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Wednesday, May 1. 2013
The Nominating Committee (NomCom) is tasked with recruiting to key leadership positions within ICANN.
This year's NomCom is searching for 3 ICANN Board members, 3 members of the At Large Advisory Committee (ALAC), 2 people to sit on the Generic Names Supporting Organisation (GNSO) Council and one person for the Country-Code Names Supporting Organisation (ccNSO) Council.
Anyone interested now has until May 15, 23:59 UTC to send in an application. It's also possible to suggest people which would be well-suited to these different positions.
The NomCom's website has the full application procedure.
Saturday, April 13. 2013
(This article was first published in the NetNames Blog) After 10 grueling days of intense meetings, the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) has given the ICANN Board its thoughts on the first batch of applications made as part of the new gTLD program.
This GAC “advice” comes in two parts.
Two applications received outright GAC objections, and are therefore unlikely to proceed any further. These are .GCC (contested by some of the Gulf countries claiming similarity between this string and the Gulf Cooperation Council) and .AFRICA submitted by DotConnectAfrica (one of two for this string, and governments have explained that this application did not have official support from the region).
The second part of the advice provided by government has come in the form of “safeguard” advice.
In essence, the GAC has created categories of TLDs which will require additional protections or restrictions to be implemented.
In addition, the GAC also made several other requests, including the singular and plural versions of the same basic string not to be considered separately (.GAME and .GAMES for example) which was a new topic of controversy that developed over the Beijing meeting week.
Finally governments tied the signing of any new gTLD contract to the completion of the new registrar contract currently being finalized.
Read the full GAC document here.
Saturday, April 13. 2013
(This article was first published in the NetNames Blog) The first new gTLD contract will not be approved on 23 April as originally planned. Both the new Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) and Registry Agreement (RA) are simply not ready.
Keeping to the 23 April date would have required a special meeting of the ICANN Board. In fact, one had been planned for this on April 20. But due to ongoing contract negotiations, in Beijing ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé confirmed that he had asked his Board to cancel this meeting.
“I am anticipating that we will publish the new contracts for the whole community to view early next week,” Chehadé explained on 11 April, the last day of the Beijing conference. “We will then have the mandatory 21-day comment period, and 21-day reply period. However, we will look for agile ways to make sure that we don’t add another 40 days to the program. For example, we may be able to work on operational aspects at the same time as these comment periods”.
A “new gTLD launch party” originally planned for 23 April in New York to celebrate the approval of the first new gTLD contract will still happen, but will now just be an ICANN Public Relations event rather than a celebration.
Wednesday, April 10. 2013
(This article was first published on Circle ID) ICANN's Nominating Committee (NomCom) is both a strange animal and a precious resource. Having a committee charged with first recruiting, then selecting suitable candidates to hold key positions within ICANN is something that is often little, or even mis, understood. Within the ICANN community itself.
By the very nature of its recruitment role, the NomCom has to remain secretive. About who the candidates are, at any rate. But that doesn't mean the rest of the NomCom's processes must remain so.
The feeling that the NomCom has at times lacked transparency became very evident last year, when the 2012 NomCom Chair Elect – the person chosen by the ICANN Board to be the NomCom Chair for the following year – refused to take up that position.
Read the rest at Circle ID.
Tuesday, April 9. 2013
Attending the 46th ICANN International meeting in Beijing China, I had a rare and privileged opportunity to take part in the Youth & Children Forum as a "mentor" to a group of students interested in learning more about Internet governance.
It's a great initiative because if the unique governance model that is ICANN is to thrive, getting the younger generations involved early is key.
Organised by NetMission, a youth program supported by the DotAsia registry, the Forum was organised as a 5-day learning opportunity dedicated to getting youth engaged in Internet governance work and issues. The idea is to explore with them ways in which they can learn about ICANN and be future participants in its governance processes.
Small groups of Forum participants were assigned to each mentor. Around ten of them followed me for an afternoon of ICANN meetings, including a Nominating Committee outreach meeting and some Registrar Accreditation Agreement discussion.
Hope that didn't put them off ICANN completely!
The finale of this great initiative was a mock ICANN Board meeting in which the Forum participants will by role-playing different stakeholders. The Forum bought together almost 60 participants for the ICANN Beijing meeting.
Here's the Forum's Facebook page
Wednesday, March 20. 2013
"We are on target with our dates." In a video published today (March 20, 2013), ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé has reaffirmed his organisation's readiness to execute the new gTLD programme on schedule.
Specifically, Chehadé confirmed that the first batch of Initial Evaluation (IE) results will indeed be published by ICANN this Friday (March 22) as planned. If the new gTLD program was a driving test, then IE is the written exam part. The actual driving test for applications will come later, with pre-delegation technical testing to ensure that everything works as it should. IE is focussed on examining that the applications submitted measure up the new gTLD program's standards of operation, administrative and financial capabilities and resilience. IE results will be published in the order of the prioritization draw held by ICANN last December to assign release priority to the 1,900 applications or so the organisation has received.
But for ICANN, staying on track also means completing the implementation of the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH), the database commissioned to provide rights holders with greater protection than ever possible before in the domain name ecosystem.
In the video, Chehadé confirms that rights holders will be able to start accessing the TMCH on March 26, as planned.
But beyond this, a number of additional trademark protections recently requested by the Intellectual Property and Business communities and grouped in what has become known as the "strawman proposal" will be implemented without further delay.
The last feature is probably the one that will resonate the most with trademark holders. What it means is that by registering their trademarks in the TMCH, they will not only be protected for the exact match of the string concerned, but also for up to 50 confusingly similar terms, provided they have been part of a UDRP (the alternative dispute resolution procedure set up specifically for domain names at the start of the century) procedure in the past.
The program's next main deadline is April 23, 2013, when Chehadé's staff plan to be ready to request that the organisation's Board approve the delegation of the first of the new gTLDs, thereby giving the go-ahead for the operator of the first of these new Internet suffixes to sign its contract with ICANN and proceed to launch.
However, Chehadé warned that unless concluded soon, ongoing negotiations with registrars and registries on the contract they will be required to sign with ICANN for new gTLDs could put this date at risk.
Watch the video here.
Tuesday, March 12. 2013
Australian-based registrar Melbourne IT (MIT) has sold its corporate domain name business to US company Corporation Services Company (CSC) for A$ 152.5 million (just over US$ 157 million). A "sensational price" according to Australian analysts quoted in the country's financial press.
The deal comes as a complete surprise, with many expecting MIT to sell off other parts of its business and keep the corporate management business. But it appears CSC's offer was just too good to pass up.
"The sale of DBS is a substantial result for shareholders. The transaction has crystallised a value for the business almost equivalent to Melbourne IT’s current market capitalisation. While this was not a business that we had specifically earmarked for sale, given the value creation provided by the transaction, this was an opportunity which could not be ignored," CEO Theo Hnarakis, was quoted as saying in a MIT press release on the sale.
To put this deal into the proper context, it represents 95% of MIT's market cap prior to this sale, which stood at A$ 160 million (just over US$ 164 million)!
MIT's digital brand services division (the full name of the business being sold to CSC) was the result of its purchase of Verisign's own corporate business in 2008. At the time, MIT paid US$ 50 million for the .COM registry's DBMS division.
Wednesday, March 6. 2013
The new gTLD program continues to throw up last-minute debates on what is acceptable as a TLDs and what is not.
The latest such verbal joust centers around closed generics. These are generic terms being applied for by applicants whom, should they be successful, will not open the TLD up to everyone on an equal access basis.
As an example, think .book being run by Amazon and only available to Amazon customers.
In order to understand the arguments for and against closed generics, ICANN has opened a public comment period. That period ends on March 7 and ICANN has so far received 80 emails/opinions on the matter.
Closed generics are striking fear into some people's hearts mainly because of Google and Amazon's bids to secure generic terms like "cloud", "book" or "blog". Noone had ever expected the two Net giants to take such an interest in the new gTLD program in the first place. Let alone show the foresight they have displayed in going for a bevy of generic terms. Many of those operating in the industries those terms describe have been taken by complete surprise.
To them, having a generic term managed according to one entity's rules is heresy. As an example, consider comments drafted by the Federation of European Publishers (FEP) on March 4. "Similarly to the case of trade marks (where generic terms may not be registered), reserving the use of generic terms as gTLDs for individual companies is not desirable," says the FEP, which represents 28 national publishers associations in Europe. "From the point of view of consumer choice, locating a class of goods and a choice of suppliers with the help of the gTLD is by far preferable to its leading to a single producer or retailer."
"At the very least, the winning applicant (for .book) must be obliged to make the gTLD available without discrimination for registrations by all eligible parties, including all commercial entities within the book industry," the FEP goes on to say in its statement which was handed to Nigel Hickson, ICANN VP of Stakeholder Engagement for Europe on March 4, and also posted as a reply to ICANN's call for public comment.
But not everyone is against closed generics. "ICANN should not be dictating business models," wrote a selection of members of ICANN's Non Commercial Stakeholder Group (NCSG) also on March 4. "There should be no intervention until and unless there is a well-documented problem related to monopoly power."
Once the current comment period has closed, ICANN staff will analyse them and provide a summary to the ICANN Board's New gTLD Program Committee. It will be up to this committee to determine whether closed generics should be shut down.
Wednesday, February 27. 2013
New gTLD applicants have been waiting for ICANN to release data on what TLDs it feels are so similar as to induce a risk of Internet user confusion if allowed to proceed as stated.
These "contention sets" have now been published at last.
No surprise for those applicants seeking the same strings, such as the 13 applicants all vying for .APP that are now part of contention set number 12. These applicants obviously knew they would be in contention and the final results see 230 applicants involved in "exact match contention sets".
The real surprise is that in the end, there are only 2 "non-exact match contention sets", i.e. where the strings being applied for are not identical, but close enough that they would lead to user confusion.
The only 4 strings in these sets are Despegar Online's .hoteis versus Booking.com's .hotels and China United Network's .unicom and Unicorn a.s.' .unicorn.
Of those 4, only 2 can survive.
Overall, ICANN found 754 applications in contention.
Thursday, February 21. 2013
ICANN, new gTLD applicants and prospective new gTLD registrants or users can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Someone has stepped up at last and taken on the job of providing the Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS)!
The National Arbitration Forum, a veteran of the existing dispute resolution mechanism for domain names, the UDRP (Uniform Dispute Resolution Procedure), will be the first URS service provider.
The URS is one of two major RPMs (Right Protection Mechanisms) introduced specifically for new gTLDs. Sometimes dubbed "UDRP light", it is designed to allow rights owners to deal with infringements quickly and cheaply.
The financials of the URS have turned out to be the major sticking point, with ICANN setting a sub-$500 target price for the handling of a URS case. With most DRS 'Dispute Resolution Service) providers saying they could not match that price point, the URS looked to be in trouble.
It has now been saved by NAF, and this is good news for the new gTLD program in general as yet another box on ICANN's to-do list is ticked.
Friday, February 15. 2013
ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé has set April 23rd, 2013 as the date the first of the new gTLDs will be able to move to the delegation phase. "We are now targeting to be able to recommend for delegation the first new gTLD as early as the 23rd of April," Chehadé said in a video interview recorded on February 13.
So new gTLDs will hit the Web in a couple of months? Not quite. Delegating a TLD means inserting it in the Internet root. In theory, when a TLD is delegated, it can be activated at any time. Domain names registered in that TLD should work and deliver website and email services as required. But in practice, a lot needs to happen between ICANN giving a TLD the go-ahead and that TLD going live on the Internet, including the not inconsequential matter of the TLD operator itself being ready to launch.
But what ICANN's announcement does mean is that the program is now being professionally project managed. In the interview, Chehadé confirmed that this is the first time ICANN has mentioned a specific date for its new gTLD program. "That's because of tremendous work that has taken place to align our operations, our legal and business frameworks, and all the input we need from the community so that we can start moving the whole program to start becoming a reality that serves the consumers."
To be in a position to set a date, Chehadé must have had confirmation that a large swath of ongoing work streams are either already complete, or close to getting there. To be approved for delegation, a new gTLD has to have had no objections raised against it, not be the target of any GAC (governmental) Advice, and not be in a string contention set (i.e. others have applied for the same string).
Obviously, some applications will not be objected to and not be in contention with others, so those two criteria do not feature as roadblocks for ICANN to be ready to recommend delegation of at least one TLD on April 23rd.
However ICANN has no control over the delivery of the GAC's official Advice on which applied-for TLDs it finds objectionable. There has been speculation that the GAC would not be ready to provide this advice anytime soon, thereby holding the whole program up. But ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee silenced the doubters this morning with a short, sharp and to-the-point statement: "During the week of February 18th, 2013, the GAC will post its list of applications for consideration by the GAC as a whole in Beijing, in the context of developing GAC advice as outlined in the Applicant Guidebook (Module 3 section 3.1)."
So clearly, the pieces are falling together. Sensibly, ICANN's CEO was careful not to over commit to the 23rd of April, saying: "there are some things that we can't control that may cause this date to slip, but even in that case, we are looking for a slippage of days or weeks. Not months anymore."
So which new gTLD will lead the Internet revolution? That remains unknown at this point, but applications are being processed according to the priority number they drew in December so the first one through the gate should be an IDN, or non-Latin character, string.
See Chehadé's interview here.
Tuesday, February 5. 2013
During an ICANN seminar today, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé followed up his Amsterdam comments with a clear commitment to getting new gTLDs out on schedule… but not if that means putting the Domain Name System at risk.
"While we are doing everything we can to keep the new gTLD program on track and to keep our promise that by next year, we will have active new gTLDs in the root, I will not cut corners on the resiliency and the stability of the DNS," Chehadé said.
"And to those who would delay the program, I stress again how committed we are to our timeline. We will not change it, unless there are DNS stability reasons for doing so."
Thursday, January 31. 2013
ICANN CEO speaks at the Amsterdam Registry/Registrar meeting on Friday January 25, 2013. Photo Stephane Van Gelder Consulting.
"No, the new gTLD program isn't ready!"
"Yes, I was wrong on the Trademark Clearinghouse!"
Fadi Chehadé showed some strong leadership qualities during last week's ICANN regional registry and registrar meeting in Amsterdam. Honesty and courage.
The ICANN CEO flew to Amsterdam even though he had been meeting the world's business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland. Just going to the trouble of leaving the high and mighty to spend a couple of hours with ICANN's contracted parties showed real business acumen. Registrars and registries are, after all, his main customers.
What started out as a speech soon turned into a heart to heart. As he responded to questions, Chehadé made some surprisingly honest comments.
First, he recognised that the invitation-only Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) meetings held late last year were not coherent with ICANN's model of community-developed policy.
I've been saying so all along so it was gratifying to hear Chehadé recognise that once policy is developed through due process, it should not be renegotiated behind closed doors. Even if the people trying to reopen those discussions are pushing valid points, they should be part of the proper policy development process so that the full community can weigh in. Another argument I have been making.
Next came another startling admission. The new gTLD program should have been delayed by another year because as it stands, there is no way it's ready for launch.
"We're like a start-up right now," Chehadé said. "We're working non stop, as hard as we can. But if it was up to me, I would delay the program by at least a year!"
When a CEO is ready to admit he might have been wrong, this not only shows the right kind of humility for the job, it also signals that he's using every little faux-pas to learn and improve.
Add to that an ability to simply say it like it is, whilst remaining positive, energetic and wilful, and you have a powerful mix of real leadership abilities.
After feeling Chehadé's drive and energy in Amsterdam, I am no longer so worried about ICANN. It has a found itself a world-class leader in Fadi Chehadé. Good thing too, because ICANN still has to deal with some major headaches as it struggles to evolve and be worthy of the mantle the new gTLD program has thrust upon it.
That of gatekeeper to the Internet.
Friday, January 25. 2013
Outside of its thrice-yearly international meetings designed to bring all interested parties together, ICANN also holds smaller regional meetings targeted at the entities it has direct contracts with, the registrars and the registries.
The first such meeting of 2013 started today in Amsterdam. Just before the start of the official ICANN agenda, Google initiated a fascinating side discussion by backing the idea of a trade association for domain names.
Amazingly, despite the fact that there are now upwards of 2.4 billion Internet users and close to 250 million domain names serving as access points to the Web for those billions of users, there is no viable trade association for the domain name industry. So if this initiative focuses on enhancing the Internet user experience, it will no doubt be very welcome.
At this early stage, the overall rationale is that the proposed trade association would seek to raise awareness of Internet users about domain names in general and new gTLDs in particular.
Various points were discussed in Amsterdam, including:
Even though ICANN has a responsibility towards undertaking outreach as part of the new gTLD program, this is more specifically targeted at prospective applicants, not end users. So there seems to be no overlap between ICANN and the tentative trade association's mission to educate users on the domain name system.
However, for this trade association to become a reality, it will need to get critical mass amongst registries (including future TLD operators) and registrars. Also, as new gTLDs get closer to launch the pressure will increase to either get this trade body going or forget the idea. Should the former prevail, it would realistically need to be up and running within 3 months if educational efforts are to coincide with the arrival of the first new gTLDs.
Monday, January 21. 2013
That statistic is just one of the many published by Royal Pingdom as the Internet's key numbers of 2012. Kindgom provides data on all the major Internet "genres", from email to domains, users or social media.
Numbers like the
make the head hurt.
Pingdom's numbers on domain names are obviously of special interest to me, even though I'm in my comfort zone here and already know most of them. I was intrigued to read them put the total number of top level domains at 329. Considering there are currently 22 gTLDs and the rest are ccTLDs (either ASCII or IDNs) of which I thought there were less than 300, I am not quite sure how Pingdom make it nearly 330 TLDs overall… But it's easy to miss a TLD, so that number may well be accurate.
What certainly sounds right is GoDaddy's 32.44% share of the world domain registration market.
And what certainly sounds like a lot is $2.45 million: the price paid for the most expensive domain sold on the secondary market last year.
What was the name you ask? Investing.com! You couldn't make that up really, could you?
Read the Pingdom article here.