Depending on the person, the word auction can bring to mind a dusty, hot structure full of livestock and a fast-talking announcer with a Western lilt to his voice or a cool, quiet room of well-dressed art patrons waiting for the next Impressionist masterpiece to be unveiled in a stately building on the Upper East Side.

Auction

Aside from applicants for new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) and those in the ICANN community, most people probably don’t think of auctions as a way to resolve what are essentially bids for words – words as they appear to the right of the dot in your address bar.

When more than one company or group applies for the same gTLD, a “contention set” is formed. A contention set can be resolved in one of four ways: community priority evaluation, direct negotiation, a private auction not affiliated with ICANN, or an ICANN auction.

The ICANN auction is considered the “auction of last resort”, even by ICANN, since it means the contention set could not be resolved through community priority evaluation or through an agreement between the parties. Additionally, it means that those applicants who “lose” the auction (i.e., those not being awarded the gTLD) will not receive anything from the winning applicant – such as monetary compensation or compensation in the form of select domain names in the TLD in contention – in return for the future Registry Operator being awarded the string.

Given that applicants only receive a 20% ($37,000) application refund after being unsuccessful in an ICANN auction, a number of applicants have been eager to resolve contention sets through other means, including private auctions, where the party (or parties) not awarded the gTLD is (or are) compensated.

While many corporate applicants have voiced hesitation about entering private auctions out of fear that applicants may drive up the bidding to increase their payout, it is likely that more applicants will find a non-ICANN means to resolve contention sets as the scheduled dates for ICANN auctions approach.

The schedule for ICANN auctions, as our own Stephanie Duschesneau explained in a blog posted earlier this year, has caused some consternation among applicants. In response to feedback from the community about the long timeline (the last contention sets were to settle in 2016, “an eternity in business terms”, Stephanie notes), ICANN adjusted the initial auction rules to allow for the resolution of 20 contention sets a month as opposed to 10, moving up the last scheduled auction to March 2015.

According to the current ICANN auction schedule, only one ICANN auction is planned for June 4 because other applicants in contention have postponed going to ICANN auction. In the meantime, 13 strings – or new gTLDs – were resolved last month through private auctions, according to industry blog Domain Incite. Does this mean that applicants are treating the ICANN auction as a last resort, as ICANN had hoped? Possibly, but it’s too soon to tell.

As FairWinds Senior Consultant Lillian Fosteris explained, “Some applicants are eager to move forward and want assurance that the string is theirs. Consequently, they elect to resolve the contention, if possible, sooner, rather than later. Others, including brands that applied for closed generics, are still trying to figure out their next steps. Still others are set on proceeding to ICANN auction, whether it is later this summer or as late as 2015.”

Fosteris also noted that, in the most recent version of the New gTLD Auction Rules, ICANN reserves the right to postpone an auction at its sole discretion and that – in the event of a tie (following the winning bidder being declared in default after the conclusion of an auction) – ICANN will use a random number generator to award the gTLDs.

Private auctions may actually resolve an entirely different question: If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a word worth? Judging by what applicants may have already paid for strings like .YOGA, the answer is in the millions, at least to Minds +Machines (now the proud owner of .YOGA). Whether Internet users deliver traffic to websites in .YOGA is another matter, but given that yoga is a $27 billion industry, it may not be a bad bet – or rather, bid.

Brand owners are finally in the clear.

That is, in terms of signing new top-level domain Registry Agreements with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The remaining kinks of an amendment designed to consider the specific trademark needs of brands have been settled

The final fix? Brand owners may now designate three ICANN-accredited registrars to serve as the exclusive registrars for their .BRAND top-level domain, according to a blog entry posted by ICANN Vice President, Domain Name Services Cyrus Namazi.

Namazi announced that the language of the amendment – Specification 13 – is now available for qualifying .BRANDs in full.

ICANN’s new generic top-level domain (gTLD) Program Committee (NGPC) approved the long-sought and much-discussed Specification 13 on March 26. But the three-registrar provision raised a potential conflict with another policy devised by the Generic Name Supporting Organization (GNSO) that prohibits discrimination against any accredited registrar.

GNSO – the policy-making arm of ICANN for gTLDs – could have objected  to the three-registrar provision. But it chose not to after considering the unique business case of .BRANDs and public comments submitted on the proposed Specification 13. Since registration is limited in a .BRAND, brands prefer to use a limited number of designated registrars. Specification 13 will now explicitly allow brands to do so.

As we’ve noted before, the incorporation of the entirety of Specification 13 into the Registry Agreement is beneficial for .BRAND applicants. For example, in addressing some of brand owners’ collective concerns with the new gTLD Registry Agreement, the approval of Specification 13 will allow .BRAND applicants to move through the contracting and delegation processes and launch with greater speed.

And that could speed consumer adoption of new gTLDs, given the broad consumer base and digital presence of many brand applicants, and the benefits the .BRAND gTLD model presents for improved online security and consumer trust.

NYC

I’m a New Yorker, born and raised. Proud product of its public schools. My teenage years were spent criss-crossing boroughs looking for the next thrill. People-watching and exploring new neighborhoods are just two reasons I was always thankful to grow up in such a busy city, which in some ways always changes (the restaurants, the exhibits) and in other ways never does (the museums, the crowds).

Life has since taken me elsewhere, but take note: I didn’t say “I was a New Yorker”. Living here for any stretch of time stamps NYC on your heart and it stays there. I am a New Yorker.

Just not one who can own a .NYC.

The rules of the new, geographic, top-level domain say that registrants in .NYC must be:

  1. a person whose primary place of residence is a valid physical address in the City of New York; or
  2. an entity or organization that has a physical address in the City of New York.

After attending college and working in Washington D.C., I moved back to Westchester with my husband where we started a family. My parents still live in Queens, but .NYC rules stipulate that no one with a NYC address can act as a proxy for those outside the city. .NYC will be for those who live or work within the five boroughs.

And you know what? That’s alright with me. Authenticity is a not only a major benefit of new top-level domains. It is a quintessential trait of New Yorkers. At least I will know that anyone with a .NYC website is the real deal.

The “Sunrise” period for brand-owners to get a head start on registrations opened May 5. General Availability, when locals can begin to register domain names, is slated for October.

Maybe one day I’ll be back in the Big Apple. And then I can get my .NYC URL.

Global insurance and financial management giant AXA is the first brand to launch its new top-level domain .AXA with original content, including an explanation of top-level domains, the purpose behind its new site, and an invitation to affiliates to register within it.

“When you visit a website with an Internet address ending with .AXA, you can be certain that it’s authorized by AXA and overseen by us,” the company said on its new website, http://www.domains.axa/.

AXA is ranked 20th on the Global Fortune 500 list, with over 102 million customers in 56 countries and global annual revenues of $154.6 billion. Second-level domains will be available within .AXA for corporate and affiliate purposes only.

Since the beginning of the year, approximately 70 new top-level domains have launched. All have been generic terms, such as .GURU and .PHOTOGRAPHY, and are open to the public and the business community for registration of second-level domains. Of the almost 700 branded commercial enterprises to apply for their own top-level domains, AXA is the first to go public with unique content on its new top-level domain.

“AXA’s action represents a watershed moment for brands across the globe that applied for new top-level domains,” said Josh Bourne, Managing Partner of FairWinds Partners. “AXA emphasizes that authenticity and trust are central to the purpose of its new gTLD, echoing the goals of many .BRAND applicants.”

 

Amazon released Fire TV yesterday, a streaming device that will allow consumers to watch Hulu, Netflix and Amazon content on their televisions – much like Apple TV and Roku.

Unfortunately, as The Huffington Post reported, the e-commerce giant doesn’t own the most intuitive domain name www.firetv.com. A porn site does. “Apparently, the illicit site is also interested in letting you stream content to your television, although it’s hardly of the ‘fun-for-the-whole-family’ variety promised by Amazon in its launch today,” the HuffPo blogger wrote.

Perhaps the owner of the domain name in question just didn’t want to sell. Or perhaps Amazon felt the domain name it registered – amazonfiretv.com – was sufficient.

Another option for Amazon would have been to register fire within .TV, the ccTLD for the Tuvalu Islands. However, like http://www.firetv.com, http://www.fire.tv is already registered, and the registrant is protected using WhoisPrivacy services.

As of this morning, neither domain – firetv.com nor fire.tv – receives measurable traffic via Compete.

Depending on the popularity of and interest in Amazon’s new product, the lucky owners of these sites are likely to see at least some increase in traffic, if only from accidental visitors.

Amazon may also be thinking about registering the domain names of all products and campaigns within one or more of the 76 new generic top-level domain names’s for which it applied.

 

Picture from product page on www.amazon.com.

Picture from product page on http://www.amazon.com.

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ICANN’s new generic top-level domain (gTLD) Program Committee (NGPC) has finally approved the long-sought and much-discussed Specification 13 – an amendment to the Registry Agreement that accommodates the special trademark needs of brands applying for their own top-level domains.

FairWinds staff on the ground at ICANN 49 in Singapore confirmed the news early Wednesday – to the relief of many corporate and non-profit applicants.

Earlier this month, ICANN Vice President of DNS Industry Engagement Cyrus Namazi published a revised version of the Specification 13 Base Agreement and explained, in an accompanying blog, that “If approved by NGPC, Specification 13 would provide limited accommodations to registry operators of TLDs that qualify as ‘.Brand TLDs.’”

While the number of accommodations may be “limited”, the significance of the revisions to brands that have invested so much time and money into their applications is not.

The incorporation of Specification 13 into the Registry Agreement for .BRAND applications will benefit them as well as consumers. In addressing some of brand owners’ collective concerns with the new gTLD Registry Agreement, Specification 13 will allow .BRAND applicants to move through the contracting process and transition to delegation with greater speed and ease.

And, given the broad consumer base and digital presence of many brand applicants, and the benefits the .BRAND gTLD model presents for improved online security and consumer trust, the incorporation of Specification 13 could speed consumer adoption of new gTLDs.

“FairWinds is grateful to the ICANN staff for its work on this issue, and to the NGPC for reaching an agreement to take into consideration the special circumstances of .BRAND applicants – a group that comprises almost one-third of all new gTLD applicants,” said Vice President for Consulting Services Samantha Demetriou.

Demetriou also acknowledged the critical role played by FairWinds policy experts Lillian Fosteris and Stephanie Duchesneau in recognizing the unique contractual needs of .BRANDs and working to ensure they were incorporated into the base contract.

Much work remains, however, to get .BRANDs over the finish line: The timeline for new gTLD applicants remains tight, and a formal process for requesting the inclusion of Specification 13 has not been announced.

For more information about the next steps for .BRAND applicants, continue to follow this blog or contact info@fairwindspartners.com to learn how you can receive timely and specific consulting guidance as a client of FairWinds.

Linking the Ancient World to the Digital Era, New gTLD Transcends Commercial Expectations

Guru is an ancient Sanskrit word that means spiritual teacher.

It is also the most popular new top-level Internet domain name.

guruSince .GURU opened for public registration of second-level domains on January 29, it far surpassed any of the other 49 new top-level domains launched this year – until .BERLIN opened for public registration last week and jumped into second place.

What makes .GURU so popular? Is it an East/West convergence thing? The serenity of ancient spiritual beliefs? The meditative elegance of Buddha? The magnanimity of the Dalai Lama? Maybe it’s the memory of the Beatles’ 1968 sojourn to the Maharishi’s ashram?

.GURU’s popularity wasn’t even anticipated by Donuts, the registry that owns it. A Donuts official told TheDomains.com that internal projections didn’t place .GURU among the top half of strings expected to get the most registrations. Since Donuts applied for 300 top-level domains, that means the company thought more than 150 others would be more crowd-pleasing.

Seriously? Wouldn’t you expect a sublime performance from a spiritual leader?

Actually, .GURU’s appeal has nothing to do with transcendence. Its popularity is based on a simple rule of capitalism: It is easily marketed. .GURU is a winner of a domain name because it not only implies supreme knowledge but can be appended to almost any word, noun, adjective, verb, or phrase, such as secondmortgage.GURU, goofy.GURU, quit.GURU, or becomeyourown.GURU – all registered domain names in the new extension.

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It seems a tad counterintuitive, however, to link some names to .GURU that people have registered, such as anxieties.GURU, mean.GURU, and rich.GURU. And some of the new domains border on sacrilege, or at least drain the word “guru” of its authority, such as beerdrinking.GURU, voodoo.GURU, and vices.GURU.

No matter. An investment is an investment, and .GURU turned out to be a very good one, indeed. Chances are the domain’s long-term value will withstand the oddities that its flexibility permits, as in twerking.GURU.

I just hope Bob Dylan’s people move quickly to register Workingona.Guru.