Guest Post By Michael Castello On Google: “Block The Bullies”

This is a guest post by Michael Castello who is the CEO and President of Castello Cities Internet Network, Inc. who is solely responsibly for its contents

CCIN owns, manages and develops some of the most recognized Geo and Generic domain name brands in the world including PalmSprings.com, Nashville.com, Manicure.com and Traveler.com. He is also the owner of Daycare.com which he and his wife Sheri founded in 1997.

In 2014 Michael sold Whisky.com for $3.1 million which is the 24th largest domain name sale in history.

Michael has spoken internationally at many conferences including TRAFFIC, Borrell Advertising Conference, GEO Domain Expo and the Internet Marketing & Domaining Conference in Punta del Este Uruguay among others.

He was inducted into the Targeted TRAFFIC Hall of Fame in 2009 and Geo Domain Hall of Fame 2010.

Michael was on the Board of Director for both Associated Cities and Geo Publishers and has been an active member of ICANN’s Business Users Constituency since 2009.

Here is the Guest Post:

As a child, I did not like spiders. I even have recordings that my father made when I was 2 years old where I said, “I don’t like SPIDERS!” Now, I think I know why.

Block the Bullies is an effort to level the playing field between domain owners and search engines.

In my opinion, search engines are hogging the bandwidth that website owners pay for.

I pay a lot of money to have a large “pipe” for my website servers, so more people can use Nashville.com or Manicure.com without waiting a long time for pages to appear.

However, search engine spiders swarm through this “pipe” constantly, restricting the bandwidth that I want my visitors to use. This is a kind of Denial of Service (DOS) attack. I may be losing customers if a visitor waits too long, leaves, and goes to a competitor. This competitor may be a large corporation which can spend millions of dollars more on a much larger pipe.

What are our options?

Well, we want search engines to find our content because many visitors find us via search. That’s fair enough – but I only want my virtual house to be invaded when I open the door and let visitors in.

Shouldn’t I have the right to manage my front door?

Block the Bullies is an effort that empowers users to start using their server’s ROBOTS.TXT file.

It should be guaranteed by a virtual Bill of Rights.

The file can tell search engines to look only at what we want them to look at, or go away entirely.

Google is the 800lb gorilla in the room. Google made most of its power and money by putting your content on their pages for people to search for. Then they started making billions allowing competitors to pay top dollar to be on top of the search results. I think Google owes us more respect.

Try putting robots.txt after any website address, i.e. http://www.cnn.com/robots.txt

This is a line I’d like to see more of:

User-agent: Googlebot
Disallow: /

It tells Google to go away.

Some might think that is commercial suicide, and while I agree, there is no reason why we can’t do this symbolically once a year to make a statement that WE are still in control.

I would take it further: search spiders should read the robots.txt file to tell them how often and at what time they can visit our websites.

I want them to come at 2am daily, when business is slow.

Let’s use the tools available to us to gain more leverage.

The more of us that engage in our movement, the more we will make ourselves profitable in a future that is looking less friendly to the individual entrepreneur, who assumes the risks of running a business.

I invite everyone who owns a domain name to join us at TRAFFIC Vegas this month to talk about our future, and how we can make ourselves more self-sufficient and successful in the virtual world.

Thanks for your time,

Michael Castello

You can read about Michael Call To Action program here

You can read about the sale of Whisky.com here

 

Guest Post: Newcomer Stymied By ICANN and ICC’s Process

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This is a guest post by Christopher R Barron, who is the Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of GOProud.

“GOProud is a national organization of gay and straight Americans who seek to promote freedom by supporting free markets, limited government, and a respect for individual rights. We work on the federal level and state level to build strong coalitions of conservative and libertarian activists, organizations and policy makers to advance our shared values and beliefs.”

The following is the post written by Mr. Barron which appears unedited:

“I welcome the long overdue chance to highlight my attempts to participate in ICANN’s new gTLD process.

I am a newcomer to the ICANN world and represent a prominent political group, GOProud, that focuses on supporting free markets, limited government, and a respect for individual rights. We work on the U.S. federal and state levels to build strong coalitions of conservative and libertarian activists, organizations, and policy makers to advance our shared values and beliefs.

We are a gay and gay-allied organization, and as such, attempted to object to dotgay LLC’s “Community Priority” application for .gay via the ICC process as outlined by ICANN.

We were never contacted by dotgay LLC despite the fact that they claim to be engaging all aspects of the “gay community,” since 2009.

I think this is symptomatic of the fact that their coalition largely represents politically liberal, older, affluent, white, gay men. Upon further investigation of their business plans, I was troubled to learn about potential censorship and a regulated registration policy, which are extremely pertinent issues to me and my constituents that believe in free speech and open markets. We represent a political minority within gay and LBT circles, but should not be disregarded within global LGBT dynamics. In fact, this is clearly a misunderstood issue, as surely nobody would ever think that one company could speak for all heterosexual people with a .straight TLD?

For these reasons I endeavored to file a community priority objection on behalf of GOProud with the ICC. My objection was rejected by the ICC due to a technicality–that the 5,000 word limit was exceeded (only when you count all headers and footers).

ICC’s attempts to contact me were never received, and in turn, it disregarded its own procedural rules related to how and when to contact objectors. It was supposed to contact all parties within 14 days of filing, which it did not do, claiming it had received an extension that was never publicly available at the time. I operated under the assumption that my objection was being processed, as their single attempt to contact me failed to deliver while my multiple attempts to confirm my submission went unanswered.

I contacted the ICC on April 4th and 9th to confirm the receipt and, finally, on April 9th they had the gall to respond and acknowledge both of my inquiries while simultaneously dismissing my objection on non-compliance. This is an issue of bias and operational ineffectiveness that is being enforced on me and not on other objectors nor on the ICC itself.

Frustrated and running out of options, I petitioned CEO Fadi Chehadé, Chairman Steve Crocker, and the Ombudsman, Mr. Chris LaHatte. After reviewing the correspondence between the ICC and myself, Mr. LaHatte agreed in a public post to his blog that there was an issue of fairness in the way the ICC threw out my objection on a technicality, while also ignoring its own procedural mandates, and so the Ombudsman argued for the objection to be fully considered.

ICANN’s New TLD Program Committee resolved to send Mr. LaHatte’s opinion to the ICC on July 13th.

The ICC effectively ignored this advice and action until September 19th, when (after more prompting) it promised to review the matter, while simultaneously noting that neither the Ombudsman nor the NGPC has the authority to direct the ICC’s actions.

The ICC denied my objection again on October 2nd.

I have carefully followed the rules in good faith, but the ICC refuses to honor my objection.

Meanwhile, ICANN acts as if it has no recourse or power to see that the unfairness is dealt with, even when its Ombudsman agrees unfairness took place and its NGPC implicitly acknowledged it.

I note that the ICC’s behavior is biased and prejudicial because another objector, the ILGA, objecting to 3 generic applications for .gay and the single applicant for .lgbt, requested an extension on its payment to the ICC, which was granted despite protests from the affected parties.

Not only is the ICC not following and uniformly enforcing its own rules, it is arbitrarily deciding when time frames can be manipulated to the determinant of some and the benefit of others.

I began with only a cursory knowledge of ICANN, but through contact with ICANN legal experts and gTLD applicants, I have learned that this is only one example of the organization’s failure to uphold itself as a transparent, competent, and unbiased steward of the Internet. If new participants are stymied and met with resistance, ICANN will remain under the control of a small group of legal and business interests, which is perhaps the intended plan.

I urge ICANN and those that participate regularly to push themselves to make their processes approachable to those that are not experts on the domain name system, and be more receptive to voices that are affected by what are essentially content decisions, such as delegating .gay as a Community Priority TLD.

I am inclined to seek legal action and am currently talking to legal experts in the space .

I welcome readers’ opinions on the issue and any recommendations for next steps.

Christopher R Barron
Chairman Emeritus, GOProud”

Guest Post: No Summer Slowdown in .TV! Legacy Fund closes NF.tv for $20,000!

This is a guest post by Ammar Rangwala who has been invested in .TV since December 2005.  Ammar owns 250+ top .TV generic properties between both of his companies.  He believes the .TV space provides the best rate of return from an investment standpoint. Started on the Internet in the late 90′s using PC Board (PCB), Wildcat and other forms of bulletin board systems. Worked in banking, real estate, distressed debt and finance for 10+ years. ”

(note: Ammar is a client of MostWantedDomains.com and is a broker or co-broker for all of this .Tv domains)

The following is the guest post:

After close to two months of negotiating with the buyer who is from Russia, Legacy Fund closes NF.tv for $20,000.”

Although we did not ultimately use Sedo Escrow, we want to thank Negar and Alex at Sedo for their tireless effort and commitment to try to make the deal work and MostWantedDomains.com that made the referral that started the transaction off.

Russian buyers have complicated laws in their country and apparently a tax they have to worry about when they do domain transactions.

It took careful explanation of the process to make sure the buyer was comfortable.

Legacy Fund believes the release of the new extensions will only cause further confusion and ultimately strengthen the .TV extension.

The offers for their properties have come in a lot more frequently and buyers are associating .TV with television, not the island of Tuvalu. “End users do not ask about traffic, Google rankings or parking revenue. It does not matter to them.”

In addition, .TV has become the most preferred choice after .COM, which may be too expensive for them to start their own venture from an initial capital outlay.

From an ROI perspective, Legacy Fund invested $102 owing the domain NF.tv for 3 years and sold the domain for $20,000.

A phenomenal ROI.

Other Legacy Fund Sales Include:

Jeu.tv – $50,000.
SS.tv – $30,000
OO.tv – $18,000
Femme.tv – $7,000

Guest Post By Dan Warner: New gTLD Registries Cannot Own Their Domains!

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This is a Guest Post by Dan Warner.  Dan in a domain industry veteran who has presented and spoken at many industry conferences. Dan is was part of the Exclusive team at Dark Blue Sea Ltd (Fabulous.com) for 8 years, which became the 14th largest in the world, had a domain sales platform (DDN) with penetration into 80% of the worlds registrars by volume; an affiliate marketing network ranked as 5th in the world; a dynamic web development engine which published over 1.2 million websites; and acquired more than 600,000 domain names as investments for the company.  Dan also previously served as CEO of DomainAdvertising.com and is currently the founder of RegistryStrategy.com, an independent company that provides professional consulting on registry and registrar businesses.

The following is Mr. Warner Post:

New gTLD Registries cannot own their domains! – or can they?

Traditionally registries have been forbidden from owning domains other than for those “reasonable and necessary for the management and operations of the TLD.” New applicants seem to believe that the separation between Registry – Registrar – Registrant doesn’t exist anymore. If those restrictions still exist a number of applicant business plans will be cut to ribbons.

This issue is addressed in Specification 9, section 1, REGISTRY CODE OF CONDUCT of the New GTLD Agreement Specifications page 54.

  1. 1.In connection with the operation of the registry for the TLD, Registry Operator will not, and will not allow any parent, subsidiary, Affiliate, subcontractor or other related entity, to the extent such party is engaged in the provision of Registry Services with respect to the TLD (each, a “Registry Related Party”), to:
  1. a.Directly or indirectly show any preference or provide special consideration to any registrar with respect to operational access to registry systems and related registry services, unless comparable opportunities to qualify for such preferences or considerations are made available to all registrars on substantially similar terms and subject to substantially similar conditions;
  1. b.Register domain names in its own rights, except for names registered through an ICANN accredited registrar that are “reasonably necessary for the management, operations and purpose of the TLD”, provide, that Registry Operator may reserve names from registration pursuant to Section 2.6 of the Registry Agreement; [ICANN banned domains]

In regard to (a.):  No Registrar Preference

It is worth noting that the design of any registry system needs to be highly open, transparent, and equitable – so that it doesn’t favour one specific registrar in the way it is implemented.  Registries are required to make the ability to register generic domains available to diverse registrars and registrants.

In regard to (b.): Private Domain Ownership

Under this code of conduct it would appear that ICANN is continuing the clear separation between registry, registrar, and registrant.  It appears as if any ownership of second level domains from any associated entity (even far removed ones) is not allowed.  It does make allowance for domains “reasonably necessary for the management, operations and purpose of the TLD”.  The argument can be made that the purpose of the registry is to provide self ownership of unique domain assets.  However, that argument requires that ICANN first recognizes that a registry can be created expressly or partially for the purpose of self use, and in an effort to monopolise a concept on the Internet. Even then ICANN may decide that it must be one or the other self use or public – making a new class of registry.  If this is the case how can directory.luxury, sports.bet, directory.cpa, play.app be allowed to be owned by a registry related entity of the same extension?

ICANN has in the guidebook and public commenting areas alluded to the use of domains for a registry’s own purpose beyond the current scope, but the fact remains they haven’t declared a public policy on it.  We believe that the current Registry Code of Conduct, at the very least, casts doubt on their utilization.  There has also been a history of debate and hand slapping for infractions where registries have crossed this line.

It is hard to believe that ICANN entrusted to increase competition would allow registries to use domains from their own registry for use outside of registry promotion and maintenance. In effect acting like a Branded gTLD but cornering the market on a generic concept.

Regardless of what ICANN may or may not do. In speaking with applicants and even their legal representation it is apparent that a wide variety of applicants believe that ICANN will roll over and play dead on this issue. That the cornerstone of their registry model is self-use of domain names in the related registry. They plan to treat their registry very similar to domain portfolio owners (registrants) who have bought up all the competitive names in a particular market segment and plan on dominating that segment at the exclusion of other real competition.

Will ICANN, as per precedents set in the past, make a clear delineation between the Registry – Registrar – Registrant relationship and protect the open market? Or is this a new era where registries are free to compete in any way they wish including monopolies?

Registry Strategy is an independent company that provides professional consulting on registry and registrar businesses. If you want advice which will help you create a fully informed decision we can help. Specifically we can give you a realistic valuation of your potential registry even if no business plan is provided. Our research has developed a means to create a best practice valuation that highlights what can be expected from your registry experience. The outcomes will give you a foundation for bidding in competitive registry auctions, business planning, premium auction lists, and individual domain valuations for domains that do not yet exist. To contact please email Consultants@RegistryStrategy.com or use the contact form on RegistryStrategy.com

Dan Warner, Managing Consultant, RegistryStrategy.com

 

Guest Post: Has ICANN Already Taken the GAC’s Advice on “Closed Generic” gTLDs?

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This is a guest post By Philip S. Corwin, Esq, Founding Principal, Virtualaw LLC; Of Counsel, Greenberg & Lieberman; and Strategic Advisor, ICANN Sherpa

TheDomains.com publishes Guest Posts from time to time, by well known leaders and authorities in the domain industry. As always Guest Posts are posted in their entirety and unedited:

“”On the afternoon of April 11, 2013, the last day of ICANN’s recent Beijing Meeting, its Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) delivered a highly detailed 12-page Communique outlining safeguards and other substantial alterations that its constituent governments want implemented before new gTLDs can launch.

The document has implications for every new gTLD applicant, but especially for those seeking gTLD names relating to regulated industries and professions as well as other sensitive categories. Its consideration and implementation-to whatever extent ICANN’s Board decides to accommodate the GAC – may well delay the program for at least several months. And large chunks of it are likely to be adopted – because there is a presumption in favor of ICANN accepting GAC advice, and because ICANN needs at least multi-governmental acquiescence, if not active support, to retain its long-term control over the DNS.”

“The Communique contains GAC advice on the controversial subject of “closed generic” gTLDs.

These are generic, dictionary words in which the applicant/registry operator holds no trademark rights yet proposes that it shall be the sole registrant, thereby excluding all present and future competitors from obtaining a domain address that may be the most relevant to its goods, services, and overall identity. Amazon and Google are the most noted new closed generic gTLD applicants, but companies such as L’Oreal and Richemont have also sought to register generic word, non-brand gTLDs consisting of a key industry term (e.g., .beauty and .jewelry) from which all competitors could be excluded.

On this matter, the GAC advice is simple and clear – a closed generic should only be allowed if it serves the public interest, not just the applicant’s private interest:

For strings representing generic terms, exclusive registry access should serve a public interest goal.

Following receipt of the GAC Communique, ICANN invited all new gTLD applicants to file comments on any aspect of it, with a closing date of May 10th. It also invited the general public to comment on the “safeguard” advice, which includes the “Exclusive Access” directive, with that window closing on June 4th.

It is probable, once all comments are analyzed by staff, that the ICANN Board will respond to the GAC at the next public meeting scheduled for Durban, South Africa in mid-July.

Yet, even while these comment periods remain open, it appears that ICANN may have already accepted the GAC advice on closed generics.

On April 29th ICANN released a revised draft of the New gTLD Registry Agreement (RA) – until this document is finalized no new gTLDs can be added to the Internet’s root zone, because there will not be a standard agreement for a registry operator to sign. Specification 9 of the RA, the “Registry Operator Code of Conduct” (COC), contains a significant modification that shuts an arguable loophole for closed generics and moves ICANN substantially toward the GAC’s position.

Section 6 of the COC contains an exemption provision that was developed in response to concerns of ICANN’s Business Constituency that the Applicant Guidebook did not allow an applicant to operate a .brand gTLD (consisting of a trademarked company name or product) solely for its own use. Section 6 was not altered in the new RA and states in its entirety:

Registry Operator may request an exemption to this Code of Conduct, and such exemption may be granted by ICANN in ICANN’s reasonable discretion, if Registry Operator demonstrates to ICANN’s reasonable satisfaction that (i) all domain name registrations in the TLD are registered to, and maintained by, Registry Operator for its own exclusive use, (ii) Registry Operator does not sell, distribute or transfer control or use of any registrations in the TLD to any third party that is not an Affiliate of Registry Operator, and (iii) application of this Code of Conduct to the TLD is not necessary to protect the public interest. (Emphasis added)

As can be seen, Section 6 contains the same “public interest” standard that the GAC articulated. It says that in deciding whether to grant a COC waiver ICANN must determine that enforcement of the COC is unnecessary for protection of the public interest, while the GAC wants closed generic gTLDs permitted only where ICANN makes an affirmative determination that a particular application serves a public interest goal. So, while the COC exemption and GAC approval standards are not identical they are close, with both based upon a “public interest” standard.

The provision of the COC that closed generic applicants would be seeking an exemption from is Section 1.b, which formerly stated that an applicant registry operator and all its subsidiaries, affiliates, contractors, and all other related entities would not register domain names in its own right, except for names registered through an ICANN accredited registrar that are reasonably necessary for the management, operations and purpose of the TLD.

That provision had been cited by some closed generic applicants as exempting them from any need to seek an ICANN exemption if they simply declared that the “purpose’ of their gTLD was to exclude all other registrants. While many lawyers would cite this as a classic attempt to “have the exception swallow the rule”, the argument was made with a straight face and whether ICANN would buy it remained an open question.

Until now – the revised RA contains a major reconstruction of Section 1.b, deleting the phrase “that are reasonably necessary for the management, operations and purpose of the TLD” and replacing it with new language stating that a registry operator “may withhold from registration or allocate to Registry Operator up to one hundred (100) names pursuant to Section 3.2 of Specification 5”.

Now the cross-referenced Section 3.2 is also an entirely new portion of the RA, and reads:

“Registry Operator may activate in the DNS at All Levels up to one hundred (100) names (plus their IDN variants, where applicable) necessary for the operation or the promotion of the TLD. Registry Operator must act as the Registered Name Holder of such names as that term is defined in the then-current ICANN Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA)…At Registry Operator’s discretion and in compliance with all other terms of this Agreement, such names may be released for registration to another person or entity”.

So, read in combination, revised Section 1.b of Specification 9 and new Section 3.2 of Specification 5 allows any gTLD applicant to reserve up to 100 domains necessary for the operation or promotion of the gTLD. “Management” and “purpose” are gone; “promotion” has been added.

These unanticipated modifications make it much more difficult for a closed generic applicant to argue that it can avoid the necessity of applying for a COC exemption – which ICANN will decide under the “public interest” standard discussed above. And even if such a loophole is argued and accepted, 100 domains is likely to be far short of what the applicant envisioned for the scope of its closed generic gTLD – for example, Amazon almost surely intended far more than 100 domains for a proprietary .book.

Now that’s not the end of the story.

ICANN still has to forge some overarching policy position on whether and when a closed generic gTLD does not harm the public interest. That policy might accommodate .brands on the basis of protecting trademark rights at the top level of the DNS, or it might not (the GAC advice mentions no exemption for trademarks consisting of generic words).

Whatever policy is adopted, each closed generic applicant applying for a COC exemption must be judged against it.

If the policy is heavily weighed against closed generic approval, the question will arise as to whether applicants for closed gTLDs who claimed they relied upon an earlier version of the COC will be permitted to alter their applications in the middle of the ongoing evaluation and approval process.”

So the story’s ending is yet to come. But, make no mistake, the COC revision in the latest version of the RA moves ICANN much closer to the GAC position on closed generics — making the public interest the paramount consideration for approval.