Monday, February 07, 2011

Rush is on for custom domain name suffixes

The pillar of the basic Web address - the trusty .com domain - is about to face vast new competition that will dramatically transform the Web as we know it. New Web sites, with more subject-specific, sometimes controversial suffixes, will soon populate the online galaxy, such as .eco, .love, .god, .sport, .gay or .kurd.

This massive expansion to the Internet's domain name system will either make the Web more intuitive or create more cluttered, maddening experiences. No one knows yet. But with an infinite number of naming possibilities, an industry of Web wildcatters is racing to grab these potentially lucrative territories with addresses that are bound to provoke.

Who gets to run .abortion Web sites - people who support abortion rights or those who don't? Which individual or mosque can run the .islam or .muhammad sites? Can the Ku Klux Klan own .nazi on free speech grounds, or will a Jewish organization run the domain and permit only educational Web sites - say, remember.nazi or antidefamation.nazi? And who's going to get .amazon - the Internet retailer or Brazil?

The decisions will come down to a little-known nonprofit based in Marina del Rey, Calif., whose international board of directors approved the expansion in 2008 but has been stuck debating how best to run the program before launching it. Now, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is on the cusp of completing those talks in March or April and will soon solicit applications from companies and governments that want to propose and operate the new addresses.

This week, hundreds of investors, consultants and entrepreneurs are expected to converge in San Francisco for the first ".nxt" conference, a three-day affair featuring seminars on ICANN's complicated application guidelines. The conference's Web site, which has a list of applicants, is not without a sense of humor: "Join the Internet land rush!" a headline screams, above a photograph of the Tom Cruise character galloping on a horse in the movie "Far and Away," the 1992 film about giveaways out West in the late 19th century.

These online territories are hardly free. The price tag to apply is $185,000, a cost that ensures only well-financed organizations operate the domains and cuts out many smaller grass-roots organizations, developing countries or dreamers, according to critics. (Rejectees get some of the application fee returned.) That's on top of the $25,000 annual fee domain operators have to pay ICANN.

Lauren Weinstein, co-founder of People for Internet Responsibility, a grass-roots firm in Los Angeles, alleges that the new domains are designed purely to make money for ICANN and the companies that control the domains. The new Web addresses, he added, will only mean more aggravation for trademark holders and confusion for the average Internet user.

Peter Dengate Thrush, chair of the ICANN board of directors, argued that the high application fee is based on the nonprofit's bet that it's going to get sued, and to protect against cybersquatters or other organizations ill equipped to manage an entire domain of hundreds, if not thousands of Web sites. "Our job is to protect competition and give extra choices for consumers and entrepreneurs," Thrush said.

Many organizations are competing for the same domain names, in disputes that often will be settled by an ICANN-sponsored auction or by an ICANN board decision. Two companies vying for the environmentally-friendly .eco domain have competing endorsements: one from a nonprofit chaired by former vice president Al Gore; the other from a group founded by former Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev.

The Internet has 21 generic domains such as .com, .net., .edu or .org and hundreds of others for countries, such as .de for Germany. The most prevalent generic domains are .com and .net, which account for about half of the world's 202 million Internet addresses.

Since 2000, ICANN has expanded the number of "generic top-level domains" only twice, and only in tiny doses to such sites ending in .biz, .jobs, .museum, or .mobi (for mobile sites). Those domains have so far yet to attract huge audiences.

But many entrepreneurs expect that the new expansion of Web addresses - the first of which won't go live until early 2012 - will catch on with users and make money. Many budding domain operators expect to earn millions of dollars, according to Kieren McCarthy, a former ICANN general manager who is organizing next week's domain name conference in San Francisco.

The future operator of .sport, for instance, could sell as many as 200,000 or more Web addresses -, or - for wholesale prices ranging from $6 to $50 to such companies as Go Daddy. These firms then re-sell the Web sites to consumers for higher prices. McCarthy also said ICANN is debating whether the domain operators could sell Web addresses directly to the consumer themselves.

Ron Andruff, president and chief executive of dotSport LLC, a New York-based outfit, said he believes more users will find niche interests and communities more easily with the new addresses. "Google and Bing are not in business of helping you find what you are looking for," he said. "They're in the business of generating revenue from those willing to bid the highest to get on their search results page."

Scott Seitz, the CEO of DotGay LLC, wants to build a universe of sites - he expects 300,000 initially - with addresses such as,, or He has the backing of several prominent gays rights groups including Human Rights Campaign and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

Seitz, who is gay, said the simple idea of operating the domain devoted to the gay movement exerts its own pressures. "I have a responsibility, and I am in awe of that," said Seitz, adding that he and his business partners intend on donating two-thirds of their revenue to various social causes. "I buried 40 friends in 18 months [who died from complications related to HIV]. Having .gay is scary, it could be crazy. I've already told people to get steel doors and window bars for security to protect against anti-gay organizations that wouldn't want dot-gay to happen."

For people who might propose controversial domains - such as .nazi, which ICANN officials have worried about - approval will be based on the applicant's identity and intentions, and on the grounds of "morality and public order." Such companies as Canon or IBM will be given priority for .canon or .ibm, and so will municipalities for such domains as .paris or .nyc.

Some people are chasing after multiple domains. Antony Van Couvering, the chief executive of Minds + Machines, a California-based registry company, is working with various partners to pursue not only .eco (with the backing of Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection), but a slew of others, including .gay, .nyc, and, in the interest of capturing even the most far-flung audiences, .zulu - for South Africa's largest ethnic population. It's the .eco domain that will be competitive, though. Jacob Malthouse, a former ICANN official, formed a Vancouver-based company that is also going after .eco; his venture has the support of Gorbachev's Green Cross International.

Other entrepreneurs may bump up against corporate titans and trademark issues. Constantine Roussos, of Los Angeles, has spent years working on his application for .music. Roussos, a 34-year-old musician whose family owns real estate in Cyprus, envisions .music as the industry's trusted inventory of Web sites operated by musicians, managers, studios, promoters, composers and so on. For example, only artists with verifiable professional identities could create sites such as or

Roussos believes the .music domain will help Internet users easily connect to their favorite band's real Web site by typing the name of the band followed by .music on their Web browser; and will help musicians sell their music directly to consumers. Many famous bands - Queen, Kiss, the Eagles - don't own their own .com Web sites because their names use common words, he lamented.

The music industry, however, has its concerns about .music. In early January, the Recording Industry Association of America wrote a letter to ICANN's board of directors, expressing fear that a .music domain might make musicians more vulnerable to piracy and trademark infringement.

But Roussos believes his model for .music might help the music industry. "When you're searching for Queen and type it into Google, will your results be the Queen of England or the Queen of Denmark?" he asked. "But if you go to, you know it's the band. It's faster. And it'll drive traffic and more money to the artist."

Elisabeth Hasselbeck Is Not Amused Bill Maher Wants To Trade Her

Elisabeth Hasselbeck Is Not Amused Bill Maher Wants To Trade Her To Mubarak In Exchange For Lara Logan

On his Friday HBO show Bill Maher responded to news that Lara Logan, chief foreign affairs correspondent for CBS News, had been detained and subsequently released in Cairo in fairly typical fashion:

New rule: now that Hosni Mubarak has released Lara Logan, he must put her intrepid hotness on a plane immediately. In exchange, we will send Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

In equally typical fashion, Hasselbeck was enraged by the remark.

On today View she went off on an angry rant about her unscheduled appearance saying that though she tried to address only "real men," she would make an exception and address "Billy Maher," as she called him.

"Notice how the audience laughs," said Barbara Walters, indicating that Maher's comment was a joke.

"You can hide anything in the cloak of a joke. It is unfair. It is chauvinistic what you said, and you'll probably run this again, and I find it disturbing -- but also amusing -- that I happen to be on your mind."

"It is wrong to do to any person, any woman, who just happens to disagree with you. You obviously missed the call of civility from our President Barack Obama, and you were on the other line with ignorance and hate."

Walters said: "I'm not sure it's about women -- well, it is to women -- but I think it's your politics."

"He used to have a show called 'Politically Incorrect.' That's his stock and trade," said Joy Behar. "Did he hurt your feelings?"

"He doesn't have the ability to hurt my feelings," said Hasselbeck "because he's not a real man."

Throw down!

"That was a personal shot," said Behar. "Now he's going to come back at you."

No doubt.

Groupon's Controversial TV Commercials - Super Bowl Ad Has Viewers Outraged

The 30-second spot, for which Groupon paid close to $3 million, opens with picturesque scenes of Tibet, as actor Timothy Hutton calls attention to the troubles of its people.

"Mountainous Tibet," he somberly intones, "one of the most beautiful places in the world. This is Timothy Hutton. The people of Tibet are in trouble, their very culture in jeopardy."

His mood then shifts abruptly to one of jaunty surprise.

"But they still whip up an amazing fish curry. And since 200 of us bought on, we're getting $30 worth of Tibetan food for just $15."

Viewers let fly with a blistering salvo of Tweets almost immediately. "I guess Groupon decided to do a funny commercial about Tibet," said one acidic writer, "because Darfur would be in bad taste."

The other Groupon spots made fun of saving whales and the devastation of Brazil's rainforest.

Groupon CEO Andrew Mason professed surprise to the Wall Street Journal at the hostile response.

The ad — one of three aired by Groupon during the game — was intended, he maintains, only as a "spoof" of celebrity-endorsed public service announcements. Groupon takes the suffering of Tibet seriously and intends to raise money for the Tibetan people, he said.

The company then posted this on its Twitter account: "Like standing too close to a rainbow, viewers' hearts are warmed by Groupon's Super Bowl ad."

Ironically, Groupon first came into life as a website called The Point, whose purpose was to help activists and others organize and raise money for worthy causes.

Though the Super Bowl ads did not say it, Groupons' own website currently encourages users to donate to the three causes its ads lampooned: the Tibet Fund, Greenpeace and RAN (the Rainforest Action Network). Moreover, Groupon offers to match donations in part.

The donation part of the website went live at around noon Central Standard Time Sunday. Says a Groupon spokesperson, "It has always been the foundation of the campaign. We would never have run the ads without these organizations' support and a way for our subscribers to contribute to their causes."

No Groupon commercial has yet aired for a fourth cause listed on the website -- fighting poverty and illiteracy by building schools. The beneficiary here will be the nonprofit buildOn. Carrie Pena, communications director for buildOn, says Groupon first approached the charity back in January about participating in a commercial. They weren't told -- nor do they know now -- what the content of the commercial will be. Groupon told buildOn the campaign would be "tongue-in-cheek in nature" and would make fun of "over-the-top celebrity advertising for non-profits." That was it.

Asked if she saw any of Groupon's Super Bowl commercials, she says she saw only one before falling asleep -- the one poking fun at Greenpeace. How did that one make her feel?

"I think that it's great that they were helping raise awareness for Greenpeace and drive donations." She says that if buildOn's arrangement with Groupon works the way she hopes, buildOn stands to get up to $400,000. That's a lot, she says, given that the charity's annual budget is only $7 million.

"It will fund 12 schools in Mali and Nepal and will educate over 3,000 students," she says

Asked by ABC News for comment, the Tibet Fund said it wasn't yet ready to make a statement in reaction to the Groupon ads.

A further irony: Groupon didn't get into the Super Bowl's advertising scrimmage until the last minute. As recently as a month ago, the company had been told all spots had been sold and they were out of luck. They intended to run only pre- or post-game ads.

Then, at the last minute, another advertiser dropped out and Groupon stepped in. Chief Operating Officer Rob Solomon told Advertising Age that Groupon, "after two years in business earning 50 million subscribers to date" felt it was time to use TV to reach an "even broader audience."

Groupon rival Living Social also aired a spot during the game--one that showed an old burly guy beautifying himself with goods and services provided through Living Social deals. It's not known how many outraged old burly guys were affronted.

REVENGE? Cockfighting bird stabs, kills man

LAMONT, Calif. -- The tables were turned at a California cockfight after a man was fatally stabbed in the leg by a sharp blade attached to one of the fighting birds, The Bakersfield Californian reported.

Jose Luis Ochoa, 35, was taken to a local hospital shortly after police responded to a reported cockfight last Sunday in Lamont, Calif., a town nine miles south-southeast of Bakersfield.

An autopsy revealed Wednesday that Ochoa's death was accidental and caused by an injury to his right calf.

"I have never seen this type of incident," Sgt. Martin King, a 24-year veteran, told the paper. But he noted that it was not surprising that Ochoa died since one of his major arteries had likely been severed.
"People have been known to bleed out from those injuries if medical attention is not obtained immediately."

A California man bled out after a cock stabbed him in the leg with a fighting "spur" attached to its leg.

John Goodwin, director of animal cruelty policy for the Humane Society of the United States, also weighed in, telling the paper he was "surprised it doesn't happen more often considering the knives they put on those birds."

Just last month, the UK's Daily Mail reported that a man in India was killed when his fighting rooster slashed his throat.

Ochoa paid $370 in fines last year after pleading no contest to one count of owning or training an animal for fighting, the paper said.
Goodwin noted that the small fines were a weak deterrent to the bettors' pots which can reach $10,000 even in a small cockfight.

1 Dead and 11 Shot at Ohio Fraternity (We love our violence and guns!)

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — Two men angry over a dispute at an Ohio fraternity house party left the gathering and returned early Sunday, spraying bullets into a crowd and killing a Youngstown State University student who was trying to separate two groups, authorities said.
Eleven other people were injured, including a 17-year-old with a critical head wound.

The men were arrested and charged later Sunday with aggravated murder, shooting into a house and 11 counts of felonious assault, Youngstown police Chief Jimmy Hughes said.
The suspects are in their early 20s and from the Youngstown area, but Hughes withheld their names pending further investigation.

"These guys were in the location for a little while before the shooting occurred," he said. "Something happened that they became unhappy. They had some type of altercation."

The shooting occurred at a two-story brick house in a neighborhood of once-elegant homes, many of which are now boarded up. The house party had been bustling with 50 or more people early Sunday, Hughes said.

"Somebody just got shot!" a caller tells a dispatcher on a recording of the 911 call.

The Mahoning County coroner's office identified the dead student as 25-year-old Jamail E. Johnson. He was shot once in the head and multiple times in his hips and legs; an autopsy is planned Monday, said Dr. Joseph Ohr, a forensic pathologist with the coroner's office.

Capt. Rod Foley said Johnson apparently was trying to separate two groups when he was shot.

"(Johnson) was just an excellent, excellent young man, and our loss runs deep," said Christopher Cooper, a legal officer for Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
The senior had recently traveled to North Carolina for a fraternity program emphasizing manhood and scholarship, Cooper said.

Johnson's fraternity brothers were trying to decide whether to return to the house, he said. They were "very solemn, very alarmed, very hurt," Cooper said.

The 11 people who were injured ranged in age from 17 to 31. About half of them were shot in the foot, police said. Two were hit in the abdomen, and the most seriously hurt was the 17-year-old who was shot near one ear.

They were taken to nearby St. Elizabeth Health Center. Eight of them had been treated and released by afternoon, hospital spokeswoman Tina Creighton said. She said she could not release the conditions of the other three.

The university said six of the injured were students.

Members of the university-sanctioned Omega Psi Phi fraternity lived at the house, YSU spokesman Ron Cole said.

Omega Psi Phi doesn't own the house, Cooper said.

A neighbor, Rodger Brown, 54, said the house and an adjacent home with Greek lettering indicating a fraternity often have parties on Friday and Saturday nights but had caused no problems in the neighborhood.

"It's a nice, quiet neighborhood," he said.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich planned to meet Monday in Youngstown with YSU president Cynthia Anderson and Mayor Jay Williams to discuss the shootings.

"This is one of those days that every university president across the country, as well as many other officials, always dread," Anderson said at a news conference on campus.

Anderson said she had been assured by police that there was no threat to the urban campus in northeast Ohio near the Pennsylvania border. The university has about 15,000 students with alumni including former Kansas Jayhawks football coach Mark Mangino and fashion designer Nanette Lepore.