Long Road to .Web as Afilias files for IRP

The wait for .Web is just about to be longer after Afilias file a notice and request for an independent review process.

Most recently, Donuts that was recently acquired by Former ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade backed ABRY Partners lost at the Court of Appeal. Donuts had claimed that ICANN” “intentionally failed to abide by its contractual obligations to conduct a full and open investigation into Nu Dot Co’s admission because it was in ICANN’s interest that the .web contention set be resolved by way of ICANN auction.” Further, they claimed “ICANN deprived Donuts and the other applicants for the .web gTLD of the right to compete for .web in accordance with established ICANN policy. Court intervention is necessary to ensure ICANN’s compliance with its own accountability and transparency mechanisms.”

Donuts sought a minimum of $22.5 million over its failed bid for .web.

In the latest developing news, Afilias makes this request in the context of the Independent Review Process (“IRP”)5it commenced against ICANN on 14 November 2018 to resolve a dispute between the parties concerning the application and auction processes by which presumptive rights to the .WEB gTLD were awarded. It noted that the parties’ dispute arises from the ICANN Board’s and Staff’s breaches.

Further the request details that Afilias  and six other applicants submitted competing applications for the right to operate the crown jewel of the New gTLD Program, the .WEB gTLD registry, pursuant to the New gTLD Program Rules (collectively, the “.WEB contention set”). As described further in Afilias’ Request for IRP, NU DOT CO LLC (“NDC”) entered into a secret agreement with a non-applicant, VeriSign, Inc. (“VeriSign”), which enabled it to secretly participate in and win an ICANN-administered auction for .WEB (the “.WEB Auction”) contrary to the intent and language of the New gTLD Program Rules. Afilias was the second-place bidder in the .WEB Auction. ICANN now intends to conclude a “Registry Agreement” for .WEB with NDC, which is contractually obligated to assign that Registry Agreement to VeriSign. ICANN’s intended course of action fundamentally changes the status quo regarding .WEB, notwithstanding the fact that Afilias raised objections with ICANN regarding NDC’s subterfuge and its violation of the New gTLD Program Rules some two years ago and, now, in Afilias’ recent Request for IRP.

…by failing to implement faithfully the New gTLD Program Rules, ICANN is enabling VeriSign to acquire the .WEB gTLD, the next closest competitor to VeriSign’s monopoly, and in so doing has eviscerated one of the central pillars of the New gTLD Program: to introduce and promote competition in the Internet namespace in order to break VeriSign’s monopoly.

Afilias has submitted the Interim Request for IRP, seeking a stay of all ICANN actions that further the delegation of the .WEB gTLD during the pendency of the IRP, including, but not limited to;-

(1) the continued negotiation and execution of a Registry Agreement concerning .WEB,

(2) any pre-delegation testing of the .WEB registry, and

(3) the delegation of .WEB to the root server.

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