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Whois Disclosure System likely over a year away

Kevin Murphy, August 12, 2022, Domain Registrars

ICANN lifted the curtain a little on its fetal Whois Disclosure System this week, but the news is not good if you’re champing at the bit for a usable system for requesting private Whois data from registrars.

The system, formerly referred to as SSAD Lite, will take “seven to nine months” to develop after ICANN staff gets the green light from its board, staffers told a small GNSO volunteer working group on a Wednesday conference call.

That timetable assumes the staffers working on it are 100% devoted to developing the system, rather than sharing their time between competing projects, they quickly clarified.

This raises the specter of months-long delays to the other big, already-delayed, ICANN work-in-progress — the next new gTLD application round.

The responsible staffers plan to publish a design document for the Whois Disclosure System around ICANN 75 next month, but whether the board will give its immediate approval is not clear.

We’re probably looking at at least a year before there’s a system in place that IP lawyers, security researchers and the like can log into, request data, and be disappointed.

And that’s despite the fact that the system will be built using existing technology — namely the CZDS or Centralized Zone Data Service, which has be in use for many years allowing people to request zone files from gTLD registries.

During this week’s webinar, staffers described how, like CZDS, there will be two user interfaces: one for the data requester, one for the data holder. The system will simply act as an intermediary between the two.

It will use ICANN’s existing accounts system, so there will be no user vetting beyond email address verification. There’ll be no integration with registrars’ existing ticketing systems, and any communications between registrar and requester will have to take place via email.

There’ll also be no billing function, because the system will be free to use by all parties and completely voluntary. While registrars are contractually bound to respond to Whois data requests, there’s no such obligation to use the Whois Disclosure System to do so.

Staffers admitted on the call that they’re a bit stumped about how to encourage registrars to sign up when the system goes live.

Belgium slashes its ICANN funding in “mission creep” protest

Kevin Murphy, August 12, 2022, Domain Policy

DNS Belgium has cut its contribution to ICANN’s budget by two thirds, in protest at ICANN’s “mission creep” and its handling of GDPR.

The Belgian ccTLD registry informed ICANN CFO Xavier Calvez that it will only pay $25,000 this fiscal year, compared to the $75,000 it usually pays.

Registry general manager Philip Du Bois wrote (pdf) that “during recent years there has been a shift in focus which is not in the benefit of ccTLD’s”.

ICANN has become a large corporate structure with a tendency to suffer from “mission creep”… At the same time ICANN seems to fail in dealing in an appropriate way with important issues such as GDPR/privacy. It goes beyond our comprehension that ICANN and its officers don’t feel any reluctancy to “advise” European institutions and national governmental bodies to embrace “standards developed by the multi-stakeholder structures on international level” while at the same time it is obvious that ICANN itself has not yet mastered the implementation of important European legislation.

Based in the heart of the EU, DNS Belgium was a strong proponent of Whois privacy many years before the GDPR came into effect in 2018.

Calvez, in his reply (pdf), acknowledges that ccTLD contributions are voluntary, but seems to insinuate (call me a cynic) that the criticisms are hollow and that the registry might simply be trying to reduce its costs during an economic downturn:

We do appreciate any amount of contribution, and also that the ability for any ccTLD to contribute varies over time, including based on economic circumstances. We do understand that the reduction of DNS Belgium’s contribution from US$75,000 to US$25,000 represents a significant and meaningful reduction of costs for DNS Belgium.

DNS Belgium seems to be doing okay, based on its latest annual financial report. It’s not a huge company, but registrations and revenue have been growing at a slow and steady rate for the last several years.

All ccTLD contributions to ICANN are voluntary, but there are suggested donations based on how many domains a registry has under management, ranging from the $225,000 paid by the likes of the UK registry to the $500 paid by the likes of Pitcairn.

DNS Belgium, which manages about 1.7 million names, falls into the third-highest band, with a $75,000 suggested contribution.

ICANN is budgeting for funding of $152 million in its current FY23.

Diversity takes a hit as NomCom replaces two ICANN directors with newcomers

Kevin Murphy, August 12, 2022, Domain Policy

ICANN will be left with fewer women and Africans on its board of directors following this year’s Nominating Committee selections, after which apparent community newcomers will take seats.

NomCom last night announced that its three picks for the board, due to take or retake their seats at the Annual General Meeting in Kuala Lumpur next month, are Maarten Botterman, Christopher Chapman and Sajidur Rahman.

Botterman is of course the current chair, and his reappointment was surely never in any doubt. He’ll be entering his third and final term at the AGM.

Less is known about the two newcomers. ICANN has so far provided no biographical information about them beyond the geographic region they represent. Botterman is European and both Chapman and Rahman are from Asia-Pacific.

Both new appointees have very common, google-resistant names, and neither appears to have a track record of vocal ICANN community participation.

Chapman, if I had to guess, would be Chris Chapman, the former long-term independent media regulator from Australia. Sajid Rahman is such a common name I don’t think I could confidently make a call on his identity early doors.

What we do know is that they’re both Asia-Pac, and they’re both replacing one-term African directors.

Leaving the board at the AGM will be NomCom’s 2019 picks Mandla Msimang from South Africa and Ihab Osman from Sudan. This means the sole remaining voting African on the board come October will be South African Alan Barrett.

Msimang leaving and being replaced by a man of course changes the gender mix. After the AGM, there will be six women on the 20-seat board, five out of the 16 voting seats.

Note that I’m not analyzing the picks by some subjective “woke” criteria — ICANN has strict rules about geographic representation in its bylaws and every year its board of directors encourages NomCom to consider the gender mix when making its selections.

The bylaws state that each of the five geographic regions must have at least one seat on the board, and that no one region can have more than five directors.

That said, ICANN doesn’t make it easy to figure out which directors hail from which regions. There’s no published breakdown that I’m aware of and many directors have multiple citizenships and/or are long-term residents of nations outside their birth region.

Two other directors have their current terms ending next month — GNSO appointee Becky Burr (North America), who has been reappointed for a third term, and Akinori Maemura (Asia-Pac) who is being replaced by Christian Kaufmann (Europe) as an ASO appointee.

NomCom broke down the gender and geographic mix of applicants for all the open board and non-board positions here.

RDNH loser files second appeal

Kevin Murphy, August 11, 2022, Domain Policy

A big drug company has appealed to ICANN for a second time over a Reverse Domain Name Hijacking ruling against it, claiming ICANN should be responsible for the decisions of the World Intellectual Property Organization.

India-based Zydus Lifesciences, which among other things makes Covid-19 vaccines, lost a UDRP complaint against the owner of zydus.com in June. To add insult to injury, WIPO made a RDNH finding against it.

Rather that go to court, Zydus filed a Request for Reconsideration with ICANN in July, but this was summarily dismissed because the Reconsideration mechanism only applies to the actions or inactions of the ICANN board or staff.

Now Zydus has filed a second RfR, in which its lawyers claim ICANN is responsible for WIPO’s UDRP decisions and failure to address the first RfR amounts to board inaction. The latest claim states:

when a dispute resolution service provider is accredited by ICANN to conduct mandatory administrative policy, as prescribed by the UDRP adopted by ICANN, such service providers are extension of ICANN itself

Zydus claims the WIPO panel erred by relying on what it claims were false and misleading statements by the zydus.com registrant. It wants the decision reversed and the three panelists forever barred.

I doubt the RfR will get anywhere. ICANN’s Board Accountability Mechanisms Committee is not about to make itself the de facto court of appeals for every UDRP party who thinks they got stiffed.

Group crowdfunding crypto to apply to ICANN for blockchain gTLD

Kevin Murphy, August 11, 2022, Domain Registries

Do we have our first confirmed blockchain-themed new gTLD application? Looks like it.

A group of pseudonymous individuals have announced plans to apply to ICANN for .dao in the next round, and are currently crowdfunding the project by asking for donations in the Ethereum cryptocurrency.

Going by the name DomainDAO, they say they’ve raised 230 ETH so far, which appears to be worth over $430,000 at today’s rates, already probably enough for a bare-bones new gTLD application.

They want to apply for .dao, an acronym for “decentralized autonomous organization”, a type of entity where token-owning participants set the direction of the DAO via rules laid down in software and votes encoded into a blockchain.

DomainDAO’s web site takes a few pops at the likes of Verisign and Identity Digital owner Ethos Capital for alleged unethical practices and says the goal is for .dao to one day “supersede” .com.

The concept differs from other blockchain-based TLD projects, such as Unstoppable Domains, in that it’s not alt-root. The plan is to apply to ICANN to get into the authoritative, consensus DNS root, so that .dao domains can be used by all.

Unstoppable already runs .dao in its own alt-root, selling domains for $20, and has recently proven litigious when it smells a collision from a competing project.

But the main roadblock to the root may well be ICANN itself.

While the rules governing the next round of gTLD applications are not yet set in stone, it strikes me as incredibly unlikely that ICANN will entertain a bid from an applicant that is not a recognized legal entity with a named board of directors that can be subjected to background screening.

DomainDAO is itself a DAO, and the DAO concept is reportedly prone to corruption and hacking, which could make ICANN nervous.

In addition, people funding DomainDAO today are offered crypto tokens that can be redeemed for second-level domains if the TLD eventually goes live — it’s essentially already selling pre-registrations — which could interfere with rights protection mechanisms, depending on implementation.

But DomainDAO claims to have an industry Greybeard on the payroll, a senior advisor going by the handle “Speech-less”, an “Executive with 20+ years experience in domain and ICANN”.

If that’s you, we probably already know each other. Why not get in touch to tell me why this thing is going to work?

Malaysia relaxes travel restrictions ahead of ICANN 75

Kevin Murphy, August 9, 2022, Domain Policy

Malaysia has made it easier for foreign travelers to enter the country, which should take some of the headaches out of going to ICANN 75 next month.

According to local reports, the Malaysian government web site, and official UK travel advice, those entering Malaysia are no longer required to fill out a “travelers card” on the government’s contact-tracing app, MySejahtera.

It’s not clear whether MySejahtera is still mandatory for entry. The UK says you “may” be required to install it,

On-arrival tests have been scrapped, regardless of vaccination status, the Malaysian government said:

From 1st August 2022, all travellers are allowed to enter Malaysia regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status and do not require a pre-departure or on-arrival COVID-19 test. There are no quarantine orders related to COVID-19 enforced by the Malaysian Government upon arrival.

If you test positive for Covid-19 while in Malaysia, you’re still required by law to quarantine for four days (if you subsequently test negative) to seven days (regardless of the test result) at your own expense.

While the government rules may take some of the red tape out of entering the country, ICANN’s still has rules about entering the meeting venue.

To obtain entry to the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center, you’ll need to have proof of vaccination under the current version of ICANN’s health guidelines, which were last updated July 20.

Thanks to Richard Wein for the tip.

More rules, but cozier ICANN 75 expected

Kevin Murphy, August 8, 2022, Domain Policy

There will be more rules to follow at ICANN 75 next month, but attendees might be able to expect a more intimate event, with less stringent seating restrictions.

The gathering, ICANN’s 2022 Annual General Meeting, will be held in Kuala Lumpur from September 17 to 22, the second pandemic-era meeting to have a face-to-face component, but in-person attendees need to register by September 14.

The new rules are largely a result of local laws, according to ICANN.

The first thing to note is that if you don’t have a smart-phone, you’re out of luck. Malaysia requires people entering the country to install a government Covid-control track-and-trace app called MySejahtera.

The law also says you have to wear masking indoors and self-isolate for four to seven days if you test positive. ICANN’s mandatory legal waiver makes the attendee responsible for associated costs.

But at the venue itself, ICANN is relaxing its session rules, saying it may halve the social-distancing requirement in half to a meter, which will allow more people into each room and could reduce the need for waiting lists and overflow rooms.

Many of the sessions at ICANN 74 in June were over-booked.

Now Nokia scraps a dot-brand

Kevin Murphy, August 3, 2022, Domain Registries

Finnish tech company Nokia has become the latest company to get rid of a dot-brand gTLD.

It’s asked ICANN to terminate the contract for the IDN .诺基亚 ( .xn--jlq61u9w7b), which is the Chinese transliteration of “Nokia”.

Like .nokia itself, the TLD is not currently in use. Nokia has not asked ICANN to terminate .nokia (or, at least, ICANN has not published such a notice).

Other companies that chose to terminate their Chinese IDNs include Richemont and Volkswagen. In Richemont’s case it was followed by all its other gTLDs.

Bugatti dumps dot-brand under new owners

Kevin Murphy, August 2, 2022, Domain Registries

Bugatti, which makes incredibly expensive limited-edition sports cars, is dropping its dot-brand.

The French company asked ICANN to release it from its .bugatti registry contract about a month ago, according to ICANN documents.

Bugatti entered new ownership last November, under a joint venture between Rimac and Porsche, and recently reportedly underwent a branding overhaul.

It seems the dot-brand had no place under the new marketing strategy.

Its previous owner had been Volkswagen, which still has a (unused) dot-brand, despite dumping its Chinese-script equivalent. But Porsche had been an opponent of the new gTLD program back in 2011.

.bugatti had actually been used, albeit lightly. A couple of live, non-redirecting sites still remain.

Over 100 dot-brands have terminated their contracts to date.

In pictures: from tuk-tuks to cheese wheels, every ICANN national stereotype 2016-2022

Kevin Murphy, August 2, 2022, Gossip

What’s the one thing that ICANN most associates with your country?

For the The Netherlands, it seems to be cheese. For Puerto Rico, rum. For Morocco, um… camels.

ICANN ships about 12 metric tons (10 tonnes) of gear to its meeting locations three times a year, and a few weeks after the meeting concludes it issues a “By The Numbers” report, containing a treasure trove of data about the meeting.

The reports include data on how much equipment — servers, routers, mics, headsets etc — was shipped, along with a lighthearted “that’s the equivalent of” comparison.

It started in 2016 with elephants and cars, but from round about the third report, the ICANN 57 meeting in Hyderabad, India, ICANN started picking a comparison with a local connection.

I thought it might be fun to collect all these images in one place for easy reference.

ICANN 55, Marrakech, Morocco

3.5 African elephants. I’m not convinced this one was connected to the host. Probably just representative of “a heavy thing”.

Elephants

ICANN 56, Helsinki, Finland

12.2 mid-sized cars. Again, this might just be “a heavy thing”. Finland isn’t really known for its cars. Maybe ICANN thought it was in Sweden.

Elephants

ICANN 57, Hyderabad, India

77 tuk-tuks. This cheap form of private-hire transport is as ubiquitous in India as it is in many parts of Asia.

Elephants

ICANN 58, Copenhagen, Denmark

1,365 bicycles. Copenhagen is reportedly one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. I recall walking pretty much the full distance from the airport to the venue along a cycle path when I arrived for ICANN 58.

Elephants

ICANN 59, Johannesburg, South Africa

8 giraffes. South Africa is known for its tourist safaris.

Elephants

ICANN 60, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

6,517 falcons. Falconry is a popular pass-time and tourist attraction in the UAE.

Elephants

ICANN 61, San Jose, Puerto Rico

34 barrels of rum. I had to google this one to be honest, but it turns out the Puerto Rico government calls the US territory the “Rum Capital of the World”. It even has a .gov web site to promote the product.

Elephants

ICANN 62, Panama City, Panama

145 sacks of coffee beans. Panama isn’t exactly internationally renowned for its coffee exports, but I guess it’s difficult to weigh stuff in terms of canals.

Elephants

ICANN 63, Barcelona, Spain

6,849 Spanish guitars. It has the word “Spanish” in it, do you see?

Elephants

ICANN 64, Kobe, Japan

17 cows. Kobe is known for its beef, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Elephants

ICANN 65, Marrakech, Morocco

23 camels.

Elephants

ICANN 66, Montreal, Canada

38 barrels of maple syrup. A gimme… the leaf is right there on the flag.

Elephants

ICANN 74, The Hague, Netherlands

1,191 cheese wheels. Who doesn’t love a bit of Dutch cheese?

Elephants