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Monday, December 9. 2013
ICANN has released a proposed addendum to its registry contract, called Specification 13. This text is basically an acknowledgement that "brand TLDs" should be considered in the new gTLD program as it creates a new category of TLD for this specific class of application.
The addendum is only a draft right now. Comments from the public are invited until January 9, 2014. Once the public comment period closes, the intent is for the draft to be forwarded to the ICANN Board's New gTLD Program Committee. If the NGPC ratifies it, Spec 13 would then become part of the contract applicants will have to sign before being allowed to operate a new gTLD.
If and when this happens, brand TLDs will, for the first time, be officially defined. The proposed Spec 13 says that:
Furthermore, all domain names registered in the TLD must be controlled by the registry operator, its affiliates or licensees.
Continue reading "Brand TLDs become official"
Saturday, November 16. 2013
Effective immediately, Wolfgang Kleinwächter will replace Judith Duavit Vazquez, who resigned from the ICANN Board last month.
Kleinwächter will be thrown in at the deep end this week, with the 48th ICANN International meeting officially opening in Argentina on Monday November 18.
Kleinwächter was selected by the 2013 Nominating Committee, who had to reconvene to handle this extremely rare occurrence that is the resignation of a serving ICANN Board member.
Just as it had done for its previous selections, announced in early September, the 2013 NomCom came together and worked hard through weekly meetings and a tight selection timeline to produce a collegial result and ensure the ICANN Board did not have to face a vacant seat in Argentina.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's been a pleasure and honor to work with this NomCom. I sincerely believe the 2013 Committee re-invented the NomCom process to such an extent that, after a very difficult 2012, the principle of an independent leadership position election mechanism within the all-important Internet governance vehicle that is ICANN, is alive and well today.
It is with great pride that I now travel to Argentina to witness the conclusion of the 2013 NomCom term and take up my position on the 2014 NomCom leadership team as Chair Elect. The 2013 leadership team will be a tough act to follow. Fortunately, two of them, 2013 Chair Yrjö Lansipuro and Chair Elect Cheryl Langdon-Orr will continue on that team, respectively as Associate Chair and Chair. The 2013 Associate Chair Adam Peake was also a valuable contributor to this year's process and will be sorely missed.
Wednesday, November 13. 2013
Will new gTLDs just be more of the same, or will they bring real diversity and innovation to the Internet's namespace? For Hong Kong based Stable Tone, applicant for two Chinese character IDN TLDs (?? or "Dot WORLD" and ?? or "Dot HEALTHY"), it's the smaller applicants that give the new gTLD program its soul.
Ahead of ICANN's 48th international meeting happening in Argentina next week (from November 15), Stable Tone's CEO Jason Du has commissioned a position paper on the plight of smaller applicants as they face the complexities of ICANN's program.
"If politicians only listen to representatives of big business, then the laws they work on will probably not be well suited to the smaller entrepreneurs," the paper says in its introduction. "As it works to launch the new gTLD program successfully, ICANN faces the same challenges of not only listening to the views of the people who are loudest or have the resources to come to ICANN meetings in person."
Using practical examples of recent small applicant difficulties (such as DotGreen Community Inc.'s decision to withdraw its application for Dot GREEN), the 14-page paper is an impassioned plea for smaller applicants to be looked after in the new gTLD program. "Because of their need to leverage their investments through economies of (large) scale, the Portfolio Applicants in the new gTLD market are akin to large department stores offering "lowest common denominator" products designed for mass production," Stable Tone argues in the paper. "In comparison, Small-Lot applicants are like boutique retailers. They cannot compete on price or volume alone, but instead offer more specialised services for more targeted communities."
Beyond stating the problem, Stable Tone uses the paper to suggest solutions… and to offer a definition for smaller applicants as entities which, once the dust settles on the first round of new gTLD applications, end up with a maximum of 5 TLDs under management.
Amongst Stable Tone's suggestions are the implementation by ICANN of an exception mechanism to better shield smaller applicants from the effects of delays in change requests, an easing of the 100-name limit for registry use in such launch scenarios as "pioneer" programs for smaller applicants and in the wake of ICANN's release of its tentative auction rules, recognition that as currently planned, the last-resort auction process is probably not well suited to smaller applicants.
Du has emailed the paper to both ICANN Board Chair Steve Crocker and New gTLD Program Committee Chair Cherine Chalaby. "Mr Chalaby gave us an answer straight away," Du told me in a Skype interview. "He wrote back saying: "On behalf of the New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC), I acknowledge receipt of your letter. Many thanks for the thoughts and ideas put forward by Stable Tone Limited relating to smaller applicant / registry. Your letter will be handled as appropriate by the new ICANN Generic Domains Division which deals with all matters relating to Generic Domains."
Another topic of community discussion for the Buenos Aires meeting?
This article was first published in Circle ID
Monday, November 4. 2013
The first phase of the new gTLD program is nearly complete.
In June 2012, ICANN revealed it had received 1930 applications for the first round of the new gTLD program.
Today, ICANN's program status tracker shows only 4 remain in Initial Evaluation (PricewaterhouseCoopers' Dot PWC, Council of Better Business Bureaus' Dot BBB, Kosher Marketing Assets' Dot KOSHER and Google's Dot SEARCH). A further 27 are listed as being in Extended Evaluation.
So out of the original 1930 applications, 1760 have passed Initial Evaluation, 11 have passed Extended Evaluation, 2 have been turned down by ICANN and 125 have been withdrawn by their applicants.
As of today, 98.3% of the first round applications have been processed. And 4 are already active in the Internet root.
We're nearly there…
Wednesday, October 23. 2013
Given the post-Prism political climate, it should come as no surprise that the 8th edition of the UN-initiated Internet Governance Forum(IGF), currently happening in Bali (Indonesia), is showing record-braking attendance with more than 2,000 delegates.
ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé explains the "Brazilian meeting" to a packed room at the Bali IGF. Photo SVGC.
With a byline of "building bridges: enhancing multistakeholder cooperation for growth and sustainable development", the meeting's main theme is clearly the need to evolve the current model for Internet Governance. But not quite everyone has the same view on exactly how that should happen. The Day 1 Opening Ceremony speeches provided an interesting mix of calls for change, and warnings against the cure being worse than the disease.
Brazil has long been publicly displeased with a perceived dominance of US-control over Internet Governance and no-one was too surprised to hear the country's Minister of Communications Paolo Bernado Silva take the floor during the October 22 Opening Ceremony to call for a change to this model. In fact, the Minister confirmed that the central theme of a meeting his country is organising in the first half of 2014 would be the need to develop a new model for Internet Governance.
More surprising to many was ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé picking up on the same theme. Chehadé has caused many an eyebrow to raise when he recently met with Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff and announced the Brazil meeting. "The trust in the global Internet has been punctured and now it’s time to restore this trust through leadership and institutions that can make that happen," Chehadé was quoted as saying at the time of the summit announcement.
Chehadé continued on this theme during the IGF Opening Ceremony, where he called for all governments to be placed on an equal footing in Internet Governance, whilst being careful to caution against exclusive governmental control by saying everyone must be included. "In my home continent of Africa we have a saying," Chehadé said in closing his IGF Opening Ceremony remarks. "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. So let’s go together."
During a packed ICANN briefing on recent events held today, Day 2, of the Bali IGF, Board member Chris Disspain gave further insight into ICANN's current strategy. "Since the WCIT and the events of the last few weeks, the "coalition of the willing" who have been looking after the multi-stakeholder model has been weakened. To the point there is now a real risk of the governance of the Internet falling into governmental control."
ICANN's leadership is clearly worried about the coming year. "There are many important meetings to come," Disspain continued. "The plenipot and the WSIS+10 for example. Yet today we don't have an alternative to offer, so there is increasing worry that some Internet Governance functions will fall to government oversight."
ICANN's answer: a coalition of thought leaders to work on Internet Governance, of which the Brazil meeting would be just one step on the road to finding solutions to stay the perceived risk that Internet Governance issues would end up in the hands of governments.
Speaking after Disspain, ICANN CEO Chehadé put the Brazil meeting in the wider context of this overall goal. "This is not a "Brazil meeting", it's "a" meeting. Brazil has told us they don't want it to be about them or ICANN, it's not about finding solutions, it's about setting the framework for doing so. It will be a truly multistakeholder meeting, with a multistakeholder steering committee where Brazil and maybe 3 or 4 other organising countries will be involved, attended by a multistakeholder audience."
Chehadé said the meeting would probably happen in the first week of May 2014 and that the exact date and meeting details would be announced by November 11.
Tuesday, October 15. 2013
When it announced the panels last July, ICANN had planned the following five:
In the end, only four panels remain, with panels 2 and 5 above integrated under the same "ICANN's role in the Internet governance ecosystem" roof.
The list of participants is an impressive "who's who" of ICANN and other Internet organisation alumni and includes the inventor of the DNS Paul Mockapetris, the inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee and the co-designer of basic Internet technical protocols such as TCP/IP and ex ICANN Board Chair Vint Cerf.
Monday, October 14. 2013
New gTLD launch dates are fast moving from theory to fact. Case in point, the City of New York's latest bulleting about its .NYC application.
This has now passed ICANN's Initial Evaluation and is well on the way to becoming a live, working, Internet suffix. "We are now in the implementation phase which includes contracting with ICANN, activation of .nyc in the global Internet infrastructure , and then testing," says New York. "Based on the current status we now expect .nyc to go live in the first half of 2014."
More precisely, expectations are for .NYC launch activities to begin between April and June 2014. If New York holds to this plan, it will no doubt become one of the world's first major cities to operate its very own Internet Top Level Domain. Only a few months to go…
Monday, October 14. 2013
Next week representatives of the private and business sectors, civil society, academia, governments and the technical community will converge on Bali, Indonesia, for the Internet Governance Forum.
The 2013 IGF is bound to feature intense discussions on topics such as the recent Prism US Internet monitoring program and possible fallout from that scandal, including a renewed push towards national oversight and global Internet fragmentation.
European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes has just launched a public consultation on Internet governance in which the after-effects of the Prism surveillance program can be clearly felt. "It is even more important now that we agree on common principles for Internet governance, and how decisions are made in all Internet-related matters," says Kroes on her EC blog.
In this climate, as a public forum where any party can freely express its views, the IGF is more important than ever. As the recent Montevideo statement showed, strong signals supporting the integrity of the Internet we currently know and love are needed now more than ever.
But beyond Prism, the list of workshops for Bali is impressive, with huge diversity of topics, from sexual rights in Indonesia to protecting people's right to blog.
I will be participating in two workshops.
The first, workshop 249 on Wednesday October 23 from 16:30 to 18:00 in room 8 (Kintamani 7), will be looking at civil society and ICANN's multiskateholderism with the GNSO serving as case study.
The second, workshop 253 On Thursday October 24 from 11:00 to 12:30 in room 10 (Kintamani 6), is on the "closed" generic debate that ICANN's new gTLD program has generated.
Wednesday, October 2. 2013
The ICANN Board met on September 28, 2013 and took the following decision on the review of the GNSO:
Whereas, under ICANN's Bylaws the next review of the GNSO was due to commence in 2013.
Whereas, the SIC solicited and considered public comments on whether the review should be postponed and a new schedule for the review be established within the next six months.
Whereas, it is important that the review of the GNSO take into account the outcomes of ICANN's strategic planning efforts and the Accountability and Transparency Review Team 2's work, which can only be achieved through the initiation of a GNSO review in 2014.
Resolved (2013.09.28.09), that the Board directs the SIC to schedule the review of the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO), which is mandated by ICANN Bylaws Article IV, Section 4, to commence in 2014, and that preparations for this Review commence as soon as feasible.
This is welcome news as the current bicameral structure clearly no longer fits the ICANN ecosystem now that new gTLDs are nearly here.
The GNSO has 2 houses. The Contracted Parties House is for the registries and the registrars. The Non Contracted Parties House is home to the Business community, ISPs, the Intellectual Property professionals and the non-commercial community.
With the advent of new gTLDs, the clear delineations between all these different groups have blurred and the bicameral structure no longer seems able to provide the balance the GNSO needs.
See the full resolutions from the September 28 meeting here.
Wednesday, October 2. 2013
As a reminder, the Nominating Committee (NomCom) is designed to ensure skilled individuals go into key ICANN leadership position. Every year, its recruitment and selection process leads to appointments for positions on the GNSO (Generic Names Supporting Organisation – ICANN's policy-making body for generic domains), the ccNSO (country code Names Supporting Organisation) and ALAC (At Large Advisory Committee).
Moreover, the NomCom appoints 8 of ICANN's 16 voting Board members.
As befits such a crucial function, the NomCom's leadership is designed to ensure maximum efficiently. Each year, the ICANN Board selects a Chair and a Chair Elect. This second position will shadow the Chair for a year in order to be fully prepped for when it rotates into the Chair role the following year.
In addition, each year the Chair also chooses an Associate Chair, basically a Vice Chair position. The Associate Chair is normally the previous year's Chair, in order to ensure the experienced built up during that previous year is not lost on the next committee.
The Chair and Chair Elect positions are ICANN Board appointments requiring a full Board resolution to be approved.
For the 2014 NomCom, Cheryl Langdon-Orr, the 2013 Chair Elect, has been confirmed as 2014 Chair. Cheryl asked Yrjö Länsipuro, the 2013 Chair, to accept the Associate Chair role for this year. And I have been nominated as Chair Elect for 2014.
Monday, September 30. 2013
The Digital Marketing and gTLD Strategy Congress, organised in London last week, provided a rare glimpse into the real plans of two breeds of very discreet new gTLD applicants: brands and Google.
Attendees at the London new gTLD Congress, last week. Photo SVGC.
Often aiming for strings that are intimately linked to their overall product plans, the former have up to now been reluctant to inform the world of their motivations for jumping on the new gTLD roller coaster. As the most prolific new gTLD applicant bar Donuts, with a hundred or so strings in its crosshairs, Google has also played its cards pretty close to its chest. Competitors and users alike have wondered why Google were getting involved and how this might impact the company's raison d'être: search.
Continue reading "Honest brands and honest Google"
Thursday, September 26. 2013
Day one of the Digital Marketing and gTLD Strategy congress is happening in London today. As we inch ever closer to new gTLDs actually launching on the Internet, business models and marketing approaches are becoming clearer and better defined. This was evident in today's presentations and workshops, with applicants and current TLD operators alike showing much greater depth of thought into how these namespaces might actually be of use to Internet users.
That's often been missing from new gTLD discussions in the past, and for good reason. The focus up to now was much more on actually navigating the program's rules and getting past the "stumbling forward" effect. But now that the program is nearing completion, it's time to think about how to market TLDs that might actually be real in a few months.
If the London congress is anything to go by, domain industry players are now looking hard at making sure people understand the benefits of their domain. The phrase "changing the value proposition" was used in today's presentations to highlight the drive to make sure users don't just by the cheapest TLD on a registrar's drop down menu, but instead aim for the product that best fits their needs.
TLD operators are clearly behaving more and more like any other business. They are taking the time to identify the communities that might best promote their TLDs, pandering to early adopters for example and working with them to hone the TLD and get it to the point where the mass market can be offered a product that is made to fit their expectations.
Strategies for TLD growth are also about generating awareness, with TLD operators looking to be involved with key events that might speak to their target audiences, or working with partners such as registrars to produce advertising to help support a TLD's awareness campaign.
Judging by what we heard in London today, the domain industry is maturing fast and moving away from the "domain complex" that's been in evidence in the past, where it would almost be apologetic because of the perceived complexity of the domain name ecosystem. Nowadays, domain players, registries and registrars alike, are more confident pitching the TLDs they offer as, basically, "just another product". For example, we heard from the .CO operator who runs a membership program, with perks and benefits for registrants, and a referral program.
This more mature approach is bound to reap benefits for the domain ecosystem as a whole, from registrants to the registrars and registries that service them, as the industry evolves to focus on the users themselves, with domains as products taking a back seat to that.
Tuesday, September 24. 2013
There's a major new gTLD event happening in London, England, this week.
On Thursday and Friday, the Digital Marketing & gTLD Strategy Congress will look at how to managing digital assets and connect brands with customers in the new gTLD world, when hundreds of specialised name spaces will become active on the Internet and target users with much greater precision to the content they seek.
I will be there both representing STEPHANE VAN GELDER CONSULTING and with the Domain Diction team.
If you have any new gTLD related questions or just want to chat about marketing in the new gTLD era, feel free to reach out by leaving a message on SVGC's Facebook page.
See you in London!
Tuesday, September 24. 2013
Contract signatures between new gTLD operators and ICANN is moving along at a fair old pace, with 63 contracts now listed by the body in charge of coordinating the Internet's naming and addressing systems.
Existing TLDs such as .COM or .CAT are obviously amongst these officially sanctioned suffixes, along with a interesting mix of new domain spaces such as .BIKE, .CAMERA, .DIAMONDS, .ESTATE, .FUTBOL (football in various languages), .GURU, .KITCHEN, .MENU, .TATTOO, .TIPS, .SEXY and even .PLUMBING.
Because they have signed their contracts, these new gTLDs are now approved for activation on the Internet, assuming their operators can pass ICANN's technical tests in the weeks and months to come. Most of these are therefore expected to go live sometime next year.
Friday, September 20. 2013
The Generic Names Supporting Organisation (GNSO), ICANN's policy making body for gTLDs, has written to ICANN Board Chair Steve Crocker and ICANN New gTLD Program Committee Chair Cherine Chalaby voicing concerns over recent String Similarity Objection (SCO) panel decisions.
The letter outlines clear inconsistencies in these decisions. "Example inconsistencies of output which have given rise to the concern include; different outcomes (in favour of the applicant or the objector) in the case of identical strings(.cam & .com, cam & .com), different outcomes in the case of plurals (.sport & .sports, .hotel & .hotels) and different outcomes in the case of strings where there is only one letter different(.com & .ecom, .post and .epost)," writes my successor as GNSO Council Chair, Jonathan Robinson, in the letter dated September 18.
This is a clear signal sent by the GNSO that it is the keeper of the original new gTLD policy recommendations. The Board has now been told: the GNSO does not feel the recent SCO decisions are consistent with the policy recommendations it finalised in 2007 and the Board approved in 2008 to kick the new gTLD program off.
The GNSO's reaction is the latest in a long list of gasps of surprise at the SCO decisions from applicants and new gTLD program observers alike. So much so that ICANN staff has already started looking at this problem, as the program's manager Christine Willett confirmed in a video interview this week.
Read the GNSO letter here.