Antony Van Couvering

Antony Van Couvering

Joined on July 16, 2005
Total Post Views: 604,767


Antony Van Couvering former CEO of Minds + Machines, has been working in the Internet since 1996, especially in the domain name area.  He played a substantial role in early Internet governance, taking a leading role in the early days of the ccTLD constituency.  He is known for thorough, candid analyses and innovative solutions.

In 1999 Antony founded NameEngine, where he worked with many of the world’s top companies including American Express, Bridgestone-Firestone, Citibank, Colgate-Palmolive, Goodyear, Intel, Kodak, and Viacom, and with IP law firms including Fross Zelnick, Ladas & Parry, and Brown Raysman. He sold NameEngine to VeriSign in December of 2001, and as part of the arrangement worked at VeriSign Digital Brand Management Services, handling their marketing and partnerships as well as developing their customer domain name management portal.

In 1997 he founded NetNames USA, the first firm to handle the domain name needs of larger companies. He built the company up to 30 employees before selling the company to NetBenefit, a publicly-traded technology company based in London.

During this time, Antony started and managed several top-level country-code domains, including .TM (Turkmenistan), .AS (American Samoa), .BT (Bhutan), and .PW (Palau)—all of these top-level domains are now run as public-private partnerships. Working with Jon Postel, he co-authored a proposal to reform the .US domain by de-emphasizing its old cumbersome geographical structure. Many of the suggestions in the proposal (though unfortunately not all) were later implemented when the .US domain was re-launched in 2002.

Antony’s deep involvement with Internet governance issues spans back to the first stirrings of reform. He was head of the Policy Advisory Body under the old gTLD-MoU structure, which later morphed (tortuously) into ICANN. Under that structure, as President of the International Association of Top-Level Domains, he chaired the meeting in Singapore that birthed the Domain Name Supporting Organization of ICANN, and was one of the governing council of the ccTLD constituency within ICANN, where he worked especially on government relations and ccTLD standards-setting.

Antony is also a speaker at meetings where Internet and intellectual property questions are aired. He has written on Internet and domain name issues for a variety of publications and in public discussion forums, and now writes mainly on his blog.

Except where otherwise noted, all postings by Antony Van Couvering on CircleID are licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Featured Blogs

I Got Fired

It's a story told a thousand times: founder of a company ousted by investors. It's a story so common you can find it any day of the week as a minor headline in a tech blog. Not much of a story at all really, until it happened to me. Minds + Machines, the company I founded in 2009, informed me last week that I was no longer wanted as CEO. Without going into details, which I can't, there were differences and disagreements. Still, it was a surprise. All the plans, the hopes -- pfhhht! into thin air. It sucked. Now what? more

A New Way to Value Registry Business

There's a new site on the web - - that has a ton of valuable information about the new gTLD program. It shows numbers of registrations by registry, registrar, registry service provides - all the "Rs" in the domain name industry. It has quickly become the place where people go to measure how the industry, and the competitors in it, are doing. There's only one problem - not all domain registrations are created equal. more

Antony Van Couvering Interviews Alexa Raad, CEO of Architelos (Video)

Antony Van Couvering, CEO of Minds + Machines, continues his series of in-depth talks with leading figures from the domain name industry with this video interview of Alexa Raad, CEO of Architelos, filmed recently at ICANN 49 in Singapore. Alexa and Antony discuss how brands are dealing with new gTLD, registry strategies for success and how to market a new gTLD. more

Antony Van Couvering Interviews Elliot Noss, CEO of Tucows (Video)

Antony Van Couvering, CEO of Minds + Machines, continues his series of in-depth talks with leading figures from the domain name industry with this video interview of Elliot Noss, CEO of Tucows, filmed recently at ICANN 49 in Singapore. more

Antony Van Couvering Interviews Adrian Kinderis, CEO of Bombora Technologies (Video)

The talk ranges from new gTLD introductions, the role of ccTLDs in the new landscape, the relationships between registries and registrars, and some predictions for the future. more

In Praise of ICANN

ICANN comes in for a lot of criticism. That's because people care very deeply about it. The multi-stakeholder model, of which ICANN is the exemplar, is such a radical and revolutionary departure from how global affairs have been managed in the past that many of us are constantly on guard lest ICANN degrade into the command-and-control structure that characterizes other global regulatory bodies. At ICANN, it's the volunteers, those who care (as well as, yes, those who are paid to pretend to care) who set policy more

The Long Gestation and Afterlife of New gTLDs

ICANN continues to flail, pointlessly. The latest in a series of missteps that could easily have been avoided is its recommendations on what to do about a report on the potential for confusion and misaddressing when someone's internal network names match the name for a new gTLD, and they have misconfigured their routers and/or DNS to the extent that someone typing in a new gTLD name might end up in the middle of someone else's network. more

On the Question of Closed Generic Top-Level Domains

The debate over so-called "closed generic" top-level domains has revealed that rarest of semi-mythical beasts, a creature often emblazoned in ICANN heraldry but as elusive as the unicorn on the UK royal coat of arms: an argument on principle. Occasionally an issue arises out of the muck of self-interested manoeuvring to reveal the deep idealism that moves most ICANN participants. You can see it by how it divides camps that usually march along in lock-step, and by how the predictable murmur of shopworn cliches is replaced by arguments of clarity and resonance. more

ICANN Auctions or Private Auctions?

By this time next year the allocation of the new Internet namespace will be complete. Several hundred contention sets, ranging from likely blockbusters like .WEB to somewhat less obvious money-makers like .UNICORN, will be decided by some method. One way to resolve contention is to form a joint venture... That works well when there are only two competitors and there's a good basis of trust, and it's a great solution because there are no losers. But if there are three or more competitors, or if you don't like and trust your prospective partner-to-be, this really isn't an option. more

ICANN Reveals Evaluation Timing for New gTLDs

Having consigned to oblivion the unpopular "digital archery" method of determining who goes first in the new gTLD round, ICANN today announced that it was going to evaluate all new gTLD applications concurrently (the "single batch"), and release all results simultaneously. The decision is a victory for clarity and a very good result for new gTLD applicants. more

The Biggest Glitch of All - ICANN’s Batching Program for New gTLDs

ICANN's batching program, called digital archery, is deeply flawed and should be abandoned before it causes havoc with the new gTLD program. As well as arbitrarily creating winners and losers, creating unfair advantages for certain types of applicants and for certain regions, the program may be suffering from another software "glitch" of the kind that damaged the application process. There is a much better solution: a single batch for all applications. more

2100 New gTLD Applications. What Does It Mean?

Over the course of the last week, ICANN has released several pieces of information that taken together begin to allow us to piece together the overall gTLD landscape. ICANN is releasing partial information, without explanation or context, in dribs and drabs, and rumors are flying that we won't get the "Reveal" until the ICANN meeting in Prague at the end of June. This partial information and delay from ICANN is creating consternation and confusion among the many applicants and those watching the new gTLD scene. more

U.S. Government Strongly Affirms ICANN Model and New gTLDs

Larry Strickling, who runs the NTIA (the part of the U.S. Department of Commerce that handles ICANN), yesterday gave an important and remarkable speech to the Practicing Law Institute about Internet governance. His speech, timed to coincide with an orchestrated ICANN-bashing across town in the Senate, was a striking defense of the ICANN model and a repudiation of special pleading outside the process. more

New gTLDs and the 1%

While Occupy Wall Street and other groups representing the so-called 99% are getting most of the press, the 1% is raising its profile as well, at least when it comes to gTLDs. They are complaining that introducing global choice and competition to the Internet will cost them money. The chief of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) now says that it has "spent the last few months" considering the new gTLD program, and has found it lacking. They want ICANN to shut the whole thing down. more

ICANN Finds Its Voice

I think we are finally getting somewhere: ICANN is no longer fluttering flusteredly whenever a lobbying group sends a nastygram over the transom. Case in point: a Association of National Advertisers (ANA) that arrived a few days ago, full of bombast and muscle-flexing, demanding that ICANN immediately stop the new gTLD program until a long list of demands from the ANA were met, or else the ANA would be forced to take some Very Scary Actions... more

Will Anyone Qualify As a Community TLD?

Some Top-Level Domain (TLD) applicants have been saying that they're "community" applications, which means that would avoid an auction and prevail over even deep-pocketed competitors. But according to ICANN's Applicant Guidebook, very few if any applications will qualify as a community. If you're an applicant who's been telling your supporters or investors that you're going to win because you're a community, you might want to take a step back. more

Top-Level Domains and Search

Search marketers and SEO mavens are starting to pay attention to top-level domains (TLDs) now that ICANN has announced a starting date. Many of them are dubious about the benefits of TLDs to search, but they are missing out on why search will benefit from new TLDs - and vice-versa. A recent article on looked at the value of new top-level domains for search. One of the reasons for his skepticism comes from a common but completely erroneous notion that there's some sort of order to how top-level domains work today... more

Intellectual Property Interests Line Up to Crucify ICANN in Congress

On Wednesday, May 4, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing called ICANN Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD) Oversight Hearing. Kurt Pritz from ICANN has been invited to testify. Arrayed against him are a parade of intellectual property interests, some reasonable, some pur et dur lobbyists for complete corporate hegemony over all aspects of the Internet. more

Will Blocking a TLD Fracture the Internet?

In his eloquent dissent against approving .XXX, ICANN Board member George Sadowsky talked about blocking and filtering top-level domains. It's a concise statement of a concern that has been identified by various people, including members of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), as an impediment to the new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) program. It's a thorough defense of a common point of view about blocking TLDs, but while no-one can disagree about the fact of blocking, what is the actual effect? more

Confirmed: Bill Clinton to Address ICANN Meeting in SF

A personal source close to Bill Clinton has confirmed to us that the former president will give the keynote speech ICANN meeting in San Francisco March 14-18. The meeting promises to produce far more electricity than sleepy NGO-lawyer-techie-academic-lobbyist ICANN attendees are used to. more

The Wall Between Registries and Registrars Comes Tumbling Down

The ICANN Board has just voted to get rid of all co-ownership restrictions between domain registries and registrars. This is major news, with far-reaching consequences... This is the only principled decision the ICANN Board could have come to, and they deserve a lot of credit for doing it. By "principled," I mean taking ICANN's stated institutional principles and following them to their logical conclusion... more

Red Tape Set to Snuff Out Online Identity of Wales

Wales, a small Celtic country that has proudly withstood the depredations of Anglo-Saxons, Normans, and tourists, which has given the world everything from an enduring mythology to the world's longest single-world domain name, has been informed that they will not be allowed to proceed with .CYM (short for the Welsh name for Wales, Cymru) because that three-letter code is already claimed by the Cayman Islands. more

ICANN Dressing Up for New gTLD Party in San Francisco

The ICANN Board met on September 24-25 2010 in Trondheim, Norway, to consider and act on the impediments still in the way of the new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) program. They passed a number of resolutions that provide very clear indications of how things are going. The short version is that the news is good for new gTLDs. ICANN is nailing down the final outstanding issues and the timetable is clearer than ever. more

What Does the .CO Launch Mean for New gTLDs?

The .CO top-level domain made over $10 million in just a couple of months. What do the results of the .CO re-launch mean for new gTLDs? Remember, .CO is the country-code TLD for Colombia. Until this summer, you could only register names under,, etc. You couldn't register Now anyone in the world can register a .co name, and register it directly under the top level. more

ICANN’s Economic Study - It Depends

Economists aren't very good at predicting things, as any one with money in the stock market can attest. The most powerful economist in the United States, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, is on record predicting a continuing climb in housing prices -- just prior to their precipitous decline. And yet their crystal balls still hold some allure for those who need to present "evidence" about the future. Such is the case with ICANN and the new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) program. more

What the ICANN Brussels Meeting Means for New gTLDs

ICANN's 38th get-together, in Brussels, may become known as the meeting where the dust finally began to settle. Long-standing issues were settled, compromises were reached, no-one complained too much about the latest version of the Applicant Guidebook, and the Board stood by its project plan dates, even scheduling a Board retreat to solve remaining issues. Finally, there were no surprise "gotcha!" delays that generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) applicants have been used to seeing at ICANN meeting. With one possible exception... more

“Thin Brand Line” Breaks as Canon Announces Plans for .CANON

Until today's announcement by Canon, no large brand had broken the "thin brand line" by revealing their plan to apply for their own new top-level domain. Now with Canon's announcement, other major companies have been challenged to either announce their TLD plans or else state that they plan to forgo the chance to brand themselves at the top level of the domain name space. more

Expressions of Interest Move Ahead: New TLDs Get Closer

It looks as if new top-level domains are getting ever closer to the opening bell. Preliminary minutes from the December 9 2009 ICANN Board of Directors meeting suggest that the Board may authorize Expressions of Interest (EOI) at their February 10th meeting. The vote was unanimous. more

In Congress, A Confusing Argument Against New TLDs

In a recent post to CircleID entitled New Domains and ICANN Accountability, Steve DelBianco paints himself as "frustrated" that ICANN didn't take a different path toward new Top-Level Domains (TLDs). Mr. DelBianco was one of four witnesses at a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts and Competition on September 23, 2009. He is a creative advocate for his clients, an engaging speaker, and a skillful writer, and he produced a synopsis of the hearing which sounded convincing -- until I tried to make sense of it. more

61 Businesses Tell ICANN New TLDs Are Needed to Help Consumers, Encourage Innovation, Avoid Chaos

Sixty-one businesses, organizations, and individuals, including many of the domain industry's major players, yesterday sent a letter to ICANN, detailing the reasons why new top-level domains are required without delay. If you're interested in top-level domains, or if you just want to understand why they are important to the Internet, this letter lays out the reasons clearly and succinctly, with a minimum of jargon. more

Trademark Owners Beware: Cybersquatting Spreads to Twitter

TechCrunch reports that its brand has been taken as a Twitter name, and that there is a landrush going on to get these names, which are already trading for money. The problem is so bad that a name brokerage, Tweexchange, has sprung up to get to facilitate sales. more

Realizing There’s More to Life Than .COM, Europe and Asia Already Do

It's getting so hard to find a decent .COM domain name that a big weed patch of businesses has grown up hawking really terrible names for enormous prices -- and they're finding buyers. They're catering to people who are just trying to find something -- anything! -- that will work for their new web site. The problem is especially acute for those who are trying to start a business. more

In Support of ICANN’s New Trademark Protection Rules (Mostly)

Yesterday, I sent ICANN my comments about the draft recommendations from ICANN’s Implementation Recommendation Team (IRT), which has been tasked with coming up with a trademark protection scheme for new top-level domains. For the most part, I think they did an excellent job... more

WIPO Cybersquatting Report Ignores Real UDRP Trends

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) asserted on Monday that new gTLDs from ICANN would unleash a global crime wave. This dire warning was bolstered by an astonishing statistic: a whopping eight per cent (8%) increase in UDRP complaints from 2007 to 2008! But WIPO's press release tells only a very little of the truth. Astonishingly, the UDRP system actually works pretty well... more

That Letter to ICANN from the NTIA

A cranky letter from the NTIA to ICANN, submitted in late December during ICANN's comment period for new top-level domains, has encouraged the awkward coalition of those opposed to new TLDs. The NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration), a division of the Department of Commerce, is the agency tasked with being ICANN's watchdog. So a letter from them carries some weight, though not as much as some people think... more

Re-Examining the Domain Name Registry-Registrar Split

ICANN has released to the public a report they commissioned called "Revisiting Vertical Separation of Registries and Registrars," written by CRA International. It is being referred to as the "CRAI Report." Readers in the U.S. and the U.K. may not know it, but most top-level (TLD) domains in the world don't have registrars-you go straight to the registry and buy your domains from the source. more

Launch of .PARIS

Yesterday, hundreds of sweaty ICANN attendees put on their best clothes and braved the crush of the rush hour metro on a very hot day to crush together for the ICANN gala at the overwrought Hotel de Ville (city hall) in Paris. Most of them missed an interesting announcement. I arrived an hour late, but even so food and drink were not yet served (not even water), and everyone was in desperate need of provisioning. The dull roar of heat-induced complaining drowned out the dignitaries making speeches at the far end of the hall. more

How Many TLD Applications Will ICANN Receive?

This post could be subtitled: "The Wisdom of Elites." I polled some people I know in the domain field (plus Andrew Goodman, who wondered what the hell I was going on about). I asked them a simple question: "For the record, how many new TLD applications do you think there'll be?" Most of these people know the domain name world very well, but from different perspectives. Journalists, registrars, intellectual property attorneys, domainers, registry operators, TLD aspirants, entrepreneurs, domain aftermarket auctioneers, civil society activists... more

Domain Name Price Jump: Moore’s Law or Parkinson’s Laws?

As expected, VeriSign raised the price of domain names, effective in October. New prices wholesale prices (to the registrar) for .com domain names are going from $6.42 to $6.86, while .net will increase from $3.85 to $4.23. This news came a few days ago in a letter to registrars. (Hint to consumers: renew your domains now.) ...So, basically, many if not most of VeriSign's registry costs have been falling at an exponential rate. Hard disk storage, computing performance, bandwidth, RAM storage... yet the cost is going up. How is this justified? more

Why is .EU Trying to Destroy the Internet?

Eurid, the operator of .EU, announced that it was cutting its wholesale price from 10 Euros to 5 Euros (about US$6.40 at today's rate). Is Eurid crazy? They're cutting the price in half! Eurid is acting as if unit cost should go down as sales increase! Haven't they learned the lesson... more

IDNs and IE7 and the Coming Storm

If you're brave, today you can finally download the Internet Explorer 7 public beta. Why should you be interested? Not because the browser's wonderful. It isn't -- initial reports are that it's not ready for prime-time. But you might be interested to know that as of today, users of IE will be able to use internationalized domain names (IDNs). ...Many other browsers are already IDN-capable, including Firefox, but most people in the world use Explorer. Think China, Japan, India. Think most of the world's population... Think of millions of new Internet users working in their own language, customers for commercial goods and services. But think also about intellectual property nightmares, think about phishing, think about whether there's one interoperable Internet, or several Internets acting very weird. These issues and others will become big news when people start using IDNs massively -- and with support from Internet Explorer, that's about to happen. more

What’s Wrong with Domain Names?

Despite the significant traffic that comes from typed-in domain names, the public harumphing and clucking about type-in traffic is climbing in volume as it becomes clear how much money is involved. Articles this week show that domain names, and the people who make money on them, are making some commentators uncomfortable. more

She Gave Me a Fake Phone Number!

The Intellectual Property Constituency, meeting at the ICANN conference in Vancouver, was interested in increasing ICANN's budget not because they thought they deserved it, but because they wanted ICANN to actually enforce the rules on the books about fake registrations. Now there's some evidence about how prevalent that is. If there's any surprise here, it's that the numbers are so low. more