Amazon may finally get its hands on .amazon after world's DNS overseer loses patience

ICANN tired of delay tactics from Brazil and Peru


Amazon may finally get its hands on the .amazon top-level domain it craves, having been blocked for years by the governments of Brazil and Peru, after ICANN finally lost its patience.

In an exhaustive rundown of the bureaucratic battle that has been waged for seven years over the top-level domain, this week the ICANN Board explained it was giving the two sides four more weeks to reach an agreement.

The organization also made it clear, while couching it in painfully diplomatic language, that it was sick of the two countries' delaying tactics, which came to a head when they demanded a meeting with ICANN's CEO Goran Marby in Brasilia last month and then cancelled at the last minute.

Referring to the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO), which the countries have been operating through to block the .amazon application, ICANN noted: "ACTO again invited the President and CEO to attend a meeting in Brasilia between 12 and 19 February 2019 to talk with ACTO member states regarding the Amazon Applications; ICANN's President and CEO accepted the invitation and the meeting was scheduled for 19 February 2019."

It then notes: "On 13 February 2019, ACTO cancelled the upcoming meeting in Brasilia, and provided no new dates… On 28 February 2019, ACTO requested that the Board not take a final decision on the Amazon Applications… but did not suggest a time for such discussions."

ICANN said back in January that it would make a decision on .amazon at its meeting this week in Japan but even after they cancelled the Brazilia meeting at the last minute, the countries then said they couldn't participate in a call that Marby set up for 9 March. He's clearly had enough.

"The President and CEO facilitated discussions with various ACTO member states over the period of a year," says the decision. "The President and CEO has also made repeated attempts since October 2018 to engage in further facilitation discussions with ACTO member states. Despite repeated attempts, additional facilitation discussions were scheduled, but did not take place."

Please don't make us upset you

ICANN is desperate to avoid a confrontation with governments, and in fact kowtowed to their wishes for several years, putting the .amazon application in a special no-man's-land status. The governments know it too, to the extent that at one point they told ICANN that they – and no one else – are allowed to "identify the public policy issues that may justify the Board to adopt certain decisions."

But the Amazon corporation was equally determined and forced ICANN through each of its multiple review procedures before finally winning at the final and only independent review, the Independent Review Process (IRP).

A panel of retired judges handed down a damning report in July 2017 in which it pointed out that neither ICANN nor the governments blocking .amazon had ever given a reason why the application couldn't proceed, despite having earlier approved it. They also pointed out that the governments had failed to give Amazon an opportunity to argue its case.

ICANN had repeatedly broken its own bylaws, the report [PDF] noted, and "failed in its duty to explain and give adequate reasons for its decision" adding that there was an "absence of any rationale" for denying the application.

It recommended that ICANN "promptly re-evaluate Amazon's applications" and "make an objective and independent judgment regarding whether there are, in fact, well-founded, merits-based public policy reasons for denying Amazon’s applications." And it made ICANN pay for the full cost of the proceeding: $315,000.

Hide! Hide!

But rather than make a decision that would anger governments, ICANN buried the issue in a bureaucratic back-and-forth that went on a further six months without any resolution. It later emerged that Amazon had offered millions of dollars worth of free Kindle e-readers and hosting in return for Brazil and Peru removing their objections, but to no avail.

Under pressure from Amazon, ICANN told its CEO to personally "facilitate negotiations" between the two and another six months went by with nothing happening.

Someone taking a selfie in the Amazon rainforest

Amazon tried to entice Latin American officials with $5m in Kindles

READ MORE

Finally, in October 2018 – six years and six months since the governments had first objected – the ICANN Board lifted .amazon's "will not proceed" status and told its CEO again to resolve the issue. Again, no progress was made, and so in January, the ICANN Board indicated it was going to approve the applications, prompting an angry response from ACTO, which demanded a meeting - that it then cancelled.

Even now, ICANN is trying not to make a decision, pointing out that it won't make a decision at its Japan meeting and will delay any decision if both sides ask it to.

Seemingly taking a leaf from the UK government's Brexit approach of delaying a vote while hoping that a solution will magically present itself, ICANN has given the two sides until 7 April to come up with an agreement.

If they don't – and they won't – it then gives Amazon another two weeks to "submit a proposal on how it will address the ACTO member states continuing concerns regarding the Amazon Applications."

And then the ICANN Board will look again at the issue – but it doesn't give itself a deadline for that review. Even after all that, ICANN points out that it "might refer the proposal back to the Amazon corporation for additional work; or might determine not to delegate the strings associated with the Amazon Applications."

Ridiculous

What makes the situation all the more ridiculous is that Brazil and Peru weren't originally bothered by the .amazon application (the region actually goes by the name "Amazonas" or "Amazonia") but became suddenly upset shortly after then-president of Brazil Dilma Rousseff found out through the Snowden documents that the US government had been bugging her mobile phone.

And, of course, there is no need for a river to have its own internet extension, and the fact that .amazon domain names may exist on the internet and be used to sell products has no actual impact on the Amazon or the people that live in the Amazonas region, most of whom don't even have an internet connection.

While the whole sorry affair reveals that ICANN has turned into the exact sort of organization that it was set up to avoid – one where governments get to make the decisions regardless of facts, reason, or process. There is still some measure of hope that at some point this year it will be forced into making a "well-founded, merits-based public policy" decision – as the retired judges suggested two years ago.

There are a lot of reasons not to like Amazon the corporation but in this case the company's enormous resources and stubborn determination may still force some degree of accountability onto the body that oversees the internet's domain name system. ®

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022