameshop offers this proposal to present a clean TLD namespace to address multiple issues arising out of the pandemic situation, to use the space with a focus on being of help in managing the crisis, and more in causing ideas for renewal, not by Nameshop’s own strengths, but by the collective strengths and merits of the ICANN community.

World’s most deluded new gTLD applicant makes coronavirus pitch

Kevin Murphy, June 29, 2020, Domain Policy

Indian new gTLD applicant Nameshop, which still refuses to accept defeat eight years after its application for .idn was rejected, has a new coronavirus-related pitch to try to persuade ICANN to please, please, give it a gTLD.

You may recall that this company applied for .idn in 2012, overlooking the fact that IDN was banned as the reserved three-letter country code for Indonesia.

Ever since the mistake was noticed, Nameshop has been trying to convince ICANN to let it change its string to .internet, which nobody else applied for, requests that have been repeatedly rejected.

The newest Nameshop plea to ICANN (pdf) pitches .internet as a space where IGOs, NGOs and others could build or host web sites dedicated to coronavirus-related activities.

The company says it wants to:

temporarily — for the length of the pandemic crisis — operate the TLD with a request for heightened involvement of ICANN and the ICANN Community in the interest of making use of the DNS technologies, to help Government Agencies and Communities involve, increase and optimize their efforts to manage the Crisis and the ensuing recovery and renewal.

It wants to offer:

a clean new space for IGOs and NGOs to come together in their efforts to communicate, collaborate, generate solutions and expeditiously resolve the health crisis while also enabling organizations to collaborate on reconstruction efforts

The company says it would not make any money on .internet until after coronavirus is solved.

It’s also offering to set aside a quarter of its profits for good causes.

I don’t know whether Nameshop is motivated by a genuine desire to do good — as so many are during the pandemic crisis — or a sneaky strategy to shame ICANN into giving it its string change. Either way, the plan is pure delusion.

The reason ICANN has continually rejected Nameshop’s request for a string change from .idn to .internet for the last eight years is that it would set a precedent allowing any applicant to apply for any nonsense string and later change it to a desirable, uncontested string.

That hasn’t changed.

But while Nameshop has been tilting at windmills, ICANN has been earning interest on its $185,000 application fee, which I’m sure could be put to a far better use if Nameshop simply requested the full refund ICANN has offered.

More dot-brands dump their gTLDs

A further three new gTLDs have applied to ICANN for self-termination over the last few months, bringing the total to 76.

They’re all dot-brands: .sbs, .rightathome and .symantec.

The most recent application came from the Australian broadcaster SBS, for Special Broadcasting Service. This seems to be a case of a brand owner briefly experimenting with redirects to its .au domain, then deciding against it.

.symantec is biting the dust because the security company Symantec recently rebranded as NortonLifeLock Inc.

.rightathome also appears to be a case of a discontinued brand, in this case formerly used by consumer products firm SC Johnson.

Donuts rolls out free phishing attack protection for all registrants

Donuts is offering registrants of domains in its suite of new gTLDs free protection from homograph-based phishing attacks.

These are the attacks where a a bad guy registers a domain name visually similar or identical to an existing domain, with one or more characters replaced with an identical character in a different script.

An example would be xn--ggle-0nda.com, which can display in browser address bars as “gοοgle.com”, despite having two Cyrillic characters that look like the letter O.

These domains are then used in phishing attacks, with bad actors attempting to farm passwords from unsuspecting victims.

Under Donuts’ new service, called TrueNames, such homographs would be blocked at the registry level at point of sale at no extra cost.

Donuts said earlier this year that it intended to apply this technology to all current and future registrations across its 250-odd TLDs.

The company has been testing the system at its registrar, Name.com, and reckons the TrueNames branding in the shopping cart can lead to increased conversions and bigger sales of add-on services.

It now wants other registrars to sign up to the offering.

It’s not Donuts’ first foray into this space. Its trademark-protection service, Domain Protected Marks List, which has about 3,500 brands in it, has had homograph protection for a few years.

But now it appears it will be free for all customers, not just deep-pocketed defensive registrants.

Amazon finally gets its dot-brands despite last-minute government plea

Amazon’s three long-sought dot-brand gTLDs were added to the DNS root last night, despite an eleventh-hour attempt by South American governments to drag the company back to the negotiating table.

.amazon, along with the Japanese and Chinese translations — .アマゾン (.xn--cckwcxetd) and .亚马逊 (.xn--jlq480n2rg) — and its NIC sites have already gone live.

Visiting nic.amazon today will present you with a brief corporate blurb and a link to Amazon’s saccharine social-responsibility blog. As a dot-brand, only Amazon will be allowed to use .amazon domains.

The delegations come despite a last-minute plea to ICANN by the eight-government Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, which unsuccessfully tried to insert itself into the role of “joint manager” of the gTLDs.

ACTO believes its historical cultural right to the string outweighs the e-commerce giant’s trademark, and that its should have a more or less equal role in the gTLD’s management.

This position was untenable to Amazon, which countered with a collection of safeguards protecting culturally sensitive strings and various other baubles.

Talks fell through last year and ICANN approved the gTLDs over ACTO’s objections.

ACTO’s secretary-general, Alexandra Moreira, wrote to ICANN (pdf) May 21 to take one last stab at getting Amazon back in talks, telling CEO Göran Marby:

the name “Amazon” pertains to a geographical region constituting an integral part of the heritage of its countries. Therefore, we Amazonians have the right to participate in the governance of the “.amazon” TLD.

Our side is ready to resume negotiations on the TLD’s governance with the Amazon Corporation., from the point where their side interrupted it, with a view to arriving at a satisfactory agreement.

Her letter came in response to an earlier Marby missive (pdf) that extensively set out ICANN’s case that talks fell apart due to ACTO repeatedly postponing and cancelling scheduled meetings.

Despite the fact that Amazon’s basically got what it wanted, seven years after filing its gTLD applications, ACTO’s members didn’t get nothing.

The contracts Amazon signed with ICANN back in December have Public Interest Commitments in them that allow the governments to reserve up to 1,500 culturally sensitive strings from registration, as well as giving each nation its own .amazon domain.

CSC removes reference to “retiring” new gTLD domain after retiring new gTLD domain

The corporate registrar and new gTLD management consultant CSC Global has ditched a new gTLD domain in favor of a .com, but edited its announcement after the poor optics became clear.

In a brief blog post this week, the company wrote:

We’re retiring cscdigitalbrand.services to give you a more user-friendly interface at cscdbs.com.

From the trusted provider of choice for Forbes Global 2000 companies, this more user-friendly site is filled with information you need to secure and protect your brand. You’ll experience a brand new look and feel, at-a-glance facts and figures, learn about the latest digital threats, access our trusted resources, and see what our customers are saying.

Visit the site to learn more about our core solutions: domain management, domain security, and brand and fraud protection.

But the current version of the post expunges the first paragraph, referring to the retirement of its .services domain, entirely.

I’m going to guess this happened after OnlineDomain reported the move.

But the original text is still in the blog’s cached RSS feed at Feedly.

CSC blog post

It’s perhaps not surprising that CSC would not want to draw attention to the fact that it’s withdrawn to a .com from a .services, the gTLD managed by Donuts.

After all, CSC manages dozens of new gTLDs for clients including Apple, Yahoo and Home Depot, and releases quarterly reports tracking and encouraging activation of dot-brands.

Interestingly, and I’m veering a little off-topic here, there is a .csc new gTLD but CSC does not own it. It was delegated to a company called Computer Sciences Corporation (ironically through an application managed by CSC rival MarkMonitor) which also owns csc.com.

Computer Sciences Corporation never really got around to using .csc, and in 2017 merged with a unit of HP to form DXC Technology.

If you visit nic.csc today, you’ll be redirected to dxc.technology/nic, which bears a notice that it’s the “registry for the .dxc top-level domain”.

Given that the .dxc top-level domain doesn’t actually exist, I think this might make DXC the first company to openly declare its intent to go after a dot-brand in the next round of new gTLDs.

Google launches .meet gTLD after Meet service goes free during lockdown

Google Registry is to launch its .meet gTLD next week with a sunrise period for trademark owners, but, perhaps controversially, it intends to keep the rest of the domains for itself.

It is expected that the company plans to use .meet domains in its Google Meet conferencing service, which was recently revamped and went free-to-use after Google realized that rival Zoom was eating its lunch during the coronavirus lockdown.

Google bought the .meet gTLD from Afilias back in 2015 but has kept it unused so far, even after the Meet service opened in 2017.

But according to ICANN records, it’s due to go into a one-month sunrise period from May 25, with an open-ended Trademark Claims period from June 25.

In a brief statement on its web site Google says:

Google Registry is launching the .meet TLD. This domain is Spec 9/ROCC exempt, which means we will be the registrant for all domains on the TLD and it will not be made generally available. The RRA for the TLD is available upon request, but registrations on behalf of the registry will be processed through a small number of registrars with whom the relevant product teams at Google work.

Translated from ICANN-speak, this means that Google has an exemption from Specification 9 in its .meet registry contract, releasing it from the Registry Operator Code of Conduct, which obliges registries to treat all registrars equally.

This means Google can’t sell the domains to anyone else, nor can it allow them to be controlled by anyone else, and it can use a limited pool of registrars to register names.

Spec 9 is a bit different to Spec 13, which exempts dot-brands from ICANN trademark-protection rules such as sunrise and Trademark Claims. You could argue that Spec 9 is “dot-brand lite”.

But what both Spec 9 and Spec 13 have in common is that they can’t be used in gTLDs ICANN considers a “generic string”, which is defined as:

a string consisting of a word or term that denominates or describes a general class of goods, services, groups, organizations or things, as opposed to distinguishing a specific brand of goods, services, groups, organizations or things from those of others.

Does .meet qualify there? It’s undoubtedly a dictionary word, but does it also describe a class of things? Maybe.

Google’s search engine itself gives one definition of “meet” as “an organized event at which a number of races or other athletic contests are held”, which one could reasonably argue is a class of services.

When Afilias applied for .meet in 2012, it expected it to be used by dating sites.

Google did not addresses the non-genericness of the string in its Spec 9 application. That judgement appears to have been made by ICANN alone.

Previously, requests for Spec 9 exemptions from the likes of .giving, .star, .analytics, .latino, .mutual, and .channel have been rejected or withdrawn.

It seems that Spec 9 exemption is going to somewhat limit .meet’s utility, given that third-parties will not be able to get “control or use of any registrations”.