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Breaking: Rod Beckstrom Leaving ICANN in 11 Months

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ICANN

ICANN President and CEO Rod Beckstrom just announced (via Twitter) that he is leaving ICANN. According to his Tweet, Beckstrom intends to leave the organization in July of 2012.

Under Beckstrom, ICANN recently approved the gTLD program, with the applications expected to be considered in the next several months.  Beckstrom became President and CEO of ICANN just over two years ago in July, 2009. You can read more about Beckstrom on the ICANN website.

A full press release with the announcement is expected soon.

Why Are They Coming Out Now Against gTLDs?

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Over the past couple of weeks, a number of organizations have issued strongly worded press releases condemning ICANN and the gTLD program. Among those who have criticized ICANN was the CEO of the International Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the CEO of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

According to Randall Rothenberg, CEO and President of the IAB, “There appears to have been no economic impact research, no full and open stakeholder discussions, and little concern for the delicate balance of the Internet ecosystem.”

Bob Liodice, President and CEO of the ANA stated that, “Brand confusion, dilution and other abuses also pose risks of cyber predator harms, consumer privacy violations, identity theft and cyber security breaches. The decision to go forward with the program also violates sound public policy and contravenes ICANN’s Code of Conduct and its undertakings with the United States Department of Commerce.”

While Rothenberg and Liodice are of course entitled to their opinions, I am surprised they were not more vocal about their beliefs during the gTLD approval and discussion process that went on for a number of years. Many companies and organizations provided commentary, and there were plenty who opposed the gTLD program.

I am sure one opinion would be that it’s better to oppose this late than never, but it’s strange to see. What were some organizations waiting for to comment? I can’t believe they didn’t know about the program or know how to participate. That just wouldn’t make sense that such large organizations didn’t realize this was taking place.

Many Trademark Holders Don’t Protect Their Brand in Today’s TLDs

There have been a whole lot of complaints from trademark owners that new TLDs could potentially cause massive amounts of cybersquatting.

Similarly, it could cost them tens of thousands of dollars or maybe much more to protect their brands in a variety of new TLDs when ICANN releases them. This whole debate sounds pretty interesting and the trademark owner contingent makes a good point about this.

Well, it would be a better point if they actually owned all of their brand names in existing TLDs, or if the ones they didn’t own were being cybersquatted in different TLDs.

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some leading brands to see if their brand names were sitting unregistered, which I believe is what will happen for many new gTLD domain names. For instance, Xerox.sport hardly seems to be a domain name that would be coveted by cybersquatters.

Here are some unregistered brand names in various ccTLD and TLD extensions:

  • HewlettPackard.tv
  • NewYorkTimes.travel
  • McDonalds.aero
  • Intel.ac
  • MercedesBenz.sc
  • Gucci.jobs
  • MorganStanley.im
  • Xerox.fm
  • Danone.la
  • Motorola.name
  • Disney.mn
  • Budweiser.vc
  • Accenture.bz
  • Hyatt.ac

gTLD Applicants Should Keep Eye on .LA & Other ccTLD Marketing

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Did you know there is a .LA domain extension? Similar to .TV being for Tuvalu, .CO being for Colombia, and .ME being for  Montenegro, .LA is the country code for the southeast Asian country of Laos.

If you’ve heard of .LA or seen .LA domain names advertised, it’s most likely by a domain registrar marketing it as the Los Angeles extension (like the Register.com email that spurred my post). It is probably being marketed in a similar fashion to how the .NYC, .Paris, and other geographic areas intend to market their own gTLDs once ICANN approves them.

Anyone who intends to bid on and win a gTLD should look at the efforts ccTLD registries are making to sell their domain names. They should analyze what is working and what isn’t working. They can monitor the amount of domain registrations along with the ups and downs in registration cycle to see how marketing efforts are paying off.

gTLD registries are going to have to pay a lot of money to manage a registry. I’ve seen a number of extensions that I think will be successful with a strong marketing effort (such as the geos mentioned above), but I’ve also seen a number of head scratchers that just don’t seem to make sense, no matter what the marketing effort will be.

I do think there’s a place for gTLD domain names, and I also think anyone who is pining to manage a registry should pay close attention to what’s working and what isn’t working.

Antony Van Couvering Named CEO of Top Level Domain Holdings

Top Level Domain Holdings CEOI just read a news release announcing that Top Level Domain Holdings has named Antony Van Couvering its CEO. Van Couvering previously served as the company’s Chief Operating Officer, and he is also CEO of Minds + Machines, a company operated by TLDH.

Van Couvering is one of the most intelligent and well spoken individuals in the domain space. He is an expert in the workings of ICANN, and his appointment to CEO has to do with this expertise. He is also one of the most well-versed individuals when it comes to the new gTLD domain names that are expected to be rolled out in the not so distant future.

Top Level Domain Holdings is a public company, and its stock is traded on the London Stock Exchange, under the symbol TLDH. Congrats to Antony on this well-deserved promotion.

Vegas.com Backed by County for .Vegas gTLD While City Backs Other Entity

Vegas.comAccording to an article in the Las Vegas Review Journal, the operators of the famous Vegas.com website won a key endorsement from Nevada’s Clark County board of commissioners to run the .Vegas gTLD if and when ICANN approves the introduction of these domain name.

The county vote was unanimous, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that Vegas.com’s operators will actually be able to manage the .Vegas suffix. The city of Las Vegas previously endorsed Dot Vegas, Inc., another organization that would like to run the .Vegas gTLD. I personally find it a bit odd that another entity won considering the strength of the Vegas.com brand outside of Las Vegas… but what do I know.

Of course, the big winner in this will be ICANN. I presume both entities are going to have to pay ICANN a LOT of money to apply for the gTLD, and then ICANN can decide whether Clark County or the City of Las Vegas has the greater right to select an organization to manage the registry. This is another big issue that ICANN will need to sort through before they make their decision.

With millions of dollars at stake, all of the minor issues will certainly become major. Since the Clark County commissioners have been told the .Vegas gTLD “eventually could generate millions of dollars in fees for the county,” they probably won’t take a rejection lightly and litigation could follow. I guess it’s a good thing that ICANN is charging so much for applications – the legal fees could become enormous (imagine if the State of New York wants a .NewYork while New York City wants .NYC).

No matter whether Vegas.com gets awarded the .Vegas suffix or not (if/when ICANN approves their introduction), they will still be the winners when people type in things like hotels.Vegas.com and vacation.Vegas.com

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