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It’s hustings season at Nominet

Kevin Murphy, August 19, 2022, Domain Policy

Hustings are very much in vogue in the UK right now. Two Conservative politicians have been clouding our airwaves, bickering over who should lead the country, for weeks, and now two candidates to join the board of .uk registry Nominet are following suit.

The London Domain Name Summit, a two-day, free-to-attend domainer conference in London next week, will host a debate between local lads Jim Davies and Kieren McCarthy, two of the three candidates for an opening non-executive director spot on Nominet’s board.

CentralNic lawyer Volker Greimann, the third candidate, who is based in Germany, will not be in attendance.

The debate between reporter McCarthy and IP lawyer Davies will take place next Tuesday at 1600 local time (1500 UTC) and will apparently be live-streamed for people not able to attend in person.

McCarthy, who according to Twitter chatter is a paid-up exhibitor, also gets a solo speaking spot on Monday at 1830 local time. Nominet, another exhibitor, is hosting a drinks event the same day.

All three candidates are standing for election at a time when Nominet has recently come under new leadership after several years of scandal that cumulated last year in a member coup.

The latest controversy emerged last month when it came out that Nominet blew about $23.5 million on an abortive attempt to get into the security market in the US, something the candidates all hope to address.

According to Nominet, all three candidates have their candidacy statements published in the members area of the web site. Davies and McCarthy have also published commentary on their respective blogs.

Voting opens September 12.

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ICANN rushes mystery directors onto board in apparent bylaws breach

Kevin Murphy, August 19, 2022, Domain Policy

ICANN is hurrying two new directors onto its board despite that fact that hardly anybody, apparently including the people who this week gave them the nod, seemed to know who they are.

The Org also seems to have technically breached its bylaws with the timing of the move, which also sees chair Maarten Botterman appointed for another three-year term.

Earlier this week the Empowered Community Administration, which has broad powers to hire and fire directors, submitted ICANN-drafted letters formally approving this year’s Nominating Committee picks — Botterman, Christopher Chapman and Sajidur Rahman.

But I’m told that the ECA, like the rest of us, were not given any information by ICANN about the two newcomers beyond their names and the geographic regions they hail from. They were basically waved onto the board blind, it seems.

Photographs subsequently published on the NomCom web site confirm the two directors’ identities. They’re the former head of the Australian Communications and Media Authority Chris Chapman, and Indonesian venture capitalist Sajid Rahman of MyAsiaVC.

Judging by the ICANN bylaws, approval by the ECA — which comprises one person from each of the ASO, the ccNSO, the GNSO, the ALAC and the GAC — is pretty much just a rubber-stamp. All the due diligence is done by NomCom and the Org.

But the appointments appear to amount to a technical bylaws breach on timing grounds, coming about a month late. The bylaws state:

At least two months before the commencement of each annual meeting, the Nominating Committee shall give the EC Administration (with a copy to the Decisional Participants and Secretary) written notice of its nomination of Directors for seats with terms beginning at the conclusion of the annual meeting, and the EC Administration shall promptly provide the Secretary (with a copy to the Decisional Participants) with written notice of the designation of those Directors.

This year’s AGM will be held in Kuala Lumpur from September 17, with the new directors taking their seats at its conclusion on September 22. So NomCom seems to have missed its “at least two months before” deadline by a month. ECA approval came August 15.

This year’s AGM is a little earlier than usual, which may help explain the problem. They’re usually held in October or November, and there hasn’t been one held in September since 2001.

NomCom also missed the two-month window in 2020, by an even bigger margin, for entirely understandable pandemic-related reasons. It announced its selections just a couple of weeks before the AGM.

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ICANN staffing up for next new gTLD round

Kevin Murphy, August 18, 2022, Domain Policy

ICANN has started hiring staff to support the next round of new gTLD applications.

The Org this week posted an ad for a “Policy Development Support Analyst” who will “track generic top-level domain policy proposals and contribute to capacity development in the civil society and noncommercial communities”.

It also appears to be still looking for a “Senior Director, New gTLD Subsequent Procedures”, with an ad first posted in June.

The latter is almost certainly a revolving-door type of opening, where somebody with deep, long-term insight into the industry and ICANN would be the likely hire.

ICANN describes it as a “highly visible role requiring a high degree of organization, leadership experience, management and communications acumen, and subject matter knowledge” where the successful candidate “will provide leadership and direction over multiple tracks of organizational activities toward implementation of a subsequent round of ICANN’s New gTLD (Generic Top-Level Domain) Program”.

The newer, more junior opening appears to have a broader remit, with the focus on non-commercial stakeholder engagement as well as the new gTLD program.

The two jobs are among 35 currently being advertised by ICANN.

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Radix premium revenue hits $3.8 million in first half

Kevin Murphy, August 18, 2022, Domain Registries

New gTLD portfolio registry Radix this week gave its twice-yearly premium domain sales report, declaring first-half revenue of $3.8 million.

That figure includes $2.5 million in renewal revenue from premium-priced names, because Radix charges premium renewal fees.

For Radix, premiums sold through the registrar channel are arranged into eight tiers from $100 to $10,000 a year. While there were eight sales at the top end, most sales were concentrated in the $500-and-below tiers.

The average first-year revenue was $558 per domain.

There were 1,767 premiums sold across the stable of 10 gTLDs, compared to 1,378 in the second half of 2021 and 1,436 in H1 2021.

.tech is the highest-performing, with $643,825 of recurring retail renewal revenue reported.

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GoDaddy shutters Twitter accounts after MMX deal

Kevin Murphy, August 18, 2022, Domain Registries

GoDaddy is closing down a bunch of Twitter accounts it acquired when it bought MMX last year.

The company this morning notified followers of 13 TLD-specific feeds that it will no longer post updates and that they should subscribe to @GoDaddyRegistry instead.

Accounts such as @GetDotFishing, @JoinDotYoga and @DotWorkDomains were affected. They hadn’t posted much in a couple of years.

GoDaddy last year acquired MMX’s portfolio of .law, .abogado (“lawyer” in Spanish), .beer, .casa (“home” in Spanish), .cooking, .dds (“dentists” in American), .fashion, .fishing, .fit, .garden, .horse, .luxe, .rodeo, .surf, .vip, .vodka, .wedding, .work, .yoga, .xxx, .porn, .adult and .sex gTLDs.

Not ever gTLD had its own Twitter account.

The deal was worth about $120 million and led to MMX winding down earlier this year.

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nickel.com sells for a hell of a lot more than a nickel

Kevin Murphy, August 16, 2022, Domain Sales

The domain name nickel.com has sold to a mining company for roughly $250,000.

Flying Nickel Mining, listed on the Toronto stock exchange, purchased the name at some point in the first half of the year for CAD 313,977, according to a regulatory filing from its parent, Silver Elephant Mining.

“During the six months ended June 30, 2022 Flying Nickel purchased a domain name nickel.com at $313,977,” the filing reads.

That works out to about $243,000 at today’s exchange rate, but one assumes it was probably priced at $250,000 at the time of the sale.

Flying Nickel mines nickel. Silver Elephant mines silver. The former was spun out of the latter earlier this year and has its own stock market listing.

Another Silver Elephant spin-out, Nevada Vanadium, bought vanadium.com for CAD 23,461 during the same period. Vanadium is another type of metal, albeit one with substantially less name recognition than nickel.

Flying Nickel is still using flynickel.com as its primary domain, but nickel.com already mirrors the original site.

Before the sale, the domain was parked at GoDaddy, archive.org shows.

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German motoring club dot-brand crashes out

Kevin Murphy, August 16, 2022, Domain Registries

Europe’s largest motoring club has become the latest organization to ask ICANN to tear up its dot-brand Registry Agreement.

The Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club, which has about 21 million members, has told ICANN it no longer wishes to run .adac. As usual, no explanation was provided.

The gTLD was in use — ADAC currently has a few live non-redirecting sites, including blog.adac and presse.adac. Its primary domain is adac.de.

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Verisign to crack down on Chinese domains

Kevin Murphy, August 15, 2022, Domain Registries

Verisign has asked for permission to implement a more stringent regime for denying or suspending .com and .net domain names registered in China, to comply with the country’s strict licensing rules.

The changes appear to mean that customers of Chinese registrars who have not verified their identities, which Verisign says is a “very small percentage”, will be prevented from registering new domains and may lose their existing domains.

The company has filed a Registry Services Evaluation Process request with ICANN, proposing to tweak the registrant verification system it has had in place for the last five years in a few significant ways.

China has a system called Real Name Verification, whereby Chinese citizens have to provide government-issued ID when they register domains. Local, third-party Verification Service Providers such as ZDNS typically carry out the verification function for Verisign and other foreign registries.

The big change is that Verisign will no longer allow names to be registered without a valid code.

The RSEP says that attempts by China-based registrars to register domains without the required government verification code will result in the EPP create command failing, meaning the domain will not be registered.

Under the current system, outlined in a 2016 RSEP (pdf), the name is registered and Verisign presumably takes the money, but the domain is placed on serverHold status, meaning it is not published in the zone and will not resolve.

The new system will also allow Verisign to retroactively demand codes for already-registered names, when they come up for renewal or transfer, with the option to suspend or delete the names if the codes are not provided. The RSEP (pdf) states:

With regard existing domain names without the required verification codes, which currently comprise a very small percentage of domain name registrations from registrars licensed to operate in the People’s Republic of China, Verisign intends to address compliance issues with these domain names directly with registrars. Verisign reserves the right to deny, cancel, redirect or transfer any domain name registration or transaction, or place any domain name(s) on registry lock, hold or similar status

It’s not clear what a “very small percentage” means in hard numbers. A small slice of a big pie is still a mouthful.

Verisign has substantial exposure to the Chinese market. On the odd occasion when .com shrinks, it’s largely due to speculative registrations from China not being renewed, such as in the second quarter this year.

The RSEP names the service the Domain Name Registration Validation Per Applicable Law service. While it’s in theory applicable to any jurisdiction’s laws, in practice it’s all about addressing the demands of the Chinese government.

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Whois Disclosure System likely over a year away

Kevin Murphy, August 12, 2022, Domain Registrars

ICANN lifted the curtain a little on its fetal Whois Disclosure System this week, but the news is not good if you’re champing at the bit for a usable system for requesting private Whois data from registrars.

The system, formerly referred to as SSAD Lite, will take “seven to nine months” to develop after ICANN staff gets the green light from its board, staffers told a small GNSO volunteer working group on a Wednesday conference call.

That timetable assumes the staffers working on it are 100% devoted to developing the system, rather than sharing their time between competing projects, they quickly clarified.

This raises the specter of months-long delays to the other big, already-delayed, ICANN work-in-progress — the next new gTLD application round.

The responsible staffers plan to publish a design document for the Whois Disclosure System around ICANN 75 next month, but whether the board will give its immediate approval is not clear.

We’re probably looking at at least a year before there’s a system in place that IP lawyers, security researchers and the like can log into, request data, and be disappointed.

And that’s despite the fact that the system will be built using existing technology — namely the CZDS or Centralized Zone Data Service, which has be in use for many years allowing people to request zone files from gTLD registries.

During this week’s webinar, staffers described how, like CZDS, there will be two user interfaces: one for the data requester, one for the data holder. The system will simply act as an intermediary between the two.

It will use ICANN’s existing accounts system, so there will be no user vetting beyond email address verification. There’ll be no integration with registrars’ existing ticketing systems, and any communications between registrar and requester will have to take place via email.

There’ll also be no billing function, because the system will be free to use by all parties and completely voluntary. While registrars are contractually bound to respond to Whois data requests, there’s no such obligation to use the Whois Disclosure System to do so.

Staffers admitted on the call that they’re a bit stumped about how to encourage registrars to sign up when the system goes live.

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Belgium slashes its ICANN funding in “mission creep” protest

Kevin Murphy, August 12, 2022, Domain Policy

DNS Belgium has cut its contribution to ICANN’s budget by two thirds, in protest at ICANN’s “mission creep” and its handling of GDPR.

The Belgian ccTLD registry informed ICANN CFO Xavier Calvez that it will only pay $25,000 this fiscal year, compared to the $75,000 it usually pays.

Registry general manager Philip Du Bois wrote (pdf) that “during recent years there has been a shift in focus which is not in the benefit of ccTLD’s”.

ICANN has become a large corporate structure with a tendency to suffer from “mission creep”… At the same time ICANN seems to fail in dealing in an appropriate way with important issues such as GDPR/privacy. It goes beyond our comprehension that ICANN and its officers don’t feel any reluctancy to “advise” European institutions and national governmental bodies to embrace “standards developed by the multi-stakeholder structures on international level” while at the same time it is obvious that ICANN itself has not yet mastered the implementation of important European legislation.

Based in the heart of the EU, DNS Belgium was a strong proponent of Whois privacy many years before the GDPR came into effect in 2018.

Calvez, in his reply (pdf), acknowledges that ccTLD contributions are voluntary, but seems to insinuate (call me a cynic) that the criticisms are hollow and that the registry might simply be trying to reduce its costs during an economic downturn:

We do appreciate any amount of contribution, and also that the ability for any ccTLD to contribute varies over time, including based on economic circumstances. We do understand that the reduction of DNS Belgium’s contribution from US$75,000 to US$25,000 represents a significant and meaningful reduction of costs for DNS Belgium.

DNS Belgium seems to be doing okay, based on its latest annual financial report. It’s not a huge company, but registrations and revenue have been growing at a slow and steady rate for the last several years.

All ccTLD contributions to ICANN are voluntary, but there are suggested donations based on how many domains a registry has under management, ranging from the $225,000 paid by the likes of the UK registry to the $500 paid by the likes of Pitcairn.

DNS Belgium, which manages about 1.7 million names, falls into the third-highest band, with a $75,000 suggested contribution.

ICANN is budgeting for funding of $152 million in its current FY23.

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