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Revolt brewing over digital archery

Kevin Murphy, June 6, 2012, Domain Policy

ARI Registry Services is attempting to spearhead an uprising against ICANN’s little-loved digital archery new gTLD application batching system.
The registry services provider wants ICANN to scrap not only digital archery – which is due to kick off on Friday – but the concept of batching in its entirety.
“Batching is a solution to a problem that I’m not sure exists any more,” said ARI CEO Adrian Kinderis.
“ICANN has a large number of single applicants going for a large number of domains, and that has to create some operational efficiencies,” he said.
Instead of batching, Kinderis said ICANN should lump all applications into a single “batch”, so they can all go through their Initial Evaluation phase at the same time.
If ICANN can promise to keep this single batch to 10-12 months of evaluation, rather than the five months currently envisaged by the Applicant Guidebook, he reckons most applicants would go for the idea.
Kinderis couldn’t name names until the companies in question have gone through their respective clearance processes, but said he expects strong support from his competitors.
“We’ve talked to some of the big registries and they’re waiting for us to put this out so they can come to the party and support it,” he said.
ARI sent a letter (pdf) outlining its ideas to ICANN’s board last Friday, and it plans to send another tomorrow morning, which it hopes other applicants will then express support for.
“If they extended initial evaluation to 12 months, I think that would have the support of the ICANN community,” Kinderis said. “No one wants batching.”
ARI is not the first to ask ICANN to scrap digital archery – similar requests have come from Melbourne IT and Group NBT – but it appears to be the first to suggest an alternative.
Digital archery is also not loved by ICANN’s intellectual property constituency, which thinks it puts dot-brands at a disadvantage.
Whether ICANN will go for the ARI proposal remains to be seen.
With the embarrassing TLD Application System outage – and delays – still a recent memory, there may be a desire to keep the program moving along according to plan.
However, if registries representing large numbers of applicants (ARI has 161 on its books, and has been one of the most vocal critics of delays) are asking for delays, ICANN will have to pay attention.
But by acknowledging operational efficiencies, ICANN would also have to acknowledge that its $185,000 application fee might have been a tad on the high side.
Rearranging the program into a single batch may also require the renegotiation of its deals with the independent third-party evaluators that will process the bulk of the program.
The Governmental Advisory Committee, which has used root zone scaling as a political tool in negotiations with ICANN previously, may also balk at a single batch.
But Kinderis said later stages of the program will have natural “organic gateways” – such as auctions and contract signing – that would slow down the delegation of new gTLDs.
“I think it suits the GAC,” he added. “It gives them more time to be a bit more deliberate about their [GAC Advice on New gTLDs] decisions.”
UPDATE: ARI has now sent its second letter, which states in part:

It is our view, and we believe the view of many applicants and the ICANN community generally, that batching and the chosen method of doing so will serve to increase the likelihood of confusion, frustration and uncertainty for Applicants. Applicants want a level playing field where they can all progress through the process at an equal rate. Batching is not something desired by Applicants.

We ask that ICANN staff delay the launch of the batching process, take the time until the Prague ICANN meeting to consider the options outlined in this letter and take the opportunity of the Prague meeting to discuss batching with the community.

Read it in PDF format here.

Directi expects all 31 of its gTLDs to be contested

Directi has applied for 31 new top-level domains and expects all 31 of them to be contested, according to CEO Bhavin Turakhia.
The company has budgeted $30 million for its unashamedly mainstream portfolio of applications – which includes the likes of .web – but that’s not including what it expects to spend at auction.
“I expect there to be contention in all of them,” he said. “Whether they will end up going to auction… we’re completely open to strategic partnerships with other industry players who we believe can add value and join hands with us, based on merit. We’ll be evaluating this on a case by case basis.”
“Something like a .web, there’ll be enough competitors out there that it will certainly go to auction, no matter what,” he said, adding that he expects at least 10 rivals for .web.
Directi has applied for: .web, .shop, .bank, .law, .music, .news, .blog, .movie, .baby, .store, .doctor, .hotel, .play, .home .site, .website, .click, .online, .one, .ping, .space, .world, .press, .chat, .city, .deals, .insurance .loans, .app, .host, and .hosting.
The company is applying via its new business unit, Radix, using ARI Registry Services as its back-end registry provider.
Turakhia said he expects to use a traditional registry-registrar model for most of the domains, assuming Directi wins its contention sets.
“The strings that we have gone for are strings that are relevant to all registrars so we expect there to be significant adoption,” he said.
“If eNom were to apply for .web and .shop – and they probably will – and if they were to win those TLDs, then our registrar businesses would definitely carry them irrespective of the fact that we have our own TLDs,” he said. “There are only so many good viable strings out there.”
Most of Directi’s gTLDs, if approved, will be completely unrestricted.
For .movie, .law, .doctor and .bank there will be some tight restrictions, Turakhia said. (UPDATE: he later added that .insurance and .loans will also be restricted).
Some will also have additional rights protection mechanisms that go above and beyond what ICANN mandates in its standard registry contracts.
But none of its applications are “community” applications, the special category of application defined by ICANN.
Turakhia said he doesn’t think some of the applicants trying to “sneak through” as community applications will be successful.
“We’re treating these as all generic strings for anyone to register domains in,” he said. “.music for me does not represent a community. I could be a bathroom singer and want a .music domain name.”
“If you treat music lovers as a community then 100% of the world is part of that community.”

ARI confirms place in Big Four with 161 gTLD bids

ARI Registry Services has signed up to provide registry services for 161 new generic top-level domain applications.
The announcement this morning confirms that the domain name industry now has a Big Four – at least – set of dominant gTLD back-end providers.
ARI said it has signed 85 generic, 70 brand and 6 geographic gTLDs applications. CEO Adrian Kinderis said in a statement:

Non-disclosure statements restrict me from revealing our full client list at this point in time, but what I can say is that our technology will support some of the world’s largest and most recognised brands within the electronics, media, telecommunications, automotive and banking segments.

The company, part of the AusRegistry Group, was previously only known for its .au registry and some software consulting work on internationalized ccTLDs. It had expected 100 gTLD clients.
In Verisign’s most recent Securities and Exchange Commission filings, it has started identifying ARI as one of its key competitors, along with Neustar and Afilias.
Verisign is providing the back-end for 220 applications.
Neustar and Afilias have not yet announced their respective numbers. I expect both figures could quite easily be higher, but maybe not a great deal higher, than Verisign’s.
Top Level Domain Holdings also has not revealed numbers for Minds + Machines, but that’s a slightly different model due to the fact that M+M will also be the applicant in many cases.
With about 1,900 new gTLD applications filed, and barring any surprise back-end announcements, we could well be looking at hundreds of gTLD applications that propose a self-managed registry.

How NCC plans to revolutionize domain name security with .secure gTLD

The proposed .secure generic top-level domain is now officially contested, after NCC Group, best known in the domain industry for its data escrow services, announced a bid.
Newly formed NCC subsidiary Artemis Internet Inc, based in San Francisco, is the official applicant.
According to Artemis chief technology officer Alex Stamos, who co-founded security testing firm iSEC Partners and sold it to NCC for $22.8 million two years ago, this is a hard security play.
The .secure gTLD would be all about enforcing strict security policies on registrants, he said.
“Right now there are a lot of interesting security technologies out there, but they’re generally not very effective because they’re optional,” he said.
As well as premium pricing and a manual registrant verification process expected to take about two weeks – complete with mailing address confirmation and two-factor authentication tokens – Artemis plans to force registrants to adhere to certain baseline security policies.
For example, all .secure web sites would have to be completely HTTPS, Stamos said. The only permissible use of a standard port 80 URL would be to redirect to the encrypted site.
The same would go for mail servers – they’d all have to use TLS to encrypt email as standard.
“When you go to you’ll know that the software and servers at the other end are going to make the most secure decisions possible,” Stamos said.
Artemis would scan its registrants’ sites for compliance with these baseline rules, looking out for things such as botched SSL implementations.
But Artmeis wants to take it a step further. It is also proposing a new protocol, Domain Policy Framework, which would let registrants publish their security policies in the DNS.
Stamos said the company has set up a Domain Policy Working Group to develop the spec, which it plans to submit to the IETF for standardization before the end of the year.
The other members of the working group, which promise to include some “influential” names in financial services, software and social media, will be announced in July.
DPF would work alongside the existing DNSSEC and DANE protocols to enable registrants to specify, for example, which Certificate Authorities browsers should trust when accessing their .secure domain, preventing certain types of attacks, Stamos said.
Obviously, this system is not going to work without support from browser software, but Stamos said he’s hopeful that the big vendors will embrace the DPF spec.
“The most innovative and forward-leaning browsers will support it first,” he said.
Domains in .secure would still be accessible by non-compliant browsers, he said.
ARI Registry Services has been hired to manage the back-end registry, but Artemis is also building a secondary registry system for storing the DPF records, which it plans to offer to other TLD registries.
NCC plans to invest up to £6 million ($9.7 million) in Artmeis over the next 15 months, according to a press release.
Another firm, Domain Security Company, also plans to apply for .secure.

No Google boost for new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, March 15, 2012, Domain Tech

Companies hoping to reap search engine optimization benefits from applying for keyword gTLDs related to their industries are in for a rude awakening today.
Google engineer Matt Cutts said that it’s “just not true” that relevant gTLDs will automatically rank higher than their equivalent .com domains.
In a post on Google+, Cutts wrote:

Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don’t expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over .com, and I wouldn’t bet on that happening in the long-term either. If you want to register an entirely new TLD for other reasons, that’s your choice, but you shouldn’t register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you’ll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings.

The post was in response to an article by ARI Registry Services CEO Adrian Kinderis, in which he postulated that dot-brand and keyword gTLDs can help build credibility, leading to SEO benefits.
Kinderis wrote:

Ultimately, the big question is: will rank higher than (for example)? All the evidence suggest the answer is yes, provided that the .insurance namespace builds value and perhaps verification into its space to ensure it is a signpost for good, trusted and authoritative content.

In response to Cutts’ post, Kinderis said he’s sticking by his opinion.

Aussie telco to apply for dot-brand gTLD

ARI Registry Services has managed to persuade another client to come clean about its dot-brand gTLD plans.
According to a report in the Australian press, Perth-based carrier/ISP iiNet plans to apply for .iinet using ARI for application support.
The report also states that rival telco Optus is mulling its options, while Telstra is saying it will not apply.
ARI has previously announced Singapore telco StarHub and the Australian Football League as dot-brand clients.

Directi emerges as new gTLD applicant

The India-based domain name registrar Directi plans to apply for a bunch of new generic top-level domains, using ARI Registry Services as its back-end registry provider.
Directi has set up a new entity, Radix, to handle its applications and registry business.
The number and nature of the gTLDs in Radix’s plans have not been revealed, but the company uses words like “entrepreneurial” and “ambitious” to describe the move.
Reading between the lines, I’m going to lump Radix in with the like of Minds+Machines, Donuts, and Demand Media as one of the few companies to reveal big multiple-gTLD investment plans.
These “domainer” applicants (as opposed to focused, single-string applicants) are the guys to watch post-May 1, when the list of applications is published by ICANN.
In addition to Radix, Directi owns ResellerClub, LogicBoxes, BigRock and
According to Whois, belongs to a Brazilian investment company. It does not currently resolve.
Assuming there’s no affiliation with Directi, I think this officially means that Andrew Allemann is no longer allowed to mock companies that launch services before they own the matching .com domain.

ARI wins three Aussie geo-gTLD contracts

Kevin Murphy, February 22, 2012, Domain Registries

In what may be the most dog-bites-man piece of news I’ve carried in a while, ARI Registry Services has won the contracts to run Australian geographic gTLDs .melbourne, .sydney and .victoria.
The deals were awarded by the governments of New South Wales and Victoria, following a Request For Proposals initiated in October.
ARI said today that that Melbourne IT and Ernst & Young are also going to be involved in preparing the ICANN hew gTLD application.
ARI is a subsidiary of AusRegistry Group, which already runs the back-end for .au, which made it favorite for Australian geo-gTLDs from the outset.
Cloud Registry, CoCCA and Sedari, which also have connections to the region, were also known to be jointly bidding for the contracts.
I’m quite bullish on city gTLDs, particularly the large tourist-hungry cities such as London and New York..
Not only are most city gTLD going to be uncontested slam-dunk applications, I think in many cases they’re also going to see great demand from local small businesses.

AFL to apply for dot-brand gTLD

Kevin Murphy, February 16, 2012, Domain Registries

The Australian Football League has just added its name to the short but growing list of companies announcing plans to apply to ICANN for a new “dot-brand” top-level domain.
The AFL is the governing body of Aussie rules football, a bastardization of the original sport even more violent and less internationally popular than the unwatchable American version.
Like recently revealed dot-brand applicant StarHub, the league has hired Melbourne IT to handle its application and registry back-end provider ARI Registry Services to run the infrastructure.
The Aussie AFL explained its decision to apply for .afl in a press release:

A dot AFL domain has the potential to:
— Make it easier for fans to find relevant online content
— Improve the protection of AFL, club and player environments online
— Support the growth of club and AFL media channels
— Better support the promotion and education for grass roots and community football
— Simplify marketing call to actions
— Provide opportunities for sponsors to promote their association with the AFL and clubs

The AFL may have a clear shot at goal here.
While several other organizations currently use the same acronym, none of them jump out as obvious dot-brand applicants, though some may of course choose to file objections.
The announcement is pretty good news for Melbourne IT and ARI — given Aussie rules’ popularity in their native Australia, I can see this deal getting a lot of local press today.

Exclusive: StarHub confirms dot-brand gTLD bid

Kevin Murphy, February 1, 2012, Domain Registries

Singapore telecommunications firm StarHub will become the fifth company to publicly reveal plans for a “dot-brand” generic top-level domain.
The company, which offers broadband internet, cable TV and mobile telephony and has annual revenue of about $2 billion, is set to announce tomorrow that it will apply to ICANN for .starhub.
It’s the first confirmed dot-brand applicant since ICANN opened the application window January 12. It’s also the first since Neustar announced its own plans last June.
StarHub plans to use the gTLD to enable domain names such as and
ARI Registry Services has the contract to run its registry back-end and Melbourne IT Digital Brand Services is its application consultant.
Oliver Chong, assistant vice president of brand and marketing communications at StarHub, said:

We believe the ‘.starhub’ Top-Level Domain will deliver clear marketing and advertising benefits to StarHub, such as improved online brand recall and a more intuitive consumer experience with easy to remember domain names such as ‘’. We also anticipate potential Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) benefits by operating a more targeted and relevant naming system that is clearly matched with our website content.

To date, only Deloitte, Canon and Hitachi have publicly confirmed corporate dot-brand applications.
Registry services provider Neustar also wants .neustar, but its announcement was a little self-serving so I’m not sure that it “counts”.
We’re also aware of some other likely candidates, such as IBM and Unicef, but most companies are playing their cards pretty close to their chests.
ARI CEO Adrian Kinderis said he hopes the announcement of .starhub will “open the floodgates” for other Asian companies to apply for their own new dot-brand gTLDs.
While it’s a significant revelation – at least likely to drive StarHub’s competitors into action if they’re not already – similar predictions were made when Canon announced its dot-brand bid almost two years ago.
Many registry operators are already predicting as many as 1,000 dot-brand applicants.
I’m not ready to predict a slew of similar announcements just yet, but a confirmed dot-brand bidder will certainly do no harm to registries currently trying to persuade clients to sign on the dotted line.