Archives For FairWinds

singapore49-logo-300x155-02jan14-enThe 49th public meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) opens in Singapore next week, and FairWinds Partners will be on the ground attending formal and informal sessions, meeting with ICANN staff, and working toward solutions on key issues of interest to our clients.

The meeting likely will be abuzz with chatter about the Commerce Department’s decision to hand over control of ICANN to the multistakeholder community. We anticipate nascent discussions to begin defining how ICANN will establish its independence.

Those discussions will be on target as ICANN shifts from its focus on new top-level domains to the broader subject of Internet governance. New top-level domains will continue to dominate the business of stakeholder groups and constituencies. But ICANN’s pivot toward the big picture is reflected in the consolidation of all new top-level domain activities under its Global Domains Division.

The Global Domains Division has plenty of work ahead. Delays in how to resolve conflicting new top-level domain applications and other sticking points need to be resolved soon. FairWinds expects developments on:

  • Name collisions, where a new top-level domain may conflict with an internal domain already in use
  • ICANN auctions, specifically related to schedules and prices
  • Specification 13, which addresses issues of particular concern to brands
  • An orderly process for releasing geographic terms at the second level

To learn more about ICANN 49, new top-level domains, or FairWinds Partners, please check out FairWindsPartners.comBeyondtheDot.com, the Domain Name Strategy blog, @fairwinds,@gTLDstrategy@beyondthedot. Or call Taylor Frank at 202-223-5232.

Among the hurdles brand applicants for new gTLDs must still clear is gaining access to geographic domain names at the second level. For example, will applicants be able to buy domains such as Canada.FairWinds or DE.FairWinds (DE is the two-character label for Germany).

According to the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook, ICANN prohibits the registration of these geographic domain names unless the Registry Operator gets explicit approval from the corresponding country’s members of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). This policy was adopted out of respect for geographic regions to prevent misuse and misrepresentation of their governments, cultures, people, or reputations. And the process for obtaining approval is an onerous one.

The Registry Operator must approach each GAC member individually to ask for permission to use their respective country names and two-character country code TLDs. The GAC member must in turn petition his or her home government, a process that undoubtedly will involve multiple layers of government, and therefore delay.  The registry operator and each petitioning GAC member will have to expend precious resources and energy to gain approval. And, considering that over one-third of the 1,400 applications headed for launch are from branded companies, many of them global, the process will quickly become cumbersome and perhaps unworkable.

The solution? An expedited process for evaluating brand-owner requests for geographic domain names, one that standardizes requests and validations through established evaluation criteria. Criteria could include examining the gTLD’s proposed business model, the string, and the applicant’s use cases for the requested geographic domain names.

FairWinds Partners has proposed this streamline solution in a letter sent to the GAC in advance of ICANN’s next meeting in Durban in mid-July. We look forward to a full discussion on the topic, as the community marches onward – hopefully with some efficiency – to the launch of new gTLDs.

FairWinds CEO Nao Matsukata is advocating for ICANN to offer an alternative draft Registry Agreement (RA) for Internal Registries, whose needs are uniquely different from those of new gTLD Registries who plan to sell second-level domain names to the public.

Matsukata’s recommendation – made in a letter to ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé dated March 27 – is based on extensive experience. FairWinds associates prepared 150 applications for over 50 corporations, have held numerous client discussions about the new gTLD process, and carefully reviewed the Public Comments.

A separate, specific contract could shorten the negotiation process for Internal Registry applicants, thereby freeing up ICANN’s resources to process applications for public gTLDs. Matsukata believes that this type of substantive change will result in real process improvements for all applicants.

He is also confident that ICANN can modify its current process before gTLD delegations begin.

As Bloomberg BNA reported last week,“Though the turnaround time on new contracts at ICANN is typically not quick, it might be possible for ICANN to publish a new contract in keeping with its current timelines, Matsukata remarked.”

ICANN’s New gTLD Program represents an unprecedented change to the domain name space in that this is the first time we have seen such a massive opening of the top level. Previous rounds, notably the 2001 and 2004 introductions of new gTLDs, resulted in a comparatively miniscule number of new extensions, as compared to the estimated 1,000+ new gTLDs that could result from this current application period.

This has led many observers to wonder, what really is the point of all these new extensions? What can they really do that is so different from what the current group of gTLDs and ccTLDs can do? Continue Reading…