Friday, 18 May 2007
.travel registry near death
Aside from any of the other problems with the way that the franchise to "sponsor" the ".travel" top-level Internet domain name was awarded by ICANN to what is now the Tralliance division of TheGlobe.com, a travel business would have to be run by a real speculator to risk their Internet brand on a registry run by a company this close to liquidation:
By Ian Katz, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, May 18, 2007
... In a quarterly report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission last week, theglobe.com said management does not think the company can fund its operations beyond this month unless it receives more money. As of May 4, the company had a cash balance of $480,000. Last quarter it reported a net loss of $2.8 million on revenues of $431,742....
The company's finances took a big hit in April when it paid $2.55 million to settle allegations that it sent 400,000 spam e-mail messages to users of MySpace, the popular social networking Web site....
Theglobe has abandoned Voiceglo, an Internet phone business, and a computer games operation. It now runs Tralliance, a wholesale seller of Internet domain names ending in dot-travel. Theglobe acquired Tralliance in 2005....
Does ICANN have a plan to deal with a registry liquidation?
I raised questions about the finances of both Tralliance and TheGlobe.com before ICANN's decision to create .travel. ICANN kept me out of their press conferences, and never answered my questions. ICANN also has never explained whether they approved the acquisition of Tralliance and .travel by TheGlobe.com as should have been required by the .travel contract.
My request for an independent review of the (lack of) transparency of ICANN's original decision to create a .travel domain with Tralliance as registry remains pending after more than two years. All of ICANN's mechanisms for so-called accountability have proven meaningless when I've actually tested them.
[Addendum:] Dugie Standeford picks up the story in the 22 May 2007 edition of Washington Internet Daily :
Link | Posted by Edward on Friday, 18 May 2007, 16:27 ( 4:27 PM) | TrackBack (0)
There isn't enough interest in .travel to save TheGlobe, said travel writer Edward Hasbrouck, who has battled unsuccessfully for years with ICANN on behalf of an independent review of its decision to approve the domain and delegate it to [Tralliance], later bought by TheGlobe. Travelers aren't drawn to the name for several reasons, he said. They want information independent of travel services suppliers, not a service guaranteed to be restricted to such companies. So they use Google or other search engines to trawl for travel services, he said.
And since very few travelers use .travel, it offers little value to suppliers of travel services, Hasbrouck said. Large travel outfits will register a .travel name even if they don't use it, but smaller ones "won't waste the $100." Moreover, he said, potential registrants are wary of TheGlobe.com and TheGlobe because they're "interested in their own profits, not those of .travel registrants." Word of a possible bankruptcy could frighten off even more would-be registrants, said Hasbrouck.
[Further addendum:] Discussion of this issue by ICANN's At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC). According to this message "the [ICANN] Board [of Directors] is already aware and discussing it", but that discussion is, as usual, going on in secret, in violation of ICANN's bylaw requiring the maximum feasible openness and transparency.
[Further addendum} John Levine notes that documents filed with the SEC disclose that the backers of .travel -- Michael Egan, Chairman of tour operator Certified Vacations , and Ed Cespedes , CEO of the Tralliance Corp. since its original Presdent, fromer NHL hockey player Ron Andruff, was laid off -- are providing just enough of a trickle of funding to keep the parent company, TheGlobe.com, afloat. TheGlobe has been through several (failed) business plans, but the company's latest press release makes clear that the .travel franchise is its only potentially significant remianing asset: "theglobe.com ... now consists mainly of our Tralliance operations."