2017-07-09

News Review: ICANN's Extortionate .BRAND Scam Failing

News Review | ©2016 DomainMondo.com
Domain Mondo's weekly internet domain news review (NR 2017-07-09), with analysis and opinion:  Features •  1) ICANN's Extortionate .BRAND Scam Failing,  2)ICANN Collaborates with Moscow-Based PIR Center, 3) How Phony Are New gTLDs' Stats? 4) Most Read Posts This Past Week on Domain Mondo.

1) ICANN's Extortionate .BRAND Scam Failing
"ICANN is just a scam and the entire industry is based on monopolistic fraud with DC payoffs."--Mike Mann, domain name registrant, March 30, 2017.
ICANN's new gTLDs program, an "ill-conceived clusterf*ck" driven by greed, incompetence, cronyism, and conflicts of interest, grossly over-expanded the internet's generic top-level domains (gTLDs) from just 22 to over 1200 beginning in 2014. One of the key parts of the new ICANN program opening in 2012 was the ability of corporations to apply to control their very own "piece of the internet" (gTLD) by applying to use their own trademark(s) or brand name(s), e.g., .BARCLAYS, .BMW, .BNPPARIBAS (that's not a misspell), etc., as a new gTLD, something completely counter to the historic principles of the internet (see RFC 1591) as well as ICANN's (and the U.S. government's) position in the recent Weinstein case that TLDs are not property but global public resources. In addition, the .BRAND program has been criticized as contributing to the decline of the free and open internet by encouraging silos of TLDs controlled by profit-making enterprises who also control internet access and have no hesitancy in limiting access to only certain domains if not restrained by governments. Trademarks and corporations exist (and are limited) by virtue of sovereign laws. Some have said ICANN's unbounded desire to serve as the lap dog of a few big corporations in its capacity as the world's supranational policy-making authority and "coordinator" of the global internet DNS, led to the creation of .BRAND gTLDs. Finally, lawyers tell me there are also huge risks in making a trademark a generic top-level domain--ever hear of genericide? Which is why I guess some trademark lawyer wanted to change the word "generic" to "global" in GNSO at ICANN59.

Notwithstanding the above, ICANN proceeded to open the new gTLDs program in 2012 to this new sub-category of generic top-level domains (gTLDs), and by ICANN's standards, it was a big success--a total of 664 brands (34% of all applications) were conned into submitting applications to ICANN--although most applications were, and still are, purely "defensive." Read the U.S. Senate testimony (pdf) of Dawn Grove, corporate counsel for the parent of the manufacturer of  PING golf equipment. ICANN knows no shame.  

One complete list (updated as of 25 Jan 2017) of all the "dot BRAND" applications and their status is here. A review of that list indicates that the main beneficiaries (besides ICANN) of ICANN's dot BRAND program are principally just three companies which provide the bulk of the .BRAND back-end registry services): Afilias (whose Executive Chairman Jonathan Robinson became GNSO Council Chair in 2012, and whose CTO Ram Mohan has been on the ICANN Board since 2008); Verisign (which is also registry operator of .COM and .NET); and Neustar (note that ARI Registry Services is now owned by Neustar). ICANN Board member Becky Burr (2016-2019), a Washington, D.C., "revolving door lawyer" (Burr used to work for the U.S. Department of Commerce (NTIA) and FTC), has been employed by Neustar since 2012. In addition, the current GNSO Council Vice Chair Donna Austin, a former ICANN employee, works for Neustar.

Of course there are others--ICANN thrives on greed and conflicts of interest--including a menagerie of brand consultants, strategists (e.g., here and here), as well as an assortment of hucksters, lawyers, charlatans, and snake oil salesmen who thought they would get filthy rich off all the big "dumb" rich trademark holders who were told they must pay to defensively register their trademark as an ICANN .BRAND TLD or risk losing their "brand name" and trademark on the internet to other claimants. ICANN charged an initial $185,000 "shakedown" fee per brand name upfront, plus periodic fees thereafter for the "privilege" of operating the .BRAND TLD. Of course, that may be just a drop in the bucket compared to the fees charged by the consultants, lawyers, back end registry service providers, and others, including the aforesaid charlatans.

Despite the best efforts of ICANN, its "partners" Afilias, Verisign, Neustar, et al, and the menagerie of other hucksters, the dot BRAND program is failing with well-known global brand McDonald's recently throwing in the towel on their .MCD (pdf) and .MCDONALDS new gTLDs:


McDonald's back end registry services had been provided by Neustar. McDonald's had also been a client of Fairwinds Partners.  I guess greed and conflicts of interest have their limits.

2)  ICANN Collaborates with Moscow-Based PIR Center to Present a Collection of Articles on Cyberspace | ICANN.org. See also: PIRcenter.org: Global Internet Governance and Cyber Security: As Viewed by Russian Experts.

3) How Phony Are The Stats on New gTLDs' Domain Name Registrations? Nobody really knows. ICANN is too inept to collect and publish the true data. Update July 13, 2017: 
New gTLD registrations via ntldstats.com
Above data courtesy ntldstats.com July 13, 2017: if the "millions" of new gTLD domain names 'owned' by registry operators were NOT shown above (see second tweet below), how much worse would the actual situation be? ICANN doesn't want to know and doesn't want YOU to know.


4) Most read posts (# of pageviews Sun-Sat) this past week on DomainMondo.com: 
1. News Review: ICANN59 Report; .NET Greed: ICANN + Verisign $VRSN
2. a16z VC Marc Andreessen On Tech Valuations and More (podcast)
3. Mobile Economy: Anindya Ghose Says Life Getting Even Faster With Tech 
4.  G20 Summit, July 7-8: A Push For More Restrictions on Internet Freedom?

-- John Poole, Editor, Domain Mondo 

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