TLDH Corporate Update and Board of Directors Change
April 13th, 2013
Following a review of the progress made at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”) 45th conference held in Toronto this month, the Board of TLDH believes that a turning point has been reached for the timetable for the implementation of the new generic top level domain (“gTLD”) programme.
ICANN has proposed a new plan for prioritising gTLD applications through the steps leading to delegation. The ICANN plan sets out an assignment of priorities through the use of a draw through the purchase by each gTLD applicant of a numbered paper ticket. The tickets will be drawn and draw numbers assigned. The priority assigned to each gTLD application will be determined by the draw number and used to schedule the release of initial evaluation results, pre-delegation testing, and contract execution. The ICANN proposal seeks to complete processing of the applications in an expedited manner and the initial random draw is expected to take place in mid December 2012. The gTLD application evaluation results will be released between late March and late June 2013.
ICANN expects that approximately 20 pre-delegation testing appointments and 20 contracts will be concluded each week. The first contracts or delegations are expected to be concluded following the next ICANN meeting in Beijing in the second week of April 2013. ICANN’s proposal will give priority to internationalised domain names (“IDNs”), including .购物 (“dot shopping” in Chinese characters), for which TLDH is the sole applicant. Members of ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee have made clear their intention to push for the prioritisation of geographic gTLD applications, of which TLDH has several, including .LONDON. Provided that the ICANN proposed timetable is broadly adhered to, the Board of TLDH believes that a number of the Group’s 17 uncontested gTLD applications on its own behalf and the 5 uncontested client gTLD applications are likely to be revenue producing in 2013, with the balance becoming so in the first half of 2014. TLDH has commenced discussions with the leading worldwide registrars, premium name specialists, and secondary market platforms for distribution of these gTLD names.
TLDH is also working with other gTLD applicant groups to define formats for private auctions and other name resolution arrangements in respect of the contested names that TLDH has applied for. The Board expects that these auctions are likely to happen in the second half of 2013.
Following the draw in December, when TLDH will learn the priority order of its gTLD applications, the Company’s registry business, Minds + Machines, plans to expand its operational team. The Board has reviewed a number of possible locations for Minds + Machines operational centre and currently plans to base its core of activities in Dublin, Ireland, to support its geographic and generic gTLDs. In advance of the development of Minds + Machines European operations, the Board expects to make a number of new appointments, including further appointments of both executive and non-executive directors, to enhance and develop the Group’s capabilities. As a first step in this process, Caspar von Veltheim, who has been responsible for TLDH’s continental European applications in respect of .NRW and .BAYERN, will, on completion of satisfactory regulatory checks in compliance with the AIM Rules, join the Board of TLDH as an executive director with responsibility for Europe. Clark Landry, who has been a non-executive director of the Company since it was first admitted to trading on AIM, has decided to step down from the Board. The Board would like to thank Clark for his substantial contribution in the development of the Group’s since admission and wish him well in his other interests and as a supportive on-going shareholder in the Company. A further announcement in respect of Caspar’s appointment will be made on completion of the required regulatory checks.
ICANN Reveals Evaluation Timing for New gTLDs
April 13th, 2013
Having now consigned to oblivion the unpopular “digital archery” method of determining who goes first in the new gTLD round, ICANN yesterday announced that it was going to evaluate all new gTLD applications concurrently (the “single batch”), and release all results simultaneously.
The decision is a victory for clarity and a very good result for new gTLD applicants. TLDH and its clients now have a measure of certainty about dates, and can plan accordingly. For instance, we can now have confidence that .LONDON and .GOP will be approved in 11 months (or less – see more below) instead of the 19 months it might have taken under the old plan.
ICANN says that it expects results to be announced in June or July of 2013:
The current plan indicates that initial evaluation of all applications, processed in a “single batch”, can be completed in 11-12 months, possibly less – resulting in publication of results in June-July 2013. The “possibly less” teaser from ICANN hides a lot. “Less” can be achieved by allowing evaluators to review identical sections of applications only once. For instance, while there 1930 applications, there are fewer than 40 separate technical plans. So evaluators of the enormous technical section, the bulk of the application, would really only need to examine 40, not 1900 — or only 2.1% of their previously scoped effort.
97.9% less effort is likely to require a lot less time — even the most cynical of ICANN observers can admit that. ICANN seems to be learning to be conservative with its calendar announcements. ICANN has also announced that they will be providing webinars to applicants to keep them updated on the progress of the evaluations.
ICANN also seems to have found a way to accommodate the timetable of their querulous Government Advisory Committee, which has said that the only way they could provide “early warnings” to applicants was to make the early warnings late — in October 2012 at the ICANN meeting in Toronto.
Applicants now have a good understanding of how the process is going to go, and when it will end. Some details — such as the order in which approved applications will be delegated — still need to be worked out, but this is a very good result for new gTLD applicants.
ICANN String Similarity results released
March 4th, 2013
ICANN String Similarity results released; No TLDH or client strings affected; Company and clients now have 22 uncontested strings.
The Board of TLDH (AIM: TLDH.L) is delighted to announce that ICANN’s String Similarity Panel has determined that none of the strings for which it is the sole applicant will be placed in contention sets with other strings. In particular, the panel has ruled that TLDH’s application for .work does not conflict with another application for “.works”, and hence has a clear path to approval and delegation.
As a result the Company and its clients now have 22 uncontested strings, the Company having removed .work from its original list of uncontested strings in its Interim statement.
Fred Krueger, Chairman, said:
We are very pleased with the results of the String Similarity Panel – in particular in relation to .work. We believe that the .work TLD will appeal to companies who are hiring staff and to individuals seeking employment. The string is short, memorable and ideal for career pages, resumés, service providers and many other uses.
The Biggest Glitch of All
June 11th, 2012
ICANN’s batching program, called digital archery, is deeply flawed and should be abandoned before it causes havoc with the new gTLD program. As well as arbitrarily creating winners and losers, creating unfair advantages for certain types of applicants and for certain regions, the program may be suffering from another software “glitch” of the kind that damaged the application process. There is a much better solution: a single batch for all applications.
ICANN has determined that it can only evaluate 500 applications at a time. It is therefore using something called “digital archery” to separate applications into batches. An applicant picks a time, then attempts to click a mouse as close to that time as possible. The closer you are, the higher batch number you achieve. Combined with this is a round-robin method meant to assure that applications for different regions are fairly represented, though in practice it is grossly unfair. This entire program is flawed, unfair, and will create mayhem and ill-will. And it is completely unnecessary.
Artificially Creating Winners and Losers
ICANN’s batching system arbitrarily creates winners (those in the first batch) and losers (those in the second and subsequent batches). The advantages to going first may be enormous from an economic and market acceptance perspective. This does not comport with the principles enunciated by ICANN again and again — that winners and losers will be determined by choice and competition.
Different Than Chance?
In addition to the new “glitch” discussed below, there are other factors that make digital archery not a game of skill, but of chance. Network latencies, vagaries of the DNS, and other factors can all have an impact on how close a click comes to the target. We have also observed slowdowns on ICANN’s servers, as if caused by other processes running on them, resulting in skewed times. Fearful of being accused of running an illegal lottery, ICANN is billing digital archery as a game of skill. But really it’s a game of trying to reduce random elements – even the most skillful game players cannot be assured of winning, but only of reducing their chances of losing. Lottery players can achieve the same results by buying lots of tickets, which doesn’t make it any less a game of chance.
Unfair to Poorer Applicants
Although ICANN says this is a game of skill, to the extent that you can improve your odds with digital archery, it is a question of resources, not skill. As an example, we built software to test and calibrate our clicks. We have skilled engineers and multiple locations to test. These resources are not available to everyone.
Unfair to Certain Regions
The round-robin geographical distribution introduces another element of unfairness. Region 1 will have its best digital archery score entered into Batch 1, then the best one from Region 2, and so on, until all 5 Regions have had one turn each. Then the system will repeat the process. What this means in practice is that all applications from Africa (with few applications) will be in Batch 1, while North America, with many applications, will end up with very few in Batch 1 (disclosure: ICANN considers that TLDH’s applications are from Europe). ICANN promised that their regional selection would be proportional, but this system does not accomplish that aim, because a proportional system would have more apps from North America than from Africa, instead of the other way around.
Unfair to Non-Generics
Another feature of the ICANN’s batching system is that all applications in contention sets will be dragged into the batch of the application in that set with the best score. In practice, this means that generic names (e.g., .MUSIC) will have a much greater chance of being in Batch 1 than non-generics (e.g., .NYC and brand applications). And even though ICANN has said that it will treat all applications in a contention set as a single application for purposes of batching, this still creates a system tilted in favor of generic applications.
In testing digital archery, we discovered disturbing data that suggests the algorithm used by ICANN’s digital archery program may be flawed. This data was communicated to ICANN Friday, June 8, before close of business. This data has been replicated on several different sets of hardware, used from different locations, over several days. If our data is correct, the times recorded by the digital archery program may be subject to variations caused by an error in the digital archery system. We have an appointment to talk to ICANN staff about this issue, and they may provide a correction, but that won’t help any applicants who have already used the digital archery system.
To play the digital archery “game,” applicants enter ICANN’s TAS system and select a target time, then click a button as close to the target time as possible. The button triggers a signal at ICANN’s servers, and the timestamp recorded. The difference between the target time and the recorded time is the offset that determines the applicant’s score, referred to by ICANN as the “secondary timestamp.”
We wrote an application to click on the test button and measure the time offset. For each target time, an offset in milliseconds is determined to click before the time, to allow for network latency and other delaying factors. The time we clicked was measured, as well as the time reported by ICANN, and these times were recorded in the table below. As can be seen, the times are typically between 1 and 20 milliseconds, but with some wildly larger numbers of nearly 1000 milliseconds (shown in yellow).
Digital Archery Glitch Followup
June 11th, 2012
In a phone followup to our communication with ICANN regarding theglitch we discovered with the Digital Archery program, ICANN acknowledged that the issue was real, but that it related to display only (not to actual data recorded), and that the issue has been fixed as of Saturday.
I applaud ICANN for the followup and the quick fix, and hope that it was a one-off problem and not a harbinger of other troubles. The batching program itself remains deeply flawed as discussed in my previous post and as communicated in a letter toCherine Chalaby, ICANN Board member and Chair of the Board New gTLD Program Committee.
1 commentPosted in ICANN, New TLDs
ICANN Teases Applicants with Hints of new gTLD Dates
May 22nd, 2012
Would it hurt ICANN to be specific about their dates? Apparently it’s highly painful, to judge from a recent ICANN Twitter chat. As usual, nothing definitive was announced, but little hints were dropped. This is getting worse than trying to understand Soviet politics based on the size of the generals’ hats at the May Day parade.
ICANN just held a “Twitter chat” where soon-to-depart ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom answered some questions for a few minutes from the balcony before being escorted back into the palace.
A few things were gleaned:
The digital archery window will open before the “reveal” and close after it. The length of the digital archery window will be three weeks. The “target” reveal date is “still” before the ICANN meeting in Prague. There will be a “batch reveal” to take place after the “big reveal.” In other words, people will learn their batch number after Prague. Updated new gTLD timeline, oops, “additional schedule details” to be published May 29 2012. Finally, because of their tender concern for applicants, ICANN is not paying interest on the money they’re holding. Instead, fees are being held in non-interest bearing accounts so that they are fully FDIC insured. Taken altogether, a possible/likely possible schedule is:
Week of June 18 (beginning) – digital archery commences Week of June 18 (end) – Big Reveal Week of June 25 – ICANN meeting in Prague Week of July 2 – digital archery ends Sometime over the rainbow – results of batching announced Beckstrom is clearly not making decisions on the fly. Or even slowly. Wondering who is making them….