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Full $185,000 refunds offered to risky new gTLD applicants

Kevin Murphy, February 8, 2018, Domain Policy

ICANN is to offer applicants for three new gTLDs identified as too risky to go live full refunds of their application fees.

Its board of directors acknowledged at its weekend retreat that it has no intention of delegating .corp, .home and .mail, and that each applicant should be able to get their entire $185,000 application fee back.

The applicants will have to withdraw their applications in order to get the refund.

Ordinarily, withdrawing an application would only qualify the applicants for a partial refund.

The ICANN board said in its resolution that it “does not intend to delegate the strings .CORP, .HOME, and .MAIL in the 2012 round of the New gTLD Program”.

It added that “the applicants were not aware before the application window that the strings .CORP, .HOME, and .MAIL would be identified as high-risk, and that the delegations of such high-risk strings would be deferred indefinitely.”

The three strings are considered risky because they already receive vast amounts of “name collision” traffic, largely from DNS queries that leak out from private networks.

There’s a concern that delegating any of them would create a big security risk in terms of confidential data leakage and stuff just generally breaking.

It’s been six years since the last new gTLD application window was open, and some applicants for the strings abandoned their bids years ago.

There are five remaining .corp applicants (and one withdrawal), five for .mail (two withdrawals) and ten for .home (one withdrawal).

The refunds will be taken from ICANN’s separate new gTLD program budget so presumably will not have an impact on its current operating budget woes.

The board noted that technically it did not have to give full refunds, under the terms of the Applicant Guidebook, but that it was doing so in the interest of “fairness”.

This may come as little comfort to applicants whose money has been tied up in limbo for the last six years.

Warren Buffett party firm beats Google to .fun

Kevin Murphy, April 20, 2015, Domain Registries

An 80-year-old seller of party supplies, owned by Warren Buffett, has won the rights to the new gTLD .fun, after the other two applicants withdrew.

Oriental Trading Company plans to operate the gTLD as a “restricted” space where only the company and its partners can register, according to its application.

Quite why this isn’t on hold as a “closed generic”, I don’t know.

The application states .fun will be:

an authoritative Internet space for OTC, its affiliates and partners where OTC can develop an unlimited number of domain names dedicated and relevant to “fun” and to provide Internet users with content, services and products they need, while being assured of brand authenticity.

The other two applicants were Google and Dot Strategy. Both applications have now been withdrawn.

OTC sells balloons, party hats, banners and such. It was acquired by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway in 2012 after filing for bankruptcy protection.

In other withdrawal news, games maker Konami today became the latest company to dump its plans for a dot-brand, in this case .konami.

In a first for new gTLDs, Aquitaine dumps geo bid

Kevin Murphy, February 5, 2015, Domain Registries

The authority for the French region of Aquitaine has become the first applicant for a geographic new gTLD to pull its application apparently of its own accord.

Région d’Aquitaine’s bid for .aquitaine was withdrawn today, despite the fact that the applicant was already in the contracting stage with ICANN.

A handful of other geographic gTLD applications have been withdrawn previously, but only due to disputes between the applicant and the governments of the regions they wanted to represent.

.aquitaine is the first would-be geographic gTLD to be pulled after passing through the evaluation stage of the program.

Aquitaine is one of France’s 27 formal regions, with a population of over three million.

Fatal timeout? A dozen dot-brands procrastinating to death

Kevin Murphy, January 7, 2015, Domain Registries

Over a dozen new gTLD applications have been iced because the applicants couldn’t or wouldn’t talk to ICANN about signing contracts before their deadlines.

Volvo and PricewaterhouseCoopers are among the 13 dot-brand applicants whose $185,000+ investments could vanish in a puff of smoke because they can’t bring themselves to sign on the dotted line, I’ve discovered.

The following gTLD applications, filed by 10 different companies, are no longer active because of contracting problems:

.select, .compare, .axis, .origins, .changiairport, .nissay, .lamer, .clinique, .pwc, .volvo, .amp, .招聘 (Chinese “.recruitment”), .wilmar

They’re all uncontested applications. They’re also all, with the exception of .招聘, envisaged having single-registrant policies (dot-brands, in other words).

All had their apps flagged by ICANN as “Will Not Proceed” in the new gTLD process late last year, having failed to sign or start negotiating their Registry Agreements in time.

Under program rules, applicants originally had nine months from the day they were invited to contract with ICANN in which to sign their RAs.

After protests from dot-brand applicants planning to sign up for so-called “Spec 13” code of conduct exemptions, ICANN last June gave such applicants an extension until July 2015, as long as they hit a September 1 deadline to respond to ICANN’s overtures.

Applicants that did not request an extension had an October 29 deadline to sign their RAs.

According to an ICANN spokesperson, a failure to hit such “interim milestones” disqualifies applicants from signing RAs.

It’s not entirely clear from the Applicant Guidebook how applicants can extricate themselves from this limbo state without withdrawing their applications, but ICANN assures us it is possible.

“Will not Proceed is not a final status,” the spokesperson cautioned. “But they are currently not eligible to sign the RA with ICANN. But if that status changes, we’ll update it accordingly on the site.”

Withdrawals would qualify the applicants for a 35% refund on their application fees, he confirmed.

.love won by class action lawyers

Kevin Murphy, December 8, 2014, Domain Registries

It appears that the contested new gTLD .love has been won by the law firm Merchant Law Group, after an auction.

Minds + Machines, Richemont, Google and Donuts have all officially withdrawn their competing applications. I gather that withdrawals from Uniregistry and Famous Four Media are on their way.

.love would be MLG’s first successful new gTLD application.

The would-be portfolio applicant applied for eight strings, all of which were contested by others. It has withdrawn bids for .news, .club and .law after auctions.

MLG is odd as new gTLD applicants go. It’s a Canadian law firm that offers services across many areas of law but seems to specialize in class action lawsuits.

According to its application, .love will be positioned in the same space as .wed and .wedding:

.LOVE’s target markets are broad enough to maintain a financially viable TLD and distinct enough that the .LOVE TLD will not become ‘just another .info’. A .LOVE TLD will provide a unique space on the Internet for information and services related to the idea of love, engagements, marriage, and family. It will allow anyone to register a domain name and post information about products and services related to the idea of love, an engagement, a marriage, or family.

It is anticipated to be an open, unrestricted gTLD running on a CentralNic back-end.

Richemont pulls two dot-brand bids

Kevin Murphy, December 2, 2014, Domain Registries

Luxury goods company Richemont has withdrawn two of its original 14 new gTLD applications.

The company, which has been a vocal supporter of dot-brand gTLDs, pulled its bids for .netaporter and .mrporter this week.

Mr Porter and Net A Porter are fashion retail web sites for men and women respectively.

It’s not clear why these two bids have been withdrawn — the company isn’t commenting — but it’s certainly not a signal that Richemont is abandoning the new gTLD program completely.

The company has already entered into ICANN contracts for six dot-brands including .cartier, .montblanc and .chloe.

It has another five applications — four generics and one brand — that are still active: .手表 (“.watches”), .珠宝 (.jewelry), .watches, .jewelry and .jlc.

It has previously withdrawn an application for .love.

.now and .realestate will be restricted, but Donuts keeps .tires open

Kevin Murphy, October 7, 2014, Domain Registries

It was a battle between open and restricted registration rules this week, as three more new gTLD contention sets were resolved between applicants with opposing policies.

Donuts won .tires (open), Amazon won .now (closed) and the National Association of Realtors won .realestate (restricted).

Donuts beat Goodyear and Bridgestone — two of the biggest tire companies in the world — to .tires. Both withdrew their respective applications over the last week.

If it was an auction it was not conducted via the usual new gTLD auction houses. It seems like Donuts settled the contention privately (or maybe just got lucky).

Both tire companies had proposed single-registrant closed generic spaces. Donuts, of course, has not.

Goodyear has active dot-brand applications for .goodyear and .dunlop remaining. Bridgestone has active applications for .bridgestone and .firestone, also dot-brands.

Amazon, meanwhile, won the .now contention set over five other applicants — Starbucks HK, XYZ.com, One.com, Global Top Level and Donuts, which have all withdrawn their bids.

Amazon’s application for .now envisages a closed registry in which all the second-level domains belong to the company’s intellectual property department.

Also this week, the NAR, which already has the dot-brand .realtor under its belt, beat Donuts, Minds + Machines and Uniregistry to the complementary generic .realestate.

Unfortunately for estate agents worldwide, the NAR plans a tightly restricted .realestate zone, in which only its own members will at first be able to register, according to its application.

The application does seem to envisage a time when others will be permitted to register, however.

The organization said in a press release this week that .realestate will be more open than .realtor, but that full policies will not be released until next year.

Safeway pulls all four new gTLD apps

Kevin Murphy, September 28, 2014, Domain Registries

Retail giant Safeway has removed itself from the new gTLD program entirely, last week withdrawing all four of its applications.

The $139-billion-a-year company had applied for the dot-brands .safeway, .vons, .justforu and the generic .grocery, but all four bids are now showing as withdrawn.

Now that Safeway has withdrawn, the only remaining applicant for .grocery is rival retailer Wal-Mart.

.grocery had been applied for as a “closed generic”, in which Safeway would be the only eligible registrant.

The ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee had advised against closed generics on consumer protection grounds.

When ICANN pressed applicants for such strings to clarify whether they were in fact “closed generics”, Safeway denied (pdf) that .grocery was.

Wal-Mart, on the other hand, said that its .grocery would be restricted to Wal-Mart and its affiliates.

GAC kills .indians and two more dot-brands die

Kevin Murphy, August 27, 2014, Domain Registries

Reliance Industries, owner of the Mumbai Indians cricket team, has withdrawn its application for the new gTLD .indians after an objection from the Indian government.

ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee has said in formal advice several times, most recently in March, that India was not cool with the idea of a .indians TLD, but noted that the country stood alone.

Following the Singapore meeting this year, the GAC said: “the Government of India has requested that the application for .indians not proceed.”

As a piece of non-consensus advice, ICANN would have been able to more easily reject India’s objection, but the withdrawal means it will not have to make that decision.

India has a similarly dim view of .ram, which Chrysler has applied for to protect a car brand but which also matches an important deity in the Hindu pantheon. That bid is still active.

But recently we’ve seen two other dot-brand applicants get out of the new gTLD program.

Dun & Bradstreet has just withdrawn its bid for .dnb. Last week, Myriad International Holdings yanked its application for .mih.

Infosys withdraws dot-brand bids

Kevin Murphy, August 15, 2014, Domain Registries

Indian consulting giant Infosys has dropped its bids for two dot-brand new gTLDs.

It withdrew its applications for .infosys and .infy this week, leaving it with no remaining applications.

Both bids were straightforward dot-brands applications with no objections or contention. Both had passed Initial Evaluation and were just awaiting contract signing.

Infosys, which provides business and IT consulting services and outsourcing, is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and had revenue of $8.4 billion in its last reported year.