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Second .music applicant is Demand Media partner

Far Further has come out as the second company to say it plans to apply to ICANN for the .music top-level domain.
It’s also, I believe, the first applicant to reveal that it has partnered with Demand Media registrar eNom for its back-end registry services.
Far Further is one of a number of likely applicants for .music. The only other applicant to go public to date is Constantine Roussos’ dotMusic.
The new company is headed by former Warner Music record producer Loren Balman, CEO, and former music journalist John Styll, president. Former PIR chief Alexa Raad of Architelos is advising.
Far Further says its .music will “provide the global music community a secure identifying Internet address that supports the promotion of music, the protection of intellectual property rights, and the advancement of global access to music education.”
It’s my belief that the successful .music applicant will be the one that can secure the support of organizations such as the Recording Industry Association of America and its overseas counterparts.
The RIAA’s concerns about piracy spreading through .music domains, however misplaced, suggest that any other applicant is likely to find itself on the receiving end of objections, if not lawsuits.
Support from such organizations would also be critical to any bid that plans to invoke a Community Priority Evaluation — a trump card that well-supported applications can play in the ICANN process.
Perhaps the most interesting revelation about Far Further is the company’s selection of eNom, and its Shared Registry System, as its back-end technology services provider.
eNom is of course the world’s second-largest domain name registrar, with over 11 million domains under management, but it has yet to enter the registry services market.
There’s still a bit of a question mark over eNom’s ability to pass ICANN’s background checks, due to its UDRP losses, but this may not be a problem if it is merely the back-end provider, rather than the applicant itself.

ICANN hiring CSRs for new TLD program

ICANN has advertised for four new staff to support its new generic top-level domains program.
The organization is looking for three Lead Application Coordinators, to be based in Marina Del Rey, Hong Kong and Brussels, and one Application Coordinator for Marina Del Rey.
The roles are all fairly similar – essentially senior customer support representatives for new gTLD applicants. The lead positions require more than five years call center experience and a university degree.
With the number of applicants in the first round expected to be around the 400 mark, I think that’s a pretty solid ratio of CSRs to applicants, assuming the application process runs smoothly.
The hiring move is obviously a pretty strong indication that ICANN expects the new gTLD program to kick off fairly soon.
ICANN has also recently started advertising for a vice president of Europe, which I believe is a new position. It currently has 18 open positions in total, according to its hiring page.

Senior ICANN staffer hired by .bank project

Craig Schwartz, ICANN’s chief gTLD registry liaison, has been headhunted by BITS, the tech arm of the Financial Services Roundtable, to head up its .bank top-level domain application.
Schwartz will become BITS’ general manager of registry programs in early July, following the conclusion of the next ICANN meeting in Singapore.
BITS has yet to reveal the TLDs it plans to apply for, but .bank is the no-brainer. I understand it is also considering complementary strings, such as .finance and .insurance
The organization has already said that it plans to use VeriSign as its back-end registry services provider.
Schwartz is a five-year ICANN veteran, and his experience dealing with registries will no doubt be missed, particularly at a time when the number of gTLDs is set to expand dramatically.
His replacement will have plenty of time to settle into the role, however. The first new gTLDs approved under the program are not likely to go live until late 2012 at the earliest.

Final call for .xxx policy volunteers

The International Foundation For Online Responsibility, which will set policies for the .xxx top-level domain, has issued its final call for Policy Council volunteers.
The deadline for nominations for the nine PC seats has been set at July 5, and IFFOR plans to announce the successful candidates in late August.
Five of the seats are reserved for members of the porn industry. Another will represent privacy/security interests, one will be drawn from the world of child protection, and one will be a free speech advocate.
The final seat will be occupied by ICM Registry, the .xxx manager.
My understanding is that a front-runner for the child protection role is Sharon Girling, a former British police officer who played a key role in child abuse stings including Operation Ore.
I know of a few people who have applied for the free speech spot. Most recently, outspoken .xxx critic “DarkLady”, author of the Dot-XXX Opposition blog, revealed she had put herself forward for the job.
While the PC members are ostensibly volunteers, they do get a $15,000 annual stipend and their travel expenses paid for.
IFFOR will receive $10 from ICM for every .xxx domain that is registered.

Overstock becomes .co’s anchor tenant from heaven

Overstock.com is to slap its new brand, O.co, on the Oakland Raiders stadium in California, bringing yet more exposure to the .co top-level domain.
The company bought the stadium naming rights back in April, and was pushed into the rebranding now because the sign needs to go up, according to AdAge.
Presumably, whenever American football fans tune into a broadcast or read the sports pages, they’re now going to be exposed to the .co brand.
Not many TLDs have that claim to fame. According to Wikipedia, the only other stadium in the US currently named after a domain is the Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
Overstock has been so good for .CO Internet’s marketing, it’s easy to forget that the company actually paid for the domain, splashing out $350,000 a year ago.
I’d hazard a guess that if the registry had known just how prolific the O.co brand would become, it would have given the name away for free.
Currently, the domain o.co redirects to overstock.com, but the site logo refers to “O.co, also known as Overstock.com”.

A million .co domains registered

At some point over the last few weeks the one millionth .co domain was registered, approximately ten months after the domain names became generally available.
That’s pretty good going (better than I expected) when compared to other large-scale TLD launches, such as .mobi, which took almost five years to hit the same milestone.
Registry .CO Internet has been marketing .co domains hard for the last 12 months, particularly in California, where it is focused on attracting Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.
To turn the one million milestone into a marketing event, the company has also released some customer endorsement videos at a new site, UnderTheBulb.co (which it’s advertising in my sidebar).
Whether the rapid growth is sustainable is now the question. The one-year anniversary of .co’s launch is coming up in late July, and we might expect a number of early speculative registrations to expire.
But .CO Internet seems confident that it won’t see much of a blip, as its numbers suggest that the vast majority of its registrants – reportedly north of 80% – own fewer than 10 domains each.
Chief executive Juan Calle joked that the company had considered a marketing campaign to coincide with the anniversary, with the slogan “Let ‘Em Drop”, to use a bit of reverse psychology on domainers.
“The registry growing fairly fast,” said Calle. “What happens is that if those domains get dropped they’ll get picked up by real users and businesses.”
The rapid growth is no doubt due in no small part to Go Daddy, which has been prominently featuring .co domains on its front page for months, and to promotional pricing.
Under the current promotion, .CO Internet has roughly halved its registry fee to about $9.50 for first-year registrations, which has translated into $11.99 domains at the checkout.
But Calle said the higher price of .co domains, usually around the $30 mark, does not deter its target customer base, which are business users rather than speculators.
“Pricing is secondary to marketing when it comes to the growth rate — when we do things like the Super Bowl, or when Overstock [which rebranded as o.co] runs their commercials for a week nationally,” he said.

Survey shows .xxx is the Marmite TLD

The forthcoming .xxx top-level domain is accepted and hated by equal numbers of adult entertainment industry operators, according to a new survey.
Xbiz reports today that 35% of its members plan to buy .xxx domain names. Equally, 35% said they would not buy in .xxx because they do not want to support the TLD.
Marmite, if you’re puzzled about the headline, is a strongly flavored yeast-based sandwich spread sold primarily here in the UK. It’s cleverly marketed using the frank slogan “Love it or hate it”.
Just like .xxx, it’s banned in some countries.
It may not be an entirely apt simile, however. The Xbiz survey showed that a paltry 13% of the respondents planned to develop sites. The other 22% are only planning to defensively register their brands.
Xbiz, which surveyed 400 of its members, speculates that defensively registered domains “may be key to the TLD’s revenue stream and perhaps its survival”.
I’m not so sure. If ICM gets 22,000 defensive registrations from pornographers (twice as many sunrise registrations as .co reportedly got last year), that works out to only $1.1 million per year for ICM.
We’re likely to get our first indication of adult industry support when ICM announces its Founders Program partners – pornographers that are prepared to publicly endorse .xxx before it launches.
Like any new TLD launch, anchor tenants will to a large extent determine acceptance of .xxx – ICM will need its o.co moment.
Last week, I attended an ICM-sponsored event at a strip joint in London, at which executives from a large British porn publisher expressed enthusiasm about the TLD, so it does seem to have some quiet support in the business.

TechCrunch abandons Disrupt.co

TechCrunch seems to have abandoned the .co domain name it acquired with much fanfare last year to promote its Disrupt technology conference.
Disrupt, which kicks off its 2011 show in New York today, was one of the first organizations to obtain a .co domain under .CO Internet’s pre-launch Founders Program.
The conference used the domain to promote its Startup Battlefield competition in May 2010.
But today, just hours before the latest conference begins, disrupt.co still leads to this legacy content. It does not appear to have been updated for the 2011 show.
There was no mention in last year’s announcement of a multi-year commitment to use the domain, so perhaps it was a one-time thing.
The official Disrupt site can be found at disrupt.techcrunch.com.

M+M adds .mumbai to client roster

Minds + Machines has been named as the “exclusive registry and consulting services provider” for a .mumbai top-level domain application.
The company said that India TL Domain Pvt Ltd, which appears to be a new company, has also secured the necessary government support for its ICANN application.
According to M+M, Mumbai’s deputy mayor, Shailaja Girkar, has written to ICANN to say:

The city of Mumbai fully and exclusively supports the application of India TL Pvt Ltd for .Mumbai. We believe that this application best represents the interests and the community of the City of Mumbai and we request that ICANN approve this application.

Local government support is a requirement for city TLDs, under ICANN’s current rules. But the latest version of the Applicant Guidebook suggests it can be trumped at the national level.
M+M, owned by Top-Level Domain Holdings, is also linked to applications for .gay, .eco, .berlin and .nyc, among others. Some of these are contested by rival applicants.

RegistryPro gets new CEO

RegistryPro, the .pro top-level domain manager, has appointed Karim Jiwani as its new CEO.
Jiwani seems to have been headhunted from Afilias, where he was senior director of business development. He has over 12 years experience in the business, according to a press release.
The .pro extension is one of those TLDs it’s easy to forget exists, but its recent press releases make it appear like a bit of a dark horse, on an unprecedented growth spurt.
According to its monthly ICANN registry reports, RegistryPro saw a staggering 142% growth in registrations between January 2010 and January 2011, recently passing through the 100,000 domains mark for the first time in its seven-year history.
However, on closer inspection, this uptick was largely due to a bulk registration of over 43,000 domains made via Hostway, RegistryPro’s parent company, last June.
The growth spurt appears to be a direct result of RegistryPro’s reservation of all remaining one, two and three-letter .pro domains, which it is selling off as premium names.
All possible combinations at three characters and under works out to roughly 43,000 domains.
With the new leadership, Hostway also seems to be positioning RegistryPro as a contender in market for providing back-end registry services for new gTLDs. Its CEO, Lucas Roh, said:

Our registry is poised to grow significantly in the coming years, as the awareness continues to grow for .PRO domains and our backend registry services for other TLD’s. We wanted someone that could expertly grow the registry and take it to the next level. Karim has proven experience in the domain industry and is well respected in the community. With his knowledge and passion, he is well equipped to take the company to the next level in providing registry services to registrars and other TLD’s.”

Afilias seems to be a breeding ground for registry CEOs lately. In February, the Public Interest Registry grabbed vice president Brian Cute to head up its .org business.