2016-05-15

News Review: IANA, ICANN, New gTLDs .AFRICA, .AMAZON, .BLOG

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Domain Mondo's review of the past week and look ahead [pdf here]:

 POLITICO.com has reported a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on "the U.S. handover of oversight of some Internet operations — the so-called IANA transition" is now tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, May 24th, and NTIA, "the branch of the Commerce Department tasked with making a final decision on approving the handover, has said it’s aiming to give a thumbs up or down by the second week of June." 

•  Comments close this coming week at ICANN on two issues:
1. Draft Report: New gTLD Program Safeguards to Mitigate DNS Abuse: comments close 20 May 2016 at 23:59 UTC (extended from May 13, 2016). Read all comments here. My comment of May 13th, is also posted on Domain MondoDomain Names, New gTLDs, DNS Abuse, ICANN as Chief Abuser"Why New gTLDs + IANA Transition May Be The Undoing of ICANN"
2. Draft of New ICANN Bylaws: comments close 21 May 2016 23:59 UTC"Adoption of the new Bylaws by the ICANN Board is anticipated for on or around 27 May 2016. Once new ICANN Bylaws have been adopted, ICANN will notify NTIA so they can complete their anticipated 90-day review of the IANA Stewardship Transition Proposal"--ICANN. Review all comments submitted here. Note that three groups involved in the IANA transition--the ICG, the CCWG-Accountability, and IAB (Internet Architecture Board)--have already submitted comments, essentially telling the drafters to remove provisions in the draft inconsistent with the IANA transition plans. Part of the problem is the drafting bylaws process, as explained in the CCWG-Accountability comment: "Given the necessary complexity of the Draft Bylaws and the short timeframes we are working under, the CCWG participants were unable to conduct a thorough review prior to publication for public consultation." (emphasis added)
• In the IANA stewardship transition at ICANN, a lot of implementation work remains yet to be completed--see ICANN's own update here--below is ICANN's graphic of progress thus far:
ICANN: IANA Stewardship Transition Planning Update (Vol.2), 10 May 2016
A good example of all the details involved is IANA CWG Meeting #79 (12 May 2016) and the slide presentation (pdf) from that meeting. 

•  ICANN budget: ICANN held community calls on the Draft ICANN FY17 Operating Plan and Budget. Some interesting comments were submitted by various stakeholders, including:
"Similar to what we communicated in our comments a year ago for the Draft FY16 Operating Plan &Budget, we again are concerned that planned expenses are growing too fast and faster than planned revenue. In particular, revenue is forecasted to grow by $11.6M (9.6%) while expenses are projected to grow by $17.8M (16.3%). We appreciate the fact that planned expenses balance planned revenue but we would suggest that continuing to simply spend all of increased revenue is not the only option; because gTLD registries, registrars and registrants fund well over 95% of ICANN’s revenue, reducing gTLD fees should be considered as well."--gTLD Registries Stakeholder Group (RySG) (emphasis added)

 .AFRICA UPDATE: ICANN has appealed the U.S. District Court's Order granting a Preliminary Injunction in the DCA (DotConnectAfrica) Trust vs ICANN and ZACR litigation over new gTLD .AFRICA. In the District Court, ICANN has allowed ZACR to take the lead, and ZACR has filed a Motion to Reconsider and Vacate the Preliminary Injunction Order (which DCA Trust won), with a hearing date of June 6, 2016, in the U.S. District Court at Los Angeles. ICANN has joined (pdf) in ZACR's motion. Copies of the pleadings and other documents may be reviewed on the ICANN website hereUPDATE June 16, 2016New gTLD AFRICA Litigation: Defendant ZACR Dismissed as a Party.

  .AMAZON: I recently read ICANN's 25-page Response (pdf) to the IRP filed by Amazon (Amazon EU S.à.r.l.), concerning Amazon's 3 new gTLD applications: .AMAZON and its equivalent in Chinese and Japanese characters. The ICANN response together with the witness statement of Akram Atallah (pdf) and Exhibits R-1 to R-38 (pdf), provide a good history of the new gTLDs program, the particulars of Amazon's applications, and the powers granted to the GAC (Governmental Advisory Committee) in the new gTLDs program Guidebook, which itself went through a long development process at ICANN:
Source: ICANN witness statement of Akram Atallah, page 4. filed in Amazon IRP 
Money quote from ICANN's response (pp. 2-3):
While it is understandable that Amazon, faced with “injur[y to its] business model,” continues to pursue its Applications through the Independent Review Process, Amazon’s arguments should be rejected because:
a. In highlighting the fact that its Applications passed the reviews for geographic names and community objections, Amazon wrongly deprecates the GAC’s separate role in raising governmental concerns about applications. Those concerns led to GAC consensus advice against the Applications, which the ICANN Board evaluated and ultimately accepted. This meant that Amazon’s Applications could not proceed, even though they passed other parts of the evaluation.
b. Despite Amazon’s claims that ICANN bowed to “political pressure” from Brazil and Peru and “abdicated its independent decision-making role,” the record shows that ICANN’s NGPC [New gTLD Program Committee] independently investigated the circumstances, considered extensive arguments made by Amazon, and even commissioned an independent legal expert to advise whether denial of Amazon’s Applications was inconsistent with international law – the primary legal contention Amazon was then making. The NGPC was careful, thorough, neutral, and objective in its decision to accept the GAC consensus advice. (emphasis added) 
Of course, at that same time, ICANN was also deeply involved with Brazil in the NETmundial meeting (conflicts of interest are systemic within ICANN). The NGPC decision and further background information on .AMAZON may be reviewed here. "Governmental concerns" obviously won the day at ICANN on the Amazon new gTLDs. It is conceivable this IRP could lead to more litigation (see .AFRICA above) in the U.S. judicial system, since both Amazon and ICANN have "deep pockets," and ICANN is on shaky ground in blocking Amazon from using its own trademark as a new gTLD:
"[ICANN has] continued to deny Amazon the dot Amazon top level domain, claiming it is somehow a geographical indicator. Now that’s just not true, it’s not a geographic indication, and there is no law that I’m aware of in my 22 years of practice that supports that conclusion." --J Scott Evans, trademark attorney and former INTA President
•  .BLOG: It was reported this week that Automattic (domain: automattic.com), owner of Wordpress and WooCommerce, "is actively asking businesses having the word ‘woo’ in their domain name to change the domain name" according to WPMayor.com.  Wonder if Automattic will now try the same tactic with the word 'blog,' which is also their new gTLD (pdf)? Read more: The creator of WordPress on why .blog was worth $19 million | VentureBeat.com. $19 million? It was originally reported that the sales price was $30 million. But that must have been just more new gTLDs hype. In any event, it will be interesting to see what happens to .BLOG. It has the right operator, is only 4 characters, and is a recognizable term and category. Negatives are that the word 'blog' is in decline, as is 'web'--so sayeth Google--
Google Trends - Web Search interest: com, web, blog, net, app - Worldwide, 2004 - present
•  ICANN FY15 Form 990 Announcement May 13, 2016: "ICANN's FY15 Form 990 [PDF, 5.51 MB], as well as the restatements for FY14 Form 990 [PDF, 5.60 MB] and FY13 Form 990 [PDF, 5.06 MB], are now posted and are available to the community." Note FY15 Lobbying expenditures: "The organization [ICANN] utilized the services of a staff registered lobbyist and three government affairs firms during the year ended June 30, 2015, for a cost of $620,997."

•  GoodbyeICANN Announces Senior Leader Transitions"The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) today announced its Chief Contract Compliance Officer, Allen R. Grogan, and Nora Abusitta, Senior Vice President of Development and Public Responsibility Programs (DPRD), have notified the organization of their intent to leave ICANN later this year. Grogan will transition to a part-time role beginning 1 August 2016 and continue to oversee Contractual Compliance and Consumer Safeguards until his departure at the end of December 2016. Abusitta will remain in her current capacity until 1 June 2016, followed by a short part-time engagement period ..."  As Chief Contract Compliance Officer, Grogan has been criticized by ICANN stakeholders, with one stating, "The Compliance department of ICANN is an unmitigated disaster when it comes to earning the consumer trust." Grogan was reportedly one of several cronies ex-CEO Fadi Chehade hired during Chehade's short tenure (3½ years) at ICANN. The global internet community can only hope that all of Chehade's cronies at ICANN follow Grogan's lead out the door.

•  This week in tech:
1. Google I/O 2016, May 18-20, in Mountain View, California. Keynote speaker: Sundar Pichai, Google CEO. What to look for: Google IO: Positioning Android To Disrupt The PC Industry | Seeking Alpha.com: "This year's Google IO developer conference ... could be a watershed event for Android. I expect it to provide confirmation of Google's intentions for Android as a converged mobile personal computing platform that will disrupt the traditional PC platforms of Microsoft and Apple ..." See also: What to Expect From Google I/O 2016 | Gizmodo.com.
2. The Best Thing That Could Happen to Yahoo: Reuters and Recode have reported Warren Buffett has offered a consortium led by Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, financing in the form of a preferred instrument, similar to those he did with Goldman Sachs and General Electric, to buy Yahoo assets. Read more: Top ex-Yahoos are advising a Buffett-financed group in a bid for the company | Recode.net.

•  Q1 2016 Earnings Season for stocks covered on Domain Mondo, has now ended. The "Q1 2016 Earnings Season Scorecard" will be an upcoming post this week.

•  Five most popular posts (# of pageviews Sun-Sat) this week on DomainMondo.com:
 Other Reading Recommendations, some with a tease of content or my commentary:
  1. Outside ICANN's Mission & Scope? Berkeley names iCANN as next cannabis dispensary | Berkeleyside.com. 
  2. Facebook Likes CensorshipFormer Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News | gizmodo.com: "In other words, Facebook’s news section operates like a traditional newsroom, reflecting the biases of its workers and the institutional imperatives of the corporation." See also: Senate GOP Launches Inquiry Into Facebook’s News Curation | gizmodo.com and Leaked documents show human editors shape Facebook’s trending news | TheHill.com.
  3. Amazon Video Direct Takes On YouTube - Variety.comWith the launch of Amazon Video Direct (videodirect.amazon.com), open to any video creator, the e-commerce giant will compete head-to-head with Google’s YouTube.com for video-ad dollars and views as well as other big Internet video distributors like Facebook.com and Vimeo.com.
  4. TrendiPhone Sales Are Down ... Flipping for 'Dumb' Phones.| NBCnews.com: America bought 24 million "dumb" phones last year, an increase of 1.7 million from 2014, according to a recent study by research firm IDC ... Rihanna, Scarlett Johansson, and Iggy Pop have all been spotted clutching clamshells ... It's much easier to talk on, it holds a charge for days, and costs a fraction of what you'd pay for a smartphone. There's no need to worry about hacking ... "People are tired of having the same smartphone as everyone else," said Maxime Chanson of Lekki.fr a website that sells vintage mobile phones to a high-end clientele. "Some people have had enough of the ultra connectivity of the 21st century and are looking for a phone that gives them some space for their private life, without being constantly interrupted."
  5. If you think "professionals" or "experts," or even you, can consistently beat the markets, read this: Defeated managers, in assets globally | The Big Picture / ritholtz.com.
  6. Prepare for the worstThe Coming War of Central Banks | WashingtonsBlog.com"Nations such as China are boxed into a lose-lose choice ... The Fed is boxed in, too: if the Fed can’t raise rates after seven years of “growth,” then its credibility suffers. If it raises rates, that accelerates the capital flow into USD and the U.S., pushing the dollar higher, which then triggers mayhem in China, emerging markets, commodity markets ... "
  7. IoT anyone? France’s SigFox will expand its dedicated IoT network to 100 U.S. cities | TechCrunch.com"The U.S. is a huge growth market for Internet of Things connectivity." See also: Salesforce.com to build IoT cloud on Amazon Web Services | ZDNet.com
  8. Snowden's LegacyTwitter Bars Intelligence Agencies From Using Analytics Service | WSJ.com"Social media firm cuts access to Dataminr, a service used to identify unfolding terror attacks, political unrest ... the latest example of tension between Silicon Valley and the federal government over terrorism and privacy."
  9. Google - FTC AntitrustSources: Feds taking second look at Google search | POLITICO.com. See also Android legal troubles hit Google | SeekingAlpha.com.
  10. Election 2016 Update: Trump Is A Metal Band | Lefsetz.com May 9, 2016: "... That’s what Donald Trump is, a disruptor. As is Bernie Sanders ... To see the press and the Congress and everybody who paid their dues under the old paradigm freak is incredibly satisfying ... Trump is more real than Hillary Clinton ..." and Bernie Wins Again! (West Virginia)| Lefsetz.com"... this looks very bad for Hillary Clinton. And if you think attacking the Donald will win you the election, you’ve got no understanding of a populace scorned ..." and DoubleLine Capital CEO (a/k/a the "Bond King") Jeff Gundlach Bashes Hillary Clinton | ZeroHedge.com"Donald Trump will win ... Trump has been underestimated for months, but he is the better campaigner ..." "People are going to start putting greater focus on Hillary (Clinton). Voters are going to say, 'No. I don't want this,'" he told Reuters. "Hillary is going to evolve into an unacceptable choice. If she is such a great candidate, how come (Bernie Sanders) is beating her?"
Have a great week!

-- John Poole, Editor, Domain Mondo



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