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Dead dot-brands top 100. Here’s the list and breakdown

Kevin Murphy, September 22, 2021, Domain Registries

The list of dot-brand gTLDs that have had their ICANN registry contracts torn up has now topped 100.

SC Johnson, the big American cleaning products company, has informed the Org it no longer wishes to run .afamilycompany, .duck, .glade, .off, .raid, and .scjohnson.

Regular readers will know that I’ve been keeping a running tally of dot-brand terminations for the last several years, and according to that tally that number is now 101.

But it’s a bit more complex than that, so I thought I’d use the occasion of this milestone to provide a more substantial breakdown.

ICANN has records for 104 dot-brands either being terminated by ICANN or asking to be terminated of their own accord.

The number of registry-initiated termination requests is 90. These are typically gTLDs that were never used, or were experimented with and then abandoned. A smaller number relate to brands that were discontinued following mergers or product end-of-life, rendering the dot-brand pointless.

ICANN initiated the other 14 terminations, mostly because the registry operator got cold feet during the pre-delegation testing phase, before going live, but also in one instance for non-payment of fees and in two cases whatever the hell this is.

Six of the registry-initiated transfer requests were withdrawn before being fully processed. Of those, three (.boots, .mobily, and its Arabic translation) went on to be terminated anyway.

Two registries filed for self-termination then changed their minds and committed auto-genericide by selling their contracts — for .bond and .sbs — to discounting portfolio registry ShortDot instead.

One dot-brand, .case, withdrew its December 2020 termination request and appears to still be active.

Thirteen termination requests are currently in the system but have not yet been fully processed.

Five dot-brand gTLD contracts — .observer, .quest, .monster, .select, .compare — were sold to other registries to be repurposed as open generics. You could add .cyou to that list, depending on how you define a dot-brand.

One gTLD that was originally a generic — .moto — made the move in the other direction to become a dot-brand.

Here’s the list of dot-brands that have either requested a termination, or been terminated.

TLD/RegistryInitiated ByStatus
.active (Active Network, LLC)RegistryTerminated
.afamilycompany (Johnson Shareholdings, Inc.)RegistryPending
.africamagic (Electronic Media Network (Pty) Ltd)ICANNTerminated
.aigo (aigo Digital Technology Co, Ltd.)iCANNTerminated
.blanco (BLANCO GmbH + Co KG)RegistryTerminated
.bnl (Banca Nazionale del Lavoro)RegistryTerminated
.bond (Bond University Limited)RegistryWithdrawn
.boots (The Boots Company PLC)RegistryTerminated
.boots (The Boots Company PLC)RegistryTerminated
.cartier (Richemont DNS Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.case (CNH Industrial N.V.)RegistryWithdrawn
.caseih (CNH Industrial N.V.)RegistryTerminated
.ceb (The Corporate Executive Board Company)RegistryTerminated
.chloe (Richemont DNS Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.chrysler (FCA US LLC.)RegistryTerminated
.dabur (Dabur India LimitedRegistryPending
.dodge (FCA US LLC.)RegistryTerminated
.doha (Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA)RegistryTerminated
.DOOSAN (Doosan Corporation)RegistryTerminated
.dstv (MultiChoice (Proprietary) Limited)iCANNTerminated
.duck (Johnson Shareholdings, Inc.)RegistryPending
.duns (The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation)RegistryTerminated
.dwg (Autodesk, Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.emerson (Emerson Electric Co.)RegistryTerminated
.epost (Deutsche Post AG)RegistryTerminated
.esurance (Esurance Insurance Company)RegistryTerminated
.everbank (EverBank)RegistryTerminated
.FLSMIDTH (FLSmidth A/S)RegistryTerminated
.fujixerox (Xerox DNHC LLC)RegistryTerminated
.glade (Johnson Shareholdings, Inc.)RegistryPending
.goodhands (Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Company)RegistryTerminated
.gotv (MultiChoice (Proprietary) Limited)iCANNTerminated
.honeywell (Honeywell GTLD LLC)RegistryTerminated
.htc (HTC Corporation)RegistryTerminated
.iinet (Connect West Pty)RegistryTerminated
.intel (Intel Corporation)RegistryTerminated
.iselect (iSelect Ltd)RegistryTerminated
.iveco (CNH Industrial N.V.)RegistryTerminated
.iwc (Richemont DNS Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.jcp (JCP Media, Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.jlc (Richemont DNS Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.kyknet (Electronic Media Network (Pty) Ltd)iCANNTerminated
.ladbrokes (Ladbrokes International PLC)RegistryTerminated
.lancome (L'Oréal)RegistryTerminated
.liaison (Liaison Technologies, Incorporated)RegistryTerminated
.lixil (LIXIL Group Corporation)RegistryPending
.lupin (Lupin Limited)RegistryTerminated
.mcd (McDonald's Corporation)RegistryTerminated
.mcdonalds (McDonald's Corporation)RegistryTerminated
.meo (MEO Servicos de Comunicacoes e Multimedia, S.A.)RegistryTerminated
.metlife (MetLife Services and Solutions, LLC)RegistryTerminated
.mnet (Electronic Media Network (Pty) Ltd)iCANNTerminated
.mobily (GreenTech Consultancy Company W.L.L.)RegistryWithdrawn
.mobily (GreenTech Consultancy W.L.L.)iCANNTerminated
.montblanc (Richemont DNS Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.mopar (FCA US LLC.)RegistryTerminated
.movistar (Telefónica S.A.)RegistryTerminated
.mtpc (Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation)RegistryTerminated
.multichoice (MultiChoice (Proprietary) Limited)iCANNTerminated
.mutuelle (Fédération Nationale de la Mutualité Française)RegistryTerminated
.mzansimagic (Electronic Media Network (Pty) Ltd)iCANNTerminated
.nadex (Nadex Domains, Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.naspers (Intelprop (Proprietary) Limited)iCANNTerminated
.nationwide (Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company)RegistryTerminated
.newholland (CNH Industrial N.V.)RegistryTerminated
.off (Johnson Shareholdings, Inc.)RegistryPending
.onyourside (Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company)RegistryTerminated
.orientexpress (Orient Express)RegistryTerminated
.pamperedchef (The Pampered Chef, Ltd.)RegistryTerminated
.panerai (Richemont DNS Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.payu (MIH PayU B.V.)iCANNTerminated
.piaget (Richemont DNS Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.qvc (QVC, Inc)RegistryPending
.raid (Johnson Shareholdings, Inc.)RegistryPending
.rightathome (Johnson Shareholdings, Inc.)RegistryTerminated
.rmit (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology)RegistryPending
.sapo (MEO Servicos de Comunicacoes e Multimedia, S.A.)RegistryTerminated
.sbs (SPECIAL BROADCASTING SERVICE CORPORATION)RegistryWithdrawn
.scjohnson (Johnson Shareholdings, Inc.)RegistryPending
.scor (SCOR SE)RegistryTerminated
.shriram (Shriram Capital Ltd.)RegistryTerminated
.spiegel (SPIEGEL-Verlag Rudolf Augstein GmbH & Co. KG)RegistryTerminated
.srt (FCA US LLC.)RegistryTerminated
.starhub (StarHub Ltd)RegistryTerminated
.statoil (Statoil ASA)RegistryTerminated
.supersport (SuperSport International Holdings Proprietary Limited)iCANNTerminated
.swiftcover (Swiftcover Insurance Services Limited)RegistryPending
.symantec (Symantec Corporation)RegistryTerminated
.telecity (TelecityGroup International Limited)RegistryTerminated
.telefonica (Telefónica S.A.)RegistryTerminated
.theguardian (Guardian News And Media Limited)iCANNTerminated
.uconnect (FCA US LLC.)RegistryTerminated
.vista (Vistaprint Limited)RegistryTerminated
.vistaprint (Vistaprint Limited)RegistryTerminated
.warman (Weir Group IP Limited)RegistryTerminated
.xperia (Sony Mobile Communications AB)RegistryTerminated
.zippo (Zadco Company)RegistryTerminated
xn--3oq18vl8pn36a (Volkswagen (China) Investment Co., Ltd.)RegistryPending
xn--estv75g (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited)RegistryTerminated
xn--kpu716f (Richemont DNS Inc.)RegistryTerminated
xn--mgbb9fbpob (GreenTech Consultancy Company W.L.L.)RegistryWithdrawn
xn--mgbb9fbpob (GreenTech Consultancy W.L.L.)iCANNTerminated
xn--pbt977c (Richemont DNS Inc.)RegistryTerminated
xn—4gq48lf9j Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.RegistryTerminated

Volkswagen drives IDN dot-brand off a cliff

Kevin Murphy, September 13, 2021, Domain Registries

Volkwagen has decided it no longer wishes to run its Chinese-script dot-brand gTLD.

The car-maker’s Chinese arm has asked ICANN to terminate its contract for .大众汽车 (.xn--3oq18vl8pn36a), which has been in the root for five years.

It’s the standard terminating dot-brand story — the gTLD was never used and VW evidently decided it wasn’t needed.

The company also runs .volkswagen, and that’s not used either, but ICANN has yet to publish termination papers for that particular string.

Fellow German car-maker Audi is one of the most prolific users of dot-brands. Its .audi gTLD has over 1,800 registered domains, most of which appear to be used by its licensed dealerships.

.volkwagen is the 95th terminated dot-brand and the seventh terminated internationalized domain name gTLD.

.sucks registry probably “connected” to mass cybersquatter, panel rules

Kevin Murphy, August 19, 2021, Domain Registries

Vox Populi, the .sucks registry, is probably affiliated with and financially benefiting from a mass cybersquatter, a panel of domain experts has said.

In the UDRP case of Euromaster v Honey Salt, a three-person panel handed the complainant the domain euromaster.sucks, ruling that it was a case of cybersquatting.

It’s one of 21 .sucks UDRP complaints filed against Honey Salt, a Turks & Caicos company operating under unknown ownership believed to own hundreds or thousands of brand-match .sucks domains.

It’s lost 17 of the 19 so-far decided cases. It also won one case on a technicality and another early case on the merits after mounting a free-speech defense that subsequent panels have not bought.

What’s new about this one is that the WIPO panel — Lawrence Nodine, Douglas Isenberg and Stephanie Hartung — is the first to follow the money and openly infer a connection between Honey Salt and Vox Pop.

The panel said that it “infer[s] that the Respondent [Honey Salt] and Registry [Vox Pop] are connected”, and that Vox is probably trying to make money by charging trademark owners premium fees for their own brands.

Vox Pop has previously denied such a connection, when I first made the same inference last October.

Regular readers will recall that Honey Salt has registered hundreds of .sucks domains and pointed them to a wiki-style web site called Everything.sucks, ostensibly run by a third-party, US-based non-profit.

Rather than containing original “gripe” content, which could easily enable it to win a free-speech UDRP defense, Everything.sucks simply populates its site with poor-quality, context-free content scraped by bots from social media and third-party web sites such as TrustPilot and GlassDoor.

Originally, each page carried a banner linking to a secondary market page at Uniregistry or Sedo where the domains could be purchased, often at cost price.

That quickly disappeared when the first UDRP cases started rolling in, and earlier this year Everything.sucks said on each page that it refused to sell its domains to anyone, instead offering a free transfer.

It even published the pre-authorized transfer codes on each page, meaning literally anyone could seize control of the domain in question without asking permission from or negotiating with Honey Salt in advance.

The problem with that is that transfers are not free. Some domains are flagged as premium — including lots of brand-matches — and have transfer fees in the thousands of dollars. Even the cheapest still carry the base registry fee.

Many registrars steer well clear of this model, disallowing any .sucks transfers.

One registrar that reliably does allow .sucks transfers is Rebel, which is sister company to Vox Pop under the Momentous group of companies. It offers .sucks domains at the registry wholesale fee, which is $200 for an non-premium.

It’s been painfully obvious since the outset that the only parties that stand to make a profit on the Everything.sucks business model are the registry and its affiliated companies — it simply doesn’t make sense that Honey Salt would invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in trademark-infringing domains, simply to hand them over at cost.

But the Euromaster panel is the first to infer the connection, or at least the first to publicly infer the connection.

Euromaster had filed a supplemental document in its complaint pointing out that the “free” transfer of euromaster.sucks would in fact cost a “premium” fee of $2418.79. The registrar quoting that fee is not revealed.

The WIPO panel asked Honey Salt for an explanation and it sounds like it got a bunch of procedural waffle in response.

This led to the following discussion, to which I’ve added some emphasis:

The Panel also finds that Respondent [Honey Salt] has failed to show that it has no financial interest in the Disputed Domain Name. Complainant’s Supplemental submissions demonstrate that Complainant’s chosen registrar quoted a fee of USD 2418.79 to transfer the Disputed Domain Name. Complainant’s report is consistent with M and M Direct Limited v. Pat Honey Salt, Honey Salt Limited, WIPO Case No. D2020-2545, where a different panel conducted an independent investigation and reported that the domain name at issue in that case was not offered “free” as promised, but instead that registrars classified the domain names at issue as “premium” and quoted transfer fees of USD 3,198 and USD 4,270 respectively.

This directly contradicts any claim to be offering a free and noncommercial service, and given that any registration would result in a fee being paid to the Registry by a registrar, leads the Panel to infer that the Respondent [Honey Salt] and Registry [Vox Pop] are connected.

Given the prior decision in M and M Direct, and the evidence that Complainant’s Supplemental submissions, the Panel afforded Respondent an opportunity to submit additional argument and evidence to explain the inconsistency. Respondent made no effort to do so, but instead only opposed consideration of Complainant’s supplemental evidence and repeated its previous contentions. The Panel rejects the objections to Complainant’s Supplemental submission, and emphasizes that Respondent was given an opportunity fully to respond.

The Panel finds that Complainant’s evidence raises substantial questions about the credibility of Respondent’s assertion that it has no financial interest in the Disputed Domain Name and whether Respondent’s offer to transfer the Disputed Domain might, directly or indirectly, financially benefit Respondent. Accordingly, the Panel finds that Respondent has not carried its burden to show that its use is noncommercial

In other words, the panel suspects that Vox Pop is in on Honey Salt’s bulk-cybersquatting game.

The closest any other UDRP panel has come to making this link was in a recent case filed by multiple, unrelated trademark owners, where the panel, while denying the complaint on procedural grounds, suggested that aggrieved trademark owners instead invoke ICANN’s Trademark Post Delegation Dispute Resolution Procedure.

The Trademark PDDRP is a mechanism — so far unused and untested — that allows trademark owners to allege registry complicity in cybersquatting schemes. Think of it like UDRP for cybersquatting registries.

Frankly, I’m amazed it hasn’t been used yet.

Dead dot-brands #92 and #93

Kevin Murphy, August 4, 2021, Domain Registries

Two more companies have withdrawn from the new gTLD space, asking ICANN to rip up their dot-brand contracts.

The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, an Australian university, has terminated its contract for .rmit, and SwiftCover, an American insurance company, has withdrawn .swiftcover.

SwiftCover next used its gTLD, according to zone file records. Not once.

RMIT had registered a small handful of domains under .rmit, and had been using at least one of them — which wasn’t even a redirect to the uni’s main .au site — as recently as February this year.

But by May the experiment was over, with RMIT filing its ICANN papers.

These are the 92nd and 93rd dot-brand termination notices to be published by ICANN.

Olympics: Australia preemptively blocking Brisbane 2032 regs

With the venue for the 2032 Olympic Games revealed as Brisbane, Australia last week, the .au registry this week asked people to stop trying to register Olympics-related domains, because they won’t work.

Local ccTLD registry overseer auDA said in a blog post that it’s seen a spike in attempts to register domains containing the string “olympics” and variants since the announcement was made a week ago.

But these strings are on auDA’s reserved list, which cannot be registered even as substrings without government permission. Only the Australian Olympic Committee is allowed to register such domains.

According to auDA, the protected strings are: olympic, olympics, olympicgames, olympiad and olympiads.

It’s a more comprehensive approach to protecting Olympic “trademarks” (for want of a better word) than that employed by ICANN in its gTLD registry contracts, where the various Olympic and Red Cross/Crescent organizations are among a privileged few to enjoy unique protections.

ICANN only requires registries to block the exact-match string from registration, while auDA will block substrings also.

auDA says the domain “BrissiOlympics.com.au” would be blocked. It would not in any ICANN gTLD.

Facebook’s war on privacy claims first registrar scalp

China’s oldest accredited registrar says it will shut up shop permanently next week after being sued into the ground by Facebook, apparently the first victim of the social media giant’s war against Whois privacy.

Facebook sued OnlineNIC in 2019 alleging widespread cybersquatting of its brands. The complaint cited 20 domains containing the Facebook or Instagram trademarks and asserted that the registrar, and not a customer, was the true registrant.

The complaint named ID Shield, apparently OnlineNIC’s Hong Kong-based Whois privacy service, as a defendant and was amended in March this year to add as a defendant 35.cn, another registrar that Facebook says is an alter ego of OnlineNic.

The amended complaint listed an addition 15 squatted domains, for 35 in total.

This week, OnlineNIC director Carrie Yu (aka Carrie Arden aka Yu Hongxia), told the court:

Defendants do not have the financial resources to continue to defend the instant litigation, and accordingly no longer intend to mount a defense. Defendants do not intend to file any oppositions to any pending filing… Subject to any requirements of ICANN, Defendants intend to cease business operations on July 26, 2021.

But Facebook reckons the registrar is about to do a runner to avoid paying almost $75,000 in court fees already incurred and avoid the jurisdiction of the California court where the case is being heard.

Facebook had asked for $3.5 million in penalties in a proposed judgment and OnlineNIC had not opposed.

While it presents itself as American, it appears that OnlineNIC is little more than a shell in the US.

Its official headquarters are little more than a lock-up garage surrounded by builders’ merchants in a grim, windowless facility just off the interstate near Oakland, California.

Its true base appears to be a business park in Xiamen, China, where 35.cn/35.com operates. The company has boasted in the past of being China’s first and oldest ICANN-accredited registrar, getting its foot in the door when the floodgates opened in 1999.

Facebook is now asking the court for a temporary restraining order freezing the defendants’ financial and domain assets, and for a domain broker to be appointed to liquidate its domain portfolio.

If you’re a legit OnlineNIC customer, you might be about to find yourself in a world of hurt.

OnlineNIC had just over 624,000 gTLD domains under management at the last count. 35.cn had another 200,000.

The lawsuit is one of three Facebook is currently fighting against registrars, one prong of its strategy to pressure the ICANN community to open up Whois records rendered private by EU law and consequent ICANN policy.

OnlineNIC is the low-hanging fruit of the trio and the first to be sued. It already faced cybersquatting cases filed by Verizon, Yahoo and Microsoft in 2009. The Verizon case came with a $33 million judgment.

Facebook has also sued the rather less shady registrars Namecheap and Web.com (now Newfold Digital) on similar grounds.

Panel hands .sucks squatter a WIN, but encourages action against the registry

A UDRP panel has denied a complaint against .sucks cybersquatter Honey Salt on a technicality, but suggested that aggrieved trademark holders instead sic their lawyers at the .sucks registry itself.

The three-person World Intellectual Property Organization panel threw out a complaint about six domains — covestro.sucks, lundbeck.sucks, rockwool.sucks, rockfon.sucks, grodan.sucks, tedbaker.sucks, tedbaker-london.sucks, and tedbakerlondon.sucks — filed jointly by four separate and unrelated companies.

The domains were part of the same operation, in which Turks & Caicos-based Honey Salt registers trademarks as .sucks domains and points them at Everything.sucks, a wiki-style site filled with content scraped from third-party sites.

Honey Salt has lost over a dozen UDRP cases since Everything.sucks emerged last year.

But the WIPO panel dismissed the latest case without even considering the merits, due to the fact that the four complainants had consolidated their grievances into a single complaint in an apparent attempt at a “class action”.

The decision reads:

although the Complainants may have established that the Respondent has engaged in similar conduct as to the individual Complainants, which has broadly-speaking affected their legal rights in a similar fashion, the Complainants do not appear to have any apparent connection between the Complainants. Rather it appears that a number of what can only realistically be described as separate parties have filed a single claim (in the nature of a purported class-action) against the Respondent, arising from similar conduct. As the Panel sees it, the Policy does not support such class actions

The panel decided that to force the respondent to file a common response to these complaints would be unfair, even if it is on the face of it up to no good.

Making a slippery-slope argument, the panel suggested that to allow class actions might open up the possibility of mass UDRP complaints against, for example, domain parking companies.

So the case was tossed without the merits being formally considered (though the panel certainly seemed sympathetic to the complainants).

But the sting in the tale comes at the end: the panel allowed that the complainants may re-file separate complaints, but also suggested they invoke the Trademark Post Delegation Dispute Resolution Procedure.

That’s interesting because the Trademark PDDRP, an ICANN policy administered by WIPO and others, is a way to complain about the behavior of the registry, not the registrant.

It’s basically UDRP for registries.

The registry for .sucks domains is Vox Populi, part of the Momentous group of companies. It’s denied a connection to Honey Salt, which uses Vox sister company Rebel for its registrations.

According to ICANN: “The Trademark PDDRP generally addresses a Registry Operator’s complicity in trademark infringement on the first or second level of a New gTLD.”

Complainants under the policy much show by “clear and convincing evidence” that the registry operator or its affiliates are either doing the cybersquatting themselves or encouraging others to do so.

There’s no hiding behind shell companies in tax havens — the policy accounts for that.

The trick here would be to prove that Honey Salt is connected to Vox Pop or the Momentous group.

Nothing is known about the ownership of Honey Salt, though Whois records and UDRP decisions identify a person, quite possibly a bogus name, as one “Pat Honeysalt”, who has no digital fingerprint to speak of.

The most compelling piece of evidence linking Honey Salt to Vox is gleaned by following the money.

The current business model is for Everything.sucks to offer Honey Salt’s domains for “free” by publishing transfer authorization codes right there on the squatted domain.

But anyone attempting to claim these names will still have to pay a registrar — such as Rebel — a transfer/registration fee that could be in excess of $2,000, most or all of which flows through to Vox Pop.

If we ignore the mark-up charged by non-Rebel registrars, the only party that appears to be profiting from Honey Salt’s activities appears to be the .sucks registry itself, in other words.

On its web site, Everything.sucks says it’s a non-profit and makes the implausible claim that it’s just a big fan of .sucks domains. Apparently it’s a fan to the extent that it’s prepared to spend millions registering the names and giving them away for free.

An earlier Everything.sucks model saw the domains listed at cost price on secondary market web sites.

The Trademark PDDRP, which appears to be tailor-made for this kind of scenario, has not to my knowledge been used to date. Neither WIPO nor ICANN have ever published any decisions delivered under it.

It costs complainants as much as $30,500 for a three-person panel with WIPO and has a mandatory 30-day period during which the would-be complainant has to attempt to resolve the issue privately with the registry.

The six domains in the UDRP case appear to have all gone into early “pending delete” status since the decision was delivered and do not resolve.

ShortDot plans domain blocking service for brands

Acquisitive new gTLD registry ShortDot is planning a trademark-blocking service along the same lines as those offered by some of its rivals.

The company has applied to ICANN for permission to start a new service called ShortBlock, which it compared to blocking offerings such as Donuts’ Domain Protected Marks List.

Such services block trademarked strings from being registered across a portfolio of gTLDs for a price lower than would be charged for individual defensive registrations.

ShortBlock would also permit typo-blocking, ShortDot’s request states.

Similar services are offered by MMX and .CLUB, both of which will shortly be part of GoDaddy.

ShortDot currently has five gTLDs in its portfolio: .cyou, .sbs, .icu, .bond and .cfd.

Its back-end provider is CentralNic. It says it plans to launch ShortBlock just as soon as ICANN approves its Registry Services Evaluation Process request.

Honey Salt stops responding to .sucks cybersquatting complaints

Kevin Murphy, May 27, 2021, Domain Policy

.sucks cybersquatter Honey Salt has stopped responding to UDRP and URS complaints related to the affiliated Everything.sucks web site.

Three UDRP decisions and one URS decisions resolved since early April have stated that the shadowy Turks & Caicos company defaulted or did not respond to the complaints.

It lost all four cases, all on pretty much the same grounds, losing its domains or having them suspended as a result.

Panelists concluded that while Everything.sucks presents itself as a grassroots free-speech wiki populated by user-generated content, in reality it’s just stuffed with undated, anonymous, context-free comments scraped from third-party web sites and designed to pressure brand owners into buying their .sucks domains.

Honey Salt has been hit with 19 UDPR and URS complaints covering 27 .sucks domains since last September. It’s lost all bar one of those that have been decided, an early UDRP in which the panelist bought its free-speech defense.

With the precedent that Everything.sucks is a cybersquatting enterprise pretty solidly set, it presumably doesn’t make much sense for Honey Salt to pay expensive lawyers to put up a defense any more.

In earlier cases, when Honey Salt was still responding, the company was represented by Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, the US law firm that has also worked for .sucks registry Vox Populi.

ICANN chair reins in new gTLD timeline hopes

Kevin Murphy, May 24, 2021, Domain Policy

Don’t get excited about the next round of new gTLDs launching any time soon.

That’s my takeaway from recent correspondence between ICANN’s chair and brand-owners who are apparently champing at the bit to get their teeth into some serious dot-brand action.

Maarten Botterman warned Brand Registry Group chair Cole Quinn that “significant work lies ahead” before the org can start accepting applications once more.

Quinn had urged ICANN to get a move on last month, saying in a letter that there was “significant demand” from trademark owners.

The last three-month application window ended in March 2012, governed by an Applicant Guidebook that said: “The goal is for the next application round to begin within one year of the close of the application submission period for the initial round.”

That plainly never happened, as ICANN proceeded to tie itself in bureaucratic knots and recursive cycles of review and analysis.

Any company that missed the boat or was founded in the meantime has been unable to to even get a sniff of operating its own dot-brand, or indeed any other type of gTLD.

Spelling out some of the steps that need to be accomplished before the next window opens, Botterman wrote:

the 2012 Applicant Guidebook must be updated with more than 100 outputs from the SubPro PDP WG; we will need to apply lessons learned from the previous round, many of which are documented in the 2016 Program Implementation Review, and appropriate resources for implementing and conducting subsequent rounds must be put in place. At present it appears that WG recommendations will benefit from an Operational Design Phase (ODP) to provide the Board with information on the operational implications of implementing the recommendations. As part of such an ODP, the Board may also task ICANN org to provide an assessment of some of the issues of concern that the Board raised in its comments on the Draft Final Report, as well as those topics that did not reach consensus and were thus not adopted by the GNSO Council. The outcome of such an assessment could also add to the work that would be required before launching subsequent rounds.

The Board notes your views regarding SAC114. We are aware of discussions that took place during ICANN70 and the Board is in communication with the Security and Stability Committee (SSAC) and its leadership, as per the ‘Understand’ phase of the Board Advice Process. As with all advice items received, the Board will treat SAC114 in accordance with that process.

Breaking that down for your convenience…

The reference to “more than 100 outputs from the SubPro PDP WG” refers to the now six-year old Policy Development Process for New gTLD Subsequent Procedures working group of the GNSO.

SubPro delivered its final report in January and it was adopted by the GNSO Council in February.

ICANN asked the Governmental Advisory Committee for its formal input a few weeks ago, has opened the report for a public comment period that ends June 1, and will accept or reject the report at some point in the future.

SubPro’s more significant recommendations include the creation of a new accreditation mechanism for registry back-end service providers and a gaming-preventing overhaul of the contention resolution process.

The “the 2016 Program Implementation Review” is a reference to a self-assessment of the 2012 round that the ICANN staff carried out six years ago, producing a 215-page report (pdf).

That report contains about 50 recommendations covering areas where staff thought the system of actually processing new gTLD applications could possibly be improved or streamlined in subsequent rounds.

The Operational Design Phase (ODP) Botterman refers to is a brand-new phase of ICANN bureaucracy that is currently untested. It fits between GNSO Council approval of recommendations and ICANN board consideration.

The ODP is basically a way for ICANN staff to insert itself into the process, between community policy-making and community policy-approval, to make sure the GNSO’s tenuous consensus-building exercise has not produced something too crazily complicated, ineffective or expensive to implement.

Staff denies this is a power-grab.

The ODP is currently being deployed to assess proposed changes to Whois privacy policy, and ICANN has already stated multiple times that it will also be used to vet SubPro’s work.

Botterman’s reference to “issues of concern that the Board raised in its comments on the Draft Final Report” seems to mean this September 2020 letter (pdf) to SubPro’s chairs, in which the ICANN board outlined some of its initial concerns with SubPro’s proposed policies.

One fairly important concern was whether ICANN has the power under its bylaws (which have changed since 2012) to enforce Public Interest Commitments (now called Registry Voluntary Commitments) that SubPro thinks could be used to make some sensitive gTLDs more trustworthy.

The reference to SAC144 may turn out to be a big stumbling block too.

SAC114 is the bombshell document (pdf) submitted by the Security and Stability Advisory Committee in February, in which ICANN’s top security community members openly questioned whether allowing more new gTLDs is consistent with ICANN’s commitment to keep the internet secure.

While SAC114 seems to reluctantly acknowledge that the program will likely go ahead regardless, it asks that ICANN do more to address so-called “DNS abuse” before proceeding.

Given that the various factions within the ICANN community can’t even agree on what “DNS abuse” is, how ICANN chooses to “understand” SAC114 will have a serious impact on how much further the runway to the next round gets extended.

In short, Botterman is warning brand owners not to hold their breath anticipating the next application window. I think I even detect some serious skepticism as to whether demand is really as high as Quinn claims.

And quite beyond the stuff Botterman outlines in his letter, there’s presumably going to be at least one round of review and revision on the next Applicant Guidebook, as well as the time needed for ICANN to build or upgrade the systems it needs to process the applications, to hire evaluators and resolution providers, and to make sure it conducts a sufficiently long and broad global marketing program so that potential applicants in the developing world don’t feel left out. And that’s a non-exhaustive list.

Introducing competition into the registry space is of course one of ICANN’s foundational raisons d’être.

After the org was founded in September 1998, it took less than two years before it opened up the first new gTLD application round.

It was another three years before the second round launched.

It then took eight and a half years for the 2012 window to open.

It will be well over a decade from then before anyone next gets the opportunity to apply for a new gTLD. It’s entirely feasible that we’ll see an applicant in the next round headed by somebody who wasn’t even born when the first window opened.