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Porn trade group director says .xxx could be a gTLD

One of the directors of porn industry organization the Free Speech Coalition has suggested the .xxx top-level domain could be approved as an unrestricted gTLD.

Tom Hymes, who sits on the Free Speech Coalition’s board of directors, wrote to ICANN urging it first and foremost to kill ICM Registry’s .xxx application once and for all.

But Hymes went on to say: “If that scenario is unacceptable to the Board for one reason or another, I would then encourage it to explore a gTLD option for ICM.”

He noted that he was writing in a personal capacity, not as a representative of the FSC.

ICM’s application was filed under the 2005 round of “sponsored” TLDs, which meant it had to show backing from a sponsorship organization and some measure of ownership restriction.

For example, the Society for Human Resource Management is the sponsor for .jobs and the Universal Postal Union backed .post.

ICM, which has never been part of the adult entertainment industry, created a policy-making body called the International Foundation For Online Responsibility, IFFOR, to act as its sponsor.

In my view, IFFOR was basically a crude hack to get around the fact that in 2005 ICANN was not looking for any new gTLDs.

The FSC doesn’t like IFFOR, because a) it will make policy on what can be hosted under .xxx domains and b) the adult industry will not control its board or see any of its money.

Hymes, in his personal capacity, seems to be saying that an unrestricted .xxx gTLD would be okay. It’s the first ground I’ve seen anyone in the porn industry give in this debate. He says:

To its credit, the Board is striving to solve the dot xxx imbroglio by dangling a gTLD in front of ICM, a solution ICM thus far has refused to consider. But that sort of suspicious recalcitrance can no longer be tolerated. Instead of threatening to bring a costly lawsuit against ICANN in order to secure control of a policy making regime for which it does not have the required support, ICM should cut its losses, save everyone a lot of money and take the gTLD while it has the opportunity.

I happen to agree, mostly: .xxx would make a heck of a lot more sense, and would be a whole lot less controversial (Christians notwithstanding), as a gTLD.

Unfortunately, I can’t see it happening. Not easily, anyway.

There’s no ICANN process in place for approving gTLDs today, and if ICANN were to choose to kick ICM into the next new gTLD round, there’s a pretty good chance that ICM would find itself fighting a contested string battle with other applications.

From a process point of view, sponsored TLDs are a failed experiment.

Iron Mountain gets into bed with CRS

Iron Mountain and Central Registry Solutions have made a deal to referrer prospective new gTLD applicants to each other’s services.

The companies said that Iron Mountain will refer wannabe registries to CRS for registry services and CRS will refer them to Iron Mountain for data escrow services.

It strikes me that the deal is probably better news for Iron Mountain, given that CRS is actively engaged in seeking out new TLD applicants to partner with whereas Iron Mountain, presumably, is not.

Iron Mountain already does a lot of work with registries and registrars that have to escrow their Whois information under the terms of their ICANN contracts.

Some of these contracts specify the company as the only escrow agent allowed, whereas the current Draft Applicant Guidebook for new gTLD applicants is less prescriptive.

CRS is a partnership of Network Solutions and CentralNIC, manager of the .la ccTLD and a handful of geographical second-level domains such as uk.com and us.com.

AusRegistry scores Japanese .brand deal

Kevin Murphy, April 28, 2010, Domain Registries

AusRegistry, the .au registry, has inked a deal with Brights Consulting, a company offering .brand domain services to the Japanese corporate market.

The company said the deal will mean AusRegistry will provide the technical back-end for any successful new gTLD applications that Brights manages to secure.

Other companies competing for new gTLD business include old hands VeriSign, Neustar and Afilias, as well as hungry newcomers such as Minds + Machines.

AusRegistry currently manages Australia’s .au, .qa for Qatar and .ae for the United Arab Emirates.

Brights is a corporate, rather than retail, ICANN registrar. I may be wrong, but it looks like the company counts Sony among its clients.

Could there be a .sony on the horizon?

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.