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Guest Post: Senate Cautious but Not Hostile to New gTLD Programme

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This is a guest post written by Peter Dengate Thrush, former chairman of ICANN and Chairman of Top Level Domain Holdings.

The US Senate’s Commerce Committee hearing into ICANN’s new gTLD  programme came and went this morning without any of the fireworks some  might have predicted from the press storm generated by its recent  opponents, the ANA.

The tone was set early on by Committee Chair Senator Rockefeller:  “Cyber squatters are an abomination…I think I have to be very very  sensitive to the question of the money you feel you are going to have to  spend to protect yourself against cyber squatters…they will go on as  long as the Internet goes on…

“But that’s not the point…I think we have to get used to .hotel…. I  think we have to get used to .auto… I start from that position, but I  listen.

“I think a surge of new names and addresses can create opportunities:  whether they will or not.. I do not yet know… If ICANN is determined  to move forward, it surely better do so slowly and cautiously…

The Senator’s explicit adoption of .hotel was a direct response to  witness Esther Dyson, ICANN’s founding Chair, who tried to build an  argument against the programme, using .hotel as an example. Comparing  them to derivatives, she said “it doesn’t make sense” and ” I don’t see  the point of this programme”. Clearly, the Senator does.

The 90 minute hearing heard from Fiona Alexander (NTIA), Kurt Pritz  (ICANN), Angela Williams ( YMCA), Dan Jaffe (ANA) and Esther Dyson (Investor).

NTIA – which has publicly supported the multi-stakeholder model and  ICANN’s role as coordinator of the Internet’s naming and numbering  system since 1998, and which participated actively in ICANN’s new gTLD  programme, pointed to the “unprecedented” engagement by the Governmental  Advisory Committee (“GAC”) with the ICANN board in the policy  implementation process.

NTIA believes that ICANN improved the new gTLD program by incorporating  a  significant number of proposals from the GAC. ICANN’s new gTLD program  also now provides law enforcement and consumer protection authorities  with significantly more tools than those available in existing gTLDs to  address malicious conduct

YMCA’s Williams first point – that not-for-profit organisations couldn’t  afford the $185,000 to apply themselves for new gTLDs – was somewhat  undercut by the recent news that ICANN will be charging some worthy  applicants only $47,000.

A better argument was that one of the major brand protections – the  Trade Mark Clearing House – has still not been fully specified or built,  with applications now less than 40 days away. Infringements are costly  for not-for-profits to pursue, and threaten a major source of funding –  online appeals.

For ANA, Dan Jaffe made the kind of points the ANA has been making  publicly:  “We believe the new gTLD Program is bad for marketers, consumers and the  entire online  marketplace. Consistent with the Affirmation of Commitments, ICANN has a  responsibility to ensure that its actions further the public interest,  promote consumer trust and the burgeoning Internet domain. We strongly  believe that ICANN’s new gTLD Program fails all of these standards.

“This Program in aggregate has multi-billion dollar implications for all  marketers, both in the commercial and the nonprofit sectors, and their  brands. It would cause irreparable harm and damage to the entire online  business community. It would throw the domain name universe into  substantial confusion for both marketers and consumers.”

The basis for the “multi-billion dollar implications” continued to be  the unproven and illogical extrapolation from the cost of brand  protection on the Internet now, multiplied by the number of new TLDs  that might be granted.

Mr Jaffe scored good points in complaining about the current Whois data;  he produced blow up charts showing that parties can register domain  names under names such as “Mickey Mouse” and “Donald Duck”. ICANN has  struggled for many years with ways of requiring and maintaining accurate  whois data.

But as Mr.Pritz pointed out to the Committee, domain name abuse occurs  almost entirely in dot com – not the other 22 gTLDs – because that’s  where the traffic is ie that is where it pays. And as he also pointed  out, there are more, and stronger protections in the new TLDs than are  available presently in com/net/org.

The same point was made in response to questions about defensive  registrations; Mr Jaffe asserts that major brand owners are going to  have to apply defensively in every one of the possibly thousands of new  gTLDs.

Again Pritz pointed to the evidence that dispels this claim. There are  stronger IP protection mechanisms (Trade mark notice, rapid take down  via a URS that is cheaper and faster than UDRP, Post Delegation Dispute  resolution process against the registries if they are involved… and  more). And he noted the facts – historically brand owners have not  applied in all of the existing TLDs, so there is no expectation that  will change with new gTLDs.

What was gratifying was the level of understanding by the Committee, and  their tacit support of the multistakeholder nature of ICANN. An  encouraging part of that was a better understanding of the relationship  between NTIA and ICANN.

The Committee’s Public Record will be open for a further week, so we can  expect further written submissions, possibly further questions from the  Committee.

Overall, the tone was cautious but not hostile to the ICANN programme.  Delays by ICANN in dealing with law enforcement requests, delays in  renegotiating Registrar contracts, delays in settling the terms of the  Trade Mark Clearing house could all result in further calls for a delay  in the start date of the programme or, more significantly – its closing  date.

But the more extravagant claims: that the programme should be abandoned  as being “a tax on attractive nuisances” (Dyson) or paused until every  single application can be “justified in the public interest” ( Jaffe) or  that not-for-profits should get free gTLDs for their trade marks – these  received little attention or support.

Delicious Now Using D.ME Shortener

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A press release was just published by the .ME Registry announcing that  Delicious.com is now using D.ME as a url shortener. People who use Delicious can also use the D.ME domain name as a shortener to reach internal pages within the Delicious.com website.

I don’t see the company promoting the D.ME domain name within the website yet, although that could be done on internal pages.

Delicious was one of the first and most well-known companies to use a ccTLD for a domain hack. When the company first started, they operated on  del.icio.us, which is the .US ccLTD. The company later acquired Delicious.com, which seemed to be an example of consumer confusion with the original branding.

Here’s today’s press release announcing the news:

Delicious.com, which helps people discover and collect the Web, is now easier to access and use thanks to their new .ME domain name, d.me.

The shortened .ME Web address makes saving links easier and streamlines profile sharing, for example d.me/username. Delicious also added a way for people to save links by emailing the URL to a personalized @d.me address – particularly useful when saving from a mobile device.

“We are thrilled to be working with Delicious to further develop the popular Web service,” said Predrag Lesic, CEO of the .ME Registry. “Having the shortest domain name possible will be an asset to Delicious and its users.”

Delicious lets people save and stack their favorite links to make them accessible from any Web-enabled device. The website was purchased earlier this year by YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, who then re-built Delicious from the ground up and re-launched it in September.

“We understand the power of an easy and memorable domain name,” said Chad Hurley, CEO of Delicious. “Simplification and personalization are important to our vision for Delicious, and working with dot-ME helped us on both fronts.”

“Since the launch of dot-ME, we have been very passionate about the ways a dot-ME domain name can enhance end user experience,” said Lesic. “It is exciting for us to have this kind of synergy with a company who gets what we are doing and understands how a dot-ME domain name can enhance a great product.”

If you think your project has what it takes to use a .ME premium domain name like d.me, WP.Me (WordPress) or FB.Me (Facebook), contact the .ME Registry’s development program .

For registry news visit www.domain.me/news for other examples and articles about the many clever uses of .ME, visit www.domain.me/blog.

To learn more about the .ME Registry, developing a .ME business idea through non-auction allocation of a .ME domain name, or to find out how to register a .ME domain name, go to www.Domain.Me.

About the .ME Registry:
.ME Registry (the d.b.a. of doMEn, d.o.o.) was chosen by the government of Montenegro to operate the new .ME domain name extension. .ME Registry partners include ME-net, GoDaddy.com and Afilias Limited. Me-Net is a Montenegrin registrar and its founders are leaders of the ICT sector in Montenegro, who among other things participated in a successful privatization of Montenegrin largest ISP. GoDaddy.com is the largest worldwide mass-market hosting provider by annual revenue according to Tier1 Research (Mass-Market Hosting Report-Winter 2011) and is the world’s No. 1 domain name registrar. Afilias Limited is headquartered in Ireland and is a leading registry services provider, supporting more than 15 million domains worldwide.

Contacts

.ME Registry
Natasa Djukanovic
382-20-269-740
1-866-941-5341 (fax)
Info@domain.me

Watch gTLD Senate Hearing Live at 11am

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For those who are interested, you can watch the United States Senate’s Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee hearing on the new gTLD program, which begins today at 11am EST. The hearing will be broadcast live on the Senate.gov website.

According to the US Senate website, “This hearing will examine the merits and implications of this new program and ICANN’s continuing efforts to address concerns raised by the Internet community.”

The panelists who will be speaking today include:

  • Mr. Kurt Pritz  
    Senior Vice President
    Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
  • Ms. Fiona Alexander  
    Associate Administrator, Office of International Affairs, National Telecommunications and Information Administration
    U.S. Department of Commerce
  • Mr. Dan Jaffe  
    Executive Vice President, Government Relations, Association of National Advertisers
    Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight
  • Ms. Esther Dyson  
    New York, NY
  • Ms. Angela F. Williams  
    Senior Vice President and General Counsel
    Young Men’s Christian Association of the United States of America

.XXX General Availability Begins at 11am

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General availability for .XXX domain names begins today at 11am EST. The ICM Registry has been advertising the launch of .XXX for quite some time, and as a result of the controversy surrounding .XXX domain names, there has been a TON of free publicity for the launch. In fact, there’s a video about it on the home page of CNN right now, as Mike Berkens blogged this morning.

Here are the details about what .XXX General Availability means, per the ICM Registry website:

General Availability begins December 6, 2011, and remaining .XXX domain names will be allocated to applicants on a first come, first served basis.
All members of the adult Sponsored Community can apply without pre-existing rights or qualifications unlike in the previous launch periods.

I would imagine some of the large registrars are going to see significant traffic spikes. I don’t think I am going to invest in many .XXX domain names, but I will probably try to register a few this morning if they’re available.

Andrew posted a price list if you want to know how much .XXX domain names cost.

ICM Registry Reserves .XXX Domains

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ICM RegistryThe ICM Registry is the company responsible for managing .XXX domain names, which were introduced to the public in 2011.

Companies and trademark holders were given the opportunity to reserve their trademarks and brands, which would prevent anyone from using those domain names. Domain names that were reserved during this time period do not resolve, and they will not ever resolve.

Many domain names were specifically reserved by the ICM Registry, preventing anyone from purchasing these domain names. Some of these names were reserved for private auctions, which will be held at later dates, and others were reserved to prevent their registration. Some of these are religious domain names, geographic domain names, and other types of names.

Domain names that are reserved by ICM do resolve, but they feature a message on them: “This domain has been reserved from registration.” Inquiries about these domain names should be directed to the ICM Registry.

.XXX Sites Blocked in UAE, BUT…

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I had a conversation with a blog reader, and he mentioned that one of the primary .XXX informational websites set up by the ICM Registry, About.XXX, is being blocked by the United Arab Emirates government. I don’t know if all .XXX sites are blocked, but he indicated that they are.

According to the landing page that is seen when a visitor in the UAE types in About.XXX:

Access to this site is currently blocked. The site falls under the Prohibited Content Categories of the UAE’s Internet Access Management Policy.

This is something people speculated would happen en masse, and many thought this would be harmful to the .XXX extension and consequently, the domain owners who operate and invest in .XXX domain names. I, however, have a differing opinion.

I asked the person who sent the screenshot to do me a favor and visit a different domain name to see what exists on the site in the UAE. Not surprisingly, when he visited Playboy.COM, the same landing page was shown. The UAE blocks websites with adult content, whether they are on .XXX domain names or not.

If the UAE has blocked the entire .XXX extension via wildcard, I suppose it would be a problem for a company who owns and operates a non-adult website on a .XXX domain name. However, I can’t really imagine a non-adult website operating on a .XXX domain name. Also, it’s very likely any adult website would be blocked regardless of the extension due to the government’s regulations, so it’s not endemic to one particular domain extension.

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