Odd Announcement in .Jobs Case as U.S. Chamber, Monster Weigh in

A committee of the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers announced late yesterday that it will consider a request to reconsider the decision to expand the use of the .jobs domain.

The nearly opaque two-sentence announcement is the only one of its kind among the 39 reconsideration requests posted to the ICANN website. What the committee typically does is to simply issue a recommendation, which is usually that there be no reconsideration.

Here’s the announcement as posted by ICANN:

“At its 20 September 2010, (sic. presumably, the missing word is ‘meeting’) the Board Governance Committee (BGC) agreed to proceed to consider Reconsideration Request 10-2. The BGC will proceed with the Reconsideration Request in conformity with the ICANN Bylaws, Article IV, Section 2.”

Confused? You’ve got company.

John Bell, who heads a coalition of groups opposed to the way the expansion was handled, first said when I reached him, “We are enthusiastic. ” Then, he added, “We asked our attorney to get an interpretation of this … I don’t know where we are.”

I asked Employ Media, the .jobs registrar which sought the .jobs expansion, for its interpretation of the announcement, but haven’t yet heard back.

I also asked ICANN for a clarification. What’s unclear is why the committee would issue an announcement like this, instead of simply making a decision; whether it means the program now underway to use the newly authorized names has to stop; and, how and how long this process will take.

Employ Media, and its partner, the Society for Human Resource Management, proposed the creation of a .jobs address a few years ago. It was approved, but unlike the traditional .com domain, a .jobs address had certain rules attached to its use. One of them was that it could only be used in conjunction with an employer’s business name.

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When .jobs failed to gain much traction (only about 15,000 addresses were ever issued and that number has since dropped), Employ Media and its CEO Tom Embrescia began casting about for ways to pump up interest. One was to open up the use to almost any name combination. That lead to the launch last fall of dozens of job boards by the DirectEmployers Association. Working with Employ Media, DirectEmployers announced plans for a “universe” of similar sites. But then ICANN stepped in asking about the authorization to expand the .jobs use. That triggered a SHRM committee review and approval and finally, in August, to a vote by the ICANN board allowing it.

Along the way, several organizations, led by the job board industry, voiced objections to the request and to SHRM’s process, saying they were effectively shut out. After ICANN acted on August 5th, a .JOBS Charter Compliance Coalition formed and requested reconsideration.

(An archive of .jobs posts can be found here.)

In the last week, Monster and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce both sent letters to ICANN asking the board to reconsider its decision. Monster’s letter from its lawyer Paul McGrady of  Greenberg Traurig, not only asks for reconsideration, but a halt to Employ Media’s .jobs distribution program until the matter is decided.

The Monster letter echoes the position and issues detailed by the coalition, declaring:

  • ICANN staff did a shoddy job of analyzing and summarizing the more than 250 comments and letters of opposition sent to ICANN. And when the ICANN Board of Directors relied on the staff summary without doing more, the directors “failed to satisfy their duty of inquiry;”
  • The board’s vote “unwittingly authorized Employ Media to flagrantly violate the terms of the Charter under which it operates”;
  • The board’s decision “has broad anti-competitive implications that were not properly examined by the staff”;
  • The decision undermines ICANN’s credibility in regard to how it polices the use of other domains.

In its letter, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce articulated the same reasons for wanting a rethinking of the decision. It also complained, “While the expansion eliminates the protections built-in to a system where registrations are limited to a company’s trade or commonly known name, the Board has not called on Employ Media to provide any tools to facilitate rights protection and prevent abusive registrations.”

John Zappe is the editor of TLNT.com and a contributing editor of ERE.net. John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.

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8 Comments on “Odd Announcement in .Jobs Case as U.S. Chamber, Monster Weigh in

  1. It seems to me that the committee is just following the letter of the ICANN bylaws, which state that it has 30 days to decide whether to process the request, then 90 days to process it.

    This case deals with a more complex subject than most of the Reconsideration Requests it receives.

  2. Kevin Murphy observes that ICANN may be just following its own rules by announcing that it has decided to accept the reconsideration request.

    If so, it may be the first time the Board Governance Committee or its predecessor in these matters, the Reconsideration Committee, has followed that particular rule.

    In 2005, Dotster, a domain registrar, had to have its lawyer send ICANN asking why there had been no response to a reconsideration request sent seven months before.

    In 2002, the Reconsideration Committee was silent for two months before deciding against a reconsideration request.

    There are other similar instances of delays between the filing of a reconsideration request and a response — any kind of response — by ICANN.

    So while it’s possible ICANN may be mending its ways, its posting of the notice to accept the reconsideration stands out as unique.

  3. I think you’re right, John. It’s an unusual situation.

    I think it’s primarily unusual in that it’s the first subsantial Reconsideration Request to be filed since the .xxx problem emerged in 2006 (which is still unresolved over four years later).

    In some ways you could view this as a test case, even.

    ICANN was pretty much a joke when it came to “appeals” until relatively recently. I think the fact that the BGC has not dismissed the Coalition request out of hand is quite likely a good sign for the Coalition.

  4. Not for nothing, isn’t this much ado about nothing? Since the advent of the domain extension, only 15,000 sites have been registered. It seems the job boards are the one’s making the loud noise as it seeks to infringe on their property through SEO. For companies, this really has little impact on their career centers and seeks to confuse job seekers who are conditioned to .com, .edu, .org extensions.

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