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D3 announces fourth crypto new gTLD client

Kevin Murphy, February 8, 2024, Domain Services

New gTLD consultancy startup D3 Global, which emerged just five months ago, is signing up would-be applicants at a pretty rapid clip, announcing its fourth client today.

The company said it is working with NEAR Foundation, a Swiss non-profit, to apply for .near when ICANN opens up the next application window, which is currently expected in 2026.

NEAR is behind what it calls a Blockchain Operating System, a set of software designed to make it easier for developers to create apps that work across multiple blockchains.

D3’s specialty is working with companies that want to apply for gTLDs that work on both blockchains and the consensus ICANN DNS root.

It’s already announced deals with Gate.io (.gate), Viction (.vic) and Shiba Inu (.shib).

ICANN insists it is working on linkification

Kevin Murphy, February 6, 2024, Domain Tech

Having been accused of ignoring the lack of universal support for new gTLDs in favor of virtue-signalling its support for multilingual domain names, ICANN has now insisted it is working on the problem.

ICANN chair Tripti Sinha said in a letter (pdf) published today that ICANN staff have been “actively engaging” with the software developer community on a “multitude of efforts” aimed at getting Universal Acceptance for all domain names.

She was responding to an October 2023 letter from .tube CEO Rami Schwartz, whose solo research last year uncovered the fact that many major app developers — including WhatsApp maker Meta — were relying on hard-coded TLD lists up to eight years old to validate domains.

This meant domains in the hundreds of TLDs that went live after November 2015 were not being detected as domains, and therefore not automatically “linkified” into clickable links, in many near-ubiquitous apps and web sites.

But Sinha insists that ICANN has been putting resources into the problem, including creating a “technical UA team” that is “actively engaging with technical organizations and communities, raising bug reports, as well as contributing open-source code where possible”.

The team has been participating in hackathons and conferences to push the UA message, she said, and has engaging in web sites such as Stack Overflow (where coders ask each other questions about tricky programming problems) to educate developers.

She named Meta and WordPress as software companies ICANN has been reaching out to directly.

“The ICANN org team has been meeting with META and reported UA related issues to them, including linkification. The team has recently also reported the issues shared by you related to more recently delegated TLDs, including .TUBE,” she told Schwartz. “META continues to look into these issues and is making progress towards resolving them.”

She also pointed out that ICANN and the ICANN-funded Universal Acceptance Steering Group held a Universal Acceptance Day last year and will conduct another this year.

UA Day is actually dozens of individual events — over 50 last year — that took place across the world over the space of a couple of months. This year’s event appears to be equally diverse, with events taking place from March to May across many locations mainly in Asia, Africa and South America.

The UASG supplies PowerPoint presentations and videos to each event to use if they wish, but the focus is very much on the substantially trickier problem of UA for internationalized domain names — domains or email addresses that use non-Latin scripts or diacritics not present in ASCII — rather than the lower-hanging fruit of getting developers to update their TLD lists more frequently.

Even though there hasn’t been a new TLD delegation for a couple of years, there were still almost 30 TLDs deleted from the DNS root last year. The number of valid TLDs changes perhaps more frequently than many developers realize.

Walking down the street somewhere, I once saw a barbershop called “Every Six Weekly”. Crap brand, certainly, but the message lodged itself in my borderline autistic nerd brain — that’s how often society expects me to get my hair cut, every six weeks.

Maybe ICANN should try something like that.

First chunks of new gTLD Applicant Guidebook drop

Kevin Murphy, February 1, 2024, Domain Policy

ICANN has released for comment the first public drafts of seven sections of the new gTLD program’s Applicant Guidebook, the first of what are expected to be quarterly comment periods for the next 18 months or so.

As I previewed last week, the documents cover topics including geographic names, blocked strings, Universal Acceptance, conflicts of interest and freedom of expression.

The documents were prepared by the ICANN staff/community Subsequent Procedures Implementation Review Team, based on the recommendations of a working group reporting to the Generic Names Supporting Organization a few years ago.

ICANN says it wants to know whether everyone thinks the AGB text it has come up with is consistent with those recommendations.

The comment period is open until March 19. ICANN hopes to have the full AGB ready by May 2025, with the next application round opening April 2026.

ICANN picks the domain it will never, ever release

Kevin Murphy, January 24, 2024, Domain Policy

ICANN has picked the TLD string that it will recommend for safe use behind corporate firewalls on the basis that it will never, ever be delegated.

The string is .internal, and the choice is now open for public comment.

It’s being called a “private use” TLD. Organizations would be able to use it behind their firewalls safe in the knowledge that it will never appear in the public DNS, mitigating the risk of public/private name collisions and data leakage.

.internal beat fellow short-lister .private to ICANN’s selection because it was felt that .private might lure people into a false sense of security.

While it’s unlikely that anyone was planning to apply for .internal as a commercial or brand gTLD in future, it’s important to note that when it makes it to the ICANN reserved list all confusingly similar strings will also be banned, under the current draft of the Applicant Guidebook.

So reserving .internal also potentially bans .internat, which Google tells me is the French word for a boarding school, or .internai, which is a possible brand for an AI for interns (yes, I’m grasping here, but you get my point).

The public comment period is open now and ends March 21.

First bits of new gTLD Applicant Guidebook expected next week

Kevin Murphy, January 23, 2024, Domain Policy

The internet community will officially get eyes on the draft Applicant Guidebook for ICANN’s next new gTLD Applicant Guidebook as early as next week.

The ICANN staff/community Implementation Review Team crafting the language of the AGB is targeting February 1, next Thursday, for opening a formal Public Comment on drafts of seven sections of the document.

These sections mostly cover some of the low-hanging fruits — explanatory text or rules that have not changed a great deal from the 2012 round. They are:

  • Code of Conduct and Conflict of Interest Guidelines.
  • Conflicts of Interest Process for Vendors and Subcontractors. Along with the above, these sections specify what ICANN’s vendors (such as application evaluators) must not do in order to avoid the perception of conflicts of interest, such as not accepting gifts and not entering into deals to acquire applicants.
  • Applicant Freedom of Expression. This section is a single-paragraph disclaimer warning applicants to be “mindful of limitations to free expression”. In other words, if your applied-for string breaks ICANN rules, your free speech rights are forfeit.
  • Universal Acceptance. A brief warning or disclaimer that even successfully applied-for gTLDs may not work everywhere on the internet due to lack of software support.
  • Reserved and Blocked Names. Covers the variety of reasons why an applied-for string will be rejected or subject to additional review, including names that break technical standards, are geographic in nature, or refer to organizations in the ICANN ecosystem.
  • Geographic Names. Specifies when an applied-for string is considered a Geographic Name and is therefore banned outright or requires governmental approval for the application to proceed. There’s at least one potential applicant, thinking of applying for .eth, that I predict will not be happy with one of these rules.
  • Predictability Framework. This is new to the 2026 round. It’s a procedure designed to tackle unexpected changes to process or policy that are required after applicants have already paid up and submitted their paperwork. In some circumstances, it requires ICANN to consult with a community group called SPIRT to make sure applicants are not affected too adversely.

The full AGB is not expected to be completed until May 2025, with ICANN currently hoping to open the next application window in April 2026.

The public comment period on the first batch of docs is expected to run from February 1 to March 19. If you want to get the jump on what is very likely to be published, drafts can be found here.

ICANN bans closed generics for the foreseeable

Kevin Murphy, January 23, 2024, Domain Policy

There will be no applications for closed generic gTLDs in the 2026 application round, ICANN has confirmed.

While the Org has yet to publish the results of last weekend’s board meeting, chair Tripti Sinha has written to community leaders to let them know that companies won’t be able to apply for exclusive-use, non-trademark strings for the foreseeable future.

The ban follows years of talks that failed to find a consensus on whether closed generics should be permitted, and subsequent advice from the Governmental Advisory Committee, backed up by the At-Large Advisory Committee, that they should not.

Apparently quoting board output from its January 21 meeting, Sinha wrote (pdf):

the Board has considered the GAC Advice and has determined that closed generic gTLD applications will not be permitted until such time as there is an approved methodology and criteria to evaluate whether or not a proposed closed domain is in the public interest.

Closed generics were permitted — or at least not explicitly outlawed — in the 2012 application round, but were retroactively banned by ICANN following GAC advice in 2013, stymying the plans of dozens of applicants.

Ironically, it was the clumsy wording of the 2013 advice that saw the debate re-open a few years ago, with the initiation of a closed-doors, Chatham House Rules “facilitated dialogue” between the pro- and anti- camps, which also failed to reach a consensus.

By drawing a line under the issue now, ICANN has finally officially removed closed generics as a potential delaying factor on the next gTLD application round, which is already 13 years late.

DNS Women barred from ICANN funding?

Kevin Murphy, January 11, 2024, Domain Policy

A networking group set up to support women in the domain name industry, especially in the developing world, may be banned from applying for ICANN funding under rules published earlier this week.

Concerns have been raised that DNS Women may be excluded from the $10 million in non-profit Grant Program funding ICANN is making available this year because its CEO participated in the program’s community rule-making process.

ICANN’s rules, written by Org staff based on the recommendations of the Cross-Community Working Group on New gTLD Auction Proceeds (CCWG-AP), ban anyone from applying for grants — set at between $50,000 and $500,000 — if they have potential conflicts of interest.

Participation in the CCWG-AP is listed as one such conflict:

No person that participated as a member (including temporary member appointments) of the Cross-Community Working Group on New gTLD Auction Proceeds (CCWG-AP) is eligible to apply for or be included within funded proposal activities as principals, advisors, or in other roles. Grants may not be awarded to businesses and organizations owned in whole or in part by the CCWG-AP members or their family members. Grant funding may not be used to pay compensation to CCWG-AP members or their family members.

DNS Women is currently led by Vanda Scartezini, who was a member of CCWG-AP representing the At-Large Advisory Committee. She’s written to ICANN to express surprise to find herself suddenly unable to apply for funding. ICANN has responded with a pointer to the CCWG-AP’s recommendations, where the language closely mirrors that found in the new application rules as implemented.

But if Scartezini has shot herself in the foot, she may not be alone. According to the CCWG-AP’s final report, there may have been almost enough foot-shooting to create a Paralympic football team.

Of the 22 people who participated as full members of the group — and would be therefore barred from financially benefiting from grants — 10 people answered “yes” or “maybe” when asked to disclose whether they or their employer expected to apply for funding (almost all, including Scartezini, were “maybes”).

The $10 million tranche available this year comes from a $217 million fund ICANN raised auctioning off contested gTLDs following the 2012 application round.

Five more gTLDs get launch dates

Kevin Murphy, January 9, 2024, Domain Registries

Internet Naming Co has revealed the launch dates for the five dormant gTLDs it acquired late last year.

The company plans to go to Sunrise with .diy, .food, .lifestyle, .living, and .vana on January 24, according to ICANN records.

Before general availability on March 6, there’ll be a week-long Early Access Period, with prices starting at $25,000 wholesale and decreasing daily to settle at GA prices.

Unusually, and I think uniquely, there’s also going to be a 24-hour “Customer Loyalty Period” on February 28/29, which has the same prices as day one of EAP.

INCO CEO Shayan Rostam told me this period “gives us the opportunity to provision domains to certain existing customers or partners after sunrise but before GA.” He described it as a “1-day pioneer program phase for the registry.”

The five gTLDs were bought from Lifestyle Domain Holdings last year, as the would-be registry carried on dumping or selling off its portfolio of long-unused gTLDs.

.vana was a brand, but INCO plans to use it to do something as-yet-unrevealed related to blockchain naming systems. .diy refers to “Do It Yourself”, the practice of carrying out home improvements or repairs without hiring professional experts.

All of the five will be unrestricted. They’ve all been moved to the Tucows back-end registry service provider.

$10 million of ICANN cash up for grabs

Kevin Murphy, January 9, 2024, Domain Policy

ICANN has officially launched its Grant Program, making $10 million available to not-for-profit projects this year.

The Org expects to start accepting applications for between $50,000 and $500,000 between March 25 and May 24 and start handing out the cash early next year.

It’s the first phase of a program that currently sees ICANN sitting on a distributable cash pile of $217 million that it raised by auctioning off contested new gTLD registry contracts under the 2012 gTLD application round.

The money is only available to registered charities that in some way support ICANN’s mission in terms of developing internet interoperability or capacity building.

Organizations worldwide will be able to apply, but it seems unlikely anyone from a country currently subject to US government sanctions will be successful. Conflicted organizations — such as those led by somebody involved with the program — are also barred.

Applications for grants will be assessed by ICANN staff, a yet-to-be-named Independent Application Assessment Panel comprising “a diverse collective of subject matter experts”, and ultimately the ICANN board of directors.

More information and the application form can be found here.

Life insurance company kills dot-brand

Kevin Murphy, December 20, 2023, Domain Registries

An American life insurance company’s gTLD has become the 25th dot-brand to be abandoned in 2023.

The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America has asked ICANN to cancel its contract to run .guardian, which it has barely used.

The company had been running a newsletter at connect.guardian but interest in that seems to have dried up around 2020. No other .guardian domains had been registered.

It had been in a bit of a scuffle with UK newspaper publisher Guardian News and Media, which also applied for .guardian, during the application process.

The publisher settled for .theguardian instead, but abandoned that post-delegation in 2016, after selling sister newspaper brand .observer to Identity Digital.

Assuming the termination is not withdrawn, it will leave ICANN with 375 contracted dot-brands, from its initial total of 494.