MarkMonitor has become the first accredited registrar to carry over 500 gTLDs.
Inspired by a recent Dynadot press release outlining its passing of the 500-TLD mark, I thought I’d put together a league table of gTLD registrars, ordered by which carries the most.
It will come as little surprise to most that brand protection registrars dominate the top end of the list.
MarkMonitor tops the league, with 504 gTLDs in its stable as of the end of June, up from 499 in May.
It’s closely followed by Ascio and CSC. Indeed, brand-focused registrars occupy many of the top 30 registrars, as you can see from this table.
There’s no real correlation between the number of gTLDs carried and the total domains under management for the registrar.
GoDaddy, with 53 million names, is way down in 28th position, for example.
The list was compiled from the latest gTLD registry reports, which show how many domains were registered to each accredited registrar at the end of June.
The data does not not include ccTLDs, nor does it account for situations where registrars may retail a TLD via a gateway or as a reseller of another registrar.
Google has muscled in to the registry service provider market with the launch of Nomulus, an open-source TLD back-end platform.
The new offering appears to be tightly integrated with Google’s various cloud services, challenging long-held registry pricing conventions.
There are already indications that at least one of the gTLD market’s biggest players could be considering a move to the service.
Donuts revealed yesterday it has been helping Google with Nomulus since early 2015, suggesting a shift away from long-time back-end partner Rightside could be on the cards.
Nomulus, which is currently in use at Google Registry’s handful of early-stage gTLDs, takes care of most of the core registry functions required by ICANN, Google said.
It’s a shared registration system based on the EPP standard, able to handle all the elements of the domain registration lifecycle.
Donuts contributed code enabling features it uses in its own 200-ish gTLDs, such as pricing tiers, the Early Access Period and Domain Protected Marks List.
Nomulus handles Whois and likely successor protocol RDAP (Registration Data Access Protocol).
For DNS resolution, it comes with a plug-in to make TLDs work on the Google Cloud DNS service. Users will also be able to write code to use alternative DNS providers.
There’s also software to handle daily data escrow to a third-party provider, another ICANN-mandated essential.
But Nomulus lacks critical features such as billing and fully ICANN-compliant reporting, according to documentation.
So will anyone actually use this? And if so, who?
It’s too early to say for sure, but Donuts certainly seems keen. In a blog post, CEO Paul Stahura wrote:
As the world’s largest operator of new TLDs, Donuts must continually explore compelling technologies and ensure our back-end operations are cost-efficient and flexible… Google has a phenomenal record of stability, an almost peerless engineering team, endless computing resources and global scale. These are additional potential benefits for us and others who may contribute to or utilize the system. We have been happy to evaluate and contribute to this open source project over the past 20 months because this platform provides Donuts with an alternative back-end with significant benefits.
In a roundabout way, Donuts is essentially saying that Nomulus could work out cheaper than its current back-end, Rightside.
The biggest change heralded by Nomulus is certainly pricing.
For as long as there has been a competitive market for back-end domain registry services, pricing has been on a per-domain basis.
While pricing and model vary by provider and customer, registry operators typically pay their RSPs a flat fee and a buck or two for each domain they have under management.
Pricing for dot-brands, where DUM typically comes in at under 100 today, is believed to be weighted much more towards the flat-fee service charge element.
But that’s not how Nomulus is to be paid for.
While the software is open source and free, it’s designed to run on Google’s cloud hosting services, where users are billed on the fly according to their usage of resources such as storage and bandwidth consumed.
For example, the Google Cloud Datastore, the company’s database service that Nomulus uses to store registration and Whois records, charges are $0.18 per gigabyte of storage per month.
For a small TLD, such as a dot-brand, one imagines that storage costs could be reduced substantially.
However, Nomulus is not exactly a fire-and-forget solution.
There is no Google registry service with customer support reps and such, at least not yet. Nomulus users are responsible for building and maintaining their registry like they would any other hosted application.
So the potentially lower service costs would have to be balanced against potentially higher staffing costs.
My hunch based on the limited available information is that for a dot-brand or a small niche TLD operating on a skeleton crew that may lack technical expertise, moving to Nomulus could be a false economy.
With this in mind, Google may have just created a whole new market for middleman RSPs — TLD management companies that can offer small TLDs a single point of contact for technical expertise and support but don’t need to build out and own their own expensive infrastructure.
The barrier to entry to the RSP market may have just dropped like a rock, in other words.
And Nomulus may work out more attractive to larger TLD operators such as Donuts, with existing teams of geeks, that can take advantage of Google’s economies of scale.
Don’t expect any huge changes overnight though. Migrating between back-ends is not an easy or cheap feat.
As well as ICANN costs, and data migration and software costs, there’s also the non-trivial matter of shepherding a horde of registrars over to the new platform.
How much impact Nomulus will have on the market remains to be seen, but it has certainly given the industry something to think about.
Four US states attorneys general have quietly thrown in the towel in their attempt to have the IANA transition blocked.
The AGs of Texas, Nevada, Arizona and Oklahoma unilaterally dropped their Texas lawsuit against the US government on Friday, court records show.
A filing (pdf) signed by all four reads simply:
Plaintiffs hereby provide notice that they are voluntarily dismissing this action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(i).
That basically means the case is over.
The AGs had sued the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration, seeking an eleventh-hour restraining order preventing the IANA transition going ahead.
The TRO demand was comprehensively rejected, after ICANN and organizations representing numerous big-name technology companies let their support for the transition be known in court.
The plaintiffs had said they were considering their options, but now appear to have abandoned the case.
It was widely believed that the suit was politically motivated, an attempt by four Republican officials to stir up anti-Obama sentiment in the run-up to the US presidential election.
Donuts has outlined plans to suspend or delete .doctor domain names used by fake medical doctors.
Despite protestations from governments and others, .doctor will not be a restricted gTLD when it goes to general availability next week — anyone will be able to register one.
However, Donuts said last week that it will shut down phony doctor sites:
While we are firmly committed to free speech on the Internet, we however will be on guard against inappropriate or dangerous uses of .DOCTOR. Accordingly, if registrants using this name make the representation on their websites that they are licensed medical practitioners, they should be able to demonstrate upon request that in fact they hold such a license. Failure to so demonstrate could be considered a violation of the terms of registration and may subject the registrant to registrar and registry rights to delete, revoke, suspend, cancel, or transfer a registration.
A Donuts spokesperson said that the registry will have the right to conduct spot-checks on sites, but at first will only police the gTLD in response to complaints from others.
“We have the right to spot check, but no immediate plans to do so,” he said.
In a few fringe cases, the failure to present a license would not result in the loss of a domain.
For example, a “registrant is in a jurisdiction that doesn’t license doctors (if that exists)” or a “registrant that represents him/herself as a licensed medical doctor, but uses the site to sell cupcakes”, the spokesperson said.
ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee had wanted .doctor restricted to medical doctors, but Donuts complained noting that “doctor” is an appellation used in many other fields beyond medicine.
It can also be used in fanciful ways to market products, the registry said.
ICANN eventually sided with Donuts, allowing it to keep an open TLD as long as it included certain Public Interest Commitments in its registry contract.
.doctor goes to GA October 26.
ICANN has implicated a Chinese domain name registrar in the online selling of medications, including Viagra and Cialis, without the required prescription.
The organization’s Compliance department filed a contract breach notice with Nanjing Imperiosus, which does business as DomainersChoice.com, today.
The move follows an allegation from pharmacy watchdog LegitScript in the US Congress that DomainersChoice is “rogue internet pharmacy operator”.
Because ICANN has no authority to police online pharmacies, it’s gone after the registrar based on an obscure part of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement.
Section 3.7.7 of the 2013 RAA says that domains must be registered to a third party, unless they’re used by the registrar in the course of providing its registrar services.
According to ICANN, DomainersChoice has refused to provide evidence that many of its domains are not in fact registered to itself and CEO Stefan Hansmann, in violation of this clause.
It cites 5mg-cialis20mg.com, acheterdutadalafil.com, viagra-100mgbestprice.net and 100mgviagralowestprice.net as examples of domains apparently registered to Hansmann and his company.
Historical Whois records show Hansmann and Nanjing Imperiosus as the registrant of these names until recently.
The domains all refer to erectile dysfunction medicines, which are usually only available in the US with a prescription.
A reverse Whois lookup reveals Hansmann’s name in the records for many more pharmaceuticals-related domains, some of which are for more serious medical conditions.
Several of the domains contain the words “without prescription” or similar, where the drug in question requires a prescription in the US.
Some of the domains do not currently resolve or no longer provide current Whois records and others have been recently transferred, but some resolve to apparently active e-commerce sites.
ICANN’s breach notice (pdf) doesn’t allege any illegal activity.
The same cannot be said for LegitScript CEO John Horton, who lumped DomainersChoice in with a few other registrars he believes are operating “illegal online pharmacies”.
Horton testified (pdf) before Congress last month that the registrar was playing host to 2,300 such sites.
The testimony was filed September 14, the same day ICANN began its compliance investigation.
ICANN’s notice, which alleges a handful of other relatively trivial breaches, asks that Hansmann provide a full list of domains registered in his and his company’s name via DomainersChoice.
It also demands evidence that the domains were either used to provide registrar services or were registered to a third party.
It wants all that by November 2, after which it may start to terminate the company’s RAA.