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While the recent focus of the New gTLD Program has been centered around contention sets, auctions, and contracting, it isn’t too early for Registry Operators (especially brand owners) to start thinking about Registry Onboarding.

What is Registry Onboarding?

According to the process laid out by ICANN, Registry Onboarding takes place after the execution of the Registry Agreement, and before Delegation of the gTLD into the root (when the gTLD becomes a “live” gTLD). As a prerequisite for Delegation, the Registry Onboarding process consists of syncing the Registry Operator with ICANN to ensure smooth ongoing operations. It includes important steps such as completing Pre-Delegation Testing, establishing emergency points of contact with ICANN, and registering with the Trademark Clearinghouse.

What’s the timeframe?

Officially, the Registry Operator must complete the Registry Onboarding process within 12 months of signing the Registry Agreement. However, the Registry Operator could tackle multiple tasks simultaneously, and it may be able to complete the entire onboarding process in 8 weeks or less with proper preparation.

What do brand owners need to know?

It’s important to make sure arrangements with your back-end provider are clear and that you have a process in place, especially if you want to move quickly through the onboarding process. Here are a few key considerations new Registry Operators should keep in mind as they move through the process.

First, the Registry Operator should connect with the back-end registry service provider to review responsibilities and coordinate communication with ICANN. While ICANN provides instructions in the Welcome Kit for New gTLD Registry Operators, the delineation between the Registry Operator’s responsibility and the back-end’s responsibility is not always clear.

The Registry Operator should also establish clear internal points of contact and responsibilities. Unlike previous phases of the New gTLD Process, the onboarding process will require the Registry Operator to manage two communication portals with ICANN – the Customer Service Center (CSC) Portal and the Global Domains Division (GDD) Portal. Moreover, 22 points of contact must be provided to ICANN during onboarding. One individual may take on multiple responsibilities, but the Registry Operator should ensure that it is fully aware of the expectations.

Finally, the Registry Operator’s contract with the back-end may include additional fees for onboarding services. Therefore, it is important to review the relationship with the back-end registry service provider to ensure that there are no surprises.

What’s next?

Registry Onboarding serves as a basis of the operational relationship between the Registry Operator and ICANN. Once this step is completed, the Registry Operator will be able to proceed to the TLD Launch phase, and eventually to general registration and use.

We’ve dipped into the alphabet soup of Internet governance meetings, and now it’s time to cover the whole new set of acronyms cropping up in news feeds this week.

These acronyms are coming out of ICANN 51, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) public meeting being held in Los Angeles this week. There are three of these meetings a year, and a variety of stakeholders – Internet users, businesses, policy makers, government representatives – are meeting up in various combinations to take on pressing issues in the DNS (the Domain Name System.) The DNS translates the domain name you type into the corresponding IP address, and connects you to your desired website.

First, a little more on ICANN: ICANN is an internationally organized, non-profit corporation responsible for coordinating the technical services required for the ongoing operation of the Internet. As a private-public partnership, ICANN says it is dedicated to preserving the operational stability of the Internet; to promoting competition; to achieving broad representation of global Internet communities; and to developing policy appropriate to its mission through bottom-up, consensus-based processes.

So, what are some of the groups that comprise this bottom-up, consensus-based policy development process?

GNSO: The Generic Names Supporting Organization is one of the groups that helps coordinate global Internet policy at ICANN. It is responsible for creating policy applicable to generic top-level domains (gTLDs) and is comprised of four stakeholder groups (SG):

  • Commercial Stakeholder Group
    • Here you’ll find the Business Constituency (BC), Internet Service Providers (ISP Constituency), and Intellectual Property professionals (IP Constituency)
  • Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group
    • Non-Commercial users and non-profits
  • Registrars Stakeholder group
  • Registries Stakeholder group
    • Sometimes you’ll hear about the opinions of the “NTAG” – this is the New TLD Applicant Group, entities whose TLDs aren’t operational yet but who might be preparing to enter into the stakeholder group as full voting members once they operate those TLDs. In the mean time, the NTAG helps organize the voices of applicants.

You may also hear about “Advisory Committees” such as:

  • ALAC: The At-Large Advisory Committee is where you can find individual Internet users represented in the policy development process.
  • GAC: The Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) is an advisory committee comprised of appointed representatives of national governments, multi-national governmental organizations and treaty organizations, and distinct economies. It advises the ICANN Board on matters of concern to governments. The GAC operates as a forum for the discussion of government interests and concerns, including consumer interests. As an ICANN advisory committee, the GAC has no legal authority to act but it does report its findings and recommendations to the ICANN Board.
  • SSAC: The Security and Stability Advisory Committee advises the community on – you guessed it – the security and stability of the Internet as it pertains to technical matters of operation, registration, and administration.

There’s plenty more to ICANN, but knowing how different stakeholders group together can help give you a bigger picture of how the multistakeholder model works. For more acronyms and definitions visit beyondthedot.org – a great resource to point folks to for a reference on the world of ICANN and new gTLDs.

The Alphabet Soup

shutterstock_37478005Next week, the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) will provide a gathering place for business, media, academics, policymakers, technology professionals, and organizations in Guadalajara, Mexico. The conference brings this diverse community in information and communication technology together in order to provide a “proper platform for the industry, policy makers and academy to show their peers, how ICT innovations are helping them to create new alternatives for a challenging world” – a discussion platform rather than a meeting that ends with policy or regulation decisions.

This may be a little confusing because there also exists the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), the United Nation (UN)-led initiative that sometimes makes the news.

In the alphabet soup of meetings that may have come across your radar, you may have also seen the following: The Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which met in Istanbul, Turkey in early September, and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference to be held in Busan, South Korea from October 20 to November 7 – sometimes just called the “Plenipot”. These two meetings are associated with the UN in different ways: IGF gathers various parts of the Internet community for discussion through a UN mandate. According to its fact sheet (found here), there is no “negotiated outcome” (in other words, it produces no immediate policy or treaty), but rather it “informs and inspires those with policy-making power in both the public and private sectors.” The Plenipot, on the other hand, is convened as an official meeting of the UN’s ITU. This event, held every four years, covers “issues that require international cooperation following technological development, pending global issues, international agendas in telecommunications, and follow-up measures for major summit-level conferences”.

And, of course, there’s ICANN 51, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) own public meeting, which will be held in Los Angeles from October 12 to October 16. ICANN’s public meetings, which take place three times a year, gather the Internet community to contribute to policies on domain name management that have far-reaching effects on businesses from an IT, marketing, and legal perspective.

What does it spell out?

All of these organizations help comprise a complex Internet governance ecosystem with their various mandates, not to mention their overlapping constituencies. For example, you’re likely to see ICANN officials not only at the ICANN meeting, but also at the WCIT meeting in Guadalajara next week. You’re likely to see some national governments represented at each of the meetings listed above.

While it may seem difficult to keep track of it all, understanding how these different organizations fit together in the larger puzzle of Internet governance and how their activities impact things like Internet policy and how commerce is conducted online is crucial for well-informed brand owners.

The upcoming ICANN 51 meeting can be a place to start, especially if you are a company with a presence in the U.S. and have concerns about the time and resources that will have to be dedicated to getting involved in Internet governance. Most meetings related to Internet structure and governance are held around the world in rotating locations that can be difficult to attend due to time and travel budget constraints. However, with ICANN 51 in Los Angeles, it can be an opportunity to get your feet wet, go to sessions, participate in some of the after-hours discussions, and get up to speed on major policy decisions that affect brands’ digital strategy decisions.

Many organizations have opportunities to work on issues remotely, for example, by participating on working groups and submitting public comments. However, with much work done on-the-ground at these meetings, seeing one for yourself at least once can help demystify the dynamics at play.

If you decide to head to LA, we’ll see you there – otherwise, stay tuned for updates from ICANN 51 in October.

 

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.