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Does this sexy .sx ad portend a clash with .sex?

In the occasional DI tradition of linkbaiting Domaining.com with promises of scantily clad eye candy, I humbly invite male readers to get their goggles around this beauty:

.sx marketing

Phwoar! Eh?

Apologies.

Anyway, there’s a serious point here.

SX Registry, which is in the process of launching the new .sx ccTLD for the recently formed territory of Sint Maarten, distributed this flyer in the goody bags at ICANN 44 in Prague last week.

The marketing was aimed at registrars, presumably, but the company’s web site has similar imagery as well.

It’s pretty clear what angle SX Registry is going for, and it could portend a clash with .sex and .sexy, which have both been proposed by applicants under ICANN’s new gTLD program.

ICM Registry (.sex), Uniregistry (.sexy) and Internet Marketing Solutions Limited (.sex) may have a potential objector on their hands.

GAC demands appeal of IDN ccTLD bans

Kevin Murphy, July 2, 2012, Domain Policy

The Governmental Advisory Committee has slammed ICANN’s decisions to reject at least three non-Latin ccTLDs because they might pose security risks.

Remarkably, the GAC has also asked ICANN to “urgently reconsider” the rulings, which were made to mitigate the risk of phishing attacks and other types of domain name abuse.

In its official post-Prague communique, published over the weekend, the GAC tells ICANN that the way it decides whether to approve IDN ccTLDs has been “too conservative”.

While the letter does not single out any specific ccTLDs, I understand that the advice was formulated primarily at the behest of the European Union and Greece, which have both had IDN ccTLD applications rejected on the grounds of confusing similarity.

The Prague communique (pdf) states:

The GAC is of the view that decisions may have erred on the too-conservative side, in effect applying a more stringent test of confusability between Latin and non-Latin scripts than when undertaking a side by side comparison of Latin strings.

It goes on to ask ICANN to publish its criteria for evaluating the similarity of IDN ccTLDs, to create an appeals process, to publish its rationales for rejecting bids, and to revisit old decisions.

The communique states, as formal GAC Advice:

Recently refused IDNs, particularly those nominated by public or national authorities should be urgently re-considered in light of the above considerations.

This request instantly loses the GAC credibility points, in my view, casting it as little more than another special interest group focused on the goals of its members first and internet security second.

To be clear, the GAC is appealing ICANN decisions that were designed to prevent phishing.

Greece’s application for .ελ,was rejected by ICANN last year due to its visual similarity with .EA, a non-existent – but potential future – ccTLD.

While there’s not much on the public record about the European case, I understand Eurid’s bid for a Greek version of .eu was blocked because it looks too much like Estonia’s EE.

Bulgarian IDN supporters have also been very vocal the last couple of years in opposition to ICANN’s decision to forbid .бг due to its alleged resemblance to Brazil’s .br.

While decent arguments can and have been made that some of these rulings were a little on the silly side, it’s hard to argue that they were made without the best of intentions.

The GAC has promised to write to ICANN with “further reflections on the methodology that should be followed when evaluating two character IDNs”.

The GAC as a technical regulator? That letter should make for some interesting reading.

Microsoft, Yahoo and others involved in new dot-brand gTLD group

HSBC, Microsoft, Yahoo and jewelry maker Richemont have told ICANN they plan to form a new GNSO stakeholder group just for single-registrant gTLD registries.

The group would comprise dot-brand registries and — potentially — other types of single-user gTLD manager.

A letter (pdf) to ICANN chair Steve Crocker, signed by executives from the four companies, reads in part:

As a completely new type of contracted party, we do not have a home to represent our unique community. In addition, the existence of conflicts with other contracted parties makes it challenging for us to reside within their stakeholder group.

Combined, the companies have applied for about 30 single-registrant gTLDs, mostly corresponding to brands.

Richemont, which is applying for dot-brands including .cartier, is also applying for the keywords .jewelry and .watches as single-user spaces.

The group plans to discuss formalizing itself at the next ICANN meeting, in Toronto this October.

During the just-concluded Prague meeting, the GNSO’s existing registries stakeholder group accepted several new gTLD applicants — I believe mainly conventional registries — into the fold as observers.

How the influx of new gTLD registries will affect the GNSO’s structure was a hot topic for the Governmental Advisory Committee during the meeting too. I guess now it has some of the answers it was looking for.

Digital archery is dead, but uncertainties remain

Kevin Murphy, June 28, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has killed off its unpopular “digital archery” scheme, which it had planned to use to rank and batch new top-level domain applications for evaluation.

But the organization has not yet replaced it with anything, leaving gTLD applicants without their much-sought-after certainty for at least the next three weeks.

In a resolution yesterday, ICANN’s New gTLD Program Committee approved the following resolution:

Resolved (2012.06.27.NG06), the New gTLD Program Committee directs the President and CEO to terminate the Digital Archery process as approved in Resolutions 2011.12.08.04-2011.12.08.07.

Given the discussions between the ICANN board and the rest of the community here at ICANN 44 in Prague this week, it would have been more surprising if archery had survived.

Not everyone is happy to see it go, of course.

Richard Schreier, CEO of erstwhile digital archery service provider Pool.com, took to the mic at the ICANN public forum this afternoon to ask that ICANN sticks to its decisions in future.

He further noted that the decision to scrap archery had been made without the input of applicants who are not in attendance at the meeting.

Now that archery has gone, the ICANN board has left a vacuum – nobody knows how applications will be prioritized for processing and evaluation.

Committee chair Cherine Chalaby said that ICANN will now open a comment period for all applicants, in order to help build a “roadmap” to “detail the next steps and timelines”.

This roadmap is due, it seems before the new gTLD committee’s next meeting, which is due to take place approximately three weeks from now.

This does not necessarily mean the program has been delayed, however. ICANN senior vice president Kurt Pritz said a few times this week that evaluators will start looking at apps July 12.

.radio gTLD applicant joins the GAC

Kevin Murphy, June 28, 2012, Domain Policy

The European Broadcasting Union, which is one of four applicants for the .radio top-level domain, has asked to join ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee as an observer.

It is believed that its request is likely to be accepted.

The move, which comes just a couple of weeks after ICANN revealed its list of new gTLD applications, could raise conflict of interest questions.

While several GAC governments and observers are backing new gTLD bids – the UK supports .london, for example – they’re generally geographic in nature and generally not contested.

But .radio has been applied for by Afilias, BRS Media and Donuts in addition to the EBU.

While any organization can file objections against applications, under the rules of the new gTLD program the GAC has the additional right to issue special “GAC Advice on New gTLDs”.

Consensus GAC advice is expected to be enough to kill an application.

Since it’s not entirely clear how the GAC will create its formal Advice, it’s not yet clear whether the EBU will have any input into the process.

According to the GAC’s governing principles, observers do not have voting rights, but they can “participate fully in the GAC and its Committees and Working Groups”.

The EBU’s .radio gTLD would be open to all potential registrants, but it would be subject to post-registration content restrictions: web sites would have to be radio-oriented, according to the application.

It’s also the only Community-designated bid in the contention set, meaning it could attempt a Community Priority Evaluation to resolve the dispute.

The EBU has also applied for .eurovision, the name of its annual singing competition, as an uncontested dot-brand.

Former ICANN VP calls bull on Beckstrom’s exit speech

Kevin Murphy, June 26, 2012, Domain Policy

If you were following DI on Twitter during the opening ceremony of ICANN 44 yesterday, you may have noticed I only tweeted one direct quote from incoming CEO Fadi Chehade.

I pulled this one line out of what was a fairly long and passionate address because I had a “hunch” what might be coming up next when outgoing CEO Rod Beckstrom took the stage for the final time.

Now, former ICANN vice president of corporate affairs Paul Levins has called out his old boss for taking credit where credit may not be due.

Beckstrom said, during his opening remarks:

My first day on the job, I was given a blank sheet of paper and I was told that the Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Commerce of the US government was not going to be renewed by ICANN.

And I was told, “You better come up with something better and you have to get it done in 90 days because the MoU is going to expire.”

Together we worked and we created the Affirmation of Commitments.

The MoU and the AoC which replaced it have been ICANN’s primary statements of legitimacy with the US government, spelling out its responsibilities to the internet community.

Levins, writing on CircleID last night, calls Beckstrom out on the statement.

We were not starting with a blank piece of paper. It’s to his credit that he allowed that to continue, but it’s not healthy to perpetuate a belief that what replaced the Joint Project Agreement — the Affirmation of Commitments (AoC) — was miraculously developed in the space of only weeks prior to the expiration of the JPA — that an accountability rabbit was pulled from the hat.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It was ultimately the result of ten years of community effort.

But in the lead up to the JPA expiry, the direct negotiating and writing team was me, Theresa Swinehart and importantly — from the Department of Commerce (DoC) — the willing, creative and sincere cooperation of Fiona Alexander and Larry Atlas the then Senior Advisor at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Communication at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

The first written draft of the AoC had been produced over the eight months prior to Beckstrom’s arrival, Levins writes.

It’s fairly well known that Levins was one of the first people to lose his job under Beckstrom, but several others who were on ICANN staff at the time have confirmed to DI that the AoC was developed as Levins says.

His op-ed doesn’t strike me, in that light, as a full case of sour grapes.

Levins, who seems to be one of the many ICANN attendees who was impressed by Chehade’s debut address yesterday, signs off his editorial with what could be considered advice to both Chehade and Beckstrom:

…truth and sincerity is what should continue to drive the AoC’s ongoing implementation. But it should also drive the corporate memory of its creation.

Humility was a personality trait that ICANN specifically asked for when it advertised the CEO’s job earlier this year.

Judging by the reactions of ICANN 44 attendees who listened to Chehade’s speech yesterday — and have met him — humility is something Chehade appears to possess in buckets.

Everybody I’ve spoken to so far is impressed with the new guy, though some have also pointed out that they felt the same way this time in 2009.

Batching session provides more questions than answers

Kevin Murphy, June 24, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN plans to start evaluating new generic top-level domain bids on schedule July 12, despite the fact that its digital archery application batching system is offline.

That’s according to senior vice president Kurt Pritz, who told a session of the GNSO Council here in Prague this morning that “we want to ensure evaluations start taking place as scheduled”.

Due to the large amount of contention it seems most likely that there will be three batches, he said, which will take 15 months to process through Initial Evaluation.

Teams at ICANN’s outside evaluators – Ernst & Young, KMPG et al – are already doing test evaluations in order to “calibrate” their scoring for consistency, Pritz said.

Applications will be continuously sent to evaluators for processing throughout the three batches – split into batches at the “output” stage rather than the “input” stage, he said.

“We feed applications in and batches are how they are reported out,” he said.

But with the future of digital archery currently uncertain, one wonders how the “input” will be ordered.

If ICANN is set on pushing applications into the evaluation funnel by July 12, by which time the batching problem may have not been resolved, we could be faced with some weird scenarios.

Theoretically, a batch three application could be processed next month and not be spat out of the system for another year and a half. That’s my interpretation of what Pritz said, anyway, shared by some but not all people who were in the room.

More details are sure to emerge as ICANN 44 progresses…

Is this why digital archery is borked?

Kevin Murphy, June 24, 2012, Domain Tech

Another possible explanation has been put forward for ICANN’s suspension of digital archery, this time by one of the third-party digital archery service providers.

The ambitiously named Digital Archery Experts says it alerted ICANN to the presence of a technical problem a week ago.

Chief technology officer Dirk Bhagat described it thus:

Instead of generating the timestamp immediately, we believe the TAS timestamp generation process may be delayed by increases in system load…

Since most applicants are aiming for the 000 millisecond variance at the minute mark, this can introduce varying timestamps since applicants are shooting for the exact same second on the minute. We have also noted that our results were a lot more consistent when attempts were made to hit the target at various offsets after the minute mark, for example, aiming for 15:32:07 instead of 15:32:00.

It’s not exactly rocket science. In short, he’s saying that the TAS can’t handle too many applicants logging in and shooting at the same time; more load equals poorer performance.

This won’t be news to many applicants, some of whom saw downtime last week that seemed to be caused by a meltdown of the sluggish Citrix virtual machine software.

It also seems to be consistent with the hypothesis that the massive amount of calibration going on — much of it by digital archery service providers themselves — has caused more load than TAS can handle.

With only 20% of applications currently assigned a timestamp, and only a week left on the clock, the situation could only have been exacerbated by lots of last-minute arrows being fired.

While digital archery may be conceptually similar to grabbing a dropping domain or hitting a landrush, it seems pretty clear that TAS is not as redundantly provisioned as the typical registry SRS.

Bhagat said that ICANN could mitigate the impact of the problem by separating timestamp generation as much as possible from the parts of the infrastructure impacted most by system load.

This might all be academic, however.

ICANN suspended digital archery yesterday, a day after new gTLD program director Michael Salazar quit for reasons unknown.

Digital archery and batching are high on the agenda here at ICANN 44 in Prague, and many attendees hope that the controversial system may be gone for good before the week is out.

That includes some members of the Governmental Advisory Committee, which in an open meeting yesterday seemed to be coming to the conclusion that it would advise ICANN to ditch digital archery.

The GAC and the ICANN’s board’s new gTLD program committee are having their first public facetime this afternoon at 1630 local time, at which a better sense of how both plan to proceed might emerge.

Digital archery suspended, surely doomed

Kevin Murphy, June 23, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has turned off its unpopular “digital archery” system after new gTLD applicants and independent testing reported “unexpected results”.

As delegates continue to hit the tarmac here in Prague for ICANN 44, at which batching may well be hottest topic in town, digital archery is now surely doomed.

ICANN said in a statement this morning:

The primary reason is that applicants have reported that the timestamp system returns unexpected results depending on circumstances. Independent analysis also confirmed the variances, some as a result of network latency, others as a result of how the timestamp system responds under differing circumstances.

While that’s pretty vague, it could partly refer to the kind of geographic randomness reported by ARI Registry Services, following testing, earlier this week.

It could also refer to the kind of erratic results reported by Top Level Domain Holdings two weeks ago, which were initially dismissed as a minor display-layer error.

TLDH has also claimed that the number of opportunistic third-party digital archery services calibrating their systems against the live site had caused latency spikes.

Several applicants also said earlier this week that the TLD Application System had been inaccessible for long periods, apparently due to a Citrix overloading problem.

Only 20% of applications had so far registered their archery timestamp, according to ICANN, despite the fact that the system was due to close down on June 28.

Make no mistake, this is another technical humiliation for ICANN, one which casts the resignation of new gTLD program director Michael Salazar on Thursday in a new light.

For applicants, ICANN said evaluations were still proceeding according to plan, but that the batching problem is now open for face-to-face community discussion:

The evaluation process will continue to be executed as designed. Independent firms are already performing test evaluations to promote consistent application of evaluation criteria. The time it takes to delegate TLDs will depend on the number and timing of batches

The information gathered from community input to date and here in Prague will be weighed by the New gTLD Committee of the Board. The Committee will work to ensure that community sentiment is fully understood and to avoid disruption to the evaluation schedule.

Expect ICANN staff to take a community beating over these latest developments as ICANN 44 kicks off here in Prague.

There’s light support for batching, and even less for digital archery. It’s looking increasingly likely that neither will survive the meeting.

ICANN may renew Verisign’s .com deal this weekend

ICANN’s board of directors is set to vote on Verisign’s .com registry agreement at a meeting in Prague this Saturday.

The meeting is scheduled for June 23, the day before ICANN 44 officially kicks off. Read the agenda here.

The contract has been controversial because it will continue to allow Verisign to raise prices by 7% in four out of the six years of its duration.

Opportunistic intellectual property interests have also called for Verisign to be obliged to follow new rights protection mechanisms such as the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy.

But I’m not predicting any big changes from the draft version of the agreement that was published in March.

If and when the ICANN board approves the contract, it will be sent off to the US Department of Commerce for, I believe, another round of public comment and eventual ratification.

If Verisign is to run into any problems with renewal, it’s in Washington DC where it’s most likely to happen.

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