shutterstock_130365155New gTLD registries previously on hold because of potential name collision problems are free to go live now that the New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC) has approved a framework to guide them.

The NGPC Name Collision Occurrence Management Framework also frees up scores of names at high risk of collision that had been blocked at the second level for strings already in the Root Zone.

Name collision refers to the unintended consequences that may occur when a new gTLD string matches an existing string on an internal network. In other words, as new gTLDs and second-level domains go live, they could “collide” with an exact match already in use within private networks.

Readers of gtldstrategy.com will recall that ICANN has been grappling with the issue since March 2013 when Verisign warned of security concerns caused by potential name collisions. In the fall of 2013, ICANN published an initial proposal stating that two strings, .HOME and .CORP, should be deferred from delegation indefinitely, while another two dozen new gTLDs could not be categorized. Those two dozen gTLDs were effectively left in limbo with no clear path forward while ICANN deliberated a final plan. All other strings were allowed to proceed using an Alternative Path to Delegation that required registries to block a list of terms thought to be at high risk of collision at the second level.

A resolution was reached last week when ICANN adopted the mitigation plan proposed by JAS Global Advisors, an independent information security firm. The plan requires all registries that delegate after a certain date to institute a 90-day “controlled interruption” period during which technical experts will monitor the domain name environment. During that period, only NIC.TLD may be registered. Other names may be allocated but not activated.

Registries that have delegated already must also adhere to the 90-day delay but only for second-level names on their blocked lists that they wish to release. New gTLDs that have launched but registered no name other than NIC.TLD may choose to undergo the 90-day name hold period, during which all names will be on hold not just the names on their block lists. Following the 90-day period, all eligible names will be released.

Despite the “all’s cleared” sign, problems remain.

Given the likelihood of collision with internal networks, the NGPC announced that .MAIL, .HOME, and .CORP will remain indefinitely deferred from delegation. ICANN has referred these strings to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to determine the best way to handle them.

Trademark owners also face a quandary. We have seen in the past how technical issues often conflict with business considerations, and the name collision mitigation plan is another example.

Among the names on the formerly blocked lists are, by some estimates, thousands of trademarks, which in some cases, brand owners were unable to register during Sunrise periods. In some cases, registries allowed trademark owners to reserve their marks, assuming the blocked names would eventually be released. In other cases, registries offered no such service and simply held back the blocked trademarks.

Thus, in some cases, brand owners never had a chance to register their marks ahead of the general public, which means trademarked terms will be available to one and all if the brand owner doesn’t move swiftly.

Protecting brand owners throughout the new gTLD application and delegation process has always been FairWinds Partners’ priority. The ICANN community will discuss this conundrum over the coming months. FairWinds will be watching closely and working with relevant ICANN groups to help to ensure that ICANN develops a remedy that helps businesses protect their trademarks.

So you want to be a registry.

Each of the 650 applicants for new top-level domains (TLDs) took on daunting, new responsibilities when they decided to invest in the next big Internet thing. But their multi-year application process – jumping through high hoops, adjusting to the untried and unknown, and enduring multiple rule changes – may seem like duck soup compared to the challenges of running a registry.

The first thing to keep in mind is that it takes a village to raise a registry. New TLD registries will be faced with everything from the sublime to the ridiculous, from tedious tasks to complex hurdles. You and your team cannot and should not tackle the responsibility alone. Internally, successful registry operators will rely on a variety of people and departments – IT, legal, marketing, business strategy, and more – not only for their expertise but to ensure accountability for the many moving parts. Externally, registry operators will have to work with multiple vendors for technical and administrative needs.

FairWinds Partners breaks down the major responsibilities:

Administrative ServicesAt the top of this list, perhaps, is the job of ensuring the registry remains in compliance with ICANN regulations, which as most applicants know are subject to change. There will be monthly reports to file; fees will have to be paid; the registry’s credit worthiness must be kept up to date; and name collision issues will have to be tracked. These duties span a variety of professional disciplines that should be handled by the appropriate departments, or may, in some cases, be outsourced.

Coordination of Technical Partners - The registry operator must file new registrations on a weekly basis with a data escrow provider that will ensure the integrity of the TLD if the registry fails. While the back-end provider – the technical operator of the registry – creates the report, the registry operator must actually convey it to the escrow provider. The registry’s Whois information, Domain Name Service look-up, and reserved names list also will have to be maintained accurately, as will the DNS and EPP standards. Maintaining these standards will be the responsibility of the registry back-end provider. Finally, the registry operator must identify a point of contact and a process for dealing with any malicious activity that occurs within the registry’s websites.

Registration Strategy and Procedure - These should reflect your organization’s existing domain name strategy. Your registration strategy will be based on your Registry/Registrar Agreement and will help define your relationship with your registrars, and foster an understanding of their pricing, registration policies, reserved names, and audits. To a closed .BRAND registry, many of these tasks may seem unnecessary. They’re not. Each task will help registry operators articulate a clear purpose and mandate for their registries: Who may register? Which names are reserved for the registry? What are the costs of registration? And what sort of registration guidelines should be imposed?

Rights Protection Mechanisms – A number of processes are available to protect trademark holders and the general community, and registries must be familiar with each one in the event their practices are challenged. The Trademark Clearinghouse is the most fundamental rights protection mechanism, and comes into play for every registry during TLD sunrise periods, when trademark holders get the first shot at registrations. Other protection mechanisms include the registry-restriction dispute resolution procedure, the trademark post-delegation dispute resolution procedure, Public Interest Commitment dispute resolution procedure, and Uniform Rapid Suspension. Each of these procedures has its own set of guidelines and requirements that registries must learn in case a dispute arises.

Running a registry is a big job, and while many of these responsibilities can be outsourced, a registry operator will need on-staff employees to direct, oversee, or assist in the running of the registry. At a minimum a registry needs its own legal, IT, and digital strategy teams involved at some level.

Operating their own registries may be an unnerving experience for many owners of new top-level domains. That’s why it’s important to involve other departments and colleagues. There is safety – and value – in numbers.

Teamwork building process with cogs for blog on running a registry.

 

 

By Jingwei Wang

The newest Chinese top-level domain (TLD) on the block is quickly overtaking the competition.

Within 48 hours of its public availability, .WANG – which translates to “dot net”, or “king”, and is one of the most common names in China – received more than 20,000 registrations.

After four weeks on the market, .WANG is the sixth most popular new TLD with 38,992 registrations, compared to the 33,948 registrations in 在线, meaning “online website” – which is ranked ninth, according ntldstats.com. With 171 TLDs now open to public registration, that’s quite an accomplishment.

.WANG registration data from ntldstats.com July 14, 2014
Registration data for .WANG from ntldstats.com on July 14, 2014

As expected, major multinational corporations, such as Amazon, Microsoft and Rolex, are among the first companies to register within .WANG. With an eye toward protecting its brands, Amazon, registered Amazon.WANG during the sunrise period (when trademark owners get the first shot at registration) and snatched up almost 100 additional strings within the first minute the TLD became available to the public. 1800flowers also registered several of its brands, even though the company doesn’t conduct business in mainland China. The majority of registrants appear to be domain investors and companies with a strong Internet presence.

So, why would the Roman script transliteration of a Chinese word out-perform the new top-level domains in Chinese characters, known as Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs)?

One reason may be that .WANG registration is cheaper than an IDN registration, in, for example, 中国, which means “China.” .WANG registrations are going for 49 RMB, or $7.90 a year, compared to 320 RMB, or $51.56 for 中国. That makes .WANG a bargain if a company is registering domains in large quantities.

Another reason may be that .WANG is more colloquial than .中国 (China) or .公司, which translates to “company”. So, for example, Amazon.wang literally means “the website of Amazon”. Almost all websites or brands can be associated with .WANG.

Counterintuitively, .WANG also may be more user-friendly to average Chinese netizens because it is akin to what they are used to. Historically, Chinese brand owners have registered in English top-level domains such as .COM and .CN. And the behavior of the big market players will always influence Internet user habits. At the least, .WANG serves as a stepping stone for the coming bulk of Chinese-character TLDs.

Eighteen Chinese character IDNs and two Pinyin top-level domains have been delegated so far, and over 60 more are in the making. As more come online, companies and individuals may find a better fit than .WANG, diminishing its popularity.

With .CN, .COM and .NET accounting for 96.9% of the 10.83 million domains names in the Chinese Internet market, new IDNs as well as Pinyin extensions offer a wide, open playing field.

The Chinese government, however, likely will stick with the IDNs, since it has been pushing for greater control over its citizens’ online actChinese Flag On Keyboardivities. Domain registration in China must be accompanied by government-issued identification, and since 2010, China-based registrars have been ordered to delete domains that lack, or have inaccurate or anonymous, registration information.

It would be next to impossible for the Chinese government to enforce that rule for all registered domains -.COM and .NET names especially. Chinese IDNs would be far easier for the government to regulate since the majority of them are registered by Chinese/Hong Kong businesses.

Xiangjian Li, CEO of domain name investor Zodiac Holdings, which owns .WANG, told a Chinese news outlet he believes the Chinese government will stand firmly behind the use and promotion of Chinese IDNs. But that stands to reason, since Zodiac applied for 15 new gTLDs, 13 of which are IDNs.

China

Multi-national corporations interested in the Chinese market – companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Coca-Cola, Disney, American Express and Nike – have websites in the Chinese country-code top-level domain, .CN.  Now, they can saturate the world’s largest  market even further.

For the first time in the history of the Internet, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the domain name system, is allowing top-level domains (TLDs) other than country codes in non-Roman script. Applications were submitted for 116 so-called Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), meaning the Web soon will include TLDs in Chinese, Japanese and South Korean characters, Perso-Arabic, Hindi, and Cyrillic. The incorporation of these TLDs has already begun.

It’s time for American businesses to take notice, and consider if they should have a presence in this space.

Chinese-character TLDs offer Western businesses a way to tap into the vast Chinese consumer market in an organic and culturally adaptive way.

在线 (.ONLINE) and  .中文网 (.CHINESEWEBSITE) opened to the public at the end of April and broke registration records within an hour of going live, according to the owner/operator of the two TLDs. Today, according to ICANN’s publicly available zone file data, the TLDs are in fifth and 15th place, among more than 100 new top-level domains, with website registrations of 33,838 and 15,580, respectively.

The Chinese State Commission for Public Sector Reform, having advocated for internationalized domain names for many years, is now set to reap the fruits of its efforts. As the applicant for .政务 (GOVERNMENT) and .公益(PUBLIC INTEREST), the reform office issued a directive two years ago encouraging government agencies and public interest organizations to register websites in the common domains of .政务.CN (GOVERNMENT) and “.公益.CN (.PUBLIC INTEREST) to acclimate the Chinese people to the use of Chinese character domains.

In March, the central government went a step further, mandating the use of Chinese-character TLDs for local governments, according to official documents. So, it comes as no surprise that the Chinese government to date has registered 20,452 domain names within the .在线 (.ONLINE) and .中文网 (.CHINESEWEBSITE) IDNs.

Abiding by the central government’s directives is good business policy in China, as it marks a company as politically correct and, therefore, more likely to achieve economic success. The Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, for example, is among the first wave of corporations to adapt to this changing Internet landscape. In addition to its current domain portfolio of 2,000-plus domain names, Alibaba has just acquired some of its primary brands – 阿里巴巴(Alibaba), 淘宝(TaoBao), 天猫(TMall) and 支付宝(AliPay) – in Chinese characters under the .在线 (.ONLINE), .中文网 (.CHINESEWEBSITE), and .移动(.MOBILE) IDNs.  Vancl.com, an Alibaba competitor in the Chinese e-commerce battlefield, also has begun using its Chinese domain 凡客 within the .在线(.ONLINE) IDN.

Interest in .在线 (.ONLINE) and .中文网 (.CHINESEWEBSITE) is not limited to the Chinese government and domestic businesses. Multinationals based in other countries also are getting in on the act. ICANN records show that a number of companies registered their trademarks through registrars based in the U.S. and Europe. Microsoft, for example, registered its “Bing” and “Windows” brands in Chinese characters within .在线 (.ONLINE) and .中文网 (.CHINESEWEBSITE). Twitter registered “Tweet” and “Vine” within 在线 (.ONLINE), even though the central government has blocked Twitter in mainland China. Google also registered its “gmail”, “chrome” and “YouTube” trademarks within the two IDNs.

Given the size of the global Chinese-speaking population and the huge market it represents, global corporations will distinguish themselves by acquiring an Internet asset in Chinese character domain names. As new Chinese IDN adoption and usage spreads, led by both government and business, Chinese consumers will likely follow. That, in turn, will increase public trust in the new extensions, leading to more widespread use.

In the short term, based on the investment by the Chinese Government, its directive to use these sites, and the prevalence of cybersquatters, who may rush to register popular brand names in Chinese-language TLDs (as they have in other TLDs), it makes sense for businesses to register their brand names first in the Chinese IDNs. As more data on user adoption become available, global corporations will have to begin exploring the pros and cons of using their new IDN domain names for advertising, marketing, and other content.

It may not be time to forgo .CN, but if a brand has or desires a presence in Chinese markets, new IDN TLDs are worth serious consideration.

Read the original article here.

Undeterred by a delayed train, Thomas O’Toole of Bloomberg BNA moderated a dynamic Beyond the Dot Roundtable discussion for highly regulated industries and new gTLDs at Guardian Life Insurance in New York City last week.

From the moment O’Toole posed his first question to the moment he wrapped up the discussion around noon, more than 30 participants engaged in a fast-paced discussion about a range of issues, including consumer behavior, regulation, and Internet governance.

Attending the event were representatives from brand gTLD applicants and non-applicants, generic gTLD applicants, regulators, and academics.

The session was off-the-record to encourage candid discussion about potentially sensitive topics, but we are able to share some key highlights.

During the first session entitled, “The Brave New World”, Rashi Rai, Associate Director of IT Strategy and Innovation at Merck (which applied for .MSD, .MERCK and .MERCKMSD) urged brand applicants not to think of gTLDs simply as a defensive “land grab” but more holistically in relation to users, mobile adoption, and search behavior.

The second session, “Plan for Opportunity”, focused more on regulatory issues in new gTLDs and in relation to Internet governance in general. Laureen Kapin, Counsel for International Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission, explained the FTC’s involvement in the new gTLDs as one that focused on safeguarding consumers. In particular, for new gTLDs that are associated with market sectors that have regulated entry requirements, the FTC has advocated for “verification and validation of registrants’ credentials” to protect consumers and protect the credibility of generic TLDs in this arena so that internet users can be secure in the folks they are doing business with.” Lawrence J. White, Robert Kavesh Professor of Economics at NYU’s Stern School of Business, presented an overview of the ICANN governance proposal he co-authored as the U.S. hands over control of IANA functions to ICANN.

“This was one of the first times – that I know of – that brand owners in these regulated industries have had the opportunity to discuss their ideas and concerns with government officials and even applicants of generic TLDs like .BANK and .HEALTH in such an open manner. For the New gTLD Program to be successful for brands and, indeed, everyone, more discussions like this are needed,” said FairWinds Vice President for Policy and External Relations Michelle Sara King.

To receive updates on the next Beyond the Dot event. sign-up here.

Summer of ICANN

Zane Bundy —  June 27, 2014 — Leave a comment

On New gTLD Program’s Third Anniversary, Webinar Sheds Light On Progress, Role of Program In The Future of Internet Governance

June marks the beginning of summer, at least in the northern hemisphere – longer days, shorter nights and (depending on your internal thermostat) either life-affirming warmth or misery-inducing heat.

This year, June is also notable for Internet governance milestones: Not only does it mark the third anniversary of ICANN’s New gTLD Program, but it’s the month in which ICANN holds its 50th public meeting in London.

In a webinar entitled, “Three Years Beyond the Dot: A Retrospective of the New gTLD Program”, FairWinds President and CEO Nao Matsukata considers the Program in relation to Internet governance and provides key questions to consider as the governance debate develops at home and abroad.

The webinar is divided into four main parts: Overview, Decision to Launch, Evaluation & Measurement, and Conclusion. In the first section, Matsukata plays a short, animated video about the program to get everyone on the “same page” in terms of what new gTLDs are and how the Internet is expanding.

He compared the Internet of the 90’s, when Google search was born and innovative new business models like Amazon and eBay were founded, to the Internet today. It is, he said, a substantially more global network that must grapple with increasingly complex and pressing governance issues, thanks in large part to the revelations of National Security Agency (NSA) spying made public by Edward Snowden in 2013.

In the second section, Matsukata describes the reasons ICANN decided to launch the program, noting that – as is indicated in slide 13, below – “These [three-, four-and five-letter domain names] are sold at prices that are absolutely out of the reach for most people to participate in… It is more and more difficult for even smaller companies to get certain names that might be helpful to them. So the idea behind expanding the space certainly fits the bill for those who are looking to get into the game at a price that’s much more affordable and manageable for small businesses and individuals.”

Slide describing decrease in the supply of 3, 4 and 5 letter domain names in the .COM space

In the third section of his presentation, Matsukata considers the progress of the program based on ICANN’s own promises in its Affirmation of Commitments and the preamble to the New gTLD Applicant Guidebook, as well as significant outcomes, such as trademark protections offered through the Trademark Clearinghouse and Uniform Rapid Suspension System.

Matsukata touches upon the need for greater public awareness of the New gTLD Program, citing FairWinds’ own research, which suggests that – while awareness of new gTLDs is relatively low – willingness to trust .BRAND gTLDs is high (see figure below). He also suggested that multistakeholderism and the rule of law should be thought of as tools to achieve the U.S. objective of a free and open Internet.

Public awareness statistics regarding new gTLDs

To view the deck on SlideShare, click here.

 

 

The soccer bug has bitten FairWinds Partners – how could it not? – and now we’re eagerly watching how the new top-level domain (TLD) applications for .SOCCER, .FOOTBALL, and .FUTBOL will pan out.

Several applications each for .SOCCER and .FOOTBALL are currently in contention. .FUTBOL has already been delegated into the root zone and thus has a head start. We’ll have to wait and see which TLD of the three will be the most popular by the time the next World Cup rolls around in 2018. At that point, the new extensions won’t be new anymore but a familiar piece of the Internet landscape.

One factor to watch is the potential change in demographics of the groups watching soccer. Different countries and cultures may not only have different words for a sport, but may also have different online navigation preferences and rates of adoption for new gTLDs.

The Economist recently published an article (“A Game of Two Halves“) about the fact that, despite soccer’s global appeal, the world’s largest nations – China, India, and the U.S. – haven’t been deeply involved with the sport. But, as the piece notes, that might change in the coming years. Americans are filling soccer stadiums in larger numbers than ever before. Average attendance is at around 18,600 people per match in the U.S. and the sport is “second only to American football in its popularity with Americans between the ages of 12 and 24.” China is heavily investing in soccer as well, building a major soccer academy in the province of Guangdong. And India’s younger generation is likewise poised to usher in greater support for the sport with the aid of Bollywood actors who are helping to promote the Indian Premier League.

Whatever the future of the sport (and .SOCCER, .FOOTBALL, and .FUTBOL) might be, count us among the millions of people now tuning in to the World Cup – on to Round of 16, Team USA!