Wall Street Journal covers the dot jobs domain scandal

Posted August 19, 2010 by

For employment and now small business writer Sarah Needleman penned an article for today’s Wall Street Journal that does a pretty good job of summarizing the scandal launched by Employ Media, Direct Employers Association, and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) last year when they tried to expand who could use the top level domain .jobs and for what purpose. ICANN, the international governing body for domain names, created .jobs five years ago after SHRM promised to be the watch dog and ensure that only employers purchased and used the domains and only to promote their own jobs, so you’d have toyota.jobs to promote Toyota’s jobs but you wouldn’t have Monster.jobs to drive job seekers to Monster’s job board.

As Sarah’s article did a good job of pointing out, all of that may now be changing if Employ Media gets its way. ICANN approved the request to expand the charter, apparently paving the way for Employ Media to create tens and probably hundreds of thousands of new domains such as diversity.jobs, great.jobs, newyork.jobs and many, many, many more. What’s the problem with that, you say? Isn’t this just job boards whining about more competition? Well, for some job board owners that’s all this is but they’re missing the point as is anyone else who thinks that’s the issue. The issue is the process this has followed has been fundamentally flawed and has lacked openness and transparency. If you want to buy just about any domain, you can go to a registrar like GoDaddy or Network Solutions, pull out your credit card, and buy it. You know that they won’t keep the best ones for themselves or their friends and they won’t ask you for a share of the revenues generated from the domain. If Employ Media gets its way, it will apparently keep the best domains for itself and its friends and it has already approached job board owners to request a share of revenues if Employ Media grants their request for their .jobs domain name.

Remember that ICANN approved the creation of .jobs to allow employers to drive traffic to their own career pages and SHRM was to act as the watch dog. Sarah’s story unfortunately mischaracterized that when it stated that SHRM was supposed to ensure that the users of the dot jobs domains are in the “job-site realm.” That’s not correct. That would mean that job boards and perhaps also staffing companies, third party recruiters, etc. could purchase .jobs domains to drive candidates to their job sites. The dot jobs charter which was awarded by ICANN five years expressly forbids that and limits the use of the dot jobs top level domain only to employers. So Toyota can (and has) purchased toyota.jobs to drive job seekers to its own career section but Employ Media has been forbidden to sell domains such as CollegeRecruiter.jobs if we were to use that to drive candidates to our job board. In other words, you can promote your own openings with your own dot jobs, but not the openings of other organizations. So job boards have not been able to buy dot jobs domains.

What Employ Media is trying to do is continue to be the registrar by being the organization that decides who gets what domain and at what price (Ray Fassett of Employ Media has been asking job boards for revenue shares for the domains) and also the owner of tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of job boards that it creates. Yes, there’s now an RFP process, but no one outside of Employ Media seems to know the criteria that will be used to determine who gets what domain and at what price.

Follow-up note from 12:20pm — Ray Fassett just called and said he was making a “courtesy call” to tell me that if I didn’t retract the revenue share statement that Employ Media would take legal action against me. I don’t have written proof of that and whether Employ Media has or will ask for revenue shares or not isn’t really the point. So, Ray, consider the statement retracted. I have no desire to get into a legal battle with you or anyone else at Employ Media. We can agree to disagree on the merits of what Employ Media wants to do with .jobs and not make our lawyers wealthier in the process.

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