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SHRM to Decide on Allowing Non-Company Names for .Jobs

by
John Zappe
Apr 7, 2010, 10:20 pm ET

A SHRM advisory group is being asked to approve changes allowing non-company names to be awarded a .jobs Internet address.

The approval is a crucial step in opening the door for the .jobs extension to be used with occupational, geographic, and other names, which a private organization wants to use to launch tens of thousands of new job boards.

There’s no announced meeting date for the advisory group — officially known as a Policy Development Process Council — but a public comment period closes Friday, April 9. There is a discussion board for comments.

Although the plan by Direct Employers to create a “Universe” of job boards has been the subject of ERE articles and a special meeting at the organization’s headquarters in Indianapolis in January, there’s no evidence of a public announcement of the amendment.

Indeed, the only mention of the amendment and the call for comments is on www.policy.jobs, a website that was first registered on Feb. 16th. The Society for Human Resource Management, which is responsible for ensuring compliance with the .jobs registration eligibility requirements, has a link to policy.jobs, but it’s deep on SHRM’s “Copyright & Permissions” page. That may be why there isn’t a single comment on the discussion board.

None of the key players in the amendment process could be reached Wednesday. However, the history of the .jobs address is well known.

The idea of a .jobs domain was first pitched in 2004 by Employ Media, a private company which now manages the name registration, and SHRM, the official sponsoring organization. The application to Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which manages Internet addressing, said a .jobs designation would only be issued in the name of a company and only when an application came from an HR professional.

The eventual agreement approved by ICANN’s board in April 2005 maintained the company name requirement. Applications could come from SHRM members, HR professionals with management experience, those who subscribe to SHRM’s Code of Ethics, or who are certified by Human Resource Certification Institute.

Since then, only about 15,000 .jobs addresses have been bought by employers. Fewer use the address for their career center and recruitment advertising. Its use has fallen far short of initial hopes.

That was the state of affairs going into 2009, when Tom Embrescia, CEO of Employ Media, began considering other options for promoting the use of the address. Among them was to open the registration to non-company name uses.

About that time, Bill Warren, executive director of DirectEmployers Association, was proposing a plan to Embrescia to create niche job boards using occupation and geographic names with a .jobs extension. In October, the first of these launched in beta.

By then, the question of whether such a use of .jobs was permissible had already come up. It was beaten back by Embrescia, who said it was OK so long as the address was being used for “HR content.”

A month after DirectEmployers’ first launch, the recruitment focused consortium was talking about eventually having hundreds of thousands of job boards — a “Universe” as its website declared. In the ERE article, SHRM’s Chief Publishing and E-Media Officer Gary Rubin said he saw no conflict with the ICANN rules in deploying sites like atlanta.jobs and sales.jobs.

However, even as DirectEmployers was developing its launch plan for the sites and discussing how job postings would be handled, Warren was hearing from job boards and some others who were objecting to parts or all of the plan.

He called an invitation-only meeting in late January at the office of DirectEmployers in Indianapolis. It was lightly attended. But those there reported he announced that 25,000 job board sites would launch in a few weeks.

Then, silence. Instead of new sites launching, the several dozen already up were taken down. Warren told me a few weeks later that technical changes and other modifications caused the retreat. The weekend before my story appeared, the Associated Press wrote about the project, saying sites would go online by the end of March.

That didn’t happen.

In fact, even as Warren was telling the world about the imminent launch of the new sites, Employ Media was asking SHRM to agree to the amendment to allow it to do what Warren and Employ Media, his teammate in the project, had already done — launch occupation- and geographic-named sites on the .jobs domain.

On the official .jobs website – goto.jobs – there’s a “.jobs Issue Report” bearing Warren’s name and a Feb. 15 date. It says because some have objected to the use of non-company names, Employ Media has submitted an amendment to specifically allow it to do just that.

On the policy.jobs website, the one where the call for comments appears and SHRM lists the members of its advisory council, there’s an issues paper entitled “.jobs Issue Report to the .jobs PDP Council.

Also there is a document bearing the name of Brian Johnson, Employ Media’s attorney. It details the proposed amendment to the agreement, but is largely a defense of its position that it already has the authority to issue web addresses in occupational, geographic, and similar names.

The paper says Employ Media disagrees with “the argument …that the Appendix S Provisions limit .jobs registrations to the “companyname” product category.”  However, it appears that the company is seeking the amendment to “clarify that the actions set forth in the Proposed Amendment would not be precluded by the Appendix S Provisions.”

That paper also talks about a “shared domain beta,” presumably the sites being developed by DirectEmployers. The paper says Employ Media will register names for this shared domain beta and assign their use to some unnamed third party “who will provide uniform, consistent content at such shared beta domains.”

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

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  3. Steven Rothberg

    Let’s not forget about the significant on-line discussion about these issues at http://www.ere.net/2010/01/20/guests-invited-to-hear-of-million-job-board-plan/. A number of industry leaders expressed serious concern about the plans to use the .jobs domains in a manner other than how they were pitched by SHRM’s consortium.

  4. David Manaster

    @Steven I don’t know if the SHRM committee will be considering feedback that is not directly submitted for their review at their discussion board.

  5. Steven Rothberg

    I agree, David, and that’s why I also just posted my comments at their policy.jobs site. Thank you.

  6. eric shannon

    browsing the amendment reveals this extremely interesting paragraph:

    “This will allow Employ Media to explore other ways of provisioning/ allocating non-“companyname” domains, including domain-industry standard practices like initiating Request for Proposals to invite interested parties to propose specific plans for registration, use and promotion of the domains, implementing auctions for the domains, and implementing a first-come, first-serve real-time, post-validation (if necessary) mechanism of allocation. It will also allow Employ Media flexibility in maintaining the shared domain beta test, all within the scope of the .jobs Charter. While it is not Employ Media’s current intent to employ any of these industry-standard or industry non-standard ways of provisioning/allocating domains, Employ Media will remain open to all proposals regarding .jobs domains, so long as the scope of the .jobs Charter is maintained.”

    and below that is a long list of paragraphs in the original documents which are impacted (possibly invalidated) by the new proposal. this is complicated, but the way I read it, it sounds like this frees employ media to do whatever it wants with the domains including auction to the highest bidder. that seems to ratchet up substantially the risk for SHRM, its constituents and DirectEmployers while ensuring an exit strategy for employmedia (domain auction).

    that’s a quick amateur reading for you so if anyone has taken more time to understand it, please correct me.

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  9. Sarah Welstead

    Maybe I’m missing something, but how exactly will the sky fall in if insufficient numbers of HR people are allowed to have ‘input’ into this?

    Also, have you ever tried to GET a .jobs domain? I have. The process is annoying, it takes ages, and it’s super-expensive. THAT’S why not enough of them are being bought. (Well, that and companies are too busy managing the 43 million other URLs that they had to buy to prevent squatters from holding them hostage.)

    Reading about all this hand-wringing, I now have a much better idea why the process is so onerous.

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