.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.


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.

S.2661: Snowe’s Bill chance on Hill? The APCPA bill that should make ALL domain owners loose sleep at night…

Michael Berkins is blogging about a particularly nasty bit of legislature that is coming down the tubes.

I am really concerned about a piece of legislature that has been getting pres. On February 25th, 2008 US Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced S. 2661, the “Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act of 2008 (APCPA)”. The bill is co-sponsored by Ted Stevens (R-AK, of the “Series of Tubesfame fame as pointed out by Marcia) and Bill Nelson (D-FL).

If you are a domain owner, most notably a domain name developer or web site owner, or operator of a geodomain, this is something that you should be following very closely and trying to work toward having it revised. The Internet Commerce Association is following this as well.

This bill in particular really concerns me because of the things that were coat-tailled onto the bill that basically provide any government office, non-profit, business or other entity an opportunity to identify a registration that is ‘similar’ as being unlawful and subject to enforcement, injunctions, and recovery of damages.

Look, I am all for professional responsibility in computing and I strongly believe in eliminating phishing. In fact, I am anti-phishing and applaud and contribute with efforts to combat illegal activities like phishing. I also support efforts to help reduce trademark infringement, and I encourage people to always use accurate information when submitting domain name registrations.

There is clearly pain in the trademark and intellectual property world with respect to how domain names work. The pain is in removing tangles from the way that the domain name system and the trademark systems are obtuse to each other, coupled with the glacial pace of many corporations and businesses adoption of competent and market savvy strategies for their domain name management. There has been over a decade of evolution to these worlds towards untangling the mess and improving remedy and it is evolving. Meanwhile it is not becoming perfect any time soon because there are fundamental differences in the ways that the worlds of domain names and intellectual property work.

This bill which is intended to eliminate phishing has been unfortunately co-opted in a clear attempt by the trademark interests to essentially eliminate the hard earned balance and improvements that have been accomplished in the area of domain names and trademarks and domain names and makes the system entirely trademark centric, while shifting the bulk of the burden of enforcement onto our overburdened civil and judicial systems and shifts the costs onto the American tax payer.

It creates the potential system that completely is biased against all domain owners in a manner that obnoxiously favors trademark interests. I applaud that these senators from three of the tips of the United States have hoped to put an end to phishing, and I really hate to see that their efforts will have so clearly been undermined by the interests of businesses to inject clearly belligerent coattails.

I have had it mentioned to me that S.2661 needs to be focused on addressing Phishing, it needs massive edits to become reasonable and rational. In that same conversation, it was presented to me that as it reads now today, the bill could potentially give the rights to a non-profit such as an “East Bay Autistic Youth” (fictionally presented for conversational example) the opportunity to contest ebay.org or ebay.com for that matter.

Put yourself in the shoes of a person who owns a domain trackshoes.com. Now today, that is an extremely generic and brandable domain name. This legistlature could put that domain name in jeopardy and create disruptive burden on the domain name owner, not to mention burden a legal and civil system that our tax dollars pay for.

This is the trademark interests clearly pushing their agenda.

Over on Berkins’ blog, my long time friend Joe Alagna suggested that it would be wise for people who are opposed to S. 2661 should be able to contact these Senators, so here is their contact information:

Senator Snowe | Senator Nelson | Senator Stevens

Single character domain allocation process

ICANN is establishing a forum on allocation methods for single character ([A-Z0-9]) second level registrations in the gTLDs.

There are 16 gTLDs that have single character registrations restricted, of which .COM, .NET, and .ORG have only six registrations within that predated the rule to establish the restriction (q.com – Qwest, x.com – Paypal, z.com – Nissan, i.net – Oxide, q.net – Q Networks, and x.org – X Windows open source).

 The net result of the current process could allow for a thundering herd of registrants clamoring for these domain registrations, or there could be an auction process introduced to accomodate the process, should there be a change from the status quo.

More here at ICANN’s Website