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Secret new gTLD application revealed

Unstoppable Domains has revealed the next partner with which it intends to apply to ICANN for a new gTLD two years from now.

It’s linked up with Secret Network Foundation to apply for .secret and in the meantime to flog .secret names that only work on its Polygon blockchain naming system.

Secret is a startup that develops privacy-oriented, blockchain based applications.

It’s the sixth likely new gTLD application Unstoppable has announced this year.

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.

.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.

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.

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.

ICANN preparing for ONE HUNDRED registry back-ends

The number of gTLD registry back-end providers could more than double during the next new gTLD application round, ICANN’s board of directors has been told.

There are currently about 40 registry services providers serving the gTLD industry, but ICANN is preparing for this to leap to as many as 100 when it launches its Registry Service Provider Evaluation Program for the 2026 application round.

“We’re preparing, I think, for roughly a hundred or so applications which will include the 40 existing providers that we’re aware of, and another 60 or so is sort of our rough market sizing,” Russ Weinstein, a VP at ICANN’s Global Domains Division, told the board during a meeting in Paris last week.

The number is based on what ICANN is preparing to be able to handle, rather than confirmed applicants to the RSP program, it seems.

“We are hoping to see some diversification and new entrants into the space,” Weinstein said.

Board member Edmon Chung elaborated that he expects most of the new entrants to be ccTLD registries hoping to break into the gTLD market.

“We can expect a few more ccTLD registries that might be be interested,” he said. “We’re probably not expecting a completely new startup that just comes in and becomes a registry, but beyond the 40, probably a few more ccTLDs.”

ccTLD registries already active in the gTLD market following the 2012 application round include Nominet, Nic.at and AFNIC, which tend to serve clients that are based in the same timezone and use the same native language.

Unstoppable to apply for Women in Tech gTLD

Unstoppable Domains and Women in Tech Global have announced that they plan to apply for a new gTLD when ICANN opens the next application round.

They want .witg, which Unstoppable has already launched on its blockchain-based naming system. They cost $10 a pop.

Unstoppable says the names come with some social networking features, as well as the usual ability to address cryptocurrency wallets.

The company has also recently announced gTLD application partnerships with POG Digital for .pog, Clay Nation for .clay and Pudgy Penguin for .pudgy.

Unstoppable is mainly competing here with D3 Global, which is also recruiting blockchain businesses that want to embrace the DNS when the next round opens.

GoDaddy getting a free pass from porn jail?

ICANN has shirked its compliance duties and is handing GoDaddy a “Get Out of Jail Free” card with proposed changes to their .xxx registry agreement, according to critics.

A recently closed public comment period saw a mixed response from the community on whether GoDaddy should be allowed to throw out inconvenient and costly terms of its 10-year-old registry contract and operate .xxx more of less like any other open gTLD.

While the deal’s chief critic, consultant and former ICANN director Michael Palage, has made a detailed case explaining why he thinks the amendments should not go ahead, other commenters agree with GoDaddy that some of its stricter registration policies are no longer needed.

Tucows said that the current .xxx rules, which require registrants to verify their identities, are “cumbersome or non-transparent”, not only adding unnecessary friction to the registration path but also amounting to the “surveillance of sex workers”.

Palage managed to persuade the At-Large Advisory Committee to submit its own comments, in which ALAC claims that GoDaddy has already “walked away” from three important contractual commitments on registrant verification and abuse reporting “unilaterally and without consequence from ICANN Contractual Compliance”.

According to Palage, when GoDaddy acquired ICM Registry from MMX a few years ago it unilaterally decided to stop verifying the identities of its registrants and did away with the unique community membership IDs that enabled it to deactivate a registrant’s entire portfolio if it was found to be in breach of the rules by, for example, publishing child sexual abuse material.

ICM also stopped donating $10 for every registration to its oversight body, IFFOR, which in turn spent the money it did receive on director salaries rather than making cash grants to child protection causes, Palage says. I’ve previously gone into some depth on this.

“I am concerned that instead of ICANN compliance holding ICM Registry accountable to these representations, they’re essentially giving them a get out of jail card free and potentially removing the ability for third parties to hold ICM Registry accountable to those representations,” Palage said during a March presentation to the ALAC.

His draft comments for the ALAC were subsequently submitted under his own name; ALAC submitted a shorter, somewhat watered down version drafted by chair Jonathan Zuck.

But ALAC and Palage are in agreement that GoDaddy should have gone through the usual Registry Services Evaluation Process if it wanted to change the terms of its contract, and that the proposed amendments set a terrible precedent. ALAC wrote:

ALAC believes that commitments made in order to operate a TLD by a Registry Operator should be enforceable, subsequently implemented by the Registry Operator, and enforced by ICANN Contractual Compliance… The ALAC is concerned that the removal of commitments, through a contract renewal, could set a precarious precedent for non-compliance without repercussion for existing Registry Operators

The Business Constituency echoed ALAC’s concerns in its own comments, as did registry operator CORE Association.

Comments in favor of the .xxx amendments came from two veteran, dissenting voices from the At-Large community, Evan Leibovitch and Carlton Samuels. They said removing the extra requirements from the .xxx contract would reduce confusion and were worthless anyway:

Given the benefit of hindsight, the “Sponsored gTLD” program and designation have not on the whole provided any significant benefit to the Internet-using public. As such, we welcome the removal of this designation — and any associated extra contract requirements — from all applicable Registry Agreements going forward.

Tucows’ support for the amendments are based largely on what a pain in the neck it can be — for registrant and registrar — to register a .xxx domain. Its comments explain:

Currently, to register a .xxx domain, one must become a member of the Sponsored Community, which involves a separate application process to verify eligibility. This extra step is a barrier for those looking to quickly secure a domain. Additionally, the domain cannot resolve—meaning it cannot be used to host a website—without a valid Membership ID, which is only issued after this verification process… This activation involves additional interactions between the registry, the registrant, and the registrar. Additional steps in the registration process can be a significant deterrent as they introduce complexity and time delays.

I’m not really buying the “surveillance of sex workers” claim. Porn producers in many jurisdictions, including the US, already routinely verify the identities of their performers, and keep copies of their identity documents on file, as a legal requirement to ensure their employees are not underage.

ICANN is due to publish its summary of the public comment period by May 20.

How ICANN handles the renewal of and amendments to the .xxx contract will be interesting to watch. Will the Governmental Advisory Committee get a chance to weigh in before the deal is signed? Will the board pass a resolution, or will we see a repeat of the .org renewal debacle?

Chinese domains plummet again in 2023

There was almost no movement in the number of .cn domain names registered in 2023, according to the registry.

CNNIC had 20,125,764 .cn names under management at the end of last year, compared to 20,101,491 at the end of 2022, according to its recently published end-of-year report.

That’s an increase of under 25,000 domains, about a tenth as many net regs as fellow leading ccTLD .de, the domain for far less-populous Germany.

CNNIC also tracks the overall number of domains registered in-country, regardless of TLD, and that dropped dramatically again, following the trend of years.

There were 31,595,563 domains registered in China at the end of December, compared to 34,400,483 a year earlier, according to the report.

Taylor Swift applies for her .post domain

A back-up in case the whole music thing doesn’t work out?

Taylor Swift has become the first celebrity to attempt to defensively register her name in the .post gTLD, which is currently in the middle of a newly extended and incredibly belated sunrise period.

According to the registry’s web site, the domain taylorswift.post has been applied for by DNStination, a MarkMonitor subsidiary used to register names on behalf of clients.

The .post relaunch is pretty unusual in that all sunrise period applications are being published on the registry’s new web site, with a user-friendly form for challenging them.

About 60 domains have been approved since sunrise kicked off in mid-March and about the same amount are currently in their 30-day challenge period. For context, .post had barely 400 domains under management prior to the current relaunch, despite having been live in the DNS for 12 years.

The usual suspects such as Meta, Google and Amazon, as well as many national postal services, have all participated in the sunrise, which is open to all trademark holders regardless of their nexus to the logistics or postal industries.

But after the sunrise period is over and the new general availability regime begins, .post is only supposed to be for any entity “interested in participating in the postal, logistics or supply chain sectors”, so it’s difficult to see how a future cybersquatter might have been able to abuse Swift’s brand.

It’s probable that MarkMonitor is under instruction to “just register everything”. Swift is a multi-billion-dollar brand and the internet has no shortage of scumbags trying to rip off her millions of adoring fans.

That said, Swift’s domain application has another two weeks left on the challenge clock, so if you’re Team Kanye, or simply find her music nauseating…