Posts Tagged ‘Vertical Integration’

Vertical Integration for New gTLD Applicants… TICK!

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

By Tony Kirsch

In a major announcement hot off the ICANN Press, the Board has voted to eliminate all restrictions on the cross ownership of New gTLDs by Registrars. In a major surprise for many industry participants, this decision is a significant decision by the Board and will undoubtedly be a hot topic at the next ICANN Conference in Cartagena in December.

So what does this mean?

Under present policy, there has been clear separation between the Registry and the Registrar function for current TLDs such as .com and .info, effectively separating the retail and wholesale components of the Domain Name industry for the benefit of end users.

However, the outcome of today’s decision for new gTLD applicants means that Registrars will be allowed to apply for and operate their own TLDs as well as retail Domain Names within it to the end user, thus changing the industry forever!.

The positive of this resolution is that it is highly likely that we will see the adoption and growth of smaller, more boutique TLDs championed to market by their Registrar owners.  For many industry participants, anything that promotes the success of the new gTLD program and the reduced risk of Registry failure can only be seen as a good thing.

The Board appears to have provided resolutions in the recent release to overcome concerns that Registrars may be in a position to abuse data they may obtain as the retailer but we await further information regarding these specific policies that will appear in the upcoming Applicant Guidebook (version 5) due in the very near future.

The Applicant Guidebook will, as usual, be heavily scrutinised by industry participants and governments as we continue to push towards the final stages of the new gTLD program and public discussion in Cartagena.

Watch this space for more updates as more information on the new Applicant Guidebook comes to light….

We’ve rounded the final turn!

Monday, November 1st, 2010

By Michael Twist

It’s the week of one of the world’s most famous horse races here in Australia – the Melbourne Cup, or the “race that stops a nation” as it is affectionately known.

So, to use a horse racing analogy in relation to the recently distributed outcomes of the ICANN board meeting on October 28th,  it seems like we have “rounded the final turn and we are sprinting for home” with respect to the new gTLD program.

For those of us who have been following the new gTLD program for over 5 years,  these latest Board resolutions are certainly exciting, but in true ICANN style they have still left us wondering on some poignant issues!

Recent whispers coming from inside ICANN lately have been that the board is committed to commencing the new gTLD application period in the first half of 2011. The latest board meeting has confirmed this with a proposed application period opening date of May 30th 2011.

The timeline for new gTLD applications looks as follows:

November 9th, 2010 – Final Applicant Guidebook will be released (this will be open for public comment for 30 days from that date).

December 9th, 2010 – Final Applicant Guidebook Public comment period will close.

December 10th, 2010 – Board will approve the Final Applicant Guidebook.

The Board will then take 30 days to update and make any final changes to the document.

January 10th, 2011 – Final Applicant Guidebook will be made public and a 4 month global communications campaign will take place.

May 30th, 2011 – Applications will open!

It has been a very long time coming to get to this stage in the program and it is a relief to see a plan set before us that provides some solid timelines to work with. Anyone involved in this program will know the extent of work that has gone into it and all who have been involved should be thanked for their diligent work in getting us here.

So what about vertical integration?

Well, I did say that ICANN left us wondering on one important issue…There has currently been no resolution on vertical integration however given the resolutions from this most recent board meeting, I am sure ICANN will put a stopwatch on themselves to ensure that come November 9th, the issue we have all been waiting for with bated breath will be well and truly resolved.

Is the New gTLD Program Approval Even a Chance for This Year?

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

By Tony Kirsch

As I noted in my recent comments, the recent resolutions from the Special Meeting of the ICANN Board held in Norway in late September left a few important new gTLD issues up in the air and created a little uncertainty in the marketplace.

In particular, the decision not to provide direct comment on the Board’s thoughts regarding the highly controversial topic of Vertical Integration, and the apparent need for the Board to appease the concerns of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), has been interpreted by many as a sign that the upcoming ICANN Meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, is unlikely to result in an acceptance of the Applicant Guidebook this year.

And perhaps this is justified—given the continual delays in finalising this program, it is natural for many to assume that these less than inspiring Board resolutions may result in yet another major delay.

However, whilst sign-off on the program is still not guaranteed to occur in December, a recent interesting post on the GNSO mailing list from ICANN’s Senior Vice President of Services, Kurt Pritz, suggests that the Special Meeting of the Board on 28th October may have outputs that will be of interest for those involved in the new gTLD program.

In his post, Pritz writes that there is an agenda item for new gTLDs to be discussed at the special meeting and that, within a week of that event, work on the next version of the Guidebook will be complete. He also comments that:

‘Those two events will indicate both a Board and staff intent on whether to propose the Guidebook version as final’

Pritz, who has admirably been ICANN Staff’s public face of the new gTLD program under enormous public pressure and scrutiny, doesn’t make comments flippantly. So what does this mean?

In my view, a decision by the Board to accept the next Staff version of the Applicant Guidebook as the ‘final’ version holds enormous importance for those that eagerly await the new gTLD program.

As noted earlier in the thread by Pritz, a relevant example could be the process by which ICANN Staff provide their budgets as ‘Proposed Final Budgets’ to the community and Board for discussion. These budgets are then either;

a) approved by the Board as submitted;

b) adjusted slightly and approved based upon public or Board comment or, if necessary;

c) sent back to ICANN staff for additional work and subsequent resubmission.

The distinction between a ‘draft budget’ and a ‘proposed final budget’ in this example is significant and noteworthy.

By submitting a ‘proposed final budget’, ICANN staff make their thoughts clear about the direction and likely acceptance of their proposal and suggest that the expectation is that it will be signed off pending any major alterations. Submission of a draft version clearly refers to a situation where at least one more version will be required.

Similarly, a decision to release the next version of the Applicant Guidebook to the public as the ‘Proposed Final Applicant Guidebook’ (and notably it is not called the Draft Applicant Guidebook Version 5 in the minutes from the Norway Board meeting)—will rightly be seen by many as a huge step towards finally getting this program up and running.

ICANN’s new gTLD Program makes some progress (…sort of)

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

By Tony Kirsch

True to form, the outcomes of the ICANN Board’s new gTLD Retreat in Norway late last week haven’t exactly provided the community with huge amounts of confidence in the fact that the new gTLD program will be finalised this year. But when you read between the lines, we may be able to provide supporters of the program with a little hope…

Firstly, I am personally of the opinion that the Board genuinely wants this program to get moving and credit should be given to them in balancing such a complex range of viewpoints and interests. Clearly, dedicating their time during this retreat to this topic indicates a willingness to work through the challenges that have been presented thus far.

Furthermore, given that the focus of this latest meeting was almost solely on the remaining key new gTLD issues it is promising that although we didn’t receive the answers we had hoped for, we did receive some clarification and for the first time in some time – no new questions!

In the resolutions, the Board stated that progress had been made and additional papers as well as a modified applicant guidebook had been requested for public review. These documents are scheduled to be released prior to the 39th ICANN International public meeting in Cartagena this December.

Disappointingly, the major issue of Vertical Integration was presented to the board and little progress was made in this area. It is common knowledge across the industry that the Vertical Integration Working Group, despite their best efforts, is unlikely to provide a consensus position and for the Board to ask the GNSO for a letter stating this clearly seems to be more procedural rather than common sense. The Board noted in the minutes today, that if such a letter is not received then the Board will interpret this as a lack of consensus and make the final decision regarding VI itself. (I think there were a few people expecting that from this meeting!)

One may be critical of the Board’s decision to not provide financial support for applicants from less fortunate locations in their decision to stick with a one size fits all approach for gTLD application pricing. However, given the cost of actually running a gTLD Registry, I have long considered that providing discounted application pricing in most cases was not really the best path forward and support the Board’s decision to provide assistance around education and encouragement for eligible applicants rather than financial assistance.

The Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) has again weighed into the discussion at the last minute with last week’s letter (delivered aptly the day before the Board’s meeting) providing a few key considerations which have apparently worked into the Board’s thinking.

When looking at the logistics of root zone scaling (i.e. the number of new TLDs that can be added to the Root Zone in a year) the Board requested ICANN staff to create a model and a rationale to cover the maximum rate of applications that can be processed over the next few years (expected to be 1000 per year) along with a clear model for prioritising applications where the number of applications received by ICANN is above this limit. This goes a long way towards addressing the GACs position on prioritising certain types of applications in a ‘fast track’ type approach and also provides mechanisms to ensure that the program allows new TLDs into the root in a structured format.

Under some pressure from the GAC and also the IP lobby, the Board also provided direction and input into the issue of trademark protection. In particular, many will not be surprised to hear that the Board has requested clear description of the “substantive evaluation” as it relates to the Trademark Clearinghouse and the Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) mechanism which was shortened from 21 to 14 days as a sign of consideration with trademark holders who have long fought for tighter protection mechanisms through this program.

Finally, Morality and Public Order (MOPO) and the issues surrounding this were also touched on by the Board. They will accept any recommendations which are not inconsistent with the current process and will continue to work on ironing out issues for recommendations that are inconsistent with the current process.

The next Board meeting has been set for the 28th October and we can hope that this sees the release of the Applicant Guide book with enough time for public comment and any potential changes prior to Cartagena in December.

I think it’s fair to say that progress is continually being made on this very difficult and arduous process and we are still on track to see applications for new gTLDs open in the first half of 2011.

ICANN’s Tokyo meeting provides a little more clarity on the New gTLD Program.

Friday, August 27th, 2010

By Tony Kirsch

New gTLDs continue to be a major topic of discussion within ICANN circles, and the regional meeting currently underway in Tokyo has revealed some interesting updates for potential applicants.

ICANN’s Chief gTLD Registry Liaison, Craig Schwartz, delivered a great presentation on the progress being made behind the scenes at ICANN and provided the attendees with an insight into a couple of key changes that are likely to be seen in the Final Applicant Guidebook. As many of our readers would be aware, we have been waiting in anticipation for the new gTLD Final Applicant Guidebook to be approved at a previously unconfirmed meeting of the ICANN Board. The date for is meeting was today announced as 23rd-24th September.

Like many others in the industry, we’ll be actively watching for the outcomes of this Board retreat where the focus will be on the new gTLD program’s remaining unresolved issues. In particular, the Board’s willingness to address the complicated Vertical Integration topic (given the inability of the VI Working Group to reach consensus) will be of interest to the many applicants likely to be affected by the outcome.

On another interesting note, one very important topic that has been flying under the radar is Registry Transition, namely the current requirement for new gTLD applicants to provide both a backup Registry Services organisation and a financial instrument sufficient to guarantee a minimum of three years of Registry operations in the event of the TLD owner being unable to operate it.

Obtaining a backup Registry Services provider is not particularly difficult. However, for many potential applicants (in particular smaller community-based applicants) the requirement to obtain a letter of credit from a financial organisation is an enormous burden and a significant additional cost.

Acknowledging this today and noting that the protection of the Registrant is paramount to this process, Schwartz said that ICANN had invested significant time and will further expand the recent concept of Emergency Backend Registry Operator (and yet another acronym, EBERO) whereby qualified applicants (i.e. Existing Registry Operators) could tender to ICANN to provide ‘temporary’ Registry Services in the event of critical failure of the Registry Operator to operate the gTLD.

This is a great initiative and should be welcomed by the community for two key reasons:

a) It has the potential to remove the requirement to name a pre-organised backup Registry Service.

b) It has the potential to reduce the level of financial guarantee to ICANN from applicants.

Other interesting points worthy of note from yesterday’s session:

Communications Plan – This is being worked on by ICANN currently but won’t be rolled out until the Final Applicant Guidebook is approved, almost guaranteeing that the earliest date for applications will be March or April 2011

DAGv4 Summary of Analysis – This won’t be released to the public until after the Board’s retreat, which is a surprise given that the public comment finished quite some time ago

IDN ccTLD Fast Track – ICANN have 33 applicants, representing 22 languages, currently under review as this program continues to drive the expansion of the internet provide across the globe.

All in all, these small yet important pieces of information represent yet another positive step forward in the new gTLD process. I for one can’t wait to see what the next few months will bring.

Click here to see the presentations from the Tokyo meeting as provided by ICANN.

AusRegistry International to attend APTLD, AfTLD and ICANN Nairobi Meetings

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

By Jon Lawrence

Over the coming weeks, I will be attending a number of international conferences as we continue to work with our clients and share our knowledge with other industry experts.

Next week, the Annual Meeting of the Asia Pacific Top Level Domain Association (APTLD) in Kuala Lumpur will be our focus.  AusRegistry International has been a supporter of APTLD for some years now and I’m looking forward to meeting with and learning from ccTLD Managers from around the region.  As APTLD was a driving force behind ICANN’s decision to move forward with the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Program, and a number of countries from the region have already submitted applications for IDN ccTLDs in their local scripts, a large focus of the meeting will naturally be on the roll-out of these new IDN ccTLDs.  I will be among the presenters talking about the issues involved in getting a new ccTLD off the ground.

At the conclusion of the APTLD Meeting I will be travelling on to Nairobi for the African Top Level Domain Association (AfTLD) and ICANN Meetings being held there.  AusRegistry International became the first Associate Member of AfTLD in 2009 and I am looking forward to meeting ccTLD Managers from across the continent and continuing our work with the Association to promote capacity building and industry best practice.  Additionally, I will be sharing our knowledge on how to build and manage a successful TLD via a presentation to the group.

The ICANN Meeting in Nairobi following the AfTLD meeting also promises to be interesting with some very important topics such as the Expression of Interest and the issue of Vertical Integration between gTLD Registries and Registrars for new TLDs likely to attract significant attention from the community. Despite a likely lower attendance than at previous meetings due to security concerns, I still look forward to meeting with those who will be making the journey.

Similarly, the IDN Policy Development Process also continues and we look forward to hearing the latest update on this important policy work.

If you’re attending any of these meetings, and would like to arrange a meeting, please don’t hesitate to Contact Us.

APTLD Meeting – Kuala Lumpur, 1st & 2nd March 2010
AfTLD Meeting – Nairobi, 7th March 2010
ICANN Meeting 37 – Nairobi 7th to 12th March 2010

Registry/Registrar Separation: clarifying the mess!

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

By Tony Kirsch

Do you keep hearing about this Registry/Registrar Separation (or Vertical Integration) issue but really aren’t sure what it’s all about?

This post should help you to get a better understanding of the details of this saga which is one of the most controversial, yet still unresolved issues within the new gTLD program.

The outcome of this debate will have a large impact on the final shape of the gTLD program and there is much at stake for those involved.  In simple terms,  the two positions are as follows;

a)    Pro-integration – argues that the currently mandated separation between Registrars and Registries is outdated and unnecessary.

As a result, for example, VeriSign is prohibited from selling domain names in .com and .net to end users as they are the Registry provider, with similar restrictions in place across other gTLDs such as .biz, .org and .info.

The background to this model was the former monopoly position enjoyed by Network Solutions as both the Registry and sole Registrar for the .com, .net and .org TLDs (VeriSign acquired Network Solutions in 2000 and subsequently sold the brand and the Registrar business in 2003).

Desired outcome: Registry operators will be able to also act as a Registrar for domain names in their own gTLD

b)    Pro-separation – argues that, should Registries be able to also act as Registrars in their own TLD, the risk of them misusing data regarding consumer demand is too high. This would be data that, as a Registry and Registrar in a TLD, would only be available to that applicant and may provide competitive advantage.

Desire outcome: Maintain the status quo situation for new gTLDs. A Registry would be prevented from selling domain names in their own gTLD but could own other TLDs provided they did not retail them.

Of course, there are variations on these positions but these are the salient points being argued by the community.

There have been significant revisions of the proposed policies relating to this issue in various versions of the Draft Applicant Guidebook and the argument has effectively gone around in circles. In particular, the CRA International paper that seemed to provide options that would suit the majority of participants was accepted by ICANN staff as a path forward in Draft Guidebook version 2. However, this was removed due to public pressure in Draft Guidebook version 3 and ICANN staff have continued to leave this issue open for public comment and guidance.

At the request of the Generic Names Supporting Organisation (GNSO), ICANN staff provided an issues paper for public comment in mid-December 2009 addressing the topic of Vertical Integration.  The purpose of this paper was to assist the Council in deciding whether it was acceptable to move forward with new gTLDs without a full Policy Development Process (PDP) to find a consensus-based resolution to this issue.

Note – Policy Development Processes are undertaken by the Council to make a wide range of gTLD policies and have historically taken at least six and sometimes greater than 12 months to complete. Not great news for those who have been waiting for new gTLDs for quite some time already.

This issues paper effectively said that;

a)    given that any outcomes from a PDP would be unlikely to alter the contracts of the existing Registries such as .com, and

b)    given that the GNSO could effectively help with the planning of the new gTLD program,

that ICANN staff recommend that a PDP be delayed until after the first round of new gTLDs is completed to allow time for more data to be gathered and to facilitate a better understanding of the potential impacts of the options to be considered.

Recently, it appears that this recommendation has been ignored by the GNSO Council and that that the issue of Registry/Registrar Separation is heading towards a PDP. This gives rise to new concerns about potential further delays in the new gTLD program and compounds existing industry perception about ICANN’s ability to work through these issues with any level of expediency.

Simultaneously and perhaps even more confusingly, the ICANN Board have suggested that this will be a topic of conversation at the Nairobi Board meeting in March and in a release yesterday stated that they would be publishing for community comment a new registry-registrar separation model for inclusion in the next draft of the gTLD agreement, due in June.

Confused? You’re not alone.

At this stage all we can do is hope for a clear process from the Expression of Interest and trust that between the Board and/or the GNSO that we remain focused on moving forward to a decision on this ongoing issue as soon as possible.