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DotMusic delays gTLD launch again

DotMusic has pushed it general availability launch date out by more than three months, as it tries to recruit anchor tenants from the music industry.

The registry says GA is now planned for October 8, versus a previous date of June 25.

The gTLD is currently in its “community organization phase”, during which musicians and industry entities can claim their matching .music domains after completing a rigorous identity verification process.

DotMusic has offered up to a million domains for free via participating partner organizations.

The registry announced this week that it has partnered with a company called Shufti Pro on registrant ID verification.

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.tm prices to skyrocket next week

Already-expensive ccTLD .tm is set to see its prices rocket by hundreds of dollars next week, with an annual registration set to cost $1,000 or more.

.TM Domain Registry says a one-year registration or renewal will cost registrars $400, which can be reduced as far as $200 if they register more than 100 domains. Currently, the price is $80, according to tldpricechanges.com.

The recommended retail price will be $1,000, the registry says. The increases come into effect June 1.

The registry is also scrapping its practice of requiring all registrations to be for 10 years, adopting the industry standard of one to 10 years instead.

Today, the cheapest retail price I was able to find was $1,200 for a 10-year reg. After the increase, we could be looking at closer to $12,000 for the same service.

.tm is the ccTLD for Turkmenistan, but the registry has been run from the UK and owned by Paul Kane, the same person who ran .io before selling it to Identity Digital a few years back, since the 1990s.

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Bitcoin gTLD gets launch dates

Orange Domains has announced the launch schedule for .locker, a real gTLD that nevertheless has support for the Bitcoin protocol built in.

Sunrise is set to kick off next month, running from June 19 to August 20, shortly followed by a “Pioneer Program” in which the registry will seek out anchor tenants for marketing purposes.

General availability is set for September 26, following a week-long Early Access Period. Prices have not yet been published.

.locker is a proper DNS gTLD, but Orange Domains intends it to be compatible with apps, such as cryptocurrency wallets, that run on the Bitcoin Name System protocol.

The registry is a joint venture of Trust Machines, Tucows, and Hiro Systems.

.locker was originally owned by the satellite TV company Dish DBS, which it had intended to use as a dot-brand, but it was never used and sold off to Orange last year.

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First metaverse gTLD is announced

Unstoppable Domains has announced plans to apply for the first gTLD devoted to a metaverse.

The company has partnered with Metropolis, a “a 360° curated universe that blends commerce, gaming, and experiences that span both digital & physical worlds” to launch .metropolis names on Unstoppable’s blockchain.

“Metropolis plans to explore future ICANN gTLD applications in order for .Metropolis to become even more integrated in the digital landscape,” Unstoppable said.

In the meantime, Metropolis expects its users to use the blockchain version of the names to address “virtual real estate within the metaverse”.

I checked out the Metropolis web site, clicked on everything, and have to confess I don’t understand any of it. I feel about a thousand years old.

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Alibaba off the naughty step

Chinese registrar Alibaba is no longer at risk of losing one of its ICANN accreditations, according to a notice on the Org’s web site.

Alibaba.com Singapore E-Commerce, one of Alibaba’s four registrars, failed to respond to abuse reports and missed ICANN payments, according to its March breach notice.

But the company has now provided ICANN with documents sufficient to bring it back into compliance with its contract, according to the notice.

Alibaba has over six million domains under management across its three active accreditations, making it one of the largest registrars to come under the scrutiny of ICANN Compliance.

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ICANN to kill auction fund bylaws change

Kevin Murphy, May 22, 2024, Domain Policy

A controversial proposed amendment to ICANN’s bylaws is set to be killed off after the community flexed its muscles over the board of directors.

The amendment, which sought to give ICANN a switch to turn off its accountability mechanisms under certain circumstances, is now likely to be replaced by one that limits accountability only when it comes to ICANN’s $220 million Grant Program.

News of the board’s change of heart came during a Monday call between the GNSO Council and the two GNSO appointees on the board.

“I think it’s pretty clear that the bylaw that was put together and circulated is not going to pass the Empowered Community,” board member Becky Burr told the Council “So we need to go back and and revisit that.”

The community had wanted an amendment that makes the Independent Review Process and Request for Reconsideration mechanisms unavailable to organizations applying for grants and those that oppose them, to avoid splurging money on lawyers rather than good causes, but the board had floated text that would have made it easier to turn these mechanisms off in future scenarios too.

ICANN’s amendment was supported by the At-Large Advisory Committee, but every other community group, in a rare example of across-the-aisles agreement, reckoned it was overly broad and risked weakening ICANN’s accountability.

The board’s decision to revert to what the community originally wanted appears to be a reluctant one. Burr said that the IRP needs to be looked at in future because the way the bylaws are written now invites over-use.

“As they are currently written, a disappointed bidder, an engineering firm in response to an RFP, could use those, could bring an IRP,” she said. “At some point we’re going to have to look at this more holistically.”

The were also calls from the Council to take a look at the RfR process, or at least how RfRs are handled by ICANN’s legal team. RfRs are too often seen as an adversarial exercise where ICANN lawyers are simply try to “win” against the requester rather than solve the problem at hand, they said. This has led to a situation where dozens of RfRs have been filed over the year, almost all of which are dismissed.

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The people have spoken on RDRS and they said “Meh”

Kevin Murphy, May 21, 2024, Domain Services

Users of ICANN’s new Whois data request service appear to be overwhelmingly apathetic about it, if the results of the first quarterly user survey are to be believed.

ICANN sent surveys to 861 users of the Registration Data Request Service and 29 of the registrars that support it. Only 17 requesters and 15 registrars responded, and not every respondent answered every question.

With such a small sample size, it’s debatable whether the results can tell ICANN or anyone else whether RDRS is any good or not.

Asked whether having RDRS was better or worse than not having RDRS, only seven requester respondents answered. Two thought it was “much worse”, one thought it was “somewhat worse”, two thought it was “about the same” and two thought it was “somewhat better”.

Nobody clicked the button for “much better”, a fact that would be quite easy to seize upon as a headline if not for the fact that this is a survey of seven people and therefore pretty much worthless.

Responses to free-text questions perhaps shed a little light on the user experience: some people think it’s too slow, they’re not happy that they didn’t get the data they wanted, and the level of registrar support is too low.

Asked the same question about whether RDRS has made handling Whois requests better or worse, 11 registrars responded. The mix was heavily towards the “worse” end of the scale, which is probably not what ICANN wanted to hear.

In free-text responses, some registrars said they found the interface and workflow lacking, making the process of handling requests take more time and effort than doing the same outside RDRS. Pretty much the diametrical opposite of RDRS’s raison d’etre.

RDRS is a two-year pilot that has data-gathering as one of its primary purposes, but with such a lackluster response to the first survey ICANN is surely hoping the seven remaining surveys may produce some more meaningful stats.

The full survey results are available to read here (pdf), if you can be bothered.

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ICANN restarts work on controversial Whois privacy rules

Kevin Murphy, May 20, 2024, Domain Policy

ICANN is to bring in new rules for Whois privacy and proxy services, the best part of a decade after they were first proposed to massive controversy.

It’s looking for volunteers to work with Org staff on implementing policy recommendations that in 2015 led to tens of thousands of people expressing outrage about the dangers, as they saw it, of their privacy being breached.

ICANN is putting together an Implementation Review Team to help implement the recommendations of the Privacy and Proxy Services Accreditation Issues Policy Development Process, known as PPSAI, which sought to bring privacy/proxy services under ICANN’s regulatory umbrella.

The recommendations were hugely controversial in their first draft, which in a minority statement expressed the view that people should be banned from using their domains commercially if they were using privacy services.

But the IRT will be tasked with implementing the final draft, which expunged the calls for such a ban.

The policy still calls for ICANN to run an accreditation system for privacy/proxy services in much the same way as it accredits registrars. It also lays out rules for how such services should gather registrant data and how to treat customer interactions.

But the recommendations are undeniably from a different era, thunk up before the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation made privacy-by-default essentially the industry standard for Whois records.

The PPSAI recommendations now interact with policies and practices that have been adopted in the intervening years, such as the recent Registration Data Policy and the Registration Data Request Service.

People willing to donate 10 to 20 hours a month to the new IRT can check out more details here.

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GNSO mulls lawyering up over auction fund dispute

Kevin Murphy, May 16, 2024, Domain Policy

The GNSO Council has started discussing bringing in the lawyers over ICANN’s recent handling of issues related to its $200+ million auction fund and Grant Program.

The Council today raised the possibility of deploying the never-before-used Community Independent Review Process, which would involve every major community group ganging up on ICANN’s board in a protracted quasi-judicial bunfight.

Ironically, the beef concerns the way ICANN is trying to stop people invoking its accountability mechanisms, including the IRP, to challenge decisions it makes under its Grant Program, which hopes to distribute $10 million to worthy causes this year.

ICANN policy is that nobody should be able to challenge grant decisions, because that would mean funneling the available funds into the pockets of worthless lawyers, rather than worthy causes. But how it proposes to achieve that goal is in dispute.

The original community recommendation was for a bylaws amendment that specified that the Grant Program was out-of-bounds for IRP and Request for Reconsideration claims, and the board initially agreed, before changing its mind and instead plumping for a clause in the program’s terms that prevents grant applicants appealing adverse decisions.

After community pushback, the board said it would also propose a bylaws amendment, but many believe the amendment it came up with goes way too far and risks making it far too easy for ICANN to wriggle out of its accountability obligations in future.

Leading the fight against the board is the GNSO’s Intellectual Property Constituency, which filed a Request for Reconsideration in November, asking ICANN to reverse its decision to “contract around” its accountability promises and scale back its over-broad bylaws amendment.

But the RfR was thrown out, with the Board Accountability Mechanisms Committee ruling that the IPC had failed to say how it had been specifically harmed by the board’s actions, accusing the constituency of merely “speculating” about possible future harms.

GNSO Councillor Susan Payne, today expressed the IPC’s disappointment with BAMC’s decision on the Council’s monthly conference call.

“We think that’s wrong,” she said. “If you purport to change a fundamental bylaw by using a process that cuts out the GNSO and effectively therefore also its constituencies and stakeholder groups then clearly there’s a harm there.”

She also noted the financial expense of challenging the board’s decisions.

“Constituencies or stakeholder groups will have real difficulty in withstanding the ICANN machine,” Payne said. “It’s a really expensive process to to challenge these kind of decisions. We asked if other constituencies and stakeholder groups would be able to join the IPC in bringing that RfR and no one had the finances to do it.”

The IPC has joined ICANN in a Cooperative Engagement Process — a kind of informal discussion that is often a precursor to an IRP filing — but Payne raised the possibility of ICANN’s Empowered Community filing its own IRP.

Under ICANN’s bylaws, the EC has the special ability to bring a Community IRP and ICANN has to pay for it. It’s never been used before, and it doesn’t look to me like the complex conditions required to trigger it are close to having been met.

The IPC had broad support in principle from the other Councillors speaking in today’s meeting, but some urged caution due to ICANN’s past behavior when the lawyers are called in.

“Once you get into the IRP process, ICANN buckles down, hands it off to their outside counsel, and you really get a nasty litigation fight,” said Jeff Neuman, a liaison on the Council. “You’re talking about years of litigation, outside counsel, and no progress”.

Fellow council member Thomas Rickert of the ISPs constituency suggested looking for a law firm that would handle the IRP on a no-win-no-fee basis before committing further.

While it seems a Community IRP may be unrealistic for now, the fact that it’s even being discussed shows how seriously the GNSO is taking this apparent power grab by ICANN’s board and lawyers.

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Jury still out on ICANN’s content policing powers

Kevin Murphy, May 16, 2024, Domain Policy

Key ICANN community groups have refused to come down on one side or the other in the debate about proposed content policing powers, leaving the question up in the air as ICANN considers a major bylaws amendment.

As I reported last month, ICANN is thinking about changing its governing bylaws to permit it to enforce Registry Voluntary Commitments — contract clauses that could include rules on the content of web sites — on registries in future new gTLD application rounds.

ICANN’s board is convinced that it needs to amend the Org’s bylaws, which explicitly prevent it policing content, in order to do this. It is concerned that “there are political, practical, and reputational risks associated with ICANN negotiating and entering into contract provisions that have the effect of restricting content in gTLDs”.

Such an amendment would require the consent of the five-member Empowered Community, to which ICANN answers, and so far there’s little indication that it would be able to secure the three votes needed.

The EC is made up of the ASO, the ccNSO, the GNSO, the ALAC and the GAC, and so far only the ALAC has said that it supports a bylaws amendment. The GNSO is split, with contracted parties dead against the amendment, and would be unlikely to vote in favor. The GAC seems to be on the fence.

The ASO and ccNSO both declined to express an opinion, saying matters related to gTLDs are outside of their remit, but ICANN chair Tripti Sinha pressed the groups to reconsider in letters this March.

Now, both groups have responded by digging their heels in — nope, it’s none of our business, they say.

“The topics addressed in the consultation are outside the scope of the ASO, so we respectfully decline the invitation to provide input at this time,” the ASO said.

“After careful consideration, we still do not see conditions which warrant our participation in the implementation of the next round of new gTLDs,” the ccNSO said.

The ccNSO added that it could only comment on a proposed bylaws amendment if it could see the draft text of the amendment, and that is not yet available.

If ICANN leadership was hoping for clarity on whether a content policing bylaws change is even feasible, it looks like it doesn’t have it yet.

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