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Dot-London squeaks under ICANN deadline

Offshore firm picked to run capital's vanity address

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London's official PR agency has filed its application with ICANN to get its hands on a new .london top-level internet domain, just before the deadline closes.

London & Partners today revealed that it has contracted Minds + Machines Ltd, a local subsidiary of British Virgin Islands-based Top Level Domain Holdings, to help apply for and run .london.

TLDH executive chairman Peter Dengate Thrush told El Reg that the contract was awarded over the Easter weekend, following a request for proposals process that began last December.

ICANN will close the doors to new gTLD applications tomorrow for perhaps several years, but Dengate Thrush said the .london application has already been safely filed.

It's one of dozens of new gTLD bids that TLDH is expected to be involved in. The company, which is on London's Alternative Investment Market, was founded a few years ago purely to exploit the commerical opportunities of the address expansion.

ICANN is expected to unveil the names of applicants for well over 1,000 gTLDs on 30 April. As of 25 March, its TLD Application System had 839 registered users.

"This is one of the most exciting TLDs we'll be applying for," said Dengate Thrush, who before joining TLDH was ICANN's chairman when the programme was approved last June.

"It's crazy that a city like London doesn't have its own TLD," he said. "In years, people will look back and say: 'People actually opposed this?'."

The registry, if approved by ICANN, will run as a commercial venture, he said. Proceeds from the sale of .london domain names are expected to fund the international promotion of the capital.

That is believed to have put off one other bidder for the contract, .uk registry Nominet, which is believed to have made a public-benefit proposal similar to its .wales/.cymru bid.

"Nominet was interested in helping deliver a high-quality, trusted registry for .london, with our services provided on a not-for-profit basis," the company said in a statement. "However, following our response to the RFP and resulting discussions, we subsequently made the difficult decision to withdraw from the bid process."

Not-for-profit L&P will pay the $185,000 ICANN application fee, according to Dengate Thrush. The actual applicant will be a new L&P-owned company called Dot London Domains.

TLDH subsidiary Minds + Machines will provide application services and run the back-end technical infrastructure for at least seven years if .london is approved.

The company is not expecting any competition from other .london applicants, and expects the ICANN evaluation process to go smoothly, Dengate Thrush said.

Under ICANN's rules, gTLDs representing capital cities need the approval of the local government in order to be approved, which cuts out the competition. The .london bid already has this approval.

"I think all the major geographic gTLDs will go relatively smoothly," he said. The process will take several months, however, which means .london won't be entered into the Domain Name System root until December at the very earliest.

Other cities planning vanity address bids include Paris, Rome, Las Vegas, New York, Miami and Mumbai. There will also be proposals for cultural/regional domains such as .scot and .wales. ®

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