Thursday, June 14, 2018

Coming fast: the .SPORT new gTLD

The .SPORT new gTLD is coming and all businesses related to sport will be offered a chance to register a domain name ending in .sport (instead of ".com").
This is an extract of the latest publication from the Global Association of International Sports Federations:
  • A select group of Ambassador websites will go live during Summer 2018, becoming among the first ever at .sport;
  • A consolidated launch period will run from September 4 to November 6, 2018;
  • General Availability will begin on January 8, 2019.
Premium pricing applies during the consolidated launch period. Standard pricing will apply starting with General Availability.

Read the full announcement at the GAISF.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

When the Backend Registry is too expensive

What we call a "backend registry" is the mandatory technical platform to operate a domain name extension and all registries have one. It is the backend registry that allows accredited registrars to technically sell domain names for each extensions.

The question here is: what happens to a registry, who sells domain names to accredited registrars, when his backend registry solution provider is too expensive?

Creating your backend registry solution
In 2008, I remember going to a .BRAND meeting with Stephane Van Gelder and a technical guy told us: "we don't need a backend registry, we have enough resources to do it ourselves". Well...one can try to do it so for the next round of the ICANN new gTLD program - and there are tools for this - but I would certainly not recommend it for three reasons:
  1. It requires serious skills to develop a backend registry platform;
  2. It requires to pass the ICANN tests;
  3. It's awfully expensive.
How to lower the expenses
There are less than 10 solution providers that I would work with worldwide, and the reason why I would not create my own backend registry solution is simple: the more your new gTLD project costs you, the more you will be tempted to increase the price of your domain names. Accredited Registrars, the ones Registries sell their domain names to, will have to take a margin so they will increase the price too, and here is what happens next:
  1. The final price at the Registrant level (the person who buys the domain name) will be higher than a ".com"; it may be be a bad sign sent to new consumers: "hey, why should I pay more for a domain name?". Remember that the average price known by consumers for a domain name is between $10 and $12;
  2. It will make your registry more difficult to develop in volume of domain names if your target is the general public. For domain names to meet with adoption: "use" is needed but "volume" is needed too to increase its visibility on Internet.
Think twice about creating your own backend registry solution: it will drastically increase the price of your new gTLD project.

Note that 500 registries have less than 10,000 domain names registered but is this what a new registry wants when creating a new domain name extension? I stopped counting at 200 domain names registered (June 2018) to exclude .BRAND new gTLDs from this approximate calculation.

Less than $2 per domain
Backend registry service providers offer different range of services but there is now stronger competition between them and offers should change for the next round of the ICANN new gTLD program. Prices should change too and there are three parameters that I will focus on when selecting a backend registry provider:
  1. One price per domain name "only" should constitute the offer: a registry which wants to gain recognition cannot be blocked from lowering the price of his domain names because the annual financial commitment with his backend registry is too high: let's not forget that the more domain names a registry puts on the market, the more it benefits the backend registry.
  2. No leaving fee: the knowledge to operate a registry relies a lot on the backend registry solution provider but it has now become easier and, for example, one might be tempted to change to a Chinese solution provider to access the profitable Chinese market with a MIIT licence. Once you're blocked with an important leaving fee, it blocks you from spending this money to find a better solution: a Chinese backend registry solution provider will be very efficient combining complementary solutions for you: the backend registry solution + the MIIT licence for example.
  3. A "minimum annual commitment"? I read this fee at a service provider (...) With the number of registries to have launched at the same time in 2012, how can a niche TLD survive when it sells less than 1,000 domains a year (also because its retail price is already too high)? Added to a leaving fee, it makes it almost impossible to develop. For some, it means going "bankrupt". By the way: a backend registry asking for a minimum annual commitment does not care about the success of your project.
Note that such offers already exist: some providers have adapted to the market. It costs less than $1 for certain registries to create a domain name: "the lower the price is at the backend, the lower it will be for your clients".

If the backend registry is too expensive...it will impact the final price of your domain names and it is unlikely that new consumers will want to pay more than $12 to buy them. Registration volumes seem to confirm this: when new gTLD registration volumes are low, it is also because the price of domain names is often too high, the reason is that.

Monday, June 4, 2018

May 2018: new gTLD reports are up-to-date

  1. New gTLDs related to CATERING and FOOD
    (.food - .recipes - .rest - etc...);
  2. New gTLDs related to PHOTOGRAPHY
    (.photos - .movie - .pics - etc...);
  3. New gTLDs related to CITIES
    These are city names only (.koeln - .dubai - etc...);
  4. New gTLDs for COMPANIES
    Extensions companies should register their domain with;
  5. New gTLDs related to the LAW and LEGAL matters
    (.abogado - .law - .partners - etc...);
  6. New gTLDs related to FINANCE
    (.cash - .fund - .financial - etc...);
  7. New gTLDs related to a COLOR
    (.black - .blue - .red - etc...);
  8. New gTLDs related to SPORT
    (.baseball - .tennis - .dance - etc...);
  9. New gTLDs related to ALCOHOL
    (.vin - .wine - .beer - etc...);
  10. New gTLDs related to REAL ESTATE
    (.condos - .maison - .realty - etc...);
  11. Singular VS Plural versions of a new gTLD
    Extensions existing in their singular AND plural version;
  12. FRENCH new gTLD applications
    These are applications submitted by French companies;
  13. New gTLDs related to RELIGION
    (.islam - .halal - .mormon - etc...);
  14. New gTLDs related to CARS
    (.audi - .lamborghini - .cars - etc...);
  15. New gTLDs related to HEALTH
    (.care - .vision - .hospital - etc...);
  16. New gTLDs related to ADULTS
    (extensions related to pornography and more);
  17. NEW - Multiple Registries
    Group of Registries operating five (5) and more domain name extensions;
  18. NEW - New gTLDs related to MUSIC (.music - .guitars - .hiphop - .broadway - etc...)

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Trademark Clearinghouse: latest stats

The Trademark Clearinghouse statistics for May 2018 have been released:
  • 44.155 trademark records submitted;
  • 117 countries covered;
  • 129 jurisdictions covered;
  • 169,265 trademark years;
  • 262,414 claims notifications;
  • 809,867 ongoing notifications;
  • 13,119 trademark records have expired.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

New gTLDs: City vs Family name

When applying for a new gTLD, what happens if two applications for the extension are a city and a family name?

Which one wins?
Let's imagine that a person whose family name is "Marseille" applied for the .MARSEILLE new gTLD in the next round of the ICANN new gTLD program. What if there was a .MARSEILLE new gTLD too but as the name of the French city?

When the Family name is the name of a city
Even if the ICANN new gTLD applicant guidebook did not allow persons to submit an application in the first round, anyone could create a company using his or her family name and submit his application: this was perfectly legal and will probably remain like this in future rounds of the program.
Note that there is an existing case: it is known that one applicant applied for his first name and family name as a new domain name extension in the first round of the ICANN new gTLD program: it is the .RICHARDLI new gTLD.

Now: what happens when your family name is the name of a city?

"Marseille" is a famous French family name
A friend of mine's family name is "Marseille" and I wondered what would happen if he created a company named "Marseille" - or if he trademarked his family name like I did - and decided to submit a new gTLD application in the next round of the ICANN new gTLD program. Such an application could receive an objection from the French city of Marseille or he could object to the city's application too but - precisely - what could happen in such case of a conflicting geo/family application?

Some experts answered the question:
  1. John McCormac from HosterStats.com (the biggest domain and webhosting statistics site):
    "That's a legal question but I would think that the rights of the city could take precedence unless there is a lot of strong IP/TM rights supporting the family name application. The city may be able to object but there may be multiple cities sharing the same name with families. And then it may come down to which city is oldest. Think Paris, France versus Paris, Texas".
  2. Dirk Krischenowski from dotBERLIN GmbH & Co. KG (the .BERLIN registry):
    "If you apply the rules of the 2012 AGB (we don’t know to which extend the 2020 AGB may have changed in this respect) the answer for family names that match capital city names is clear: you need a letter of support or no-objection from the relevant city authority.
    If the applied-for family name is a city name but no one, even not ICANN’s geographic names panel, objects the application may go through smoothly. If you search at www.geonames.org for instance for Monash, Norton, Lancaster and many other .brand applications you will find names of municipalities with the same name. But all the applications were going through, the same of many generic term gTLD.
    And then there is a large grey zone where there had been not many cases (like .spa) where the city objected but was not found by ICANN to fall into the geographic names category.
    I hope I could give you guidance to you question."
  3. Roland LaPlante, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Afilias (multiple registry for 20 new gTLDs):
    "The issue of geo-names such as city names is currently under active discussion in the Government Advisory Committee and other stakeholders in the ICANN community. I expect that, in the event of a conflict between an individual and a city, the city would win. This is because the city will usually have become the official owner of the name in some manner (e.g. in the ISO3166 list), and the official list trumps other claims. Further, if the city does not apply and the individual does, the individual must get permission from the city to proceed with the name."
I will add more answers when they come.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The .ICU Sunrise Period ends

The .ICU new gTLD Sunrise Period ends today:
  • SUNRISE PERIOD END: Thursday, 24 May, 2018 - 14:00;
  • CLAIMS NOTIFICATION PERIOD START: Tuesday, 29 May, 2018;
  • CLAIMS NOTIFICATION PERIOD END: Thursday, 30 August, 2018.

More details are available on the TMCH Calendar.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

New gTLDs, New Measures

This is a copy-paste of a recent 3 pages letter sent from the Brand Registry Group to the ICANN. You will find the link to download the original letter down this post. Potential .BRAND new gTLD applicants will certainly love its content.
The letter:

"At ICANN61 it was refreshing to hear from the variety of registry operators that have been working hard to make a success of their new gTLDs. In the Cross-Community session “A Walk in the Shoes of a New gTLD Registry Operator” the measures of success demonstrated by the 1 different registries were noticeably different to those of legacy TLDs, which often focus on a very narrow measure; the volume of domains under management.

Many of the new registries launched from the 2012 application round are not driven primarily, if at all, by the number of domain names they manage. Instead, they have a stronger focus towards registering domains for purposeful and positive needs. Examples covered during the ICANN61 cross-community sessions highlighted the following:
  • Brand TLD (dotBrand) registries do not have a revenue-based motive for operating a registry; it is a cost borne by the business to provide a stronger platform to manage their online presence, communications and business operations. It is a trusted space that is controlled and operated from the registry operator at the root of the Internet all the way through to delivery to Internet users.
  • Highly-restricted TLDs, such as .bank and .pharmacy, apply strict controls from verification of registrants through to higher standards of operation within the Top Level Domain environment, providing assurances to users and confidence that they are dealing with legitimate organisations. These communities self-regulate their registry, applying levels of controls far in excess of the minimal requirements you find in open, commercial TLD registries.
  • Geographic TLDs, particularly capital cities, such as dotBerlin, have developed TLDs with a strong sense of community and purpose, something shared by other generic-termed TLDs, such as .art and .design.
Zero-abuse
Importantly, we also heard how the ability to operate a registry with strict controls over who can register domains and how they can use the domains has a positive effect for Internet users by minimising abuse and confusion. Significantly, no domain name abuse or domain name infringements have occurred within dotBrand and highly-restricted registries, something that should not be overlooked or disregarded as a measure of success for New gTLDs.

This "zero-abuse” is an important factor for the domain industry as it moves into an active GDPR environment in May 2018. Concerns raised by governments, law enforcement, intellectual property protectors and security organisations, in the context of investigating and responding to domain abuse and infringements, become irrelevant where a registry operates without any abuse.

Quality not quantity
Domain names have long been treated as a commodity, providing low-cost and low-risk opportunities for acquiring domain names, absent of any need for a purpose or intention of use. Whilst many domains exist in legacy TLDs and ccTLDs are registered for a valid purpose and intent, they share rent with thousands of other domains that are registered with the desire to mislead, confuse or defraud Internet users. In response to these negative behaviours, volumes of domains have expanded, unsurprisingly, for protective purposes to counter trademark infringements and abuse across gTLD and ccTLD extensions.

Volume, therefore, is not necessarily a reasonable measure of success. Context and the scope of use is also an important factor.

A registry operated as a dotBrand may have a handful of domains registered but these could support a global organisation’s online business, communications and much more, serving millions of Internet users. A highly-restricted registry, such as .bank, may have a few hundred registrations, with verified registrants and stringent security controls associated with using a their .bank domains. Both examples are of registries that have a sense of purpose, a backbone, that ultimately provides safe and trusted environments for online users. They do not need high volumes of domain names to provide these benefits or to sustain their registry.

Long-term aims, not short-term gains
These successes highlighted in the cross-community session should not be a surprise, the intention of the New gTLD Program was to promote choice, competition and innovation. We are now witnessing the positive effect of these new registries that are performing effectively and with a sense of purpose. This is not by accident, but derived from long-term strategies and delivered with enthusiasm and commitment of these registry operators.

Regrettably, we often hear of complaints of the New gTLD program being slow to gain traction. But this ignores the introduction of different models, models that have different ambitions than simply replicating what we have seen before, models that compete in different ways, models that safeguard Internet users (not just registrants) and models that will unlock further innovation in the DNS.

Next opportunity for New gTLDs
Despite the promise of launching “subsequent gTLD application rounds as quickly as possible” after the 2012 round was launched and “within one year of the close of the application submission period”, there is no clear indication from ICANN when the next opportunity to apply will begin, with six years having already passed.

Organisations that did not apply in 2012 in the anticipation that they could apply 12-24 months after, have been misled by ICANN’s intent. Before risking further loss of faith from prospective applicants, ICANN should set a deadline for the next application window to start. ICANN should be more proactive in meeting its commitments and allow new applications to commence within a reasonable published timeframe.

Notwithstanding the incredible efforts of the community to conduct New gTLD reviews and policy improvement programs, six years is already a significant and embarrassing gap between application rounds, a gap that continues to grow. No doubt there are some complex issues involved, derived from the experiences of the 2012 round. However, for the majority of applications there were few or no issues, or those issues were resolved as part of the post-application process and prior to delegation. On this basis, it should be reasonable for ICANN to move forward and prepare for a new application round.

Even if ICANN limited the next round to certain types of applicants this would help ICANN to continue to promote choice, competition and innovation, following the years of delay. The criteria could, for example, be limited to the types of registries considered to be low in risk of domain abuse and infringements, thereby safeguarding users. In other words, these types of registries could be regarded as “in the public interest”.

However ICANN chooses to progress to the next round, the application window needs to be sooner rather than later. The demand exists but may wane if ICANN does not deliver on its commitment.

ICANN Budget & Reserves
Recognising the years of work that have already been consumed in relation to New gTLD reviews and policy development, it was alarming to hear that the ICANN budget drafted for FY19 was absent of any funding to support preliminary implementation work for the next application window, even though the GNSO Subsequent Procedures PDP work should be completed before the financial year concludes.

This oversight may have been caused by the budget constraints in response to runaway costs over the preceding few years that has affected the level of reserves, but it is also short-sighted. With demand for more TLDs, ICANN could drive forward the next application window in a reasonable timeframe, providing new revenue streams to support the organisation longer term. At the very least, this should be signalled by ICANN by way of anticipating implementation work to begin during FY19, along with a suitable budget.

A positive reflection, time to do more
The Brand Registry Group (BRG) hopes that you and your Board colleagues are encouraged by the examples of different New gTLD operators that were presented during the ICANN 61 crosscommunity session, and acknowledge their different perspectives of success. It is important that the Board is aware of these different models and how they can have a positive influence on the domain industry.

We also hope the Board can leverage these use cases and their benefits to be more confident in driving forward with the next application round. The continuing absence of a target date strongly indicates a lack of commitment and confidence from the Board to deliver against the intention of the Applicant Guidebook. To this point, the BRG would encourage the Board to take the initiative and set a target date for the community and potential applicants to work towards.

The BRG is aware of and continues to participate within various policy development activities to help improve the application process in future. We also appreciate that the next round requires planning and implementation work that will, in part, be directed or influenced by the outcome of these community work activities. Nevertheless, this should not prevent ICANN from planning and developing the implementation work based on previous practical experience, input from the community during the GNSO PDP Subsequent Procedures PDP, and, where necessary, predicting the likely outcome of these discussions. This should be supported with appropriate resources and budget and commence at the earliest opportunity.

The time to do more is long overdue."

Read the letter (PDF download)

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