Today, the Second Edition of Nigeria Internet Governance Forum 2013 holds here in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria. The planning for this elaborate event has been on, for the better part of the last four months, and it brings together technocrats, civil society, the private sector, government representatives, intellectuals from the academic communities and other stakeholders from all parts of Nigeria to deliberate on critical issues revolving around internet governance in the…
ICANN has announced today that it has signed an Accountability Framework with the country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) manager for .ME (Montenegro), the Ministry for Information Society and Telecommunications of Montenegro, on 13 May 2013.
The Accountability Framework program provides two mechanisms by which ccTLD managers can formalise their relationship with ICANN. The first is an Accountability Framework document that sets out the obligations of a ccTLD manager and ICANN. It also covers dispute resolution and termination and is designed for ccTLD managers requiring a formal document with ICANN.
The second mechanism is an Exchange of Letters between ICANN and the ccTLD manager designed for those for whom a statement of commitments is more appropriate.
Signed accountability framework and exchange of letters documents can be found at http://www.icann.org/en/cctlds/agreements.html.
Today, the Second Edition of Nigeria Internet Governance Forum 2013 holds here in Abuja, the Capital city of Nigeria. The planning for this elaborate event has been on, for the better part of the last four months, and it brings together technocrats, civil society, the private sector, government representatives, intellectuals from the academic communities and other stakeholders from all parts of the country to deliberate on critical issues revolving around internet governance in the…
Dr. Steve Crocker Visits With Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra In Bangkok, June 7 2013
Earlier this month, Dr. Stephen Crocker and I had the privilege of visiting Thailand’s capitol city, Bangkok. We spent the week meeting with local Internet and business pioneers.
Our first official task was to attend an international conference for the newspaper industry. The combined World Newspaper Congress (65th), World Editors Forum (20th) and World Advertisers Forum (23rd) focuses on the news industry and, honestly, was not something I would traditionally expect myself attending. However when looking at the agenda and listening to talks, it became very apparent that this is an industry that finds itself at a pivotal point in its evolution. Understanding and embracing the modern online world was a central element of the conference. Dr. Crocker gave an on stage interview to Mr Pichai Chuensuksawadi, Editor-in-Chief of The Post Publishing Public Co. Ltd. The discussion was both enlightening and humorous. Apparently newspapers still print on materials made from trees, who knew?
The main event was the following day – a day of celebrations to commemorate Twenty-Five, yes Twenty-Five years since the founding of .TH. If you are in the business of making watches, baking bread, or producing other traditional staples of society, then a quarter of a century may seem like a relatively short period of time. However in Internet years, Twenty-Five is pretty historic. It was a pleasure to sit back and listen to congratulations pour in to .TH from around the globe. I was personally very pleased to have been on the invite list. It is a great honor to know and work with people who pioneered the Internet in Thailand and who also have been long time advocates for the Internet way of doing things.
.TH has evolved from being run out of the Asia Institute of Technology (AIT) to today’s non-profit .THNIC, which is an industry leader in the region. My first interactions with AIT go back to their hosting of training sessions for their fellow ccTLDs at AIT’s Interlab, sharing their knowledge and hospitality as only they know how. Dr. Crocker and I made a trip out to AIT to see how Interlab has faired since the floods of a couple of years ago. We were pleased to see that they are back on their feet, although still rebuilding, and once again offering training to others in the region. We also got to see some of the really cool projects that Interlab and THNIC are working on in the realm of using networking to aid disaster recovery.
THNIC also has the distinction of being the first ccTLD in the region to sign their zone with DNSSEC!
In the evening, Pichai hosted another chat, this time including both Steve Crocker and Vint Cerf, who joined via video. As always, it was fascinating listening to them recount the early days of the Arpanet and how they have seen the world change since.
The final day of Dr Crocker’s visit included opening a DNSSEC training session, provided by NLNetLabs and the Network Startup Resource Center which focused on the importance of DNSSEC with decision makers and included multiple days of hands on training for administrators.
The trip wrapped up with a visit to the offices of the Thai Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawarra, where we were accompanied by Olaf Kolkman (NLNetlabs), Khun Kanchana Kanchanasut (AIT/THNIC Foundation), Pensri Arunwatanamongkol (THNIC Foundation) and Dr. Thaweesak (NSTDA). The Prime Minister was very well versed in matters of technology and interested in Thailand’s participation in ICANN as well as various matters relating to the growth of the Internet.
All in all, a very interesting visit to one of Asia’s great cities.
A big thank you, Kop Khun Ma Krup, to our hosts at .THNIC
ICANN bylaws mandate periodic reviews of the organisation's main structures. For the body that handles gTLD policy making, the GNSO, that review was due to start in February this year.
The review appears much needed. The GNSO Council is the manager of the gTLD policy process and as such, it has representatives of all GNSO groups. But according to repeated statements by many of those representatives, the Council's current bicameral structure has not lived up to expectations.
This two-house structure is the result of the last review and the recommendations that came out of it. Each GNSO Council house is divided in two sub-groups called stakeholder groups (SGs). But that's where the symmetry ends.
In the contracted parties house, the two SGs are the only entities. So the registry SG and the registrar SG are often able to find areas of common interests.
But in the non contracted parties house, the 2 SGs are made up of 5 sub-groups, called constituencies. Seeing eye to eye is not always so easy for the commercial SG (the business, internet service providers and intellectual property constituencies) and the non commercial SG (the non commercial users and the not for profit organizations constituencies).
The review would help evaluate whether the GNSO's current structure is well suited to ICANN's changing environment and policy making needs in a world that has already been dramatically changed by the new gTLD program. Its results would pave the way for any changes that are deemed necessary.
Yet it seems the review is unlikely to start anytime soon. On June 12, in an email to the GNSO Council, ICANN staff explained that the "Board Structural Improvements Committee (SIC) is considering postponing the GNSO Review (potentially for a year) while it evaluates options for streamlining the organizational review process and considers relevant discussions involving development of a new ICANN Strategic Plan. The SIC expects to make a recommendation to the Board in Durban and staff will keep you apprised of these developments."
Those who feel the current bicameral structure is unbalanced will not be happy to hear the GNSO may not be reviewed for another year. It's also unclear how such a decision, should it be confirmed, would fit with the ICANN bylaws requirement which states that "reviews shall be conducted no less frequently than every five years, based on feasibility as determined by the Board." (Article IV, section 4).
Obviously allowing the Board to determine feasibility gives the SIC the leeway to push the review back. But can a 2 year delay still be considered reasonable?
Written by Stéphane Van Gelder, Chairman, STEPHANE VAN GELDER CONSULTING
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The ICANN Board New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC) met on 11 June 2013 to discuss the GAC Beijing advice regarding singular and plural versions of the same string as a New gTLD. The discussion followed the NGPC's decision on 4 June 2013 to accept the GAC's advice to consider this issue. The NGPC made considerable progress toward reaching consensus on a way forward and expects to reach a conclusion at its 25 June 2013 meeting.
The NGPC also considered how it might respond to the ALAC Statement on IDN Variants. Finally, it began in-depth discussion of the GAC's Safeguard Advice applicable to all strings.
The next two meetings of the NGPC on 18 and 25 June 2013 will focus on items within the GAC's Annex 1 Safeguard advice. Below please find an updated NGPC work plan:Item Resp. Start Date Compl. Date Status 1. Publish GAC Communiqué to solicit input on how the New gTLD Board Committee should address GAC advice regarding safeguards applicable to broad categories of New gTLD strings Staff 23 April Complete 2. Public comment period on how NGPC should address GAC Advice re: Safeguards Public 23 April Comment 14 May; Reply 4 June Complete 3. Summarize and analyze public comments on GAC Advice re: Safeguards Staff 5 June 19 June In Progress 4. Meeting to review and consider staff proposals for addressing overarching Safeguard advice (Annex 1, 1-6) and Restricted & Exclusive Registry policies (Category 2) NGPC 18 June Not Started 5. Meeting to review and consider staff proposals on Category 1, Items 1-5, and Singular vs. Plural NGPC 25 June Not Started
The New gTLD evaluation and objection processes remains on track while the NGPC continues its deliberations. The NGPC is prioritizing its work in order to allow the greatest number of applications to move forward as soon as possible. We will continue to provide updates on the NGPC's progress in responding to the GAC Beijing Advice.
Earlier this week dns.be launched Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs).
The Belgian registry opted to support the accented characters for Dutch, French and German. In so doing they've also ended up providing support for other European languages, such as Swedish, Finnish and Danish.
The characters supported are below:
The registry reported quite a bit of interest in the launch with over 3000 IDN domains being registered in the first hour. That number had practically doubled by close of business on the first day.
So what domains are people registering?
The most popular requests were:
The registry announced that close to 80% of the IDN domains registered were registered to Belgian residents, thus reinforcing the view that IDNs were in demand from the local market.
More details here.
Written by Michele Neylon, MD of Blacknight Solutions
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The success or failure of public cloud services can be measured by whether they deliver high levels of performance, security and reliability that are on par with, or better than, those available within enterprise-owned data centers. To emphasize the rapidly growing cloud market, IDC forecasts that public cloud IT spending will increase from $40 billion in 2012 to $100 billion in 2016. To provide the performance, security and reliability needed, cloud providers are moving quickly to build a virtualized multi-data center service architecture, or a "data center without walls."
This approach federate the data centers of both the enterprise customer and cloud service provider so that all compute, storage, and networking assets are treated as a single, virtual pool with optimal placement, migration, and interconnection of workloads and associated storage. This "data center without walls" architecture gives IT tremendous operational flexibility and agility to better respond and support business initiatives by transparently using both in-house and cloud-based resources. In fact, internal studies show that IT can experience resource efficiency gains of 35 percent over isolated provider data center architectures.
However, this architecture is not without its challenges. The migration of workload between enterprise and public cloud creates traffic between the two, as well as between clusters of provider data centers. In addition, transactional loads and demands placed on the backbone network, including self-service customer application operations (application creation, re-sizing, or deletion in the cloud) and specific provider administrative operations can cause variability and unpredictability to traffic volumes and patterns. To accommodate this variability in traffic, providers normally would have to over-provision the backbone to handle the sum of these peaks — an inefficient and costly approach.
Getting to Performance-on-Demand
In the future, rather than over-provisioning, service providers will employ intelligent networks that can be programmed to allocate bandwidth from a shared pool of resources where and when it is needed. This software-defined network (SDN) framework consists of virtualizing the infrastructure layer — the transport and switching network elements; a network control layer (or SDN controller) — the software that configures the infrastructure layer to accommodate service demands; and the application layer — the service-creation/delivery software that drives the required network connectivity — e.g. the cloud orchestrator.
SDN enables cloud services to benefit from performance-on-demand
The logically-centralized control layer software is the lynchpin to providing orchestrated performance-on-demand. This configuration allows the orchestrator to request allocation of those resources without needing to understand the complexity of the underlying network.
For example, the orchestrator may simply request a connection between specified hosts in two different data centers to handle the transfer of 1 TB with a minimum flow rate of 1 Gb/s and packet delivery ratio of 99.9999% to begin between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. The SDN controller first verifies the request against its policy database, performs path computation to find the best resources for the request, and orchestrates the provisioning of those resources. It subsequently notifies the cloud orchestrator so that the orchestrator may initiate the inter-data center transaction.
The benefits to this approach include cost savings and operational efficiencies. Delivering performance-on-demand in this way can reduce cloud backbone capacity requirements by up to 50 percent compared to over-provisioning, while automation simplifies planning and operational practices, and reduces the costs associated with these tasks.
The network control and cloud application layers also can work hand-in-hand to optimize the service ecosystem as a whole. The network control layer has sight of the entire landscape of all existing connections, anticipated connections, and unallocated resources, making it more likely to find a viable path if one is possible — even if nodes or links are congested along the shortest route.
The cloud orchestrator can automatically respond to inter-data center workload requirements. Based on policy and bandwidth schedules, the orchestrator works with the control layer to connect destination data centers and schedule transactions to maximize the performance of the cloud service. Through communication with the network control layer, it can select the best combination of connection profile, time window and cost.
Whether built with SDN or other technologies, an intelligent network can transform a facilities-only architecture into a fluid workload orchestration workflow system, and a scalable and intelligent network can offer performance-on-demand for assigning network quality and bandwidth per application.
This intelligent network is the key ingredient to enable enterprises to inter-connect data centers with application-driven programmability, enhanced performance and at the optimal cost.
Written by Jim Morin, Product Line Director, Managed Services & Enterprise at Ciena
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Internet users are willing to navigate to, use, and trust new web addresses that will be flooding the Internet later this year, and brand name websites will carry more weight with Internet users than generic sites.
These are among the results of a public opinion survey commissioned by FairWinds Partners, a consultancy that specializes in domain name strategy.
The poll also found that the owners and operators of these new addresses should be technically prepared or risk driving away or losing traffic intended for their sites.
Hundreds of new gTLDs are expected to roll out later this year and a total of approximately 1,400 could be operational in a year or so.
Internet users are untethered to the past, broadminded, and based on this survey, receptive to new ways of doing things. Respondents prefer to take control of their Internet experiences, expect to find their favorite brands at intuitive sites, and will adapt to the new addresses without too much difficulty.
The online poll of 1,000 Internet users found that consumers have an open mind about new gTLDs even though they remain a largely unknown and abstract concept:
- 57 percent said they had no preference or would be willing to navigate to a new gTLD media website, while 43 percent said they would stick with a .COM media site
- 52 percent said they had no preference or would be willing to shop on a new gTLD, compared to 48 percent who preferred .COM
- 53 percent said they had no preference or would be willing to bank with a financial institution operating a new gTLD site, compared to 47 percent who would stick with .COM
The poll found that consumers trust the brands that they know and likely would embrace brand name gTLDs without much hesitation:
- 14 percent of respondents navigating to a media site would prefer a brand name site, such as .CBS compared to 9 percent who preferred a generic such as .NEWS
- 17 percent of respondents shopping online would navigate to a brand name site compared to 9 percent who preferred a generic gTLD, such as .SHOES
- 15 percent of those banking online said they would prefer a brand gTLD, for example .CITI compared to 10 percent who opted for a generic site such as .LOANS
Brand owners — whether they applied for a new gTLD or not — can draw valuable lessons from FairWinds' research. Internet users indicated they expect to see their favorite brands adopt and use new gTLDs and that poor online user experiences will lead to missed revenue and opportunities for brand owners.
The better brand owners understand consumer behavior, the better prepared they will be to optimize use of their new gTLDs and remain competitive in the new Internet space.
The poll, conducted by InsightsNow! in April, questioned Internet users between the ages of 13 and 64. This is the second in a series of polls FairWinds is undertaking to gauge the impact of new gTLDs on consumers and businesses. The first FairWinds market research survey may be read here.
Written by Josh Bourne, Managing Partner at FairWinds Partners
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National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) Cable Show Washington, DC – June 10-12, 2013 (Photo: NCTA)I had the opportunity this week to take part in the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) Cable Show — a traveling show in the U.S. that took place in Washington, DC, this year. The Cable Show is one of the largest events of the cable industry and this year was also my first time attending.
In the U.S. capital, it's difficult to avoid the topic of politics and its effects on the telecommunications industry. This was especially true during The Cable Show in light of recent news around communication monitoring, wiretapping, and how far it's going. But while this was a hot topic on the minds of attendees, politics for the most part was left at the door when it came to the exhibition floor.
As expected, a wide variety of exhibitors brought their best efforts to The Cable Show, displaying tools, software, services, and content. From mega-sized displays showcasing the latest TV shows and series; to rubbing shoulders with famous actors, business celebrities, and reality TV cast members; to viewing the very precise equipment and software that allows all this to come true — this show had it all.
The number of companies in attendance and their technology categories are useful in identifying trends for where the cable industry is heading:
- Content was definitely at the core of the show, with 81 exhibitors involved in cable programming
- Multi-screen content and HDTV were also well represented, with more than 40 vendors each
- IPTV followed closely, with 37 exhibiting companies
- Mobile apps and cloud services also had a presence
This focus on content and new strategies indicates a disruption in traditional cable TV, the strengthening of over-the-top (OTT) services, and the adoption of IPTV. It also raises the question — how long before Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM), which is the format used by cable providers to transmit content, is replaced by IP?
Even with all this on site, two displays placed strategically side-by-side caught my attention. One was called the "Observatory" and celebrated the history and evolution of the cable industry and its technologies. The other, "Imagine Park," looked at the path ahead of us. What is the cable industry working on to stay relevant, when competition is continuously increasing?
Technology is all about evolution and creating solutions to problems. That said, one cannot simply focus on the future and ignore the past, which is why these displays were so effective. It's good to see that someone is thinking of that — celebrating how far the cable industry has come and how far it will continue to take us.
Written by Rick Oliva, Sales Support Engineering Manager at Incognito Software
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The world is just waking up to the fact that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been accepting applications for new generic top-level domains, or gTLDs, since 2012 and that hundreds of these gTLDs have already been approved through Initial Evaluation, with more being approved every week. It is expected that the new extensions will begin appearing online in the second half of 2013, and over 1,000 new extensions will likely be added to the Internet by 2014.
But if you're reading this, you've known this for a long time. In fact, you may have just gotten word that your application is approved.
Congratulations! Awesome news… but, what now?
You've put all of this time, money and effort into getting a valuable domain extension, but even if your application has been approved, there is still a lot to be done before you're able to go out and start marketing and selling. Consider taking this time to hone in on your strategy and prepare for a successful launch.
You're not alone if this is the first time you, or your company, has launched a TLD — after all, ICANN has controlled the Doman Name System very tightly until now. So how do you know what to expect next? Once you've gotten the "go ahead," how do you know where you should focus your efforts to launch with a big splash and finally begin generating revenue?
As a company that has helped launch TLDs in the past, and as a neutral observer in the new TLD process (i.e. we did not apply for any TLDs of our own), here are a few tips that Sedo has gained over the last ten plus years in the industry.
When developing a launch strategy, it's important to place significant emphasis on your registry's premium names. Obviously they're the most valuable, so selling a few good names up front has the potential to jump start revenue. In addition, getting a few premium names in the hands of end users that have aggressive marketing plans (or budgets) is free advertising for your registry and could drive general interest. With that in mind, here are five things you need to think about when preparing your premium sales and auction strategy.
1. Data Gets You Started; Not All Premium Lists Are Created Equal – Identifying your most valuable domain assets is one of the first things you should do. But, at the same time, as you create a list of premium addresses, think about which ones you may want to place on reserve for later sales. Put simply, you need to know which possible addresses will be worth more to you than the others. You have one chance to do this correctly — and you don't want to leave money on the table or let a potential "category killer" slip through the cracks because you didn't correctly identify the opportunities in front of you.
A historical view is important in order to accurately crunch the numbers. What has been popular in the past? What types of domains have consistently sold or increased in value? Which ones have decreased? How about international opportunities — have you considered what domains wouldn't be successful in North America, but might be of huge interest in other parts of the world? What non-English domains could be valuable with your TLD?
History, as they say, offers lessons, and without access to historical data to make your decisions you will already be at a disadvantage. You need to use every advantage possible to ensure that you get the best possible list, so you don't miss out on potential revenue.
2. Auction Everything? Or Develop a Sales Strategy? Auctions are a good way to generate revenues quickly. However, many times the highest sale prices don't come in an auction. This is because it can be difficult for the 'perfect' buyer(s) to know that the auction is happening at X date. Many registries are neglecting the idea of using a longer term approach, including sales distribution channels and premium domain marketplaces.
It is important to understand, however, that there is no "one-size-fits-all" way to sell domains under your TLD:
• It's important to actively look for strategic deals early on, via the Brokerage and Business Development of your premium domains. Your focus should be finding end users that will develop, use and actively market their company or product under your new TLD.
• All new TLDs must hold a Sunrise period to give trademark holders an opportunity to pre-register related names. Sunrise is a key opportunity for early cash flow, but you need to properly drive awareness of when the period will begin and end and identify potential leads.
• A Landrush period is another excellent way to secure cash flow for your extension. It's customary to hold a Landrush so anyone can submit an application to get early access to the domains they really want. But did you know a Landrush is not something that's mandated by ICANN? It's optional, so it's worth carefully considering the benefits (quick cash flow, free publicity from usage of the domain) and drawbacks (potential for domain value to increase if extension is successful) to your new registry. Competition and conflict auctions give some high demand domains a strong chance at very high values (higher than you may ever have expected).
• Auctions are a key element to your success as well – and to auction domains successfully, you need to have global reach, a way to weed out fraudulent bidders and the international expertise to make sure the widest audience possible can bid. A good thing to remember is that there is a huge appetite for English language domains outside of North America, so make sure you can reach those buyers globally!
3. Take Your Marketing Strategy Seriously – Businesses today understand the power of a good domain name. Whether a premium "category killer" name or a company's own proper name, the right domain makes a company easy to find and helps it stand out in searches. Businesses will want to get in on names they may have had to pay six- or seven-figure sums for as a .com, or names that line up with their existing or planned products. This is why you need to start marketing now. Where is my market and how can I reach it?
The first step is developing a consistent message that will connect with your most valuable audience, be it a specific audience like skiers (.ski, for example), or a general one like business technology users (.web, for example). When it comes to executing, stick to that message across all channels to really drive it home. You need to take marketing seriously and pick your strategy wisely — and early.
4. Choose Your Registrar Distribution Strategy – Target registrars that make the most sense for distributing your new gTLD. You want to look for global reach and areas of activity — in short, who do I need to work with to reach the greatest amount of potential buyers in the shortest amount of time?
Registrars may actually come into the picture when you're considering premium name sales too. Many registrars are not set up to sell premium domains, while others have joined premium networks that have been in place for years, enabling end users that are looking for a "regularly priced" name to also see an option for a premium name that may suit them better. When choosing registrars and premium sales partners, it's worth looking into synergies between the two so all your domains get the best visibility in front of potential buyers. When doing so, make sure the partner you choose will act as a true partner, helping with launch, promotion and everything in between.
5. Data Keeps Your TLD Strong; Build Valuable Market Data and Harness it Moving Forward – Data is key, which is why it bookends a solid strategy. If you're successful with the above and have a solid sales and marketing strategy in place, then this will be a repeatable process and you'll want to track sales and customer data. It's important to retain and refine your data to help you grow as the TLD grows. A strong partner can help you to do this and re-market or continue marketing to the same groups in a way that keeps your premium domain strategy fresh.
The planning phase that you enter as soon as your application makes it through initial evaluation — if not sooner — is a critical period that will ultimately determine whether your new gTLD is a success or a failure. There are several steps that need to be undertaken correctly, from identifying which domains will be the most valuable under your new extension, to making sure that you find the audience most likely to purchase them. Taking the extra time to consider these steps carefully and begin executing on them immediately will give you a lasting advantage over other new gTLDs as they are approved and released.
Written by Kathy Nielsen, Head of Business Development, New gTLDs, Sedo
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Date: 27 June 2013
Time: 23:00 – 00:00 UTC (4:00pm – 5:00pm PDT)
Adobe Connect: http://icann.adobeconnect.com/idnvarianttld/
Teleconference Dial-in Information: coming soon…
You are invited to join the IDN Variant TLD Program webinar intended to provide a status update of the Program and current IDN Variant TLD Projects, as well as to address questions around the prerequisites for implementation of IDN Variant TLDs and upcoming community involvement.
Following a general overview of the IDN Variant TLD Program, the webinar will focus on describing Program's current projects and timeline, explaining why implementation of the IDN Root Label Generation Rules Procedure must be completed before the applied for IDN Variant TLDs can be considered and the role that writing system communities will play in this implementation phase.
The IDN Variant TLD Program team is looking forward to your participation.
Please join this webinar on Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 23:00 UTC (duration 1 hour). The meeting will be available through Adobe Connect and dial-in call. Participants will have the opportunity to offer comments and ask questions over the phone during the Q&A section. During the course of the webinar, these may be submitted using the chat function of Adobe Connect. If you cannot join the live session, the recording of the session will be made available shortly after the meeting at: http://www.icann.org/en/resources/idn/variant-tlds/presentations
Bill Cole had some interesting comments on my Liberty Reserve post which are worth following up.
He noted that although all of the bitcoin transactions are in the public log, the wallets aren't, so if you sell someone your wallet, that's an anonymous transaction. While that's quite true, it also breaks one of the fundamental points of bitcoin which is that users don't have to trust each other.
If I sell you my bitcoin wallet, that's approximately like me selling you my checkbook or my debit card. You have to trust me not to have a duplicate checkbook or card and that I won't use it to empty the account before you do. The only way to make sure that the wallet actually contains all the bitcoins that the seller claims it does is to transfer those coins to another wallet to which he doesn't have access, which is of course logged and rather defeats the purpose.
He also noted that even when MtGox flakes, other exchanges have been adequate to keep the price of bitcoins relatively stable, and that there are a lot of people with bitcoin wallets who could spend them. Again, those are both right, but I take an opposite meaning. According to the statistics that MtGox publishes, on a busy day people buy and sell about a million dollars worth of bitcoins. That may sound like a lot to you and me, but that's about as much as the US dollar forex market handles every 1/2 second, all day, every day. The bitcoin market is very thin, even compared to Liberty Exchange. The indictment referred to several billion dollars in cash, and a whole lot of large bank accounts. In terms of transactions, LR was clearly a lot larger than bitcoin. If you wanted to launder a lot of money through bitcoins, you'd have to trickle it out through MtGox and their competitors at a rate that wouldn't collapse the market, hope that nobody figured out they were all you, and it would take a very long time.
Lastly, the fact that there are all those people sitting on their bitcoins reinforces the fact that for most people they're not money, they're souvenirs. I have on my shelf a couple of 10 franc notes from my last trip to Switzerland. Even though they're nominally worth a lot more now than they were when I got them, it's more hassle than they're worth to use them, unless I happen to go to a place where they are widely used as currency, i.e., back to Switzerland. Failing that, they're attractive souvenirs, and they have elegant pictures of Le Corbusier on them which is more than anyone's bitcoin wallet does.
Last week a Utah court issued a default judgement under CAN SPAM in Zoobuh vs. Better Broadcasting et al. I think the court's opinion is pretty good, even though some observers such as very perceptive Venkat Balasubramani have reservations.
The main issues were whether Zoobuh had standing to sue, whether the defendants domain names were obtained fraudulently, and whether the opt-out notice in the spam was adequate.Standing
The standing issue was easy. Zoobuh is a small ISP with 35,000 paying customers who spends a lot of time and money doing spam filtering, using their own equipment. That easily met the standard of being adversely affected by spam, since none of the filtering would be needed if it weren't for all the spam.Domain names
CAN SPAM prohibits "header information that is materially false or materially misleading." The spammer used proxy registrations at eNom and Moniker. The first subquestion was whether using proxies is materially false. Under the California state anti-spam law, courts have held that they are, and this court found that the California law is similar enough to CAN SPAM that proxies are materially false under CAN SPAM, too.
Venkat has reservations, since in principle one can contact the domain owner through the proxy service, but I'm with the court here. For one thing, even the best of proxies take a while to respond, and many are in fact black holes, so the proxy does not give you useful information about the mail at the time you get or read the mail. More importantly, businesses that advertise are by nature dealing with the public, and there in no plausible reason for a legitimate business to hide from its customers. (Yes, if they put real info in their WHOIS they'll get more spam. Deal with it.)
CAN SPAM also forbids using a "domain name, ... the access to which for purposes of initiating the message was obtained by means of false or fraudulent pretenses or representations." Both eNom and Moniker's terms of service forbid spamming, so the court found that the senders obtained the addresses fraudulently, hence another violation. Venkat finds this to be circular reasoning, arguing that the court found the spam to be illegal because the spam was illegal, but in this case, he's just wrong.
Despite what some bulk mailers might wish, CAN SPAM does not define what spam is, and mail that is entirely legal under CAN SPAM can still be spam. eNom's registration agreement forbids "if your use of the Services involves us in a violation of any third party's rights or acceptable use policies, including but not limited to the transmission of unsolicited email". Moniker's registration agreement prohibits "the uploading, posting or other transmittal of any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, "junk mail," "spam," "chain letters," "pyramid schemes," or any other form of solicitation, as determined by Moniker in its sole discretion." There is no question that the defendants sent "unsolicited email" or "unsolicited advertising" and there's nothing circular about the court finding that the defendants did what they had agreed they wouldn't.Opt out notice
The third issue is whether the spam contained the CAN SPAM required opt out notices. There were no notices in the messages themselves, but only links to remote images that presumably were supposed to contain the required text. As the court said:The question presented to the Court in this case is whether Required Content provided in the emails through a remotely hosted image is clearly and conspicuously displayed. This Court determines that it is not.
One issue is that many mail programs do not display external images for security reasons or (as in my favorite program Alpine) because they don't display images at all. The court cites multiple security recommendations against rendering remote images, and concludes that there's nothing clear or conspicuous about a remote image. Even worse, the plaintiffs said that the remote images weren't even there if they tried to fetch them,
The real point here is that the senders are playing games. There is no valid reason to put the opt-out notice anywhere other than text in the body of the message, which is where every legitimate sender puts it.Summary
Overall, I am pleased at this decision. The court understood the issues, was careful not to rely on any of the plaintiff's claims that couldn't be verified (remember that the defendant defaulted, so there was no counter argument) and the conclusions about proxy registrations and remote images will be useful precedents in the next case against spammers who use the same silly tricks.
The papers have been abuzz with the shutdown of Liberty Reserve, an online payments system, due to accusations of large scale money laundering via anonymous transactions. Many people have noted similarities between LR and Bitcoin and wonder whether Bitcoin is next. I doubt it, because with Bitcoin, nothing is anonymous.
Liberty Reserve was designed to make it extremely difficult to figure out who paid what to whom. Accounts were anonymous, identified only by an email address and an unverified birth date. Users could direct LR to move funds from their account to another, optionally (and usually) blinding the transaction so the payee couldn't tell who the payor was. But they couldn't transfer money in or out. LR sold credits in bulk to a handful of exchangers, who handled purchases and sales. So to put money in, you'd contact an exchanger to buy some of their LR credits, which they would then transfer to your account. To take money out, you'd transfer LR credits to an exchanger who would in turn pay you. Nobody kept transaction records, so payments to exchangers couldn't be connected to the LR accounts they funded, there was no record of where the credits in each LR account came from, and outgoing payments from exchangers couldn't be connected to the accounts that funded those payments. This was an ideal setup for drug deals and money laundering, not so much for legitimate commerce.
Bitcoins are not like that. The wallets, analogous to accounts, are nominally anonymous, but the bitcoins aren't. Every wallet and every bitcoin has a serial number, and every transaction is publicly logged. It's as though you did all your buying and selling with $100 bills, but for each transaction the serial number of each bill and the two wallets in each transaction is published with a timestamp for all the world to see. (This is how Bitcoin prevents double spending, by the payee checking the public logs to ensure that the payor minted or received the bitcoins and hasn't paid them to someone else.) This makes truly anonymous transactions very hard.
Multiple transactions from the same wallet are trivially linked, so if the counterparty in any of your transactions knows who you are, all the transactions from that wallet are known to be you. This is roughly the same problem with using a prepaid debit card or throwaway cell phone purchased for cash--if one of the people you buy something from, or one of the people you call knows who you are, your cover is blown. While it's possible to obscure the situation by using multiple wallets, if you transfer bitcoins from one wallet to another, that transaction is public, and a sufficiently determined analyst can likely figure out they're both you. Doing all of your transactions so that the other party can't identify you is very hard, unless you're the kind of person who wears a different ski mask each time he buys groceries.
There have been some widely publicised thefts of large numbers of bitcoins, in one case by installing malware on the owner's PC which was visible on the Internet and using the malware to transfer bitcoins out of his wallet. But the thief hasn't spent the loot and probably never will, because everyone knows the serial numbers of the stolen bitcoins, and nobody will accept them for payment. This is sort of like unsalable stolen famous paintings, except that there's no analogy to the rich collector who'll buy the art and never show it to anyone else, because, frankly, bitcoins aren't much to look at. Again, the bitcoins aren't anonymous.
You could imagine a bitcoin mixmaster, which took in bitcoins from lots of people, mixed them around and sent back a random selection to each, less a small transaction fee, to try and obscure the chain of ownership. But that wouldn't be much of a business for anyone who wanted to live in the civilized world since it would just scream money laundering. (Yeah, we know cyberlibertarians would do it out of principle, but the other 99% of the business would be drug dealers.)
And finally, the only place where you can exchange any significant number of bitcoins for normal money is still MtGox. They are in Japan, and they take money laundering seriously, so you cannot sell more than a handful without providing extensive documentation such as an image of your passport, and your bank account numbers. Maybe there will be other exchanges eventually, but it's not an easy business to get into. MtGox is a broker, arranging sales between its clients, and doesn't keep bitcoins in inventory. For a broker to be successful, it needs enough clients that buyers can successfully find sellers and vice versa, which means that big brokers tend to get bigger, and it's hard to start a new one. You could try to be a broker buying and selling directly to customers, but given how volatile bitcoin prices are, you'd likely go broke when the market turned against you.
Or you could try to arrange a private transaction by finding someone with bitcoins to sell, or looking to buy. That can work for small transactions, but as soon as someone does very much of that, he's in the money transfer business and money laundering laws kick in.
So with all these factors, perfectly logged transactions, a complete public history of every bitcoin so that tainted ones are unusable, and a chokepoint on cashing out, bitcoin makes a great novelty (akin as I have said before to pet rocks) but not a very good medium for large scale money laundering.
When I was a small boy and needed clothes, my mother would take me to the Best's department store, where we'd pick something out, and then go to pay for it. The clerk would take the money and the slips, put them in a cylindrical container, and send them off with a whoosh through a pneumatic tube to somewhere upstairs. After a delay of what seemed to me to be about a week and a half, our change and receipt would whoosh back, and we could go.
Buying things with Bitcoin is a lot like that. It's really, really slow to use, like ten minutes to several hours per transaction. While there are workarounds to speed it up, they all break some of the aspects of Bitcoin that make it different from normal money.
A fundamental problem that every kind of electronic money has to solve is double spending. If I have a quarter and I give it to you, I don't have the quarter any more. But if I have some packet of digital data and give it to you, I've just given you a copy of it, and I could give copies of it to lots of other people as well. Something has to arrange so that the first payment works, and subsequent payments with the same coin don't. The usual way to do that is to have a central authority, i.e. a bank. In book entry systems, the bank has an account for you and for me, I direct the bank to move some amount of money from my account to yours, and the bank tells you that it's done so. The bank prevents double spending by tracking my balance, and rejecting transactions if my balance is insufficient. This is similar to the way bank giro payments have worked in Europe for many years.
In bearer systems without accounts, my packet of data is a virtual coin, and to pay you I send the bank the coin and your address. The bank voids the coin and sends you a new coin of the same value (or maybe a little less if the bank charges transaction fees.) The bank prevents double spending by remembering which coins are valid and rejecting transactions using coins that have already been used.
The two major issue with using a bank are that all the parties have to trust the bank not to cheat them, and the bank has a record of every transaction. Bitcoin is designed for people who don't trust anyone, a bearer system with no bank. Instead it has a peer to peer (P2P) network that publishes records of transactions. Bitcoins live in cryptographic "wallets" that are nominally anonymous. If I want to pay you for something, I make up a transaction that includes our two wallets and the bitcoins, and send it out to the network. The various hosts look at the transaction and if it looks valid, i.e., I'm giving you coins that someone gave to me or that I mined, and I haven't given them to anyone else, they'll pass it along. Eventually there will be enough P2P nodes publishing your transaction that no competing transaction could be published, and the recipient will be able to publish subsequent transactions to give the coins to someone else. If two competing transactions are sent out at the same time, one of them will eventually win, via a process I don't entirely understand, but the details don't matter here.
Cryptographically, this is extremely clever. Practically, it means that if I purport to pay you for, say, a cup of coffee with bitcoins, you have to watch reports from the P2P network until you see enough nodes reporting the transaction that you believe that it won't be overtaken by a competing transaction, which takes a while. Depending on how confident you want to be, that could take anywhere from several minutes to several hours. By that time, my coffee is cold and has an unattractive scum on top. (A friend who's been to Bitcoin conventions reports that people often give up and buy coffee with regular money.)
While it's certainly possible to invent add-ons that speed things up, they either require a bank or that the buyer be identified.
A bank could issue, in effect, bitcoin debit cards. I deposit my bitcoins with the bank, and when I pay you, I tell the bank to pay you, which it does in one quick transaction, and tells you that you've been paid. This requires that we both have accounts at the bank, either identified like US banks, or anonymous like Caribbean tax shelter banks, and that we both trust the bank.
Or we could do the transactions the existing way, but add something on to persuade you that I am sufficiently trustworthy not to wait for the transaction to become irrevocable. That's analogous to the check guarantee cards that used to be popular in Europe. If I write you a check and have a card, you note the card number on the check, and if the check bounces, the bank will pay you and it's the bank's problem to try to collect from me. Again, it's not hard to do, but it requires that you trust the guarantor, and that the guarantor knows enough about me to be willing to make the guarantee. Again, it's not anonymous, and there's that pesky trusted third party.
In our next instalment, we consider that P2P transaction chain, and how it means that Bitcoin is probably the least anonymous payment system since the famous giant Yap island stone coins.
One of the managers at .PW sent me a note saying that (paraphrased) now that the world knows their customers are gushing spam, they're finally starting to set up some of the anti-abuse measures that they should have done in the first place.
But then I got my first response to an abuse report:From: .PW Abuse Desk <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [#TFI-793-34046]: E-mail spam auto-alert (23185413 126.96.36.199) re Re: Fed Collapses RefiRates email@example.com
Thank you for the notification. We have already locked the domain 'zeusprod.com'. We appreciate your efforts in mitigating abuse.
Have a great day!
PW Abuse Desk
Ticket ID: TFI-793-34046
Um, zeusprod.com is one of my customers, to whom their .PW customer sent spam. I don't know how they think they "locked" it, and I'm fairly sure that I don't want to know.
Really, running an abuse desk isn't rocket science, and a company like DirectI that has been on the net for 15 years should have figured it out by now. But they haven't, and since it seems utterly improbable that anyone I want to hear from will use .PW, we can avoid the problem by filtering it all out before anyone sees it.
AGNA COM Exhibition and Congress 4-6 June 2013, Cologne/Germany (Photo: AGNA COM)The Association of German Cable Operators' annual trade show has a new name. Europe's principal cable industry exhibition and convention was previously known as ANGA Cable, but last week (June 4-6, 2013), the show launched as ANGA COM. This new title — an abbreviation of communication — highlights how the convergence of technologies and networks is blurring the line between cable operators and other communication and entertainment services providers.
This new focus was reflected in the many service-oriented sessions centered on broadband, video, and all forms of entertainment delivered to consumers via various modes of access technologies. The annual convention in Cologne, Germany, brought together broadband, cable, and satellite operators, as well as their vendor partners. For the first time, major telcos Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone were invited and took to the stage to discuss trends, technologies, and how broadband is working to deliver content.
Germany is a major player in the cable industry and holds the lion's share of cable homes in Europe, with 18 million households subscribed to cable. Digital transition has helped drive cable adoption, and today, about half of all German cable households use digital TV packages offered by broadband cable, especially HDTV, VOD, DVR, and TV sets with integrated digital receivers. The German cable industry is poised for further growth, with Europe's largest cable operator, UPC — which operates cable services in 13 European countries — citing Germany as its "growth engine" and the company's CEO stating that some 40% of the UPC's growth comes from this country.
Of course, cable faces fierce competition in Europe, as it does elsewhere in the world. Recent research from IHS Screen Digest shows that during the five-year period from 2007 to 2012, European cable operators lost 1.4 million subscribers. So where did the growth come from and why did convention attendees seem so upbeat about cable's future, as evidenced by the show's record number of 16,000 attendees and 450 exhibiting companies? The fact is, it's not all doom and gloom. The same IHS research shows that cable actually gained 17.8 million more revenue-generating units (RGU) during the same five year period that it lost subscribers. RGU drives total revenue growth and is a positive sign for an industry facing fierce competition from traditional telcos, satellite, and OTT players.
So, what's fueling this RGU growth? There are a few factors at play here:
- Digital transition
- "Triple-play" or bundling of data, voice, and video
- The multitude of new, value-added services
Value-added services have been made possible by the growing number of available consumer devices — tablets, laptops, PCs, and smartphones. These new services include home security and Wi-Fi, both in and around the house, as well as in public areas. Multi-screen services are also enabling cable operators to offer OTT-like, proprietary video services.
These offerings are becoming essential as consumers demand easy access to content as they move from room to room inside the home, as well as outside in public places such as stadiums, theaters, and shopping malls. It's not surprising, then, that multiscreen was a hot topic at ANGA COM, along with the usual topics of fiber expansion, IPTV, video on demand, smart TV, software solutions, and consumer electronics.
For an uninterrupted multi-screen experience, consumers need to be able to easily access content across devices, and device provisioning and service activation should occur seamlessly. This enables customers to enjoy the same quality of experience across multiple devices, both inside and outside the home. At the same time, service providers need to be aware of security concerns associated with the multi-device consumption of content — particularly security of content and consumer privacy.
Operators are also turning their attention to the monetization of services associated with multiple-device use. Clearly, the multi-screen experience is changing the dynamics of customer services and technical support. Consumers want ease of use and an uninterrupted experience, where they can simply order a service that is then provisioned so quickly that they don't even realized it's happened, and everything works without any issues. For operators, this type of experience requires network reliability and for customer service representatives (CSRs) to have all the necessary information and tools at their fingertips for fast issue resolution.
The demand for quality of experience puts pressure on service providers to understand subscriber usage behavior patterns. Solutions from vendors like Incognito offer operators ways to construct meaning out of the massive amount of bandwidth utilization data that they accumulate, and enable them to use that intelligence to improve the user experience.
ANGA COM provided an excellent opportunity for us to catch up with customers and partners, and strategize ways to take advantage of new technologies to provide a better service for customers and their subscribers. Bring on ANGA COM 2014!
Written by Will Yan, Senior VP, Worldwide Sales at Incognito Software
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In an open letter published today, Google has asked the U.S. Attorney General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for more transparency regarding national security request data in light of the NSA data collection controversy. The letter, signed by David Drummond, Google's Chief Legal Officer, states in part:
"We have always made clear that we comply with valid legal requests. And last week, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that service providers have received Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests.
Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users' data are simply untrue. However, government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.
We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures — in terms of both the number we receive and their scope. Google's numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide."
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