.Jobs Expansion Stands, Says Internet Address Authority

Dec 13, 2010
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

It’s the end of the road for the year-long debate over .jobs addresses. In a decision posted late last week, the Internet addressing authority said its decision to expand the use of .jobs names would stand.

The 11-page decision by a committee of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — endorsed by the full ICANN board on Friday  — rejected an appeal by the .Jobs Charter Compliance Coalition, declaring its multiple arguments “unsupported.”

However, the Board Governance Committee did say that ICANN should “closely monitor” the way the new .jobs addresses are issued. The committee wrote, “Given the highly disparate views presented by the parties involved with the Request (for reconsideration), the BGC is not at all clear that it has a full picture of how Employ Media intends to implement the Phased Allocation Process.”

The ICANN Board, meeting last week in Cartagena, Colombia, approved the committee recommendation and directed the “President and CEO, and General Counsel and Secretary, to ensure that ICANN’s Contractual Compliance Department closely monitor Employ Media’s compliance with its Charter.”

That wording is being called a victory by the Coalition, a heavyweight group of organizations that includes Monster, CareerBuilder, the Newspaper Association of America, the American Staffing Association, Shaker Recruitment Advertising and Communication, and the International Association of Employment Web Sites.

Though losing its reconsideration bid, the Coalition, in a press release Sunday said, “… the Board’s adoption of the BGC Recommendation fully achieves the goals of the Coalition.”

John Bell, CEO of Boxwood Technology and chair of the Coalition, said, “The Coalition is gratified that its efforts have resulted in heightened awareness of the significant Charter compliance concerns raised by Employ Media’s proposed implementation of its Phased Allocation Program.”

That program was one of the key elements of the controversy. While expanding the allowable names was certainly an issue, the elephant in the room was what Employ Media would do with them.

Employ Media is the registrar of all .jobs addresses and administers their issuance. Its Phased Allocation Program said it would accept RFPs for the bulk use of the new names; auction those not awarded via RFP; and, allocate the rest on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Had Employ Media not already signaled its plan for the new names, it might still have faced opposition to expanding the original company name-only address limitation. But the future was made plain last year when it “loaned” dozens of occupational and geographic domains to the DirectEmployers Association, which launched dozens of job boards with plans for thousands more.

That caused the commercial job boards to take notice of what Employ Media was planning and prompted ICANN to send letters asking Employ Media to justify its use of the unapproved names.

Back in 2004, when Employ Media teamed-up with the Society for Human Resource Management to propose a .jobs domain, the two told ICANN that only company names would be allowed. SHRM has been its policy partner ever since.

There were other restrictions, including that the name could only be registered by persons engaged in human resource management.

After an initial spurt following the creation of the .jobs domain in 2005, licensing of the names — and the revenue that generates — slowed dramatically. By early 2009 Tom Embrescia, CEO of Employ Media, was considering ways to revive the program.

DirectEmployers Executive Director Bill Warren pitched Embrescia on a job board plan and in October 2009 the first of them was launched. The program was halted in February after the ICANN inquiry and while Employ Media sought approval for the new names.

Because .jobs is a sponsored top-level domain, Employ Media had to win SHRM’s approval before going to the ICANN board. After a false start with a first SHRM committee that Warren himself headed, Employ Media got its OK. In the process, however, Employ Media’s attorney told SHRM if the new names were approved, it “would likely restart the shared domain beta.” That test was the job board program with DirectEmployers.

The proposal Employ Media sent to ICANN included its plan for allocating the new names and said it “may create a self-managed class of domains registered in Employ Media’s name.” That was essentially how it loaned the names out before. That provision has been withdrawn.

The Coalition says the BGC recommendation and the Board vote effectively mean Employ Media can’t use the new names for job boards.

“… the Coalition is highly confident that ICANN will not permit Employ Media to register domain names to ‘independent job site operators’ for purposes of operating job sites,” says the press release. “In particular, the Coalition views the Board’s approval of the BGC Recommendation as confirming that DirectEmployers Association’s proposed operation of a ‘Dot Jobs Universe‘ is not permitted under the .JOBS Charter.”

I don’t know if Employ Media agrees with that interpretation. I sent Embrescia and his VP Ray Fassett an email asking for comment, but have not yet had a response.

Note: A complete archive of .jobs posts can be found here.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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