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Afilias dumps .mail bid, and three other new gTLD withdrawals

Four new gTLD applications have been withdrawn so far this week, including the first to come from .info operator Afilias.

Afilias has pulled its bid for .mail — the second applicant to do so — due to the number of competitors for the string.

A spokesperson said in an email:

The company felt there were simply too many groups in contention for this domain and we’d rather focus our energy supporting and helping to grow the .POST domain, for which we are the [technical services provider].

There are now five applicants competing for the string, including Google, Amazon and Donuts, but they’re all facing objections from the United States Postal Service and the Universal Postal Union, which runs .post.

Elsewhere this week, Directi has ended its bid for .movie, a contention set with seven other bidders.

The company declined to comment on the reasons for the withdrawal, so we probably can’t entirely rule out some kind of partnership with one or more other applicants.

Today we’ve also seen the withdrawal of applications for .ltd and .inc, both belonging to a Dutch company called C.V. TLDcare. I don’t know much about these guys, other than it used OpenRegistry as its technical partner and that .inc and .ltd were its only two applications.

Interesting fact: not a single “corporate identifier” application (.llp, .corp, .ltd, .inc, .llc) has passed Initial Evaluation yet, but seven applications have been withdrawn.

It’s a controversial category, with many US state attorneys general very unhappy about any of these strings being delegated without safeguards.

The latest four withdrawals bring the total to 63.

Second .online gTLD bid and third ‘guardian’ dot-brand withdrawn

Directi appears to be the last man standing in the three-way tie-up for .online, following the latest new gTLD withdrawals.

Namecheap has dropped its .online application, closely following Tucows, which dropped its bid a couple of weeks ago.

The three companies announced a deal in March to see them cooperate to win the contested TLD, but at the time it wasn’t clear which applicants would pull out.

Directi’s bid (filed by DotOnline Inc under the Radix brand) remains. It has already passed Initial Evaluation, which may be part of the reason its application was chosen as the “winner”.

The gTLD is still contested, however. Directi is competing with Donuts, I-Registry and Dot Online LLC.

Separately today, a curious two-way dot-brand battle seems to have had its final twist, with Guardian Life Insurance’s withdrawal of its application for .guardianlife.

The insurance company and newspaper publisher Guardian News and Media had both applied for gTLDs containing the string “guardian”. There were originally five, but only two remain.

It now looks like Guardian News will get .theguardian, having previously conceded .guardian to its brand rival and dropping its bid for .guardianmedia.

It appears that there’s been more than a bit of strategic applying, and maybe some deal-making, here.

Neither remaining application is contested, and neither have objections. It’s likely that .guardian is captured by the Governmental Advisory Committee’s advice against “closed generics”, however.

.pw claims 50,000 domains registered in three weeks

Kevin Murphy, April 23, 2013, Domain Registries

Directi’s recently relaunched .pw top-level domain has racked up 50,000 domain name registrations after just three weeks of general availability, according to the company.

The number, which will put a smile on the faces of many new gTLD applicants, relates to GA only and does not include defensive registrations made during the ccTLD’s sunrise period, Directi confirmed to DI.

“Our goal was 100,000 names for the first year,” Directi CEO Bhavin Turakhia said in a press release. “The feeling of achieving 50% of the goal within the first three weeks is surreal.”

As previously reported, there were 4,000 .pw domains registered during the first half hour of GA.

Directi (running .pw as .PW Registry and/or Radix Registry) signed up 120 registrars to sell .pw names, which it brands as “Professional Web”.

It’s really the ccTLD for Palau, a small nation in the Pacific.

The registry is going for budget buyers, with registry fees and retail prices coming in a little lower than .com.

Directi says Karsten threatened it over .ping gTLD

Kevin Murphy, September 27, 2012, Domain Registries

The golf club maker Karsten has launched an attack on Directi due to their dispute over the new gTLD .ping, following through on threats Directi says the company made last month.

Karsten’s outside counsel, Paul McGrady of Winston & Strawn, filed over 200 comments and a 500-page letter against Direct’s new gTLD applications last night, shortly before the ICANN deadline.

In the comments, McGrady says that Directi should be banned from running any new gTLDs because its affiliated privacy service, PrivacyProtect.org, has lost dozens of UDRP cases.

But Directi said today that the Strawn comments — filed against applications such as .web, .hosting and .app — are just a smokescreen for Karsten’s claim over .ping.

Ping is a brand of golf clubs Karsten sells at ping.com, but Directi plans to use the gTLD in its other, geeky sense, open to all-comers.

Directi says that Karsten told it in an August 8 letter to withdraw the .ping bid or face action. According to Directi, the letter said in part:

Karsten is preparing to post this letter and the attached public comments for each of your applications, not just .ping, prior to the end of the public comment period. Once filed, this letter and the public comments will also be sent to the ICANN Board and Senior Staff. Further, as you know, Karsten may seek relief from the courts, through ICANN’s various processes, and through raising awareness of your activities within the ICANN community generally. Karsten will pursue all appropriate means to ensure that all of your applications are rejected.

Directi said in a statement: “Karsten is our only competitor for the .ping bid and their comment is submitted in bad faith and to further their self-interest.”

CEO Bhavin Turakhia said that PrivacyProtect.org did not own any of the domain names listed in the UDRP cases McGrady cited, it merely acted as the privacy service.

The company removes the privacy protection when UDRPs are filed, he said, but the registrant’s identity is not always listed in the published decision.

Big hotel chains pick a side in .hotel gTLD fight

Kevin Murphy, August 11, 2012, Domain Registries

Many of the world’s major hotel chains say they plan to object to every .hotel new gTLD application but one.

A coalition of many recognizable hotel brands, led by InterContinental, has filed comments against six of the seven .hotel applications, as well as the applications for .hotels, .hoteis and .hoteles.

They say they want the Independent Objector to object to these applications on community grounds. Failing that, they’ll file their own official Community Objections.

The comments (PRO) were filed by the Hotel Consumer Protection Coalition, which appears to be one of those ad hoc organizations that exists purely to send letters to ICANN.

HCPC encourages the Independent Evaluator to submit a formal Community Objection if necessary. (Guidebook, Sec. 3.2.5.) Failing either of these occurrences, HCPC will seriously consider filing a Community Objection of its own – unless, of course, Applicant voluntarily withdraws its application.

The coalition’s members include the Choice Hotels, InterContinental, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Starwood and Wyndham hotel chains. Together, they say they have over 25,000 hotels in over 100 countries.

The lucky recipient of the coalition’s tacit support is HOTEL Top-Level-Domain, the Luxembourg-based applicant managed by Johannes Lenz-Hawliczek and Katrin Ohlmer, which is using Afilias as its back-end.

It’s one of only two .hotel applicants flagged in the DI PRO database as planning to use a “restricted” business model. Only hotels, hotel chains and hotel associations will be able to register.

The other applicant with planned restrictions is a subsidiary of Directi, though its application suggests that any eligibility requirements would only be enforced post-registration.

HOTEL Top-Level Domain is also the only applicant that appears to be pursuing a single gTLD. All but one of the others are portfolio applicants of various ambitions.

Top Level Domain Holdings, Donuts, Famous Four Media and Fegistry all plan “open” business models for .hotel, while Despegar Online is planning a single-registrant space.

The Hotel Consumer Protection Coalition’s support for HOTEL Top-Level Domain is conditional, however. The company has apparently had to agree to explicitly exclude:

“any entity other than a hotel, hotel chain, or organization or association that is not formed or controlled by individual hotels or hotel chains”

It’s also agreed to “immediately suspend” any “clear violations”, such as cases of cybersquatting, when notified by coalition members, and to include its members’ brands on a Globally Protected Hotel Marks List.

The support has apparently been granted extremely reluctantly. InterContinental explicitly does not support the new gTLD program, and Marriott has previously said it thinks .hotel is pointless.

I can’t imagine a .hotel supported by companies that have no plans to use it being particularly successful.