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Turkey name change could free up gTLD string

Kevin Murphy, June 2, 2022, Uncategorized

Turkey is changing its name to Türkiye, which could free up its old name to new gTLD applicants in the bird-killing industry.

The Turkish government has reportedly submitted a formal request to the UN for the change, which is intended to bring it more into line with the Turkish name and pronunciation — “Turkey-YAY”, apparently — and to disassociate it with the poultry and its disparaging connotations.

That could mean that one day the old spelling will cease to be a reserved string under ICANN’s new gTLD program rules.

The version of the Applicant Guidebook from 2012 bans applications for strings that match country names on the ISO 3166 list, translations and variants, as well as names by which a country is “commonly known” as evidenced by its use by an intergovernmental or treaty organization.

If everybody plays ball and starts calling the nation Türkiye instead, those provisions may no longer apply and new gTLD consultants may want to put their feelers out to Bernard Matthews.

The old name could remain banned if the ISO decides to keep the name on its “exceptionally reserved” list. As of today, the 3166 standard still lists the old name on its primary list.

The new spelling almost certainly won’t have any effect on the country’s ccTLD, which is .tr.

.tattoo — another UNR gTLD auction winner emerges

Kevin Murphy, May 9, 2022, Uncategorized

It’s looking rather like Top Level Design has been outed as one of the winners of UNR’s April 2021 gTLD auction.

ICANN records have started to show that the company has taken over the contract for .tattoo, which was one of the 23 contracts UNR said it sold off as it attempted to exit the registry business.

Such a deal would make perfect sense — Top Level Design already runs the complementary TLD .ink, which is a slang term for tattoos.

.tattoo is a much smaller zone, with fewer than 3,000 names under management compared to .ink’s over 45,000.

At this point ICANN has not published the contract reassignment, and IANA still has UNR listed as the sponsor, but the point of contact for the Registry Agreement is now Top Level Design’s Andrew Merriam.

Assuming the assignment completes, that means the new owners of 14 of the 23 gTLDs UNR sold off are known.

XYZ.com bought 10 of them, GoDaddy two, and newcomer Dot Hip Hop bought .hiphop.

The handovers have been delayed by ICANN‘s insistence that registries disavow ownership rights to the strings in question, due to UNR bundling rights to blockchain-based alt-root equivalents in its auctions.

Kaufmann selected for ICANN board

Kevin Murphy, May 6, 2022, Uncategorized

Christian Kaufmann, a VP at Akamai, has been picked for the ICANN board of directors, the Address Supporting Organization has announced.

He beat former ICANN director Lito Ibarra in a two-horse ASO election at the end of a six-month selection process, and will replace Akinori Maemura, who did not stand for reelection.

Ibarra was on the board as a Nominating Committee appointee for two of a possible three terms before being replaced by Edmon Chung last October. He clearly enjoyed himself enough to try again as an ASO candidate.

But Kaufman got the votes, and will join the board after its AGM in October this year.

He’s been with content delivery network operator Akamai since 2008 and currently serves as VP of technology. He also has experience on the boards of other industry groups.

He’s European, replacing somebody from Asia-Pacific, which alters the geographic mix of the ICANN board a little.

UDRP suspended in Ukraine

Kevin Murphy, May 3, 2022, Uncategorized

The World Intellectual Property Organization has stopped accepting cybersquatting complaints against .ua domains due to the war in Ukraine.

WIPO has posted a note to its web site stating: “In consultation with the .UA Registry, the Center has determined that it is not in a position to accept new .UA filings under the .UA Policy until further notice.”

Hostmaster, the .ua registry, said: “The decision is due to the fact that Ukrainian registrars and registra[nts] may now be deprived of the opportunity to fully participate in arbitration proceedings.”

The service will resume following the end of martial law in the country, Hostmaster said.

Ukraine uses a variation of UDRP that has the same three basic criteria for a finding of cybersquatting, with the crucial difference that domains must be “registered OR used in bad faith”, rather than “registered AND used in bad faith”.

WIPO has been handling .ua disputes since 2019. About 60 cases have been processed so far.

Hostmaster has also suspended domain deletes until martial law is over, for pretty much the same reasons.

ICANN is blocking 23 gTLD transfers over blockchain fears

ICANN is objecting to the transfer of 23 new gTLDs from UNR to an unknown number of third parties, because it’s scared that the associated non-fungible tokens may break the internet and its own authority over it.

The mystery of how UNR’s auction in April of its entire new gTLD portfolio has so far not resulted in a single ICANN Registry Agreement changing hands appears to have been solved.

It’s because UNR bundled each contract sale with a matching top-level “domain name”, in the form of an NFT, on the Ethereum Name Service, an alt-root based on the Ethereum blockchain, and ICANN is worried about what this means for both the long-term interoperability of the DNS and its own ability to act as the internet’s TLD gatekeeper.

This all emerged in an emergency Request for Reconsideration filed by a company called Dot Hip Hop, which bought .hiphop from UNR earlier in the year.

It turns out .hiphop is the TLD alluded to by Digital Asset Monetary Network, which in October became the first to out itself as a UNR buyer while not naming its gTLD. The purchase was made separately from the April auction, despite .hiphop being “mistakenly” listed as one of the lots.

It also turns out that consultant Jeff Neuman, who’s been a leading figure in the ICANN community since its inception, was behind long-time employer Neustar’s application for .biz, and is a big fan of musical theater, is chief legal officer of and a partner in DHH.

In his reconsideration request, Neuman rages against the fact that it had been over 120 days at time of writing since DHH and UNR had applied to have the .hiphop contract reassigned, but that ICANN is continuing to drag its feet despite DHH long ago passing its due diligence review (which Neuman says cost an excessive $17,000).

DigitalAMN lists DHH as a subsidiary in its recent Securities and Exchange Commission filings. The company is publicly listed but essentially pre-revenue, making its ability to start selling domain names rather quickly rather important.

ICANN has repeatedly delayed approval of the reassignment, provided no visibility into when approval will come, and has repeatedly asked the same questions — largely related to the NFTs — with only slight rewording, Neuman says:

ICANN Org has already communicated to DHH that it has already met all of the criteria required under the Registry Agreement. Yet still, ICANN is withholding consent based on its mere curiosity about the former owner of the .hiphop, TLD (UNR Co), and based on the questions that ICANN keeps re-asking, has presumably conjured up non-issues that: (a) have already been addressed by DHH on multiple occasions over the past 123 days, (b) are beyond the scope of ICANN’s mission, and (c) are philosophical, fictional and frankly do not exist in this matter.

The ENS NFT is a “de minimus” component of the transaction that DHH didn’t even know about until after it had already decided to buy .hiphop, the request states, and ICANN has no authority over the blockchain so the existence of an NFT is not a valid reason to deny the reassignment.

I think I also detect a race card being played here. The RfR spends a bit of time talking about how ICANN’s foot-dragging is making the Org look bad to “traditionally underserved communities where the Hip Hop culture has thrived, globally”.

Apparently referring to DigitalAMN, the RfR states:

In addition to such partner being established at the birthplace of Hip Hop (Bronx New York), by its founder who shares the same birthdate as Hip Hop (August 11th), its mission is to provide financial literacy and economic opportunities for those communities and cultures that are traditionally under-represented, under-funded and under-valued.

DigitalAMN is majority-owned and led by Ajene Watson, who is black. One of company’s stated goals is to connect early stage companies with capital from non-traditional investors (not just the “privileged few”) using non-traditional means.

The RfR goes on to say:

The most dominantly underserved, under-funded and under-valued communities, are also those that embrace and are part of the Hip Hop culture. This Partner has embraced what seemed to be an opportunity to provide domain name registration services to a culture that knows nothing of ICANN, nor the domain name industry. Now, its first impression of the ICANN community is unnecessary delay, a lack of transparency, and bureaucratic indecision—just another gatekeeper to prevent equitable access. In their eyes, they consistently see deadlines that are never met (by ICANN), a lack of information as to why their launch is being held up, and an entity (ICANN) that takes weeks/months to act on anything with no end in sight. In their view, it would appear that ICANN, as an organization, cares nothing about serving the public interest, or about the impact of its actions (or in this case inactions) on the undervalued communities this Partner aims to support.

It should be noted that 22 other unrelated UNR gTLD reassignments are also in limbo, so it’s not like ICANN has a problem in particular with hip-hop music or those who enjoy it.

ICANN, in its response to the RfR, lays all the blame with UNR for, it says, refusing to provide “fulsome and complete” answers to its questions about the NFTs. In a December 10 letter to Neuman, ICANN VP Russ Weinstein wrote:

Significant questions remain, including regarding the role and rights conveyed to the proposed assignees related to the NFTs created on the ENS. For these reasons, ICANN must continue to object to and withhold its consent to all pending Assignments proposed by UNR, including yours.

The RfR was denied by ICANN’s Board Accountability Mechanisms Committee on a technicality. DHH had filed an “emergency” request based on ICANN’s staff inaction, but emergency requests only apply to board action or inaction.

Neuman appears to have known this in advance. It appears DHH just wanted to get something in the public record about the state of play with UNR’s gTLDs.

ICANN seems to have two problems with the NFTs, and they’re both big, existential ones.

First, ENS is essentially an alt-root, and when you have competing roots there’s the risk of TLDs colliding — two or more registries claiming authority for the same TLD — breaking the global interoperability of the internet.

Second, but related, the existence of alt-roots threatens ICANN’s authority.

ICANN has no authority over ENS or the NFT names that live on it, so for a registry to run a TLD in the both the authoritative ICANN root and the alt-root of the ENS could cause problems down the road.

While NFTs can be “owned”, gTLDs are not. UNR is merely the party ICANN has contracted with to run .hiphop. While UNR and any subsequent assignees have a presumptive right of renewal, it’s possible for ICANN to terminate the contract and hand stewardship of the gTLD to another registry. It’s not merely a hypothetical scenario.

Should that ever happen with .hiphop, ICANN wouldn’t have the authority to seize the ENS NFT, meaning the old registry could carry on running .hiphop in the ENS while the new registry runs it in the ICANN root, again breaking global DNS interoperability.

You could spin it either way — either ICANN is worried about interoperability, or it’s worried about protecting its own power. These are not mutually exclusive, and are both probably true.

One thing’s the sure, however — in roadblocking these gTLD transfers, ICANN is playing into the hands of critics and blockchain fanboys who argue for decentralized control of naming, with ICANN as their bogeyman.