2018-01-14

News Review | New gTLD .WEB, ICANN & Verisign, What's Next?

graphic "News Review" ©2016 DomainMondo.com
Domain Mondo's weekly internet domain news review (NR 2018-01-14) with analysis and opinion: Features • 1) New gTLD .WEB, ICANN & Verisign, What's Next? 2)Other ICANN news: a. GDPR & WHOIS - Data Protection & Privacy,
b. ICANN Board, c. Public Comment, d. ICANN disintermediation, 3) Names, Domains & Trademarks: a. Namecheap and eNom / Tucows $TCX, b. Afilias & ccTLD .PR, c. New China Law, 4) ICYMI Internet Domain News, 5) Most Read.

1) New gTLD .WEB, ICANN & Verisign, What's Next?
 .WEB has a long and troubled history (pdf) at ICANN as a proposed new generic top-level domain (new gTLD), and long before ICANN even came into existence in 1998, the term "web" was used by Tim Berners-Lee:
"In March 1989 Berners-Lee issued a proposal to the management at CERN for a system called "Mesh" that referenced ENQUIRE, a database and software project he had built in 1980, which used the term "web" and described a more elaborate information management system based on links embedded in readable text ..."--World Wide Web | Wikipedia.org
Verisign, Inc., is a publicly-held  (NASDAQ: VRSN market capitalization US$11.2 billion), U.S.-based back-end registry services provider (including two of the original seven gTLDs .EDU and the U.S. government's .GOV), as well as a registry operator, including two of the original seven legacy gTLDs .NET and the globally market dominant (pdf) .COM.

Verisign, legal successor to the original  Network Solutions, Inc., also operates 2 of the world's 13 authoritative name servers that serve the DNS root zone, and acts as Root Zone Maintainer pursuant to a contract with ICANN--previously by the terms of Verisign's Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. government (NTIA), which Cooperative Agreement continues in effect to control pricing of .COM domain names, Amendment 32 (pdf) and Amendment 34 (pdf), through Nov 30, 2018, and may be extended at NTIA's sole discretion. The dominance of .COM can be seen in this chart drawn from data in Verisign's latest Domain Name Brief:
World's 10 Largest Top-Level Domains (domain name registrations)
This week we received the answer to Question #10 on my 12 Questions for 2018"What will the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division do about .WEB, Verisign and ICANN?" 

Answer: nothing.  Future new gTLD .WEB registry operator Verisign $VRSN disclosed in a SEC filing, January 9, 2018, that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division's new gTLD .WEB investigation had closed (no action):
Verisign, Inc. Form 8-K, Jan 9, 2018, filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: "Item 7.01. Regulation FD Disclosure. As the Company [Verisign, Inc.] previously disclosed, on January 18, 2017, the Company received a Civil Investigative Demand from the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) requesting certain material related to the Company becoming the registry operator for the .web gTLD. On January 9, 2018, the DOJ notified the Company that this investigation was closed. Verisign previously announced on August 1, 2016, that it had provided funds for Nu Dot Co’s successful bid for the .web gTLD and the Company anticipates that Nu Dot Co will now seek to execute the .web Registry Agreement with ICANN and thereafter assign it to Verisign upon consent from ICANN." (emphasis and link added)
ICANN did not make any announcement this week about the DOJ investigation (nor new gTLD .WEB), but in its June, 2017, Executive Reports (p.11) (pdf), ICANN disclosed it had "produced an initial set of over 7000 pages" in response to the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division Civil Investigative Demand.

Question: Will ICANN and Verisign's .WEB assignor, Nu Dot Co, now proceed to execute the Registry Agreement for new gTLD .WEB?  

Answer: Not yet--as of Friday (Jan 12, 2018), ICANN is reporting for Nu Dot Co's application for .WEB:
  • Application Status: In Contracting
  • Evaluation Result: Pass IE (IE Report)
  • Contention Resolution Result: Prevailed Contention (Auction Report pdf)
Ruby Glen LLC (a Donuts Inc. affiliate) also has a pending appeal before the Ninth Circuit as a result of the District Court's dismissal of its lawsuit which had unsuccessfully sought an "injunction requiring ICANN to refrain from entering into a Registry Agreement with any party for the .WEB gTLD." The appeal will not stop ICANN from entering into a registry agreement with Nu Dot Co, consenting to the assignment to Verisign, and delegating .WEB.

Once the Contention Resolution "On Hold" Status noted above has been removed, expect things to move relatively quickly, unless an interested party takes further action to stop the process.

Afilias, the second-highest bidder for .WEB at the last resort ICANN auction, wrote two letters to ICANN in August (pdf) and September (pdf), 2016, to which ICANN responded (pdf), but Afilias has taken no further action publicly, except to voice its objections at two public forums at ICANN57 in November, 2016, to which Verisign responded at Public Forum 2--ICANN57 | Hyderabad – Public Forum 2 transcript, pp. 32-33 of 93 (pdf) Nov 8, 2016--
PAT KANE: "Good morning. Pat Kane with VeriSign. At the open forum on Saturday afternoon, Jonathan Robinson came to the mic and on behalf of Afilias leadership wanted to talk about the .WEB allocation. Jonathan's comments were a summarized statement based upon a blog that he had produced  earlier and a two-page document being circulated here at ICANN57 entitled ".WEB, ICANN's first test of accountability." The leadership of Afilias does a disservice to this board and the community by making this issue a referendum on the community, on the board, on ICANN, and the empowered -- and the people that made that happen to include Jonathan's award recognized efforts. Afilias -- while Afilias frames its false allegations against Nu Dot Co and VeriSign as a test of ICANN's new role as an independent manager of the Internet's addressing system. It is nothing more than a tactic to attempt to overturn legitimate auction results and be awarded the right to operate a public asset at less than market value or worse, pushing ICANN auction proceeds now earmarked for the public benefit into their own pockets or the other applicants through a new private auction. We are all self-interested businesses, Nu Dot Co, VeriSign, Donuts, Afilias, and the other applicants for .WEB. We've all taken different approaches. And from what I can tell, we believe that we have followed the guidelines set forth in the applicant guidebook. But this is not a test for the board. This issue is not a test for the newly empowered community. It is a test of our ability to utilize the processes and the tools that we've developed over the past 20 years for dispute resolution. The facts are the facts, and the validity of those facts will be determined by courts of law and through IRPs. What I ask you, the board and the community, is to allow the processes that we have in place to work through to their natural conclusion without undue lobbying or interference from any self-interested party. Thank you." (emphasis and link added)
Stay tuned!

2) Other ICANN News:
ICANN Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
a. GDPR & WHOIS: Data Protection and Privacy Update: Seeking Community Feedback on Proposed Compliance Models | ICANN.org: "provide your feedback by 29 January 2018. Please send your feedback to gdpr @ icann.org."
See also: Potential Data Exposure in ICANN RFP System Resolved | ICANN.org and Letter from Manal Ismail to Göran Marby | ICANN.org: Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) Chair's letter to ICANN President & CEO Göran Marby. Issue: WHOIS compliance with GDPR. Letterismail-to-marby-17dec17-en.pdf [78.6 KB].

b. ICANN Board: Nominating Committee Review: Assessment Report Released and Forthcoming Webinar Jan 18 | ICANN.org. See also "The four questions to ask when serving on a nonprofit board: 'Question 1: Are we succumbing to mission creep?'"--McKinsey.com.

c. Public Comment Period Extended: Operating Standards for ICANN's Specific Reviews | ICANN.org: deadline to submit comments extended until Friday 2 February 23:59 UTC. Also note this does not affect the comment periods ending January 14-15.

d. ICANN and 'contracted parties' disintermediated? See Tech Review | Ethereum Co-Founder: The Future Decentralized Web (video).

3) Names, Domains & Trademarks
graphic "Names, Domains & Trademarks" ©2017 DomainMondo.com
a. Namecheap and eNom / Tucows: ICANN-accredited registrar Namecheap.com (which formerly was a reseller of registrar eNom), successfully migrated millions of its registrants' .COM & .NET domain names this past week from Enom (enom.com), a subsidiary of Tucows $TCX (tucows.com), to Namecheap: "This is a goal that we’ve been working towards for many years, and we’re delighted to finally be able to achieve this"--Namecheap.com.

Namecheap not only had to resort to legal action to get this done, but now thisTucows (TCX) Alert: Johnson Fistel Announces Investigation of Tucows Inc.; Encourages Investors to Contact the Firm for Additional Information | prnewswire.com"On January 8, 2018, Copperfield Research issued a report stating that Tucows failed to disclose a lawsuit "that should imminently result in the loss of 11% of the Company's revenue producing domains; nine insiders who sold $21 million of stock while hiding the fact its eNom subsidiary was being sued by its largest partner for breach of contract; and a laundry list of accounting shenanigans and financial irregularities." (emphasis added) Read more at the link above.

The above allegations might explain why Tucows $TCX shares are down over 24% (updated Jan 16):
 $TCX
See also:

b. Just in Time for ICANN61 in San Juan, Puerto Rico: 
Afilias selected to provide Registry Services for .PR ccTLD | Afilias.info".PR is unrestricted, so it’s a natural address for Public Relations agencies and practitioners worldwide. Of course, it’s also great for those doing business in Puerto Rico." [Editor's note: Afilias is "on a roll" after being selected as registry services provider for Australia's ccTLD .au (replacing .au's former service provider, Neustar subsidiary AusRegistry)].

c. China’s new Anti-unfair Competition Law | Lexology.com: "affords protection to ...  domain names, website names and web pages."

4) ICYMI Internet Domain News 
graphic "ICYMI Internet Domain News" ©2017 DomainMondo.com
Internet Freedom and Free Speech:
•  2017 was the worst year ever for internet freedom in India | qz.com: "The world’s largest democracy has shut down the internet 124 times since 2012—over half of them in 2017 alone."

•  Iran's Women Need The Internet Right Now,  And You Can (Really) Help | forbes.com: via nonprofit NetFreedomPioneers.org (NFP) and Toosheh.org, a free program that lets users download resources via satellite.

•  Top-selling German newspaper says new online hate speech law must be scrapped | Reuters.com

•  Governments and Corporations Escalate Internet Censorship and Attacks on Free Speech | GlobalResearch.ca

• Net Neutrality: FCC Releases 'Restoring Internet Freedom' Order | Federal Communications Commission | fcc.gov  and The Internet Association, a trade group which represents Silicon Valley tech companies, including Google parent Alphabet Inc., and Facebook Inc., will join an expected lawsuit against a decision to roll back net neutrality rules.--Reuters.com

• Data Sovereignty: The PRC Cybersecurity Law and its impact on the insurance sector | Lexology.com: "Currently, there are draft regulations dealing with the data sovereignty requirement that are expected to come into force in 2018."

5) Most read posts (# of pageviews Sun-Sat) this past week on DomainMondo.com: 
1. News Review | Reply Brief: Ruby Glen vs ICANN (new gTLD .WEB)
2. 2018 Forecasts: From US-China Trade War to Chaos in the Mideast (video)
3. How C3 IoT Capitalizes on AI & IoT Enterprise Digital Transformation (video)
4. Tech Review | Ethereum Co-Founder: The Future Decentralized Web (video)
5. Brexit Impact: London IPO Market Attractive & Amplitude Capital Staying 

-- John Poole, Editor, Domain Mondo 

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