.hitachi … Another smart brand announces new TLD

According to a press release at GMO Registry, they’ve signed a deal with Hitachi to operate the .hitachi Top Level Domain name in the upcoming application period with ICANN.

“GMO Registry gTLD acquisition and operation support services chosen by global brand Hitachi to acquire and operate own brand TLD”

In my personal opinion, the brands coming out in support of the new TLD process are the thought leaders and innovators that we’ll see thriving in the digital economy.

Companies that embrace change (as opposed to fear based reactions) and are innovators who have embrace advances in technology and leverage things like social media, and who emphasize a robust online presence are seeing massive competitive advantage over companies that don’t in similar sectors.

Contrasting the application fee and other costs against a typical magazine or television advertising spend, a company gets a nearly perpetual benefit from the online presence that a new TLD provides, as opposed to a campaign that might last a week or a month.

I bow to Hitachi for this wise move, and I congratulate GMO Registry on this, the second major brand with a public announcement.

Source: http://www.gmo-registry.com/en/gmonews/detail.html?n=2011030200

.MLS – MLS Domains Association Membership Surge from ‘Founders Claim Period”

For a new TLD applicant who is creating a community application or standard application, obtaining the general support (or lack of objection resulting from consultation) from primary groups in the relevant community or stakeholders is a smart play. Many applicants have devised some constructive and mutually beneficial plans to grow broad support, often in equity or some entitlement to a pool of names in advance of the general availability to the public (if and when that comes).

I noticed what I think to be a very well executed and thoughtful execution of this with one of the applicants for a .MLS Top Level Domain.

The following press release came from the MLS Domains Association on August 10th, 2010, which I will narrate.

MLS Domains Association membership grows as special Founder claim period nears an end

Tempe, AZ – August 10, 2010 – MLS Domains Association now counts among its members the MLSs representing more than 511,000 of the nation’s MLS real estate brokers and agents. According to Bob Bemis, chairman of the board of directors of the organization, “We’re delighted with this response. Interest in our effort has grown continually over the summer. The industry is clearly ready to Take Back ‘MLS’!” Meanwhile, Founder members of the Association have claimed more than 70 domains on the ‘.MLS’ top-level domain during a special Founder claim period that ends on August 15.

Call to action + what does this have to do with me? Done. (Nicely played).

The MLS Domains Association is a not-for-profit membership association formed for the purpose of acquiring the ‘.MLS’ top-level domain. “Although we formed the Association with 15 of the leading large MLS in the country, our membership grew slowly at first,” Bemis said. “We have used the last few months to educate MLSs about our effort, and to help MLS executives lay out the value proposition with their boards of directors,” he continued. “Unfortunately, many of those boards meet only sporadically in the summer months,” he explained. In the last two weeks, the Association has welcomed new members such as Metrolist (CA, Founder member), Consolidated MLS (SC, Founder member), Sandicor (CA, general member), Great Plains REALTORS® MLS (NE, general member), and Florida Keys MLS (general member).

Hilight Non-Profit Status. Done.

Explain Hurdles to Membership Growth. Done.

Illustrate Momentum by mentioning at least 3-4 members. Done.

The Association is accepting all levels of members now, but Founder members are currently able to claim domains during a special claim period reserved for them. “Our Founder-level membership is attractive to MLSs that wish to claim a domain name that others may want or that wish to reserve several domain names,” said consultant Brian Larson, who is advising the Association. The Founder fee gives a member the same governance rights as the MLSs that formed the Association; includes a credit to claim up to 12 domains on the ‘.MLS’ top-level domain; and permits Founders to claim up to 10 domains now, during a special claim period, before general members are able to make claims. MLSs can join as Founders and claim domains during the special Founder claim period until 11:59 p.m. CDT on August 15.

Describe how to join in. Done.

Offer First Dibs on 12 Domain Names if you do join. Done.

Entice immediate action with Incentive : 10 extra domains. Done.

Organizations like the Midwest Real Estate Data LLC (MRED) have reserved a variety of names, like ChicagoHomes.mls, ChicagoMetro.mls, ChicagoRentals.mls, and ChicagoRentals.mls.

Another member mention to further illustrate ‘traction’. Done.

Mention some specific domains so that the concept of the attraction is clear and the potential member starts to think about what they will grab in their list of 22 domains before anyone else. Done.

General members will be able to claim domains during a “General Landrush” running from September 1 through October 15. To claim a domain, an MLS must join the Association – annual dues vary based on MLS size. The MLS then pays a “claim fee” for each domain it wishes to claim. “The General Landrush will be attractive to smaller and medium-sized MLSs that want to secure their internet identities with only one or two addresses,” said Larson.


Prove it is real by stating dates.Done.
Just a personal note but this is a very slippery slope. ICANN has ceased communicating any static dates. Yes, this is necessary for getting any support or investment, but I and many others have been both embarrassed and unemployed as a result of expectations placed upon the communication of dates. Tread lightly.

Show reduced but still worthwhile benefits should someone join in some capacity other than founder. Done.

Identify membership is required to participate in TLD. Done.

Promote General Landrush. Done.

Identify Sunrise Process where intellectual property interests are addressed. X

Point out that you are “small” if you do not participate immediately. Done.

Further information is available on the MLS Domains Association Website, MLSDomainsAssociation.org.

Promote website. Done.

Further information is available on the MLS Domains Association Website, MLSDomainsAssociation.org.

Promote website. Done.

Registry Service Provider Speed Dating

Two years ago, in 2008, I put together a session at the Paris ICANN meeting where I gathered new TLD applicants and service providers together in a room to meet each other.

Afterward, I put together a survey and then collected the information in to a grid so that potential new TLD applicants could see side by side comparisons of the many, many registry service providers, and make informed decisions about their initiatives.

I had my friend publish the results of the survey which I’d run personally, and many things grew from that in the two years since.

Some TLD applicants made technology selections, but many are still making decisions. Some new providers have started operations. Subtle new nuances have crept in to the application process which impact the questions that should be asked up front.

This is the 2010 version of the survey. I’ll collect the information until August 4th, 2010.

Participating registry service providers, I will interview you about the service you offer, then publish the information to this blog through August (and into September if the response volume is high).

This is an outstanding opportunity for registry service providers to make their technology known and attract potential applicants.

If you offer Registration Services for a potential new TLD or ccTLDs, please take some time and complete this survey:
Registry Service Provider Survey

EoWhy?

I have come to acceptance that the community proposal for EoI was removed from consideration during the March 12th Board Meeting in Nairobi. It should have passed, but it got lobbied into oblivion by some in attendance at the Nairobi meeting. They deserve their say, those who oppose it, but quite frequently the arguments used fail logic once one reflects upon them, or contrast them against the facts.

The EoI did not pass, but the silver lining in it all is that it proved that the community could raise up a proposal to the board using the Bottom-Up approach.

I am grateful. I have a well honed ability to find acceptance in things that I don’t agree with. I hate the outcome but I would do it all again.

The many stakeholders and applicants who had been trusting dates and time lines that they had been provided in all meetings between the Paris meeting in June 2008 and the Sydney meeting in 2009, and had been growing businesses and reaching out to communities, carrying the message of ICANN and the promise of new TLDs.

These companies, individuals, volunteers, consultants, they all planned their lives, budgets, marketing, and jobs around the time lines that had been coming from ICANN. Sure, delays and adjustments meant the embarrassment of repeatedly revising and communicating new time lines to their clients, shareholders, boards of directors, communities.

And then came the Seoul ICANN meeting. Rather than get the schedule in place and stop the sliding dates and the embarrassment that they were causing ICANN and the interested stakeholders, ICANN instead opted to clam up about dates and time lines.

This not only completely undermined their own credibility; it froze financial support for new TLD applicants of every shape and size and eliminated institutional confidence in ICANN and its new TLD program.

And in that choice to coward away from communicating dates, ICANN really created the EoI. All I did is channel the contempt, cynicism and abject frustrations of the various community members who had timelines pulled out from under them in the Seoul meeting, working to turn that passion into productive effort. So you could say ICANN was the catalyst.

I am grateful that I had the influence, respect and trust from stakeholders to have pulled so many parties together to collaborate and support an initiative which tested ICANN’s ‘Bottom-up Process’. And I had the privilege of presenting the concept of an expressions of interest process as a way to keep the new TLD program on pace while removing pressure from the staff and board for evaporating the foundations out from under supporters and believers in the new TLD program at the Seoul meeting.

I cannot take full credit for the Expressions of Interest, it came from a number of people in the community, from a number of various stakeholders who did not want to see the momentum die from ICANNs opting at redacting and retracting communication of dates and timelines.

I just had tenacity to be a spokesperson for a large group of stakeholders in the Seoul meeting but could not at all take all of the credit for the EoI. It was humbling to read through the transcript from the public meeting as I notice the many, many supporters who I consider to be leaders in the community who stepped up after I did in support of the proposal at the public meeting.

It was really just a sensible approach of decoupling the application process from the review, assignment and delegation stages of the new TLD program that we had seen originate from the GAC. I explained that the catalyst was the outright elimination of discussion of dates in Seoul, and that I’d chosen to do something positive and constructive rather than give in to the growing cynicism in the applicant pool.

After gathering many in diverse parts of the community and stakeholder groups to provide a draft document to ICANN that contained a number of concepts and submitting it in the comment period that followed the Seoul board resolution, ICANN staff drafted a proposal for an Expression of Interest process and put it out to the community to comment on.

The community rose up to support or not support the overall concept. Not everyone liked every aspect of it, some loved it outright, and many (especially brands who are fighting with their last breath to oppose the new TLDs but ironically are preparing applications and will apply once they can) sought to quash it.

Ultimately it came down to transparency being the root of its demise. Many brands did not want the double-standard of their position on new TLDs exposed, and fears by governments that a public morality issue would creep in with .f-bomb holding up the whole process, because all strings would be released.

It took reverse psychology and intense lobbying in Nairobi for those who wanted EoI their way or no-way, and those people got what they wanted.

I disagree with the board’s decision, but the board was requested to pass or fail the EoI and they failed it opting to allegedly continue the momentum of the new TLD program. Using the Paris meeting announcements that stemmed from the board votes to open up the new TLD program in 2008, things had been progressing along until ‘overarching issues’ got thrown in front of the process, injecting delays.

I am getting a lot of feedback from within the community that there is deep disappointment and outrage falling out of the board decisions. And I am seeing a lot of people still bracing for the tsunami effect from the EoI being voted into oblivion in the tragic events of 3-12 (The ICANN Board decided to withdraw the Expressions of Interest among other decisions).

We’ll see some startups pare down their staff and marketing budgets, other participants will close down entirely or completely move their focus. Make no mistake, jobs were lost as a result of the board’s decision to fail the EoI.

I am already witnessing gloating by those interested in delaying the introduction of new TLDs who won a small victory for the status quo amidst the zebras and hippos in Narobi. These are not people who ponder the consequences or outcomes, they only relish victories.

Candidly, I was shocked the EoI did not pass. It essentially was just a time honored technique used in intelligent project management to reduce the ambiguity and theoretical concerns and operate in tandem with the solutions to some of the thorny issues that were open. It had every opportunity to thrive and provide benefit to ICANN, to the applicants, to the communities, investors, to the process itself.

There was an opportunity to make the new TLD program real again after Seoul. In Seoul the new TLD program was converted into vaporous concept with hazy, slippery deadlines that have anyone that follows them met with laughter and doubt when presenting timeline estimates.

Apparently the community had really gotten quite a bit of momentum with the Expressions of Interest concept. It looked like it had some promise. Many elements of the concept were attractive and productive.

But the takeaway and probably the most important thing that happened was that the community rose to present an idea, that the board heard that message, and that it even became something to be voted upon at all.

While I watch many of the investors and communities that were in strong support of the new TLD program wither or hibernate in a process that kills jobs during a weak global economy as a result of the March 12th board votes, I remain optimistic that the new TLD program will continue and we’ll see those who had the intestinal fortitude and capable war chests ride out the storm of perpetual delay.

And I would do it all over.

I have not lost my faith in the community. I hope the community has not lost faith in ICANN, and I would encourage the community not to become stoic when their efforts appear for naught like we were shown.

My heart goes out to those who have families to feed that were impacted by the decisions the board made.

Why I believe 1 and 2 character domains should be allowed in .INFO

I posted this to the ICANN comments. If you feel strongly one way or another about 1-2 character domains being released in .INFO, I encourage you to comment as well. Here is a link to the information on how to participate (deadline March 20, 2010).

I have been pleased to see the trend of the relaxation of restrictions, at the second level, of 1 and 2 character domains.

Afilias’ proposal to allocate 1 and 2 character .info domains looks prudent and responsible. The use of RFP / Proposal and other careful allocation plans that they have identified seem smart and well thought. I believe they should be allowed to do this.

Additionally, these domains can add benefit to the community through their use and responsible allocation, as presented.

Here are three reasons to allow 1 and 2 character domains to be released:

1] Six other gTLDs have had these restrictions lifted and have since began allocation of the names.
The TLDs are .BIZ, .CAT, .COOP, .MOBI,. NAME, and .PRO. There is no reason that .INFO should not be treated equally, given the method with which they intend to responsibly allocate these names.

Actually it is 7 but the .JOBS request wasn’t something I counted.

Essentially, though, ICANN has previously approved requests from 7 other gTLD registries related to 1-2 character domain names:

2] Restriction of single character domains in gTLDs in general is a concept worth evolving from.

The act of restricting single characters is a dated concept that was put in place as a placeholder, so that these would be available to horizontally expand the namespace at one point and do registrations at the third level in the gTLDS.

This plan and action never practically occurred. I understand the conceived plan was to have registrations happen under a.com, b.com, j.net at the third level to help move past the need to add new TLDs as quickly. Though a good concept in principle, the plan came after some legacy allocations had already happened of single character domains in com, net, and org (CNO).

Attempting such horizonal expansion would not be possible in an elegant manner with a portion of the single character domains allocated in CNO. Clawing these back from registrants to attempt horizontal expansion of the namespace is something that would be
sharply unwise. And thus the plan stalled. And this was many years ago.

We since have 2 (and god willing soon more) rounds releasing new TLDs.

Between the premise of the restrictions and why they were made and the introduction of new TLDs, the restriction on single character SLD is no longer practically justified.

While I respect that there was good intentions and a smart idea behind the ‘why’ of reserving these at the first level such restrictions would be made, it seems a fair time to let go of this restriction now that over a decade has passed without the plan being re-visited, and there have been solutions to the ‘problem’ it was intended to solve that have rendered this restriction worth a revisit.

3] The 2 character limit seems to be in place for ccTLD / ISO 3166-1 list(s)

This is a concept that is wise at the root level. With a four character TLD, there is very little if any likelihood that .INFO, 2 character names whois be confused with a ccTLD. For example, it seems to me unlikely that ie.info would be mistaken for a .ie domain name.

With respect to 2 character restrictions, these seem to also be a legacy restriction that is worth revisiting to determine if it is appropriate in general in new TLDs, but given that Afilias has identified a fairly responsible manner of allocation, the restriction seems to be worth eliminating in .info.

I see no reason not to approve lifting the 1-2 character restrictions, and I encourage the board to allow the release of these names.