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Controversial Chinese firm among two newly revealed UNR gTLD buyers

Two more former UNR top-level domains have formally changed hands following the company’s fire sale over a year ago.

The ICANN contracts governing .llp and .help have been reassigned, the former to Intercap Registry and the latter to a new-to-the-industry Seychelles-based company called Innovation service Ltd, ICANN records show.

Intercap is a relatively known quantity, already running the .inc, .dealer and .box gTLDs.

Innovation is an entirely different kettle of fish.

The company appears to be led by a Hong Kong entrepreneur named Heng Lu, best known for making millions obtaining IPv4 addresses from Afrinic, the African Regional Internet Registry, and leasing them to clients in China for a huge profit.

Heng Lu is also the founder of Cloud Innovation Ltd, another Seychelles shell. It is currently embroiled in a string of lawsuits with Afrinic, which last year tried to revoke Cloud’s membership and therefore its IPv4 space.

The case(s) of Cloud versus Afrinic are pretty convoluted and a bit off-beat for this blog, but at one point last year it led to Afrinic’s bank accounts being frozen by the Mauritius Supreme Court, putting IP address management across the whole continent at risk.

ICANN would certainly have been aware of this already when it approved the transfer of the .help gTLD to what appears to be a related company. After the Mauritius injunction, Afrinic pleaded with ICANN for financial help, which ICANN provided.

The two transfers mean we now know the identities of the buyers of 17 of the 23 gTLD contracts UNR put up for sale in April 2021. ICANN took a long time to approve the reassignments due to worries about IP rights.

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Over 900 people show up for ICANN 74

Kevin Murphy, June 17, 2022, Domain Policy

Has community participation in ICANN meetings rebounded now that in-person meetings have returned? That’s one possible interpretation of data released by the Org today.

ICANN said that ICANN 74, which concluded yesterday, had 1,817 attendees, of whom 917 showed up in The Hague in person, their first opportunity to travel to an ICANN meeting since November 2019. The remaining 900 participated remotely via Zoom.

If we take the top-line number, that’s the highest attendance of the pandemic era, and comparable to the Montréal meeting immediately prior to the arrival of the Covid-19, ICANN 66, where 1,894 people showed up.

But the top-line number from Montréal does not include off-site Zoom participants, which were counted separately and amounted to 1,752 people.

So the number of people “attending” ICANN meetings one way or the other has either returned to pre-pandemic levels, or has been cut in half, or even quartered, over the last two and a half years, depending on how you’re counting.

The fact that the 66 was an Annual General Meeting, with a longer, more cluttered agenda and more opportunities to engage for a broader range of people than the mid-year Policy Forum, probably had some impact on the numbers.

The 2019 Policy Forum, held in Morocco, attracted 1,186 in-person attendees and 2.909 off-site Zoom participants.

Regardless of whether you think Zoom users count as full participants or not, 917 bums on seats is the smallest attendance for any meeting since ICANN started counting.

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Verisign and Afilias spar over .web delays

Kevin Murphy, June 15, 2022, Domain Policy

Afilias and Verisign are at odds over a further delay to the resolution of the .web gTLD dispute.

Afilias, aka Altanovo Domains, says its lawyers are too busy to meet ICANN’s deadline for arguments about whether either company broke the rules in the 2016 auction of .web, but Verisign thinks they have plenty of time,

ICANN’s Board Accountability Mechanisms Committee had set a deadline of July 15 for both applicants to submit a document explaining why they believe the other broke the rules and should have their auction bids voided.

But Afilias’ lawyers say they “have longstanding international travel and hearing commitments in June and July that cannot be rescheduled” and want an extension to July 29.

Just two weeks seems like no big deal in a contest that has been running for literally a decade, but Verisign is opposing it anyway, according to emails Afilias submitted to ICANN (pdf).

“ICANN provided the parties with a generous briefing schedule sufficient to accommodate counsel’s other commitments. For this reason, Verisign and NDC do not support Altanovo’s current request for a further extension,” a Verisign lawyer wrote.

Verisign, which won the auction via its proxy, Nu Dot Co, believes Afilias broke a communications blackout period before the auction by texting NDC to negotiate a deal. Afilias believes NDC broke the rules by not disclosing Verisign’s involvement.

The BAMC’s job, following the outcome of an Independent Review Process case last year, is to decide whether either of these claims is legit and settle who won the auction once and for all.

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Hamburg selected for next year’s ICANN AGM

Kevin Murphy, June 13, 2022, Domain Policy

Better late than never? ICANN has picked Hamburg for its 25th annual general meeting, due to be held in October next year.

The ICANN board of directors made the selection at its meeting this weekend, just-published resolutions show.

The choice is hardly surprising. Hamburg had been the venue for the 2020 AGM, but it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The city, along with DENIC and eco, said last December they were bidding for a second crack.

The specific venue was not disclosed, but the aborted 2020 meeting was due to take place at the Congress Center Hamburg, so one assumes that’s where the community will be headed next year.

While it will be ICANN’s 25th AGM, and I guess some kind of celebration will be in order, sadly ICANN 78 will be the wrong side of the country and in the wrong month to easily coincide with Oktoberfest.

The meeting is schedule for October 21 to 26 2023.

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Amazon governments not playing ball with Amazon’s .amazon

Kevin Murphy, June 13, 2022, Domain Policy

Governments in South America are refusing to play nicely with Amazon over its controversial .amazon dot-brand.

Speaking at ICANN 74 in The Hague this morning, Brazil’s representative on the Governmental Advisory Committee said that ICANN’s decision to delegate .amazon to the retail giant a couple of years ago contravenes the multi-stakeholder process and is “incompatible with the expectations and sovereign rights of the Amazon peoples”.

Luciano Mazza de Andrade said that the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, which is membered by the eight governments of the Amazonia region, wrote to Amazon in December to decline an offer to reserve a number of .amazon domains.

Amazon’s contract with ICANN contains a Public Interest Commitment that grants ACTO and its members one usable .amazon domain each, and 1,500 blocks overall for culturally sensitive strings.

The company had given ACTO a December 19 deadline to submit its list of strings, but it seems its members do not acknowledge the contract’s validity.

“Among other points it underlined that ACTO member states did not give consent to the process of adjudication of the .amazon top-level domain and that they did not consider themselves bound by said decision or the conditions attached to it including the above mentioned Public Interest Commitment,” Brazil’s rep said.

He added that “the adjudication of the top-level domain to a private company without our approval and authorization does not respect the applicable rules, expressly contravenes the multistakeholder nature of ICANN’s decision-making process of interest, and is incompatible with the expectations and sovereign rights of the Amazon peoples.”

ACTO has previously described the delegation of .amazon as “illegal and unjust”.

Amazon has a handful of live .amazon domains, which redirect to various services on amazon.com.

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High fives, or elbows only? ICANN 74 intros traffic light system for socializing

Kevin Murphy, June 13, 2022, Domain Policy

People attending ICANN 74 in The Hague this week are being encouraged to outwardly express their social distancing preferences with their choice of meeting lanyards.

The Org has made lanyards with straps in four colors available to those who have shown up to ICANN’s first face-to-face public meeting in over two and a half years.

A red strap indicates that you should back off, because the wearer desires “extreme physical distancing and precautions”. Yellow is “elbows only” when it comes to greetings. Green means you can shake hands, high-five, and get a little more intimate.

There’s also black, for those who don’t want to wear their Covid-19 anxiety levels around their necks, can’t make their minds up, or think the system is silly.

Five days of masks and Covid-19 tests have been issued to attendees at the door, along with a supply of hand sanitizer. The masks are compulsory, and sanitizer use is being encouraged for those who are choosing to press the flesh.

In-person attendees are also being issued with wrist-bands, like you might get in hospital or at a music festival or nightclub, to prove their vaccination status has been verified.

I’m observing ICANN 74 remotely, and I’ve only viewed one session so far, but my impression based on that limited sample size is that most people seem to have opted for green or yellow lanyards.

It’s tempting to mock the system as another example of ICANN bureaucracy but I think it makes sense, particularly when you’ve got hundreds of people from dozens of countries, each at their own stages of pandemic recovery and with their own levels of endemic covidiocy, in the same building.

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NetBeacon goes live for DNS abuse reporting

Kevin Murphy, June 10, 2022, Domain Tech

The DNS Abuse Institute has gone live with its new clearinghouse for DNS abuse reports, NetBeacon.

The service allows anyone to report any domain for four types of abuse — malware, phishing, botnets and spam — and any registry or registrar can sign up to receive the reports in a normalized feed via email or API.

The idea is to make it easier for domain companies to act on reports of abusive customers, as DNSAI director Graeme Bunton told us a few months ago.

NetBeacon is free for both reporters and registrars and is being funded by .org manager Public Interest Registry.

Some of the technology underpinning the service is being provided by CleanDNS.

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As registration closes, many ICANN 74 sessions at bursting point

Kevin Murphy, June 8, 2022, Domain Policy

When I’m wrong, I’m wrong.

I speculated a couple of weeks ago that it was likely that ICANN had laid on enough meeting-room capacity to meet demand at next week’s ICANN 74 public meeting, but it turns out most sessions are already over-subscribed.

It’s the first in-person full meeting for ICANN since the pandemic began, and there are going to be some particularly cumbersome health and safety restrictions, including social distancing, which means mandatory reservations and fewer bums on seats.

By my count, 50 sessions next week are already fully booked, which appears to be more than half of the total. There doesn’t seem to be a published hard cap on the number of attendees overall, so there might be a lot of hanging around in corridors going on.

The large plenary sessions in the big room still have hundreds of available seats, but the smaller rooms are mostly fully reserved.

ICANN has said it will have waiting lists for sessions where people fail to show up, and there’s always the Zoom rooms as a backup for those on-site.

The deadline for registering to attend in person is today. Assuming that means close of business in California, you still have a few hours left to book your spot.

I’m not going. My broken leg still hasn’t fully healed, and limping around a massive maze of a venue for eight hours a day, setting off the metal detectors every time I go in or out (I’m now part robot), seems like my idea of hell.

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Belarusian domains to change hands

The two ccTLDs representing the sanctioned nation of Belarus are to change hands ahead of next week’s public ICANN meeting in The Hague.

According to the agenda of the ICANN board’s June 12 pre-meeting session, both .by and the Cyrillic equivalent .бел will be transferred to a Minsk company called Belarusian Cloud Technologies.

Currently, the IANA records show a company called Reliable Software has been the registry manager since 2012, but according to the registry’s web site, Belarusian Cloud Technologies has been running the two TLDs since the start of 2022.

It seems asking ICANN’s permission may have been an afterthought, or the redelegation process is taking longer than expected.

Belarus is of course quite heavily sanctioned by much of the world right now, including ICANN’s native US, due to its support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

But ICANN deals with sanctioned nations’ ccTLDs all the time. Where it requires special permission from the US government, it reliably obtains it.

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As GoDaddy shutters URL shortener, could x.co come back on the market?

GoDaddy has turned off its URL shortener service, freeing up the likely six-plus-figure domain x.co for another use or possible resale.

The company told users of the service last week that their redirects would no longer work as of June 4. Instead, they’re being asked to set up a redirect using any of the domains in their GoDaddy accounts.

It has not been possible to create new links for a few years, the company said.

GoDaddy acquired x.co from then .co registry .CO Internet in 2010 as part of the Colombian ccTLD’s global relaunch.

The price was never disclosed, but I suspect it was part of a broad partnership package that saw GoDaddy market .co hard, rather than a domain-only sale.

Around the same time, Twitter bought t.co for its own URL shortener and Overstock.com bought o.co for $350,000 as the cornerstone of an ultimately disastrous rebranding campaign.

It’s difficult to imagine x.co being worth less than that, particularly when the matching .com is owned by the richest person in the world.

In the time since x.co launched, .CO Internet was acquired by Neustar, which was then in turn acquired by GoDaddy.

Following a renegotiation of its relationship with the Colombian government in 2020, GoDaddy is now merely the back-end provider, rather than the ccTLD’s official sponsor.

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