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Nominet appoints Baroness to chair

Nominet, the .uk registry manager, has hired Irene Fritchie, aka Baroness Fritchie, to be its new chair.
No, I’d never heard of her either, but apparently Fritchie is a life peer and a dame, with a seat in the House of Lords since 2005.
Her geek credentials appear to comprise her chairmanship, until last year, of the Web Science Research Initiative, a joint initiative between the University of Southampton and MIT.
So she’s on speaking terms with Tim Berners-Lee, it seems.
Fritchie replaces Bob Gilbert, who quit in March after guiding the organization through a tricky period.
A cynic would say that it’s fortuitous that Nominet now has a member of the UK legislature fighting its corner, given that the recently passed Digital Economy Act originated and was primarily written in the Lords.
The Act created powers for the British government to take over .uk if Nominet screws up by letting domainers commandeer its board.
Fritchie is a cross-bencher, meaning she is beholden to no one political party.
Nominet also said that it has appointed Piers White MBE as a non-executive director. White has a background in banking and currently sits on the board of Ordnance Survey.

ICANN’s Draft Applicant Guidebook v4 – first reactions

Kevin Murphy, June 1, 2010, Domain Policy

As you probably already know, ICANN late yesterday released version 4 of its Draft Applicant Guidebook, the bible for new top-level domain registry wannabes.
Having spent some time today skimming through the novel-length tome, I can’t say I’ve spotted anything especially surprising in there.
IP interests and governments get more of the protections they asked for, a placeholder banning registries and registrars from owning each other makes its first appearance, and ICANN beefs up the text detailing the influence of public comment periods.
There are also clarifications on the kinds of background checks ICANN will run on applicants, and a modified fee structure that gets prospective registries into the system for $5,000.
DNSSEC, security extensions for the DNS protocol, also gets a firmer mandate, with ICANN now making it clearer that new TLDs will be expected to implement DNSSEC from launch.
It’s still early days, but a number of commentators have already given their early reactions.
Perennial first-off-the-block ICANN watcher George Kirikos quickly took issue with the fact that DAG v4 still does not include “hard price caps” for registrations

[The DAG] demonstrates once again that ICANN has no interests in protecting consumers, but is merely in cahoots with registrars and registries, acting against the interests of the public… registry operators would be open to charge $1000/yr per domain or $1 million/yr per domain, for example, to maximize their profits.

Andrew Allemann of Domain Name Wire reckons ICANN should impose a filter on its newly emphasised comment periods in order to reduce the number of form letters, such as those seen during the recent .xxx consultation.
I can’t say I agree. ICANN could save itself a few headaches but it would immediately open itself up to accusations of avoiding its openness and transparency commitments.
The Internet Governance Project’s Milton Mueller noted that the “Draconian” text banning the cross-ownership of registries and registrars is basically a way to force the GNSO to hammer out a consensus policy on the matter.

Everyone knows this is a silly policy. The reason this is being put forward is that the VI Working Group has not succeeded in coming up with a policy toward cross-ownership and vertical integration that most of the parties can agree on.

I basically agree. It’s been clear since Nairobi that this was the case, but I doubt anybody expected the working group to come to any consensus before the new DAG was drafted, so I wouldn’t really count its work as a failure just yet.
That said, the way it’s looking at the moment, with participants still squabbling about basic definitions and terms of reference, I doubt that a fully comprehensive consensus on vertical integration will emerge before Brussels.
Mueller lays the blame squarely with Afilias and Go Daddy for stalling these talks, so I’m guessing he’s basing his views on more information than is available on the public record.
Antony Van Couvering of prospective registry Minds + Machines has the most comprehensive commentary so far, touching on several issues raised by the new DAG.
He’s not happy about the VI issue either, but his review concludes with a generally ambivalent comment:

Overall, this version of the Draft Applicant Guidebook differs from the previous version by adding some incremental changes and extra back doors for fidgety governments and the IP interests who lobby them. None of the changes are unexpected or especially egregious.

DAG v4 is 312 pages long, 367 pages if you’re reading the redlined version. I expect it will take a few days before we see any more substantial critiques.
One thing is certain: Brussels is going to be fun.

The top ten dumbest .xxx public comment subject lines

Kevin Murphy, May 9, 2010, Domain Policy

The American Family Association is now responsible for something approaching 10,000 emails urging ICANN to can ICM Registry’s .xxx proposal.
On Thursday, the AFA asked its membership to email ICANN’s public comment forum in support of “Option #3”, which would allow it to ignore the Independent Review Panel ruling and kill .xxx for good.
It thoughtfully included suggested text for the body of the email, but encouraged its members to “(Please enter your own subject line)”.
I don’t doubt that plenty of AFA members know what it was they were commenting on, but it’s clear from their chosen subject lines that plenty more had absolutely no idea.
Here’s a Letterman-style rundown of the top-ten least-clueful subject lines I’ve come across so far.

10. How much more sin will God allow?????????????
9. Judgment day is coming
8. Dear Sir!
7. stop the cause of all of the sex crimes commited today!
6. Registered Sex Offenders — You may be next, Please proceed with caution!
5. Don’t let an ADULT bookstore enter my computer! Support option #3.
4. P*rn Channel Explosion – Option #3
3. XXX.com
2. No more porn on TV!
1. (Please enter your own subject line.)

Have you seen any better/crazier ones? Let me know.
The public comment period ends, thankfully, tomorrow.

Porn group starts anti-XXX campaign

Kevin Murphy, April 15, 2010, Domain Registries

Now that the Christians appear to have quietened down, the adult entertainment industry has unleashed its own letter-writing campaign aimed at crippling ICM Registry’s bid for the .xxx TLD.
The Free Speech Coalition has started urging its members to lobby ICANN with emails demanding that the .xxx proposal is rejected.
The front page of its web site started carrying the call to action earlier today, already resulting in over a dozen form complaints.
The anti-porn complaints that have flooded ICANN’s forums for the last week focussed largely on the alleged harmful effects of porn, and will probably be politely ignored.
But unlike the Christians, the FSC has read the background documents – which request comments on how ICANN should process ICM’s application – and its letters are therefore on-topic
They urge ICANN to “Adopt Option #3” by agreeing with the dissenting minority view of the Independent Review Panel that recently ruled ICANN was unfair to reject ICM back in 2007.
“Regardless of the option chosen, I ask that ICANN continue to consider the widespread opposition of the sponsored community in any further decisions concerning a .XXX sTLD,” the letters add.
The campaign is not unexpected, but it won’t make ICANN’s board of directors’ decision any easier. After all, .xxx is ostensibly a “sponsored” TLD, and a significant voice within its potential customer base does not appear to want it.
There may also be other power games at play.
ICM president Stuart Lawley claimed during his IRP cross-examination in September that the FSC had offered to support ICM in 2003, but only if it could control the sponsoring organization and collect the associated $10 per domain per year.
The ICANN comment period runs until May 10. The FSC’s own comments, from boss Diane Duke, are here.

DNS is sexy? Dyn thinks so

Kevin Murphy, April 8, 2010, Domain Services

Dynamic Network Services has launched a marketing campaign aimed at convincing people that DNS is “sexy”.
The company, which provides managed DNS services as Dyn.com, evidently has its tongue in its cheek, but has plastered the “DNS is Sexy” slogan across its web site anyway.
It has even registered DNSisSexy.com to bounce users to its corporate pages.
There’s a list of ten reasons why this frankly bizarre proposition might be true, including:

7. Standard features like DNSSEC on our Dynect Platform defend you from would be cyber criminals that want to steal your important information online. Bye bye identity theft!

Feeling sexy yet? Me neither.
How about:

9. Recursive DNS like our free Internet Guide, can protect your family and friends from unwanted Web content with customized defense plans.

Feeling sexy now? No?
Still, Go Daddy managed to mainstream domain name registration by incorporating boobs quite heavily in its TV campaigns, and everybody is interested in the ongoing sex.com and .xxx sagas, so it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that Dyn could do the same for managed DNS.
To be honest, I can’t quite visualise it.
Dyn is asking people to tweet their reasons why DNS is “sexy” including the hashtag #dnsissexy. I’ve done mine.

I-Root yanks Beijing node

Kevin Murphy, March 31, 2010, Domain Tech

Autonomica, which runs i-root-servers.net, has stopped advertising its Anycast node in Beijing, after reports last week that its responses were being tampered with.
In the light of recent tensions between China and the US, people got a bit nervous after the Chilean ccTLD manager reported some “odd behaviour” to the dns-ops mailing list last week.
It seemed that DNS lookups for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were being censored as they returned from I-Root’s node in China, which is hosted by CNNIC.
There was no suggestion that Autonomica was complicit in any censorship, and chief executive Karl Erik Lindqvist has now confirmed as much.
“Netnod/Autonomica is 100% committed to serving the root zone DNS data as published by the IANA. We have made a clear and public declaration of this, and we guarantee that the responses sent out by any i.root-servers.net instance consist of the appropriate data in the IANA root zone,” he wrote.
While Lindqvist is not explicit, the suggestion seems to be that somebody on the Chinese internet not associated with I-Root has been messing with DNS queries as they pass across the network.
This is believed to be common practice in China, whose citizens are subject to strict censorship, but any such activity outside its borders obviously represents a threat to the internet’s reliability.
The CNNIC node is offline until further notice.

Is Go Daddy’s size a competition concern?

Kevin Murphy, March 17, 2010, Domain Registrars

Go Daddy is undoubtedly the runaway success story of the domain name industry.
It may not be as big as VeriSign, but unlike VeriSign it was not simply handed a multi-billion dollar resource to manage. It was essentially scratch-built. It didn’t even have first-mover advantage – Register.com and Network Solutions had that, and Go Daddy’s been eating their lunches for years.
The company has got where it is today through, in my opinion, a combination of cheap prices, decent customer service and populist marketing. Mainly the cheap prices, but I doubt that putting a great big pair of boobs on TV during the Super Bowl can have hurt sales.
But how big is the company? And with the introduction of new gTLDs, is its size now a cause for concern? (continue reading)

Big claims from small registrar

Kevin Murphy, March 16, 2010, Domain Registrars

You’ve got to admire the cojones on Domainmonster, an upstart registrar from the UK.
In a delightfully hyperbolic press release out today, the company reveals it is “the world’s largest new domain name supplier” and compares itself to Go Daddy.
Because I think it’s funny, I’ll post the meat of the press release before de-constructing it. (continue reading)