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Over the past several months, Brazil:

  • Objected to a new top-level domain – .AMAZON – applied for by the world’s largest online retailer Amazon.com, claiming sovereignty over the region and the river.
  • Proposed that technical control of the Internet be switched from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – which Brazil thinks is too closely aligned with the U.S. – to the United Nations (U.N.) but  subsequently withdrew the proposal.
  • Pushed forward with legislation requiring Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to keep the personal information of Brazilians within the nation’s borders.
  • Announced it will hold an Internet governance conference in April 2014.

What exactly is going on here?

You could argue that Brazil is simply fulfilling its role as the largest country in Latin America, the world’s fifth largest nation, or the country with the fifth largest population of Internet users.

But it’s hard not to think Brazil’s outrage over pervasive spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) hasn’t sparked what seems like a sudden desire to place its imprint on how the Internet will be governed in the future.

Remember Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s reaction to the news that her cell phone conversations had been monitored by the NSA? In a fit of pique, she became the first national leader in living memory to cancel a scheduled state visit to the U.S. and then delivered a fiery speech before the U.N., in September essentially accusing the U.S. of lawlessness. “Tampering in the affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and an affront to the principles that must guide relations among them, especially among friendly nations,” Rousseff said.

Two weeks later, Rousseff announced the Internet governance summit via Twitter.

During an ICANN48 closing press conference in Buenos Aires, ICANN chief Fade Chehadé said the NSA spying disclosures were “almost totally irrelevant” to the Spring 2014 Internet governance meeting in Brazil.

But that’s not what it sounded like right after Rousseff’s U.N. speech. “She spoke for all of us on that day,” Chehadé said. “She expressed the world’s interest to actually find out how we are going to all live together in this new digital age. The trust in the global Internet has been punctured and now it’s time to restore this trust through leadership and institutions that can make that happen.”

Whatever its motivation, Brazil is increasingly involved in Internet governance issues, which are moving to center stage for ICANN, the U.N., and many other nations in the aftermath of NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosures.

Chehadé has made it clear that Brazil is not just hosting the Spring summit, but taking the lead in inviting participants to help shape the summit, and that ICANN’s own panel on Internet cooperation will help inform the Brazil summit where it can.

Bem-vindo ao debate, Brasil (welcome to the debate, Brazil).

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is holding its 48th public meeting in Buenos Aires from November 17 to 21, and FairWinds Partners will be on the ground gathering intelligence.

A lot has happened in the world of generic top-level domains (gTLDs) since ICANN’s last meeting in July. Most significantly, ICANN has signed contracts with applicants for 115 new gTLDs. Twenty-three among that group have moved forward to launch sunrise periods, during which trademark owners may register second-level domains that match their marks. The internationalized domain name شبكة. which means .WEB in Arabic and is known as DotShabaka in English, was the first to launch its sunrise period and, therefore, likely will be the first new gTLD to launch publicly in the first days of 2014.

Despite the progress in rolling out new gTLDs, ICANN is still mulling a number of difficult decisions related to the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) Advice issued at ICANN’s April meeting in Beijing. Members of the ICANN community and brand owners will be anticipating developments if not resolutions to these thorny issues.

  • Chief among the outstanding issues is the GAC’s “safeguard advice” pertaining to gTLDs that represent sensitive subjects or regulated businesses, such as .BANK or .CHARITY. ICANN has agreed that these gTLDs will be subject to additional constraints but has provided little guidance on what those constraints might be, so Buenos Aires attendees will be eager for some news.
  • ICANN has moved faster on the GAC Advice relating to generic strings. Its New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC) has added language to the Applicant Guidebook that essentially prohibits closed generic gTLDs. Still to be resolved, however, is whether applicants for closed generic strings must open registration to the public or to a more limited cross section and the timing of when they must open their gTLDs.
  • A third area about which attendees will be anticipating some development involves geographic identifiers in new gTLDs, such as Mexico.Google or China.Walmart. Geographic identifiers must be approved by the GAC representative from the relevant country, but no process is in place for timely approval. FairWinds has been working to help create an orderly process by talking to GAC members about the need for a plan.
  • Finally, ICANN is still in discussions with brand owners about potential changes to the base contract to account for their brand specific needs. Although several issues, such as rights upon termination and transfer of a brand gTLD, are still under discussion, a number of brands have signed the contract as is, undercutting the bargaining power of all brands.

For on-the-scene FairWinds reports from the meeting, check our blog and Twitter feeds.

One of the most promising and exciting aspects of the New gTLD Program is the potential for regions, cities, and communities around the world to develop dedicated spaces for the exchange of information, problem solving and relationship-building. With the first new gTLDs poised to launch, FairWinds traveled to Munich for the New Domains 2013 Conference on New gTLDs to learn more about the multiple and varied ways applicants, particularly geographic TLD applicants, plan to develop these spaces to the “right of the dot.”

Munich1On Monday, the opening keynote speech was given by ICANN President Fade Chehade.  After discussing his ongoing efforts to promote multi-stakeholderism around the world, Fadi surprised attendees by having leaders come to stage to sign the .BERLIN and .WIEN (Vienna) contracts (although, according to Kevin Murphy of Domain Incite, the latter was actually a prop contract and the original was signed later in the week). The CEO of Digital for Aigo, a major Chinese electronics company, gave a presentation on its application for .AIGO, declaring that his company is ‘confident’ in its new gTLD and that the company applied for a new gTLD for many reasons, including brand protection, consumer protection, and Internet marketing cost-effectiveness.

During a panel discussion specifically related to community applications, Colin Campbell of .CLUB noted that there are more than 10 mill .org SLDs already registered and said “wherever there’s a passion, there’s a .CLUB.”

Jordyn Buchanan, who leads Google’s efforts to launch the search giant’s new gTLD registry, took the stage on Tuesday morning. The majority of the information he provided confirmed what has already been said by or about Google’s new gTLDs, including that Google decided to apply for .GOOGLE to obtain a totally secure site. In response to the usual questions about whether gTLDs will help search engine ranking, he said “Probably not,” and referred participants to Matt Cutts’s Plus post.

Munich2Other panel discussions on Tuesday included a presentation by Ken Hansen of Neustar on .NYC and Shaul Jolles of Dot Latin on .UNO. Hansen described the process of working with city leaders to develop the TLD and the exciting possibilities for New York City neighborhoods and businesses to have an online presence associated with the Big Apple. Jolles explained that .UNO will be “the Internet in Spanish” and a TLD in which companies can more effectively reach millions of Spanish speaking customers and communities around the world.

Not only was the conference well attended and very well-orchestrated, but the wide-range of presenters and attendees made it extremely valuable in terms of gathering new gTLD industry ‘intel.’ Ultimately, this conference reaffirmed that integrated, community-focused marketing efforts will help, initially, to raise awareness and drive traffic to new gTLDs – but that great content will keep consumers coming back for more.

DataIn early August, ICANN published a commissioned study from Interisle on domain name collision (covered in more detail in this blog entry here) that put into question the timeline to delegation for a number of applications. This week’s report sets up a path forward for those applications and lifts some – but not all – of the uncertainty.

In the original proposal accompanying the Interisle report, new gTLD applications were sorted into three categories, with the following mitigations ascribed:

  1. “Low risk”: these applications could proceed to delegation, though applicants would have to wait 120 days after signing the Registry Agreement before they could activate any domain names in their gTLD
  2. “Uncalculated risk”: these applications were prevented from proceeding to delegation until ICANN could conduct further studies, estimated to take 3-6 months to complete
  3. “High risk”: two strings with exceptionally high rates of collision, .HOME and .CORP, were put on hold indefinitely

Applicants identified as presenting “uncalculated risk” were placed in a timeline limbo.

ICANN published a revised study that provides two potential paths forward for all applications except .HOME and .CORP, including those initially identified as posing “uncalculated risk.”

Option 1: Applicants can choose to follow ICANN’s plan to mitigate risks, which will be developed on a per-gTLD basis.

ICANN has proposed to look at each gTLD on an individual basis, figure out what second-level domains (SLDs) are causing potential domain collisions, and provide the applicant with that list and the suggested mitigation initiative for each SLD, which may include a permanent block, a temporary block, or mandatory test delegation. The 120-day hold period initially proposed will still be required.

Outstanding issues? It will take ICANN some time to evaluate each gTLD to identify problematic SLDs and to propose mitigation tactics. So, the timeline for this option is still unclear.

Option 2: Applicants can delegate their gTLD now, if they block all problematic second-level domain names.

Outstanding issues? ICANN has not developed this comprehensive list yet; the data that will be used to identify SLDs of concern, and how this will be applied on a per-gTLD basis, remains to be seen.

The timeframe for developing the mitigation proposals outlined above remains unclear. However, applicants now know that they will not have to wait those 3-6 months for future studies, as ICANN originally indicated.

The path forward will depend largely upon each applicant’s business plans, as well as upon the lists of problematic SLDs that ICANN puts forward. The full range of implications of mandatory blocking and other proposed mitigations remains to be seen.

Beyond the Dot

Yvette Miller —  October 10, 2013 — Leave a comment

beyondthedot

A new website – Beyondthedot.com – has launched to educate the public about the coming expansion of the Internet in the form of new top-level domains, the text to the right of the dot in a web address.

Beyondthedot.com explains everything one might want to know about new top-level domains in an easy-to-understand, fun, and practical way, answering everyday questions as well as those posed by people more familiar with the program, perhaps in search of who applied for what.

Later this year, the first of 1,400 new top-level domains will begin to launch, increasing by 2,500 percent the number of extensions that will anchor thousands of new websites. Currently, about 22 top-level domains are in common use – such as .COM, .ORG, and .NET.

Our research shows that many people are still unaware of this coming expansion, but with just a little education and information, they also catch on to new top-level domains quickly. We knew we could help Internet users sort through the confusion and help them understand not only how the Internet is changing but also the implications of these changes and the benefits they will bring – and so we created BeyondtheDot.com.

Check it out, and let us know what you think!

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) released the results of this year’s Most Innovative Companies survey last week.  The survey is conducted by BCG as follows:

As in past surveys, the 2013 results reveal the 50 companies that executives rank as the most innovative, weighted to incorporate relative three-year shareholder returns, revenue growth, and margin growth. The list has its share, as always, of well-known technology innovators (especially among the top ten), but automakers also show a strong surge, a trend that began last year and gathered strength in the current results. This time, we also asked respondents to identify up-and-coming companies at which innovation is driving rapid growth.

Since one of the “next big things” in technology is the introduction of hundreds of new Top Level Domains (TLDs) to the Internet, we decided to do a little research: What percentage of these successful, envelope-pushing companies applied to run their own new gTLD?

And, it turns out, over half of the most innovative companies -28 out of the 50 – invested in new TLDs. Of these,16 applied for more than one new TLD.

A whopping seven of the top 10 innovative Companies applied for a total of 194 new extensions, including Apple’s .APPLE, Amazon’s .IMDB and Google’s .CHROME.

It seems that the most innovative also invested the most: BCG’s third most innovative company – Google – applied for 101 new TLDs while the seventh most innovative company, Amazon, applied for 76.

“This isn’t a coincidence,” said Taylor Frank, VP of Strategy and Development at FairWinds Partners. “Tech, search, e-commerce and automotive companies are going to do very well with their new gTLDs, whether they applied for their .BRAND, a .GENERIC, or both.”

Frank went on to explain that these new extensions are fertile ground for new business models and innovative approaches to community engagement, brand protection, human resources, and product development.

“The more interesting question is not whether there’s a relationship between being the most innovative and having applied for a new gTLD but whether companies that didn’t apply for a new gTLD will hold their ranking come next year.”

The Latest on GAC Advice

Yvette Miller —  October 4, 2013 — 1 Comment

ICANN is now allowing applicants for generic-termed top-level domains (TLDs) – unbranded extensions such as .MUSIC or .SHOP – to move forward if applicants are willing to sign the current Registry Agreement (RA) “as is”. But there’s a catch.

Because the RA includes a clause that prohibits generic-termed TLDs from operating as  “closed” registries – which will not sell second-level domain names to the public – only those applicants willing to operate “open” gTLDs can sign the contract as currently written. The path for “closed” generic applicants who want their gTLDs to remain closed continues to be unclear.

These are the results of the most significant resolution  passed during ICANN New gTLD Program Committee’s latest meeting on the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) Advice issued following the Spring ICANN conference in Beijing.  With this resolution (which you can view here, on page 5), the New gTLD Policy Committee (NGPC) lays out the following three options for applicants whose closed generic applications were specifically singled out in the GAC Advice:

  1. Applicants willing to sign the RA in its current form may do so. But given Specification 11 (the clause prohibiting generic termed TLDs from being “closed”), applicants for closed generics will likely encounter problems and difficulties during the contracting process.
  2. In this resolution, the NGPC asked the ICANN Staff to prepare a proposal for how to implement the GAC’s Advice for closed generics that plan to remain closed. Those applicants can choose to wait for that proposal before moving forward.
  3. Since there is no deadline for signing the RA or moving forward, applicants may continue to wait and see how this issue progresses or they may open up a process to negotiate their RA with ICANN.

So, closed generics willing to open up have a clear path toward delegation, whereas closed generics that wish to stay closed remain in limbo or can play the odds. The question that remains unaddressed with this latest resolution  is exactly what qualifies as “closed” versus what is “open enough” to be considered “open”.