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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.

 

 

Among more traditional, boots-on-the-ground struggles unfolding in the political sphere are power plays happening in cyberspace.  The same control and influence social media affords consumers – taking control of the conversation, providing feedback, making noise when something isn’t right about a brand or a product – has been useful to civilians reacting to issues of state governance.

According to the Washington Post, many participants learned about the protests in Ukraine “from internet sites like Facebook (49 percent), VKontakte (a Facebook-like social media site that is popular among Russian speakers, 35 percent), and Internet news sites, such as Spilno TV and Hromadianske TV (51 percent)” (survey participants chose all applicable answers for the question). The U.S. State Department has gotten in on the conversation too; Politico reports on the digital dipomacy the U.S. uses to “correct misinformation”, “advance a positive narrative” in the Ukraine, and engage with individuals rather than talking at them.

Twitter played a major role in the Arab Spring and is assuming a similar role in the protests unfolding in Venezuela.  The platform has empowered protesters and allowed retired army general Angel Vivas to provide encouragement, organizational help, and tactical advice to protesters, turning him into the face of the movement. According to Mashable, Twitter is also the only free media available.

“[The Internet] seems to be the last space that the government has not figured out how to monopolize,” Ashley Greco-Stoner of the Freedom House told Mashable.

The Venezuelan government’s limited influence is not through lack of trying: It has established its own presence on Twitter and allegedly sought to increase its standing through subversive tactics such as purchasing followers and using shell accounts to bump up the number of pro-government hashtag mentions.

Nevertheless, the protests continue, and attempts by the government to create manufactured good will online has not taken hold. That’s another lesson brands should keep in mind when registering and using social media handles and domain names: Every portal has to be a genuine representation of your company and your intentions.

The same is true for brands/Internet users and their digital presence: They must follow through on the promises they make on their platforms.

New gTLDs are opening new opportunities for individuals to hone their images. For example, someone might purchase a JohnDoe.PHOTOGRAPHY website to legitimize himself as a photographer, or a JaneDoe.GURU website to establish expertise. Businesses of all sizes also may use .GENERICs to establish a certain image, maybe by registering in .LUXURY. But if you (literally) don’t have the goods to back up the image you’re crafting, the campaign will not be successful.

Is it too early or precisely the right time for a conversation about new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) and the various ways brands can protect themselves against cybersquatting?  This was the main question nearly 20 participants had at a roundtable in Philadelphia sponsored by the International Trademark Association entitled “gTLDs: Protecting Your Brand.”

The discussion group, lead by yours truly, was made up of law firm attorneys, in-house counsel, representatives from service providers CCH Corsearch, and mega-registry Donuts.

Many in the room were there “to learn as much as I can about this subject” reflecting the fact that it’s still early in the rollout of new TLDs, and most brand owners have registered no new second-level domains let alone filed claims under the Uniform Rapid Suspension system (URS), the Post-Delegation Dispute Resolution Procedure (PDDRP) or the Registry Restrictions Dispute Resolution Procedure (RRDRP) which have been added to the arsenal of brand owners that, until now, had been limited to the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).

Seven new gTLDs are now open to the public for registration of websites, and many more will become available to the public in the coming months so I expect there will be a tremendous increase in demand for expertise on these issues.

Many roundtable attendees were familiar with the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) – the organization put in place by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to help brands protect their marks. But participants expressed concerns about the vague instructions from, and lack of communication by the TMCH.

Donuts’ Domains Protected Marks List (DPML), a blanket protection being offered across its 250+ TLDs, was of particular interest to attendees.  For less than the price of a single UDRP complaint, brand owners can block others from registering domains identical to, or that contain their trademark.  Even for this brand-friendly program, however, it seems likely that there will be kinks to work out the system gains in popularity.

Although clients may not be ready to ask for advanced gTLD services, now is the perfect time for trademark professionals to scale the learning curve so that once these domains start appearing on billboards, buses, Super Bowl® commercials, and web ads, these professionals can avoid last-minute scrambles and instead be fully prepared to take immediate steps to protect valuable brand assets.

The Prioritization Draw for new gTLDs is now well underway. Despite a bit of a rough start with the live stream of the Draw, ICANN has been steadily plugging away through the 1,766 applications that opted to participate. With 1,930 applications submitted, this figure represents 92 percent of applications – meaning less than 200 applications chose to not participate in the Draw.

ICANN drew 108 IDN gTLD applications first before moving on to the non-IDN gTLD strings. Of the first 100 non-IDN gTLDs drawn, 47 were for branded terms or generic terms submitted by a major brand. Of the remaining 53, five were for geographic terms (.RUHR, .KOELN, .HELSINKI, .TOKYO and .PARIS), and the final 48 were for generic terms. Continue Reading…

Early this morning, at 7:30 AM Prague time, a group of new gTLD applicants and members of the gTLD Registries Stakeholder Group (RySG) gathered in a meeting room to adopt the charter for a new group, the New TLD Applicant Group, or NTAG. The group was established under the umbrella of the RySG; its charter was based off the RySG charter and the group will utilize RySG resources like a mailing list and an administrator who can set up conference calls. Continue Reading…

One week after ICANN revealed 1,930 applications for new gTLDs, the Internet community continues to debate the validity of many parts of the application process. In particular, a great deal of chatter kicked up over the weekend about whether or not a brand’s ownership of a generic-term gTLD is anti-competitive. This debate has been fueled largely by corporate applications for generic words as gTLDs, like Amazon’s application for .MOVIE (in fact, Google and Amazon have been taking most of the flak, given their large volume of applications). Continue Reading…

Glitches Galore

FairWinds Partners —  June 15, 2012

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised at this point. But this morning, when we woke up and checked our email to find there had been yet another technical glitch with ICANN, we couldn’t help but groan.

Let’s go back to the New gTLD Applicant Guidebook. In early versions, ICANN requires that the primary and secondary contact for each application provide their home addresses. In the version published in January, just before the TLD Application System (TAS) opened, there was an update that assured applicants that these street addresses would not be made public. Continue Reading…