The ICANN Application comments period has just closed. The public comment form an integral part of the application process, in the ICANN guide book – the easily referred to as the application bible – which stipulates that giving the applicants and interested individuals an opportunity to comment further on the applications that affect them. From the ICANN extension announcement, it states:
“The new gTLD application comment period provides the public with an opportunity to have their views considered by evaluation panels as part of the application evaluations”
This emphasizes the fact that the comments will be taken seriously by the ICANN evaluators. It’s therefore an important process.
As an interested follower of the .africa domain, I have had an opportunity to look into the various comments that have been submitted for both the .africa applicants. DotConnectAfrica Trust has recorded 15 Comments with 5 from the registry services vendors that are seeking to provide a service to the applicants. UniForum SA (NPC) trading as Registry.Africa however have 27 Comments with 7 of them coming from the generic services providers meaning the remaining 20 come from interested parties to the .africa application.
Delving deep into the details of the comments, the parties commenting have an obvious relation to the applicant with comments for the DCA applications coming majorly from the Uniforum side and most of the comments on the UniForum SA (NPC) trading as Registry.Africa coming from DotConnectAfrica.
Interesting fact is that one would have thought that as hot as these two applications have generated numerous hot debates online, it’s clear that the African community is not interested in the domain business or have not enough knowledge about the ICANN application process. This removes their ability to be able to assist in vetting the organizations that have used up large sums of money on the application (185, 000 USD).
A keen reading to comments on DotConnectAfrica mostly anchor around the lack of support for the DCA applications sighting the lack of 60% stipulation that has been put forward on the Applicants guidebook. The latter has on numerous situations attempted to clarify the 60% support on the claim of a 2009 AU endorsement that should not be accepted. Another issue raised against DCA is the known “string similarity” issue that was generated by the DCA application as .dotafrica, and that .africa has 6 strings and according to the applicant’s guidebook similarity of strings will be put in a contention set.
On the other side, the comments on the Uniforum tear deep into the application DCA being bold enough to requesting the evaluators to disqualify and fail UNIFORUM on the several grounds, detailing concerns to include:
Oversight Role to illegitimate Entity; Crooked Legal & Executive Responsibility; Not an African Community application; Illegal Contract between AU and Uniforum; On Unit Selling Price of Domain Names; and several others. Full reports here
These issues dig deep into the possible future of the African registry under the entity. Firstly, the direct involvement of the AU and the people behind it put the transparency on the registry that is supposed to be free, transparent and not under any governmental grip mean that the registry could be heavily manipulated by interested parties against the multistakeholder model. African Union would have gladly remained as a keen observer on the side lines in readiness to play a role of an overseer but not be directly involved.
Another serious fact raised stems from the fact that Uniforum falls short of being called a fraud, by misleading the African Union and the African Public that it would apply on behalf of the African Community, in adherence to the AU endorsement it was granted to it, which was to apply on behalf of the African community; but went ahead and made a “standard application”, which then removes the African Community from direct involvement with the registry.
So it also is interesting to note, the entities behind Uniforum have not been deliberately exposed to the public, whereas DotconnectAfrica lists three companies as partners to the application, Uniforum ZA have not come clear as to who is behind it.
The biggest reveal is that the AU would have been cheated into signing a deal with individuals who have for long sought to clinch the exclusive right over the registry and the Uniforum ZA is only a masquerade of the entities that formed DotAfrica.org , ARC and others in a desperate attempt to seek direct nomination. This fact not only legitimizes the individuals on Uniforum but puts the African registry at stake, leaving many questions unanswered such as how the resources will be managed to benefit Africa , how will the registry work with the ccTLD’s, and how independent will it be from the AU and or other entities ??
Another obvious fact is the pricing. DotconnectAfrica has put its price smack at a paltry 10USD, while Uniforum’s initial price start at 18 USD, almost double the price of DCA. It is only later did UNIFORUM come to reduce it to an unspecified range of 10 to 18 USD meaning, they were pressured to come lower with pricing undercut by the DCA 10USD price, forced them to match the figures to seek appeal, which DCA shouted back in opposition in a press release and also sent to ICANN’s public comment, informing ICANN it seem like, “It is against any International Competition rules to accept modification to price changes after bids are open.” see PR link here under DCA Trust puts africa new gTLD users and registrants first.