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Amazon has started using hard-won .amazon

Amazon has started using its controversial dot-brand gTLD, .amazon.

Six domains — ads.amazon, alexa.amazon, echo.amazon, kindle.amazon, prime.amazon and primevideo.amazon — appear to have come online in the last month or so and all resolve.

Proponents of the dot-brand concept may be mildly disappointed to note that they’re all currently just redirects to the regular amazon.com site. There’s no .amazon branding in the URL bar.

The redirects do not appear to be geo-targeted. Even in the UK, I get punted to the US site.

Still, it’s a rare example of a gTLD in Amazon’s portfolio that’s actually being used. Others, such as .book, have been in the root for many years but have yet to launch.

You’ll recall that Amazon applied for .amazon in 2012 but it was not until last year that it was finally delegated.

The company encountered serious push-back from the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, representing the South American nations in the Amazonia region.

Amazon has offered each nation and ACTO itself the opportunity to register names for their own use in .amazon, but none have yet taken up the offer.

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Will you use SSAD for Whois queries?

Kevin Murphy, July 9, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN is pinging the community for feedback on proposed Whois reforms that would change how people request access to private registrant data.

The fundamental question is: given everything you know about the proposed System for Standardized Access and Disclosure (SSAD), how likely are you to actually use it?

The SSAD idea was dreamed up by a community working group as the key component of ICANN’s response to privacy laws such as GDPR, and was then approved by the Generic Names Supporting Organization.

But it’s been criticized for not going far enough to grant Whois access to the likes of trademark lawyers, law enforcement and security researchers. Some have called it a glorified ticketing system that will cost far more than the value it provides.

Before the policy is approved by ICANN’s board, it’s going through a new procedure called the ODP, for Operational Design Phase, in which ICANN staff, in coordination with the community, attempt to figure out whether SSAD would be cost-effective, or even implementable.

The questionnaire released today will be an input to the ODP. ICANN says it “will play a critical role in assessing the feasibility and associated risks, costs, and resources required in the potential deployment of SSAD.”

There’s only eight questions, and they mostly relate to the volume of private data requests submitted currently, how often SSAD is expected to be used, and what the barriers to use would be.

ICANN said it’s asking similar questions of registries and registrars directly.

There’s a clear incentive here for the IP and security factions within ICANN to low-ball the amount of usage they reckon SSAD will get, whether that’s their true belief or not, if they want ICANN to strangle the system in its crib.

It’s perhaps noteworthy that the potential user groups the questionnaire identifies do not include domain investors nor the media, both of which have perfectly non-nefarious reasons for wanting greater access to Whois data. This is likely because these communities were not represented on the SSAD working group.

You can find the questionnaire over here. You have until July 22.

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CentralNic gets into artificial intelligence

Kevin Murphy, July 9, 2021, Domain Tech

CentralNic has formed a business unit dedicated to big data and artificial intelligence.

The new Data and Artificial Intelligence Group will be headed by chief data scientist Pawel Rzeszucinski.

The company said that the group will be tasked with leveraging the “vast” amounts of data it generates as a registrar, registry, DNS resolution provider and domain monetization service.

CentralNic said in a press release:

CentralNic stores, manages, and is exposed to huge datasets that can be used for advanced analysis. Examples include; navigation data on tens of millions of daily DNS queries, ad-tech data on tens of millions of domain advertisements, site usage data on hundreds of millions of unique visits and millions of monthly clicks, and similarly extensive data on transactions and registrations.

These extremely large data sets lend themselves perfectly to AI and machine learning applications that can be used to provide a large array of initiatives which will benefit both the Company and our customers. These include; improved customer service, optimised business operations and decision making, enhanced marketing, reduced customer churn and automated detection of non-compliant customer activity.

There’s no mention of licensing its data to third parties, and the company notes that its initiatives will be compliant with current and future privacy rules from the public and private sectors, such as GDPR.

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“Diversity” warning over ICANN Seattle

Kevin Murphy, July 8, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN has been told that it risks disenfranchising community members from outside the US if it goes ahead with a return to in-person meetings at ICANN 72 in Seattle this October.

APAC Space, a group comprising participants from the Asia-Pacific region, reckons there’s almost no chance that any of its members will be able to make it to Seattle, due to pandemic restrictions.

The group wrote (pdf):

Like the rest of the community, the APAC Space members are keen to see a return to face-to-face meetings, but we have serious concerns about continued, longterm disenfranchisement if this return is done in an inequitable way. If a hybrid meeting does go ahead in Seattle, we are reasonably confident that there will be minimal, if any, in-person attendance from the APAC region

APAC Space goes on to note that ICANN 73 next March is also scheduled to take place in the same region, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The letter continues:

We are concerned that holding a hybrid meeting in which participants from only some regions can participate in-person is not in line with ICANN’s goal to reflect regional and cultural diversity, and risks further disenfranchising regions that are already under-represented within ICANN’s processes.

A recent ICANN survey found that a majority of community members were keen to return to face-to-face meetings. While this was true everywhere, the majority was stronger among North Americans and Europeans.

ICANN’s board of directors is due to make a decision about Seattle later this month.

This article was updated July 9 to clarify authorship of the letter to ICANN.

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ICANN DOESN’T money-grub in new gTLD contract shocker

ICANN may have a reputation for trying to slice itself a bigger slice of the pie whenever it renegotiates a new gTLD contract, but that doesn’t appear to be the case this week.

The .aero registry, which has been running for 20 years, looks set to continue to get its gTLD on the cheap, paying ICANN just a fifth of what newer registry operators pay.

But it has standardized on many other terms of the 2012-round Registry Agreement, meaning Uniform Rapid Suspension, zone file access via the CZDS, EBERO failover, and the registry code of conduct are all coming to .aero soon.

.aero is a “sponsored” TLD restricted to the aerospace industry, approved in 2000 as one of ICANN’s first “test-bed” gTLD round. The registry is Societe Internationale de Telecommunications Aeronautiques, a trade body.

Under the terms of its new contract, which is open for public comment, SITA will pay ICANN a fixed fee of $500 a year if it has under 5,000 names or $5,000 a year if it has more.

Registries receiving their delegations since 2012 pay $25,000 per year in quarterly installments.

.aero currently has about 12,000 names under management, so SITA will carry on paying $5,000 a year. Like other gTLDs, transaction fees kick in at 50,000 names, which at its historical growth rate should happen at some point in the 2090s.

The public comment period closes August 16, about a month before the current .aero contract expires. If history is any guide, any public comments filed will be duly noted and ignored.

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Pirate Bay founder among candidates for Nominet advisory council

Nominet has opened up the voting for its inaugural UK Registrar Advisory Council, and there’s at least one eyebrow-raising candidate.

Peter Sunde, who founded the Pirate Bay file-sharing web site and served time for copyright infringement, has put his name forward to be one of six members who will ultimately serve on the council.

The UKRAC is a new creation of Nominet, part of its effort to make peace with members who conducted a coup in March.

The council will comprise two members from the larger registrars, two from the medium-small registrars, and two independents/domainers.

Sunde has put himself forward as a member of the small-medium category, through Sarek, one of two registrars he’s known to be involved in.

He recently told DI that ICANN won’t give Sarek a formal accreditation in the gTLD space because the org is worried that he’ll be a “pain in the ass”.

He told Nominet members he is “from the activist community” and has a love for “the influence that comes with being a registrar”.

He’ll be competing for a seat with an eclectic array of other hopefuls.

There’s Lesley Moody MBE, managing director of AES Digital, who I think it’s fair to say is a much more establishment figure, focused as much on the responsibilities of members to the company as vice versa.

Likewise, Benedict Addis of the Registrar of Last Resort Foundation is also on the ballot. He’s a security guy and former UK cyber-cop, who has for a long time been a voice of law enforcement in the ICANN community.

One of Addis’ proposers, Andrew Bennett, is also standing in his own capactiy. He’s from Netistrar and has been a vocal critic of Nominet over multiple administrations for well over a decade.

Rounding out the ballot of Sunde’s opponents are John Richards of Watchet Web Design, Dan Rodgers of Domain Registrar Services Ltd and Stephen Yarrow of Driver Information Systems.

In the large registrar category the nominations are Arnaud Franquinet of Gandi, Ashley La Bolle of Tucows, Prudence Malinki of MarkMonitor, Barbara Sher of Register.com (part of Newfold Digital) and Rex Wickham of TwentyTwentyMedia.

In separate blog posts today, La Bolle and Wickham have both expressed support for the PublicBenefit.uk campaign that led to the current Nominet reforms.

In the independent registrar category, which is for members who are accredited mainly to register names more cheaply for their own use, the candidates are relative newcomer Ciprian Cucuruz of Webber Multimedia and Susannah Clark, who does business as “Girl Next Door” and expresses skepticism that the UKRAC is much more than a Nominet PR exercise.

Given they’re the only two candidates for the two available seats, they both appear to be shoo-ins.

The election will be run using a single transferable vote system, with each member getting a single vote unrelated to the size of their .uk installed base. Voting closes July 22 and results announced a few days later.

The full list of candidates and all their personal statements can be found here (pdf).

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XYZ scraps .tickets rules but won’t lower the price

XYZ.com has just formally announced the acquisition of the new gTLD .tickets, which we reported on in April.

The company said it plans to keep the domains at the current high price of $500 retail per year, in contrast to its recent practice of dropping its fees on some of its recent acquisitions.

But it is going to remove “complicated registration restrictions” and make .tickets names available according to the rules for gTLDs in the rest of its portfolio, which should broaden its channel appeal.

The company argues that, in the absence of stringent registration rules, the high prices make it “cost prohibitive” for bad actors to cybersquat.

.tickets was being managed by original applicant Accent Media until earlier this year.

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EURid scraps residency rules for three countries

.eu registry EURid said today that it’s broadening the eligibility criteria for registrants to ex-pats from three countries.

The rule change means that if you’re a citizen of Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein but do not live in those countries or in the EU, you’ll be able to register domains regardless of residency.

Those three countries are in the European Economic Area but not the EU. EEA residents have been able to register .eu names for a long time, but non-resident citizens were barred.

The rule applying eligibility to citizenship rather than residency has been available to full-fat EU citizens since 2019.

The number of affected people appears to be low. The combined population of all three countries is under six million, almost all of whom are Norwegian, and Norway is believed to have 100,000 citizens living overseas.

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Epik buys DNForum, explores member ownership options

Kevin Murphy, July 6, 2021, Domain Services

Controversial registrar Epik has acquired DNForum and says it is thinking about ways to make the site member-owned.

DNForum is a forum targeted mainly at domain investors. It competes with NamePros and has seen multiple sets of owners over the last few years.

Posting on DNForum, Epik CEO Rob Monster said he hopes to improve industry communication, interoperability and commercial opportunities — registrars will be welcome to pitch their promotions to users.

He said that Epik is “actively investigating a legally compliant way to turn DNForum into a member owned community based on crypto token”.

While popular with domainers, Epik has attracted controversy in recent years for soliciting and welcoming the business of domain names that have been “cancelled” elsewhere due to political extremism.

Whether this laissez-faire stance on free speech will extend to DNForum’s moderation practices in future remains to be seen.

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Nominet throws money at member-chosen charities

Nominet is to make up to £600,000 ($830,000) a year available to charities nominated by its members.

The upcoming GiveHub platform comes as part of the .uk registry’s ongoing effort to appease members who believe the company has not being doing enough to live up to its public interest mandate in recent year.

Nominet said yesterday that it will make up to 10 grants available each month, up to a total value of £50,000.

Recipients will be nominated by members and vetted by a panel of five volunteer members. They’ll have to be UK-based registered charities “whose work aligns with our commitment to making the world more connected, inclusive and secure”, Nominet said.

GiveHub is expected to launch for a six-month pilot on August 2 and Nominet is currently looking for volunteers to serve on its grants panel.

The move comes a few months after a huge shakeup of the company caused by a member revolt that narrowly saw half of its board of directors, including its CEO and chair, culled amid calls for lower prices and more money given to good causes.

Nominet had committed £4 million to public benefit in the first half of this year, double the amount it has been giving for the last few years under previous management.

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