(This letter also cc'd to: Vittorio Bertola, Bhavin Turekhia, Ross Rader, Vint Cerf, Ali Farschian, Bret Fausett, Danny Younger, Jefsey Morfin, Michael Frromkin of this esteemed website, Elliot Noss, James Khan, Karl Auerbach, Michael Palage, Richard Hill, The Register (UK), Tim Cole, Paul Twomey, Tina Dam.)
I am sending this mail to express continuing concern about the need for fair distribution of .eu domain names when they are released in each phase of the launch. The concern centres on whether traditional registrars who submit all their applications under their single trading name will be able to compete fairly with businesses who have created over 100 'shell' registrars in recent months. There is also a secondary continuing concern about the exploitation of very "short lists" by certain registrars to ensure their applications for premium domains all get processed in the opening minutes of the release, thereby effectively queue-jumping traditional registrars submitting long lists for all their customers. If one registrar makes just 10 applications and another makes 1000 applications, then the premium names in the short list will all be taken in the opening 10 rounds of registrations, whereas the same names with the larger registrar will already be taken before they appear in round 265, 387, 418 etc. The existence of over 100 'shell' registrars exacerbates this anomaly, because in theory each of those 'shell' registrars could be used to submit just 1 application (to be processed in round 1) or 2 applications or 5 or just a very few. It seems to me, therefore, that EURid will find it very difficult to guarantee the fair distribution of their domain names, and remember that the fair distribution of the DNS (with access to all) is one of the conditions of ICANN's mandate according to its MoU with the US.
My concern is that regular registrars (who are not just out for the quick buck of name-grabbing but provide a range of services and long-established customers, but operate under their own *single* accredited identity) are going to lose out, and potentially lose a lot of customers as well. I'm also concerned, separately, that companies like Tucows (who are highly reputable and long-established) will lose out because of EURid's refusal to allow re-sellers to be involved in the registration of .eu domain names. EURid really does have a bit of thinking to do on these issues.
I received today a mail from a concerned member of the European public (posted at the foot of this message) and I have included my response to it here:
Dear xxxxxxxxxxxx [name removed],
I'm sorry I haven't been able to get more detailed response from EURid yet - but it seems to me that at various stages the existence of 'shell' registrars (and there are over 100 of them) is going to unbalance the name distribution in favour of the people who've created all these nominal registrars. Experience in previous names releases showed that if you submit a short queue with just premium names (say just 10 names - as Signature Domains did a couple of years back) then you have a high chance of getting many ot them. I've argued repeatedly for at least "blank rounds" to be added to the process, so if you submit a short list of 10 names, then you still get 999 "blank rounds" and your 10 applications will be spread randomly around so they appear at round 65, round 186, round 364, round 729 etc etc. This at least would create some fairness for those registrars who are open to all and just trade under their one name, meaning that ALL their applications HAVE to go in one big list. The people who own (say) 60 'shell' registrars can spread out their applications - maybe have one big long list for boring names at a lower price, but then use the other 59 'registrars' for lists of 10 or 5 or 2 or just 1 - and charge a premium or obtain a premium for those. My blanks idea would still leave the company with 60 shells with a x60 bigger chance of winning any name, but at least other registrars would have SOME chance.
I'm not expecting EURid to be able to stop this.
And history has shown that ICANN lacks the will to intervene. They knew ALL about the .info Sunrise fiasco for example but refused to step in. I warned them in advance about the "short lists" problem in round-robin releases like .biz2B and .info LR2 but they ignored my concerns and wouldn't even reply to my emails. Its perhaps indicative of their attitude that although I've mailed EURid, registrars, and 5 ICANN key-players, while I've had replies from EURid and some CEOs of concerned registrars, I haven't had the courtesy of a single reply from ICANN. Lamentable.
I'm afraid I think that unless the media can pick up on this story and create a fuss, then 3 or 4 companies will corner 80% of the significant and popular names in the .eu names release (not so sure about the sunrise because I haven't been following that so closely, but certainly at the main launch).
Sorry not to be more encouraging.
With best wishes
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, July 25, 2005 11:00 PM
Subject: .eu Sunrise "pooling" problems
> Hi Richard,
> As a small holder of several European trademarks , I appreciate everything you are doing to inform EURid and ICANN of the potential problems related to Pool.com and similar organizations' approaches to the opening of the .eu TLD if they are actually using "shell" Registrars. I am not sure if you have seen the brochure from Pool.com related to their offering for trademark holders, but it offers for a set base fee of $100 per name along with additional fees for successful registrations in the .eu Sunrise period of $10,000 for Premium placement, $5,000 for the next level and $500 per name for the least desirable placement with their network of Registrars for .eu Sunrise Phase 1 for trademark holders. As a small businessperson trying to pay for first come-first served placement for the .eu Sunrise Phase 1 with traditional Registrars for commonly trademarked names ( for example names such as "poker" and "casino"), I feel I almost have no chance against Pool,et al. If they have the top 30 commonly trademarked names strategically placed through a network of 60-70 Registrars with small Sunrise queues, all of these great commonly trademarked names will be swept up before the first round is even completed. That means for me to even have a chance, I must find one of the accredited .eu Registrars which has not a single Sunrise Phase 1 applicant in front of me and then I may have a 1 in 300 chance for a single trademarked .eu name out of the several trademarks I own. This is very disheartening. I don't want any advantage, I just want to know that if I am 1 of 5 owners of a certain trademark and we are all applying for the .eu Sunrise Phase 1, that we each have around a 20% chance of winning - give or take a little.
> Richard, do you think anything can be done to save the .eu launch both during Sunrise and the open registration period from the companies who seem to have this process all locked up in their favor?
> Thanks again !
> xxxxxxxxxx [name removed]