ICANN Says .Jobs Operation Violates Rules

UPDATE:  Employ Media has posted a response to ICANN’s Notice of Breach saying “we find the claims contained in the Notice to be utterly without merit.” SHRM also issued a statement. This post has been updated to incorporate what Employ Media and SHRM have to say.

The Internet’s addressing authority has ordered the manager of the .Jobs domains to fix problems with how it issues addresses within 30 days or face the cancellation of its contract.

The Notice of Breach from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers includes a sharp rebuke of both registrar Employ Media and its partner SHRM, both of whom ICANN accused of establishing restrictions on the use of .Jobs address so “loose” they “appear to exclusively serve the financial interests of Employ Media and SHRM.”

ICANN also suggests that the .jobs Universe of job boards is contrary to both the rules and intent behind the creation of the .jobs domain in the first place.

“It appears that Employ Media and SHRM, through the Direct Employers Association, intend to use the .JOBS TLD primarily to compete with other internet job boards. Such use is inconsistent with the purpose stated in the .JOBS Charter and represented to the ICANN community,” the letter says.

The four-page letter to Employ Media says the changes made last year to the agreement creating the Jobs domain were “exploiting broad wording within the Charter to justify a fundamental change which inures benefit to SHRM and Employ Media, at the detriment of some participants of the human resources community…”

“Employ Media and SHRM failed to establish any meaningful restrictions on what types of people or entities may register second-level domain names within the .JOBS TLD. By not establishing any meaningful restrictions on who may register second-level registrations in the .JOBS TLD, Employ Media put in operation a TLD where anyone can register names, thus defeating the purpose for which the sponsored TLD came into existence.”

UPDATE: SHRM issued a brief statement saying only: “SHRM was as surprised as I am sure you were at the apparent reversal of ICANN’s prior decisions.  We need to get clarification from ICANN before making any further comment on this matter.”

Meanwhile, Employ Media says it views “the substance of this notice to be a surprising reversal of position and contradictory to prior decisions issued by (ICANN’s) Board of Directors.”

“Further, ” says the note posted on the company’s .Jobs information site, “we find the claims contained in the Notice to be utterly without merit.  We will continue to vigorously defend our position while we work with ICANN staff to resolve the matter at hand relying upon the language of our registry agreement. We plan to publish our formal response to ICANN at our web site located at www.goto.jobs in the near future.”

The balance of the statement deals with some of the history of Employ Media’s efforts to expand the use of .Jobs beyond its original mandate. Beginning in 2009, Employ Media moved to allow non-company names to be used in conjunction with the .Jobs extension. Beginning in October 2009, DirectEmployers Association launched a series of job boards with addresses such as Boston.jobs and nursing.jobs.

Under the agreement with ICANN, such uses were not allowed. When ICANN questioned the new addresses, the sites — tens of thousands were planned — were taken offline while Employ Media sought to modify its terms. This required it to appeal to its partner, Society for Human Resource Management, which approved the expansion in June. Later, over the objections of a coalition of job boards, associations, and others, the ICANN board voted to allow it, endorsing Employ Media’s plan for distributing the additional addresses.

The .JOBS Charter Compliance Coalition sought reconsideration of the Board’s action. But that, too, was rejected. However, the reconsideration committee said the ICANN staff 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.”

Detailed background on the controversial changes and the launch of some 40,000 job boards with .jobs addresses is available here.

The .JOBS Charter Compliance Coalition, which opposed last year’s changes to the .jobs agreement, applauded the ICANN action and says it vindicates the coalition’s argument that the .Jobs Universe of job boards is not a permitted use of the .jobs domains.

Coalition chairman John Bell said, “We are confident that ICANN will follow through on this demonstration of its commitment to enforce its rules and take all necessary and appropriate actions to terminate the non-compliant Dot Jobs Universe as soon as possible.”

Emails have been sent to Bill Warren, executive director of DirectEmployers Association, Gary Rubin, SHRM’s .jobs leader, and to Employ Media asking for comment. No responses yet from SHRM or DirectEmployers.