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Domain registrars question Minds + Machines’ Priority Reservation System

Registrar Stakeholder Group questions if Minds + Machines is complying with registry and registrar agreements.

The separation between registry and registrar is being blurred with the introduction of new TLDs. For the first time, gTLD registries can also own domain name registrars.

This uncharted territory is sure to lead to first time issues that need to get ironed out. Here’s the first major one to be raised.

The ICANN Registrar Stakeholder Group (RrSG) is questioning Minds + Machines’ Priority Registration System and if the registry Minds + Machines is giving discriminatory access to its own registrar (also called Minds + Machines).

Domain Name Wire has obtained a letter (pdf) the group sent to ICANN contractual compliance today.

As background, the Priority Registration System allows a registrant to reserve a domain name and be guaranteed it will get it when the domain name launches. The system is enabled by Online Priority Enhanced Names database (“OPEN”).

In theory, any registrar can join OPEN and offer the service to their customers.

But RrSG argues that this isn’t exactly the case. It says that the Priority Registration System was enabled before Minds + Machines had finalized its Registry/Registrar Agreement (RRA), so other registrars were not able to join and therefore Minds + Machine’s registrar had discriminatory access.

RrSG questions if three contractual clauses are being honored:

* Section 2.9(a) of the New gTLD Registry Agreement – Registry Operator must provide non-discriminatory access to Registry Services to all ICANN accredited registrars that enter into and are in compliance with the registry-registrar agreement for the TLD

* Section 1(a) of Specification 9 of the New gTLD Registry Agreement – “…directly or indirectly show any preference or provide any special consideration to any registrar with respect to operational access to registry systems and related registry services…

* Section 3.7.3 of the 2013 RAA – “3.7.3 Registrar shall not represent to any actual or potential Registered Name Holder that Registrar enjoys access to a registry for which Registrar is Accredited that is superior to that of any other registrar Accredited for that registry.”

In reading the clauses, it seems that there might be a number of interpretations which ICANN will have to address.

Regarding the first one, if no other registrars have yet signed a R/R agreement with Minds + Machines, then is it actually discriminating amongst contracted registrars?

It seems that RrSG also isn’t sure which entity is making claims regarding enhanced access to the registry. Is MindsandMachines.com the registrar site, registry site, or both?

ICANN’s response will set precedent and may affect other registry’s launch plans.

Antony Van Couvering, CEO of Minds + Machines, released this statement to Domain Name Wire in response to the letter:

It’s clear that registrars want clarification on the rules around common ownership of registry and registrar, and we want that too, and have approached ICANN separately to ask for it. What we’re seeing now are very divergent interpretations of what the registry code of conduct really means. On the one side, registrars are concerned that registries don’t provide a commercial advantage to a house registrar — hence this letter. On the other side, some registries are refusing to provide their RRA to the Minds + Machines registrar unless we sign contracts that give them enforcement powers over their interpretation of how we should operate. We’re stuck in the middle. It seems that the only way to make everyone happy is to make everything a clone of .com, which is not what we think domain registrants want, and which is the opposite of the innovation and choice and competition that are enshrined as the core values of the gTLD program.

We value registrars commercially and have close relationships with many of them. It’s unfortunate, from our perspective, that the Registrar Stakeholder Group decided to use Minds + Machines as a test case, because it isn’t on point with regard to the bigger issue and we are confident that our Priority Reservation program is fair, fully within the rules, and is really great for customers.

We’re going to go through the usual ICANN channels to make our case, and simply note that this can’t have taken any registrars by surprise. We made a big announcement of the program at the ICANN Buenos Aires meeting, got the domain name industry press to cover it (as well as the Financial Times and others) and made every effort to sign up as many ICANN-accredited registrars as we could, including having multiple meetings with many of them at the ICANN meeting, some on the very evening we made the announcement. We have over a dozen registrars signed up, including some that voted to send the letter to ICANN.

Therefore I take this letter as a proxy for a bigger issue — that everyone, including us, is seeking clarity on how registries and registrars engage each other in this new gTLD world. We’ve already seen the vagueness lead to anti-competitive behavior from both camps and ICANN could do us all a favor by providing some guidance.”

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  1. Ryan

    I am boycotting all of Mind & Machines extensions, based on their ad campaigns, and Freddy Kreuger. As well .buzz for their bonehead pricing, and reservation policy.

  2. pophalos

    A superfluous claim by the RsRG, which is obviously doesnt stand up to scrutiny. Those individuals who suggest they’ll ‘boycott’ Minds + Machine for rather obscure reasons such as not ‘liking’ Freddy Kreuger, sound more like kids chucking their toys out of the pram. They’ll only actually limit their own choices as resellers so more like empty bluster i would think.

    Minds + Machinea have played it very cleverly indeed and some people obviously dont like that.

    • Ryan

      You sound like a very biased insider, plus your extensions IMO are on the weaker end of what’s out there in the spectrum.

      I know others will ignore mind and machines due to the way you conduct, and act on such business practices.

      To many choices, and you are not one of them. Enjoy going down with your ship.

  3. Page Howe

    i tried to figure out the Mand M preporder reservation system, and still cant, and thats after 2 hours. it must be hard to try to sell the consumer a guranteed pre-registration, yet still tell ICANN its not that. of course its also hard for ICANN in instruct other and fairness and transparancy….

    arghhhhh

  4. pophalos

    As of 14th jan, Minds + Machines had 11 Registrars signed up to its OPEN platform so the options available to all parties to operate equally through that channel.

    The RrSG are seen to be flapping in the wind with this one and perhaps should focus on things more substantial.

    • Richard Funden

      It is not the availability to other registrars that is at issue, it is when this was made available to other registrars, essentially giving their own registrar a head start.
      Announcing a new program and launching it on their own platform when other registrars had not even received an RRA to review or sign, that is the issue.

      • pophalos

        It’ll be shown that other registrars had been given the opportunity to sign up, albeit they chose to do so on & subsequent to actual launch of the OPEN platform.

        The RrSG are going on incomplete information, hence why their assertations to icaan are completely without base or requisite knowledge of discussions at the time.

        • Andrew Allemann

          The registrars are saying that M+M’s registry/registrar agreement wasn’t even finalized at the time OPEN launched, so it would have been impossible for them to have “chosen” to have signed up before M+M launches it.

          • pophalos

            That’s what ‘some’ registrars are saying – let’s see how that’s actually borne out.

            Minds + Machines have just been very clever in implementing strategies towards maximising revenue streams, hence some obvious ‘sour grapes’ by some parties.

      • Phil Buckingham

        Agreed. The RSG is flapping in the wind. Clever move. Clearly figured out the new vertical integrated market/ structure. Many Registrars clearly havent.

  5. pophalos

    I’m not surprised its causing ‘consternation’ amongst the competition…they are the competition after all!

    • Ryan

      Is this the customer service you guys want to deal with? The brainchild behind the .ceo marketing video lurks close.

      It is the laughing stock of the marketing world, and probably going to be one of the weakest registries. Unless you give them away for free, which will most likely end up being the case.

      There are 1400 other choices, nobody going to play games with your company.

  6. Jean Guillon

    This is an issue with lawyers as no where it says in the AGB what is allowed and what is not : “directly or indirectly show any preference or provide any special consideration to any registrar with respect to operational access to registry systems and related registry services…” does absolutely not mean a Registry cannot be a Registrar ! If I stick to what is written, I see no problem M+M to be a Registrar too.

    AND I AM CERTAINLY NOT WRITING THIS BECAUSE I REGISTERED RECETTES.COOKING

    🙂

      • Jean Guillon

        You are tight but unless I misunderstood something, I believe being a Registrar “and” a Registry was the problem when vertical integration became a subject (years ago) and it moved to the one exposed in the letter the RrSG group sent to ICANN. Unfortunately, here, I don’t see how ICANN could investigate if one was given a better treatment. I read the content of all emails from the RrSG group and…I don’t really see where the problem is honestly.
        Is it really the example of Section 1(a) of Specification 9 the problem ? I don’t think so. I think the problem is absolutely not here!

  7. Phophalos

    Jean, I think we were all somewhat startled when you said Andrew was ‘tight’. However, on a more serious note, that’s the crux of the case and why this is essentialy a non issue. It’s not going anywhere.

    • pophalos

      As Antony says, there was complete transparency in notification of the OPEN platform launch and any party wishing to be involved had the opportunity to do so.

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