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Pizza company suffers from penisland syndrome

Kevin Murphy, May 26, 2022, Gossip

A small pizza company from the UK has attracted national headlines this week after its choice of domain name caused mirth on social media.

The Welsh Italian Pizza Co uses welshitalianpizza.co.uk, but when it showed up at a festival with signage that did not display the domain in camel-case, attendees had to double-take to make sure it wasn’t “Wel Shit Alian Pizza”, according to The Mirror.

In this case it appears to have been a genuine oversight, but other examples of this kind of snafu have leaned into their ambiguity.

Pen Island, at penisland.net — slogan “We Specialize In Wood” — has been around for decades and is perhaps the most famous.

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Seat reservations and waiting lists on the cards for ICANN 74

Kevin Murphy, May 24, 2022, Domain Policy

As if health screenings and cumbersome legal waivers weren’t irritating enough, it seems now even in-person attendees at ICANN 74 won’t necessarily be able to attend the meetings they want to attend in-person due to mandatory social distancing.

The Org announced last night that Covid-19 restrictions mean there will be a limit on how many people are allowed to enter a room, and you’ll have to reserved your seat in advance as a result. Waiting lists could be used in cases where rooms are over-booked.

Fortunately, the venue is the World Forum in the Hague and its rooms seem to be pretty big.

ICANN also seems to have done a pretty good job at matching room size to likely demand, so it seems very possible no waiting lists will be required.

The major plenary sessions likely to attract the most attendees are in a room with a capacity of 469, which would have been more than enough seats for almost every session at 2019’s Annual General Meeting in Montreal, which of course had no physical distancing.

The GNSO has a room for 80 people, the GAC has 157, and the ccNSO 74. These limits may have been onerous pre-pandemic, but I feel will be plenty for the likely turnout in The Hague.

That being said, seats are being claimed already three weeks in advance via the online scheduling tool, so if there’s a session you simply must attend it makes sense to grab your spot sooner rather than later.

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New gTLDs or Whois access? What’s more important?

Kevin Murphy, May 23, 2022, Domain Policy

Should ICANN focus its resources on getting the next round of new gTLDs underway, or making some baby steps towards a post-GDPR system of Whois access?

That’s a question the community is going to have to address when ICANN 74 rolls around next month, after the ICANN board presented it with a divisive question on two of the industry’s most pressing issues that split the GNSO Council along predictable lines at its monthly meeting last week.

It turns out that ICANN doesn’t have the resources to both design a new “SSAD Light” system for handling Whois requests and also carry on its new gTLDs Operational Design Phase, “SubPro”, at the same time.

If the community wants ICANN staff to start work on SSAD Light, work will be paused on the ODP for at least six weeks, ICANN has said. If they want the system also built, the delay to new gTLDs could be much, much longer.

Intellectual property lawyers are of course keen to at least start undoing some of the damage caused by privacy legislation such as GDRP, while registries and consultants are champing at the bit for another expansion of the gTLD space.

This split was reflected on the Council’s monthly call last week, where registry employees Maxim Alzoba, Kurt Pritz and Jeff Neuman were opposed by IP lawyers Paul McGrady and John McElwaine.

“Six weeks is a sneeze in a hurricane,” McGrady said. “We are right on the cusp of taking first steps to solve a problem that has plagued the Community since GDPR came out. I don’t think a six-week delay on SubPro, which again we’re years into and it looks like will be years to go, is a material change to SubPro… a very minor delay seems well worth it.”

At this point, ICANN is still planning to have the SubPro ODP wrapped up in October, thought it has warned that there could be other unforeseen delays.

Neuman warned that even a six-week pause could provide more than six weeks delay to SubPro. Staff can’t just down tools on one project and pick up again six weeks later without losing momentum, he said.

Pritz seemed to echo this concern. The Registries Stakeholder Group hasn’t finished discussing the issue yet, he said, but would be concerned about anything that caused “inefficiencies” and “switching costs”.

The discussion was pretty brief, and no votes were taken. It seems the conversation will pick up again in The Hague when ICANN meets for its short mid-year public meeting on June 13.

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Domain sales down even as revenue booms at CentralNic

CentralNic has posted stunning growth for the first quarter, even as it sold fewer domain names.

The company said this morning that revenue increased by 86% to $156.6 million in the three months to March 31, helped along by a few acquisitions in the monetization segment. Organic growth for the 12 months was roughly 53%.

Profit was $4 million versus a $1.4 million loss. Adjusted EBITDA was up 83% to $18.5 million, the company said.

CentralNic said it processed 3.1 million domain registrations in the quarter, down from 3.4 million a year earlier, but said this was because it moved away from selling domains cheaply in bulk.

This meant average annual revenue per domain was up 11% to $9.50, it said.

The online presence segment, which includes domains, was up 2% to $39.7 million.

But the online marketing segment, which includes domain monetization, was up 158% to $116.9 million, again helped by acquisitions.

CentralNic also disclosed that the price it agreed to pay for the .ruhr gTLD, a German geographic, back in January was €300,000, split into two payments of €150,000.

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ICANN kicks the can on .web yet again

Kevin Murphy, May 23, 2022, Domain Policy

Did Verisign cheat when it bought .web for $135 million in 2016? ICANN will make its mind up one day, but not today.

The ICANN board of directors has asked the three parties in the contested new gTLD auction for an info dump, so it can decide, presumably before the end of the year, whether to bar the top two bids for breaking the rules.

The Board Accountability Mechanisms Committee has written to Verisign, Nu Dot Co (the proxy Verisign used to hide its bid) and Afilias (aka Altanovo, the second-place bidder) to ask them to condense their last six years of claims and counter-claims into two 75-page documents.

Afilias reckons Verisign and NDC broke the rules by not disclosing that the former was secretly bankrolling the latter’s winning bid. It wants the bid invalidated, allowing Afilias to take over .web for a cheaper price.

Verisign has counter-claimed that Afilias should be disqualified for allegedly privately communicating with NDC during a pre-auction comms blackout period. It’s published screenshots of text messages it says prove this took place.

The Independent Review Process complaint against ICANN technically resulted in a win for Afilias, with the IRP panel ruling that ICANN broke its bylaws by not making a decision on Verisign’s alleged rule-breaking back in 2016.

That decision was reached in December, and ICANN has been faffing around pointedly not making a decision ever since.

Now, BAMC wants the parties to present their final pleadings in this ongoing drama.

It wants both side to “provide a comprehensive written summary of their claims and the materials supporting their claims” in order “to ensure that the BAMC is reviewing a complete picture of the parties’ positions”.

I don’t think there’s anything untoward about this — BAMC is basically just doing what the IRP panel told it to, albeit it in a roundabout way — but it is a little surprising that it thinks there isn’t enough information about their complaints in the public domain already.

As well as three years of legal filings, there are extensive transcripts of seven days of hearings that took place in 2020. ICANN will have access to the unredacted versions, too, which include details of the Verisign-NDC deal that the rest of us aren’t allowed to look at.

Maybe there’s just too much information to wade through.

Under the BAMC’s new process, the parties have until July 15 to present their cases, then another month to rebut their opponents with a further 30-page document.

Assuming the subsequent decision proceeds at ICANN Speed (which is to say, glacial) I don’t think we can reasonably expect a decision before the fourth quarter.

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ALAC’s brutal takedown of that “aggressive” ICANN 74 coronavirus waiver

Kevin Murphy, May 18, 2022, Domain Policy

ICANN’s At-Large Advisory Committee has accused ICANN of being aggressive, intimidating and insensitive by demanding attendees at next month’s public meeting in the Netherlands sign a far-reaching legal waiver.

In a remarkable submission to the ICANN board of directors, ALAC says the waiver, which basically amounts to a get-out-of-jail-free card for the Org, leaves a “lasting unpleasant taste in the mouths” of the volunteers who make up the ICANN community.

ALAC wants the board to clarify whether it had any involvement in the drafting of the waiver or in approving it but asks that it “take control of the situation and ensure that this waiver does not endanger both its relationship with the ICANN Community”.

The waiver requires in-person attendees to absolve ICANN of all blame if they catch Covid-19 — or anything else — “even if arising from the negligence or fault of ICANN”. Virtual attendees don’t have to sign it.

ICANN has suggested in a separate FAQ that it may not be worth the pixels it’s written with, which ALAC points out is inconsistent with the plan language of the waiver.

ALAC also includes a list of 10 reasons the waiver is a terrible idea. Here’s a few:

10. It is insensitive to the global community as it can be interpreted as an exportation of U.S.-based litigious culture.

4. This kind of blanket waiver could be unenforceable and, in that case, serves only as intimidation.

3. The waiver infringes on individual rights.

1. It leaves a lasting unpleasant taste in the mouths of participants contributing to ICANN’s multistakeholder model — which is presented as a source of pride and accomplishment to the internet governance community.

The waiver already the subject of a Request for Reconsideration by the heads of registrar Blacknight and the Namibian ccTLD registry, but ALAC’s comprehensive takedown, which has dozens of signatories, arguably carries more weight.

ALAC’s letter can be downloaded here. It’s not been published on ICANN’s correspondence page. Hat tip to Rubens Kuhl for the link.

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.link gTLD buyer revealed

Another of UNR’s portfolio auction winners has emerged.

This time it’s .link, UNR’s low-cost volume play, and the buyer appears to be a veteran domain investor named Yonatan Belousov.

ICANN records for .link were updated today to name a Maltese company called Nova Registry, an individual named Emanuel Debono, and an email address at nova.link as contacts.

It’s not a great sign when you google a company or person and all the top hits are from the Panama Papers leaks, but of course not every use of offshore companies is shady and ICANN will have done its due diligence.

Digging deeper into the rabbit hole, corporate records show Nova is owned by another Maltese company called Vanderlay Investments, which in turn has Belousov, known in the domaining industry as Yoni and a regular guest on Domain Sherpa, as the sole owner.

The domain nova.link doesn’t resolve to a web site, but it is registered to another Maltese company called Indefinite, which has a nice collection of one-word .com domains for sale.

The new information means we now know the identities of the buyers of 15 of the 23 gTLD contracts UNR put up for sale in April 2021. XYZ, GoDaddy, Top Level Design and Dot Hip Hop all walked away with shiny pre-loved TLDs.

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After 10 months, ICANN board “promptly” publishes its own minutes

Kevin Murphy, May 17, 2022, Domain Policy

ICANN’s board of directors has approved a huge batch of its own meeting minutes, covering the period from July 15 last year to March 10 this year, raising questions about its commitment to timely transparency.

The board approved the minutes of its last 14 full-board meetings in one huge batch of 14 separate resolutions at its May 12 meeting, and they’ve all now been published on the ICANN web site, along with redacted briefing papers for said meetings.

The period includes decisions on planning for the next new gTLD round and Whois reform, the legal fight with Afilias over the contested .web gTLD, and apparently divisive discussions about the timing of a post-pandemic return to face-to-face meetings.

No explanation has been given for why it’s taken so long for these documents to appear, the timing of which appears to go against ICANN’s bylaws, which state that minutes are supposed to be approved and published “promptly”:

All minutes of meetings of the Board, the Advisory Committees and Supporting Organizations (and any councils thereof) shall be approved promptly by the originating body and provided to the ICANN Secretary (“Secretary”) for posting on the Website.

ICANN almost always published its board’s resolutions within a few days of approval, and a preliminary report — which also includes the number of votes yay or nay, without naming the directors — within a couple of weeks.

The minutes, which are published only after the board rubber-stamps them, typically include a further vote breakdown and a little bit of color on how the discussion went down.

In the newly published batch, some of the documents are somewhat illuminating, while others barely nudge the dimmer switch.

For example, the preliminary report for the July 15, 2021 meeting, published 11 days later, notes that three of the 16 voting directors rebelled on a resolution about making the October annual general meeting in Seattle a virtual-only event, but the just-published minutes name those directors and flesh out some of their reasons for dissenting.

It turns out the directors had a “robust discussion”, with some arguing that it would be safe to go ahead with a “hybrid” meeting comprising both face-to-face and remote participation options.

The dissenting directors were Ron da Silva, Avri Doria, and Ihab Osman, it turns out. Osman and da Silva had voted a similar way a year earlier.

Directors could not reasonably have been expected to know about the impact the Delta variant of Covid-19 would have on world health in the latter half of the year. It had been identified and named by scientists but had yet to spread to the extent it was making headlines.

But they were aware of concerns from the Asia-Pacific members of the community, worried that a hybrid meeting in Seattle would disadvantage those unable to attend due to pandemic travel restrictions. This appears to have been raised during the discussion:

Some Board members expressed desire to see more work done to have ICANN72 as a hybrid meeting. They noted that Seattle has protocols in place to ensure the health and safety of ICANN staff and the community, and ICANN should use this opportunity to begin to return to its normal meeting standards as much as possible. Others noted that the concerns about travel inequities or restrictions for certain parts of the world should not prevent moving forward with an in-person component for ICANN72 because such inequities and restrictions exist with or without the pandemic.

The return to in-person meetings was discussed again in November, when the board decided to junk plans, secured by the dissenting directors in July, for a hybrid meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Ron da Silva had left the board by this point, but the new minutes show that Doria and Osman were joined by León Sánchez in advocating for a hybrid meeting with an in-person component.

While the July minutes contains a few paragraphs summarizing discussions, the November minutes simply notes that the board “reviewed the proposed resolution and rationale to confirm that it reflects the Board’s discussion and edits”.

And that’s pretty typical for most of the documents published this week — time and again the substantive discussion appears to have either happened off-camera, during non-minuted sessions of the board at unspecified times, or was simply not minuted.

Interested in the talks leading to the approval of the new gTLDs Operational Design Phase? The minutes shed no light.

Interested in how the board reacted to ICANN losing its Independent Review Process case with Afilias about .web? The minutes merely note that the resolution was approved “after discussion”.

There’s also a glaring hole in one set of minutes, raising questions about whether these documents are a reliable record of what happened at all.

We know for a fact that on September 12 the ICANN board approved a resolution naming the new chair and vice chair of its influential Nominating Committee, only to reconvene two weeks later to scrap that decision and name a different chair instead.

But if you read the September 12 minutes, you’ll find no record of NomCom even being discussed, let alone a resolution being passed appointing a chair.

The newly published batch of documents cover several resolutions related to executive pay, but none of the minutes contain the same level of transparency as ICANN displayed in February 2021, when it revealed that three directors voted against CEO Göran Marby’s pay rise.

In terms of transparency, that now appears to fully confirmed as an isolated incident.

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China yanks Daily Stormer domain after Buffalo mass shooting

The far-right propaganda site The Daily Stormer has lost yet another domain name, after the Chinese ccTLD registry deleted dailystormer.cn.

The Daily Stormer was among the sites the suspect in this weekend’s mass shooting in Buffalo reportedly cited as sources of his radicalization to a violent white-supremacist ideology.

Whois records show that dailystormer.cn was registered barely a month ago. The web site had previously been using a .name domain registered via a Chinese registrar, having TLD-hopped between various ccTLDs and gTLDs for years.

Today, English-language Chinese government-owned newspaper Global Times reported that the .cn domain has been taken down after registry CNNIC was alerted to the connection.

It’s no longer resolving from where I’m sitting, but Whois records indicate it was owned by Daily Stormer owner Andrew Anglin.

The web site, which cached copies show is filled with racist, sexist, homophobic and downright inaccurate posts, first ran afoul of domain registrars in 2017, when GoDaddy, Tucows and Google all kicked it out on the same day. Namecheap has also previously deleted one of its names.

It’s also been banned from ccTLDs from Albania, Austria, Iceland and Russia, along with gTLDs including .lol, .name, .red and .top.

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Fewer domain companies closing down than expected

Registries and registrars are not shutting up shop as fast as ICANN expected, according to CEO Göran Marby.

According to his latest report (pdf) to his board, the number of accredited registrars and contracted registries is substantially ahead of what had been predicted in the current budget, meaning over a million bucks more than expected in ICANN’s coffers.

There were 1,172 gTLD registries at the end of February, according to the report. That’s 25 more than ICANN had expected.

Typically, the only registries that willingly give up their contracts are dot-brands that have never used their TLD and decide to bow out, but we haven’t seen one of those since last September, the longest break in terminations in years.

Marby also reported that there were 2,510 accredited registrars on February 28, a whopping 168 more than the budget planned for.

This was no doubt helped by drop-catchers such as Singaporean registrar Gname, which has created dozens of new shell accreditations in recent months.

Marby reported that this all mean $1.3 million extra revenue, accounting for fixed fees in both segments and registrar application fees.

Overall, ICANN was $16.5 million ahead of budget at the end of February, due to the extra income from fixed fees, a bigger contribution from .com, and lower-than-expected expenses of $12.3 million.

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