Archive for the ‘Applicant Guidebook’ Category

ARI Registry Services responds to Roland LaPlante

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

By Adrian Kinderis

Contrary to claims made by Afilias CMO Roland LaPlante (CircleID – 21 October 2011), current generic Top-Level Domain (gTLDs) Registries have no real technical or commercial advantage at operating a new Top-Level Domain (TLD) because existing gTLDs are currently only required to comply with a small subset of the requirements of the new TLD program.

Mr LaPlante argues that potential applicants should question Registry providers about which gTLDs they currently support because he suggests that “ICANN-contracted gTLDs operate under more stringent — and public — requirements than other TLDs.”

This statement is fundamentally wrong.

The new TLD program is setting a precedent within the industry for the best practice performance, operation and policy requirements of a generic TLD namespace that is governed by ICANN. Through the Applicant Guidebook, ICANN has created a completely new approach to operating a generic TLD and it contains multiple requirements that do not exist within current gTLDs. These additions include:

•    Rights Protection Mechanisms – Trademark Clearinghouse & Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS)
•    Mandatory abuse measures
•    Policy establishment requirements
•    Stricter eligibility (considering community based TLDs)
•    Government and law enforcement recommendations

To put it simply, current gTLDs have little in common with new TLDs.

Furthermore, Mr LaPlante’s attack on country code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs) is weak and without basis. Talk to auDA (the .au regulator), InternetNZ (the .nz regulator) and Nominet (.uk regulator), and I am sure they would be appalled to hear the view that their TLDs were managed with less stringent public policy development frameworks than existing gTLDs.

In fact, some restricted policy ccTLDs already incorporate features of the new TLD program that gTLDs such as .com, .info or .net currently fail to address. For instance, most viable ccTLDs already have strict rights protection and abuse measures in place. They also have a strong emphasis on stakeholder involvement and operate under increased scrutiny by governments and law enforcement.

The reality is that many ccTLDs perform the same role as gTLDs, except they do this within the confines of many more restrictions and policies, such as those found in the new TLD program. It is false to claim that gTLDs operate under more stringent requirements simply because they have a contract with ICANN and publish monthly reports about their registry operation.

Regardless of existing credentials or experience, the point is that new TLDs come with a set of requirements that currently don’t exist in any namespace and many of these are still yet to be fleshed out by ICANN (take the Trademark Clearing House for example).

It’s important to remember that one of ICANN’s primary goals in developing the new TLD program was to find a way to facilitate entry for new Registry operators entering the market. ICANN is attempting to introduce competition and they have done so in such a way that potential applicants do not even need to partner with a Registry Services Provider, let alone a gTLD provider in order to operate a new TLD Registry. While existing Registry Operators will deliver a superior solution (usually at a cost benefit) to those entities that do not wish to perform the technical function themselves, this choice is left with the applicant. ICANN will not give applicants any extra points for choosing an existing provider, despite what the propaganda might say.

It is true that not all TLD Registry Services Providers are created equal. There are good providers and there are ordinary providers. Each has different qualities and credentials. Unfortunately, operating an existing gTLD Registry is not one that holds relevance to the success or failure of your new TLD.

The fact of the matter is no one has ever operated a new TLD and we are all new to this world.

What you need to ask your provider is not their experience with existing gTLD registries, but their understanding of the program, its new requirements, the Applicant Guidebook and how they will technically support your specific requirements.

Clearly some providers don’t seem to understand that it will be a new world, which to me suggests that perhaps they don’t understand the program as much as they would have you believe.

By Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services

New TLD Applicants: Read this before selecting a Registry provider

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

By Adrian Kinderis

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former,”
Albert Einstein.

Today, the clock ticked down to 85 days until commencement of the new Top-Level Domain application window. Finally, after years of educating, pitching and responding to RFPs, we have reached a period where prospective applicants must either choose to develop their Top-Level Domain Registry themselves or choose their Registry Services Partner (RSP). For most folks, unless they share a level of expertise, this will mean choosing an outsourced RSP, like ARI Registry Services.

As each day passes, I spend more time immersing myself with prospective clients who are weighing up the ARI offering over those of alternative providers. The more I become entrenched in this competitive process, the more it becomes increasingly clear that many of the competing RSPs pitching their wares to hopeful applicants are misleading them by hiding critically important information in fine print disclaimers or feeding them rubbish in order to whittle down the competition. Competition is a great thing; it just needs to be on the same playing field. Make sure you are comparing apples with apples.

Here is a bit of advice for anyone wishing to outsource their RSP. Yes, it is a little self-serving but my company has always prided itself on doing what is right for the customer – even if that means we have to pass on some along the way.

1. You do not have to choose an existing gTLD Registry provider. ICANN gives you no more extra points. This is ugly propaganda that serves only to limit competition. The rules and requirements in the round of applications are such that we ALL have to build new requirements and features to our Registry systems. It is a new Registry to everyone so to say that doing it now in a gTLD space gives you an advantage is rubbish. ICANN wrote the rules to make it possible to do it yourself and it’s not rocket science. It is tricky, but it simply isn’t impossible. If you are not into doing it yourself, you are able to outsource the headache. Of course it makes sense to outsource to someone that has run an EPP Registry before, but the existing gTLD Registries are vastly different. I love that existing Registries forget they were new once. Imagine if Verisign came out and said it couldn’t be done when ICANN was handing out .info and .biz. Somehow Afilias and Neustar were able to build a gTLD Registry then, but yet these are the Registries that now tell us that none of us are capable now? Hmmmm…. Oh and don’t forget whatever Registry you bring them, they have an invested interest to support their own ahead of yours (unless you are giving them $6 a pop per domain, in which case you are getting ripped off!)

2. Your Application to ICANN is the most important thing to you right now. Make sure you choose a RSP that is going to do a stellar job with the technical answers. Ask to see the technical responses for the application upfront. Make sure they give you complete answers to questions 23 through 44, and have draft answers ready for you to customize for questions 15, 16 and 22. Get specific deliverables sorted upfront!

3. Read the fine print of your quotation. A one line quotation for Registry services may look easy to handle but it is fraught with danger. Especially once you are ready to go live and find out that many of the basic services weren’t covered and you think to yourself “no wonder these guys were so cheap.” It is simple; ensure that a “no further costs” clause is added to your contract.  Read the fine print and make sure everything you need is in there. Including the ability to move and change later. You are all start ups and times will get tough at some point.

4. Make sure you are signing with someone that shares your entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve already said it; you are building a business here. You are an entrepreneur. Make sure that your RSP is able to support you and understand your needs going forward. Ask the sales guy you are talking to how many businesses he has started. Ask the CEO of the firm the same question – if, of course, he/she even talks to you. Ask yourselves how many of these guys will be around to support you when times are tough (or will they already be working for a competitor!). Don’t screw this up.

5. Go Live is the NEXT important thing for you. How is your RSP going to support you? How are they going to support you and all the other applicants they have? Are they focused on your business? You don’t want to be all of their business so you can get the benefits of economies of scale, but you don’t want to be a tiny cog in a big wheel. How many phone calls and how much support will you get once that contract is signed?

6. Pricing is, of course, important, but you must know, IT ISN’T EVERYTHING. You don’t choose the cheapest lawyer, doctor or accountant for a reason. Why wouldn’t the same logic apply here? The process is simple. Do your homework, and get an understanding of your expected volumes. This will tell you what price you need from your RSP. Then look to other variables, many of which I have mentioned above to determine the best provider for you. Is it flexibility, payment terms, technology, redundancy etc? Reach out to me and I’ll be sure to give you a check list of items outside of pricing to make sure you consider them. Once again it is the apples versus apples scenario.

There is no secret to ARI Registry Services’ success. We keep it simple. We look after our customers which are why they are all repeat customers. We are working with companies big and small, governments and non profits. We work hard for all of them but ultimately, we don’t sell crap. We tell the truth and we disclose everything – as I said, simple. Make sure your provider is going to do the same.

I wish you well as you embark on this exciting journey. If you choose someone else other than my firm in your selection process, good for you. If the tips above have helped ensure you are better in the long run, then that’s great too. I look forward to sharing a drink with you in a few years when we can look back on this exciting time, relishing our collective successes and reviewing our failures (of which I hope there are few).

Remember, choosing a Registry Services Provider is the biggest decision you will make in the life of your TLD. The provider you select now will play a critical role in not only the success of your application to ICANN, but the ongoing security, stability and integrity of your new Top-Level Domain.

So applicants, I beg you. Beware of the fine print and ensure you compare those apples. The success or failure of your TLD is at stake.

By Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services

Updated Applicant Guidebook provides more clarity for applicants

Monday, September 26th, 2011

By Tony Kirsch

With less than 110 days to go until the application window opens, ICANN last week released the latest update of the Applicant Guidebook in conjunction with the launch of a new information portal for the new Top-Level Domain program.

Although this latest update to the Applicant Guidebook arrived later than originally expected, it is nonetheless welcome because it provides more clarity for potential applicants and reconfirms ICANN’s commitment to the 12 January commencement of the program.

Credit must be given where it’s due.

First of all, the new microsite looks great and contains all the information necessary for those unfamiliar with the new Top-Level Domain Program to get a basic understanding. Through a number of areas on the site, ICANN provides a decent summary of the hundreds of pages of industry jargon contained in the Applicant Guidebook.

By the way, make sure to check out AusRegistry International’s microsite, Beyondcom.info.
Also, the latest update to the Applicant Guidebook is relatively straight forward with no problematic inclusions or hidden surprises.

Below is my summary of the changes that are of interest:

More blocked strings – ICANN has added the measures required to address specific requests from the Red Cross and International Olympic Committee in which a series of TLDs related to these organisations will be blocked during the initial application round.

Assistance for applicants – ICANN confirmed that the Joint Applicant Support (JAS) Working Group continues to evaluate the processes for providing assistance to disadvantaged applicants. Indications are that the results of this Working Group are expected on this in the coming weeks.

Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS) Response Fee Limits – In an adjustment to the previous version of the guidebook, ICANN has now modified the “loser pays” provision in the URS to apply to complaints involving 15 (instead of 26) or more domain names with the same registrant.

GAC Early Warning and Advice – The GAC has expressed the intention to develop a standard vocabulary and set of rules for use in providing its advice about applications for new Top-Level Domains. ICANN says this will be published in the future and there may be additional updates to reflect the terms established by the GAC.

Application window clarification – One of the more important updates relates to clarification of the User Registration and Application Submission timeframes which were confirmed to be that:

Users must register to apply within the following dates:

Opens – 00:01 UTC 12 January 2012
Closes –  23:59 UTC 29 March 2012

Once registered to apply, users must then submit their application to ICANN’s online system within the following dates:

Opens – 00:01 UTC 12 January 2012
Closes – 23:59 UTC 12 April 2012

The release of this updated version of the Applicant Guidebook is a huge step forward for ICANN and the program itself and relieves some of the scuttlebutt from within the industry that further delays may have been imminent.

It’s certainly a welcome relief for industry participants such as our organisation and the many applicants across the globe who have been diligently preparing for this (in some cases for many years). These two announcements from ICANN provide more clarity for potential applicants and remind us all that new Top-Level Domains are coming and they are coming fast.

Perhaps most importantly, at the bottom right-hand corner of the new microsite, ICANN provides the most important element of the program – something that all of us in the industry have been waiting for a very long time: “ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS IN 108 DAYS”

Throughout this process, many within the industry have been keeping sane by constantly reminding ourselves that “it will happen, and it will be worth it”.

Now it would appear that this time is only just around the corner.

In reality the application window will really just be the start of it all, and in years to come, those who have fought this journey will reflect on this time with fond memories of a time that represented both challenges and tremendous achievement.

Tony Kirsch, Top-Level Domain name specialist with AusRegistry International

An ITU cut and paste job for new TLDs could cost $150k

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

By Chris Wright

It was with great interest that I read a recent announcement about a plan by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to publish template answers on a wiki for the 22 questions relating to registry technical operations contained within ICANN’s new Top-Level Domain Applicant Guidebook.

As someone who has spent the best part of six years following the development of the program (witnessing first-hand each evolution of the Applicant Guidebook) my first thought was one of bemusement – How can a generic solution taken “off the shelf” accurately demonstrate whether an applicant is capable of understanding the technical requirements for setting up and operating a new Top-Level Domain?

Quite frankly, it can’t.

The application process for new Top-Level Domains (TLD) has been carefully designed by ICANN to thoroughly examine whether an applicant has performed the required research to adequately understand what it means to own and operate a vital piece of Internet infrastructure. Operating a TLD is a huge responsibility that should not be taken lightly. The application process has been created in its current format to determine this.

For the applicant, the risk of landing in Extended Evaluation, ICANN’s special audit system for applications that require further attention, is far too great to be toying with a one size fits all approach. In an attempt to save money, applicants will instead be at risk of losing at least $150,000 should their application fail the evaluation criteria set by ICANN.

While consultants working closely with the ITU are correct in stating that applicants do not have to be currently operating Domain Name Registry Systems, they still must identify the technical solution that supports the specific Registry requirements of the application in question. The financial and organisational descriptions must do the same.

The solution proposed by the ITU becomes even more unrealistic when you consider the following:

 • Registry technical operations must identify the intended registry system specifications such as: domain name lifecycle, servers, software, infrastructure, data centres, bandwidth providers, policies & procedures etc. Those who know will agree that this is impossible to do generically.

• Any Registry Services provider worth a pinch of salt is offering the ‘technical operations’ component of the application free of charge with their back-end registry services solution. One has to question whether the approach suggested by the ITU is one that delivers a significant increase in risk without actually delivering any tangible cost reduction?

• This is not a turnkey solution. Applicants will still be required to provide answers to non technical and financial sections, answers which need to be consistent with the information provided in the technical sections of the application, so those who consider the ITU’s approach will struggle to establish consistency throughout all sections of the application.

• Without having properly researched, designed and finally settled on a technical solution, whether that be to outsource to industry experts, or build in-house, Applicants will not have the ability to identify information for other areas of the application such as Registry set up and operational costs that will be critical to the successful development of sound and accurate financials. Further, how will applicants be able to demonstrate to ICANN that the technical specifications provided can be delivered on?

From my perspective, taking answers from another entity (whose content has no relation to any registry system (real or proposed)) clearly demonstrates two things: 1) You are proficient with the cut and paste function of your keyboard and; 2) You clearly lack the understanding necessary to manage a critical piece of Internet infrastructure such as a new Top-Level Domain.

As any high school student can tell you, cutting and pasting answers from a wiki is prone to failure. Although the ITU claim that only ‘approved contributors’ will be able to edit the information, it is unclear how someone would be granted ‘approved contributor’ status. With the highly competitive nature of the TLD process, Applicants should be aware that the accuracy of the information contained within the template has the potential to be highly dubious and potentially even prone to subtle sabotage. I have no doubt that ICANN’s evaluators will be on the lookout for these responses, just like any good teacher would do.

The message to prospective applicants here is simple: If you show disrespect to the evaluators and don’t give the technical criteria of your application the attention it truly deserves, then why should they take your application seriously.

I am left with two equally horrifying questions: 1). Is this simply an attempt by the ITU to devalue and undermine the entire new TLD application process (and therefore ICANN)? 2). Does anyone at the ITU truly understand the goals of the application process and what it is intended to do?

Were the ITU’s ambitions truly altruistic, they would spend their efforts providing capability advice and skills to the community. This approach would be useful and would not water down the quality of submissions to ICANN, as this solution almost certainly will.

Finally, this blog does not set out to be self-serving. Yes, there is a level of confidence that comes with choosing a back-end registry provider that is established and experienced. However, ICANN has ensured that anyone who can fulfil the technical requirements will be awarded a TLD Registry. So, the point I am making is that the process of fulfilling the technical requirements of a new TLD Registry involves more than a simple cut and paste. It requires communicating a level of understanding that a new TLD is a piece of mission critical infrastructure and that there are enormous responsibilities that come with this.