Archive for November, 2010

Russia’s Cyrillic IDN ccTLD blasts off through the 500K mark in under a week

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

By Jon Lawrence

Since last Thursday’s launch of Russia’s Cyrillic script IDN ccTLD, registration volumes have smashed all expectations, much like a Soyuz rocket blasting off into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

At the time of writing (14:00 17/11/2010 UTC), .рф, which is Cyrillic for RF (short for Российская Федерация – Russian Federation) has just exceeded 500,000 registrations, having passed the 100,000 mark in the first three hours. It is already among the top 30 ccTLDs worldwide and heading towards the top 20 at high speed. Andrei Kolesnikov, Director of ccTLD.ru, the organisation that manages both .рф and Russia’s ASCII script .ru ccTLD, said last week that he expected there would be ‘as many as 100,000’ domains registered in .рф by the end of 2010. Clearly, he was somewhat conservative with this projection! Less than two months after .ru joined the 3 million club, it is far from idle speculation to now start thinking about when .рф will overtake its older sibling.

It is also worth considering that the other recent TLD launch that has attracted significant registration volumes – the launch of second-level registrations under Colombia’s .co – took two months to hit the half million mark. .рф managed that feat in only six days.

Registrations in .рф are restricted to Russian citizens and Russian-registered businesses and are priced at the same level as for .ru. RU Center – the largest Registrar in Russia – are selling both .ru and .рф for 600 Rubles, a shade under US$20.00 at current exchange rates. There are a total of 26 registrars currently accredited for .рф. The .рф string was selected in preference to a direct transliteration of ‘RU’ which would be ‘PY’ in Cyrillic, due to potential visual conflict with Paraguay’s existing .py ASCII script ccTLD.

According to ccTLD.ru, the most popular letters in the addresses registered in the first hour were ы and я — Cyrillic characters with no equivalent in the Roman script. Clearly, the demand for domain names including these characters has been building since the internet became an everyday phenomenon in Russia.

Even if we assume that a large proportion of registrations are speculative at this early stage, the launch of .рф cannot be regarded as anything but a huge success. This success proves that there is real community demand for native script Top-Level Domains, and bodes well for the prospects of other IDN Top-Level Domains, in both the ccTLD and gTLD contexts. It can also been seen as a vindication of the ICANN Board’s decision to proceed with the IDN ccTLD program on a ‘Fast Track’, ahead of the finalisation of the new gTLD program, due to a perception of strong demand, particularly from the Russian and Chinese language communities. The reality of that demand has now been conclusively established.

As Milton Mueller pointed out back in 2007, the Fast Track program has created an opportunity for IDN ccTLDs to establish themselves in the market before the introduction of a wave of new gTLDs, which will likely include dozens, if not hundreds of IDN gTLDs covering dozens of scripts.

We look forward with eager anticipation to the launch of other IDN ccTLDs, including Qatar’s قطر. which was recently approved for delegation by the ICANN Board. To date, ICANN have approved 34 IDN ccTLD strings, from 21 countries and covering 13 different scripts. 15 of these 34 strings have been delegated into the root. See ICANN’s String Evaluation Completion page for the full list.

AusRegistry International is the Domain Name Registry Software and Services provider for the United Arab Emirates’ .ae and امارات. (.emarat) ccTLDs and for Qatar’s .qa and قطر. (.qatar) ccTLDs.

Important changes in the Proposed Final New gTLD Applicant Guidebook

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

By Tony Kirsch

The new guidebook represents an enormous step forward for the new Top-Level Domain program for a number of key reasons. As we have commented previously, the naming convention as the ‘Final’ guidebook is of significant importance and reinforces the ICANN Board’s intention to get to the finish line with the program.

Of equal importance however, is that the number of changes from the previous version of the guidebook is relatively small and focus on a few key issues which shows that the end is indeed near. It’s fair to say that there is a lot less red ink (representing the changes) in this version than in any previous guidebook versions!

Key changes worthy of note in today’s version of the guidebook include:

Vertical Integration – Registrars are now allowed to own TLDs and sell their own domains as reported in our blog post last week.

Batching of applications – if more than 500 applications are received, ICANN will do an initial batch of 500 and then subsequent batches of 400. Applications identified as being in competition with each other (for example, when more than one application is received for a particular TLD)  will be grouped in the same batch, although a clear process as to how batches will be prioritised is still under development.

Delegation – ICANN have estimated that between 200-300 TLDs will be delegated annually and determined that no more than 1000 new gTLDs will be added to the root zone within one year.

Applicant Screening – a full review of the applicant business and related stakeholders such as shareholders, directors and key staff will be undertaken by ICANN. Applicants that fail any of the tests for criminal history, cybersquatting, tax evasion or child abuse (among others) will be automatically disqualified.
Registry Agreement Approval – Formal approval of the agreement will generally not require additional Board review, provided that the evaluation criteria are met, and there are no material changes to the base agreement.

Morality and Public Order Objection Process – due to community concerns and the work of a Working Group, this has now been temporarily renamed the Limited Public Interest Objection process and still provides the ability for concerned parties to object to a TLD based upon principles of international law.

The Power of the ICANN Board – for the first time it has been explicitly stated that the Board reserves the right, under exceptional circumstances, to individually consider an application to determine whether the proposed new TLD is in the best interest of the Internet community.

We’ll be sharing our more detailed thoughts on the Proposed Final Applicant Guidebook throughout the week so stay tuned for more information.

Applicant Guidebook moves to “Proposed Final”

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

By Adrian Kinderis

It was with great joy that I checked my emails on a not-so-sunny-Sunday morning in Melbourne to find that the ICANN staff had released “The Proposed Final New gTLD Applicant Guidebook” for public comment.

I savoured those few words for a moment… “proposed final”. Wow! We’ve made it. After all this time and all the meetings and discussions and arguments and collaboration, we are here. “Proposed final”.

Congratulations to all and kudos to the ICANN staff that have worked tirelessly to achieve this significant milestone.

But now wait a minute, I think my morning coffee is just starting to take effect. “Proposed final”… what does that mean?

In normal circumstances you could safely assume that “Proposed Final” meant exactly that. That this version of the Applicant Guidebook would be the last. Is that what we can expect?

ICANN staff use the words “proposed final” to usually indicate that they believe that a document is at completion. They have completed their task. For example, when they submit the “proposed final Budget” each year to the ICANN Board they expect that, while the document is still open for public/ Board comment, it may have a few minor tweaks but ultimately it is ‘done’. Indeed it was this analogy that I drew Kurt Pritz, ICANN’s SVP Stakeholder Relations, into on the GNSO Council list. He stated that he considered that the guidebook would follow a similar path to that of the Budget.

So, as always, the devil will lie in the detail. How much “tweaking” will the Board consider necessary in order to have the document ratified? What impact will public comment have on their thoughts?

There are clearly a still a number of hurdles to get over prior to reaching the finishing line.

The use of the words “Proposed Final” will take the pressure off staff for a little while. Except, of course, unless you are one of those that are against the whole thing!

As to the content and changes that are inside… that will take another cup of coffee. Watch this space.

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.