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MMX revenue slips despite domain growth

Kevin Murphy, September 26, 2017, Domain Registries

MMX today posted a smaller loss for the first half of the year, despite managing to grow domains under management and hit some important financial milestones.

The new gTLD registry formerly known as Mind + Machines, which announced a few months ago that it’s looking to be acquired, reported an H1 loss of $526,000 compared to a loss of $1.9 million a year earlier.

Revenue and billings were both down due to the lack of any big launches in the period; H1 2016 had benefited from the strong launch of .vip in China.

Revenue, which is recognized over the duration of the domain registrations, was $5.3 million compared to $7.4 million in 2016. Billings, a measure of cash sales, were $5.6 million compared to $8.1 million.

Despite these dips, MMX is happy enough that the “quality” of its revenue is getting better.

The company said that revenue from domain renewals more than doubled to $2.4 million and represented 45% of revenue. A year ago, it was 15%.

As another measure of the health of its business, it also said that its renewal billings was greater than its operating expenditure for the first time, after cost-cutting.

Domains under management went into seven figures for the first time, to 1.1 million. That was up from 821,000 at the start of the year.

It processed 318,000 new registrations in the six months, compared to 452,000 a year earlier (when .vip’s launch provided a boost).

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More delay for Amazon as ICANN punts rejected gTLD

Kevin Murphy, September 26, 2017, Domain Policy

Amazon is going to have to wait a bit longer to discover whether its 2012 application for the gTLD .amazon will remain rejected.

ICANN’s board of directors at the weekend discussed whether to revive the application in light of the recent Independent Review Process panel ruling that the bid had been kicked out for no good reason.

Instead of making a firm decision, or punting it to the Government Advisory Committee (as I had predicted), the board instead referred the matter to a subcommittee for further thought.

The newly constituted Board Accountability Mechanisms Committee, which has taken over key functions of the Board Governance Committee, has been asked to:

review and consider the Panel’s recommendation that the Board “promptly re-evaluate Amazon’s applications” and “make an objective and independent judgment regarding whether there are, in fact, well-founded, merits-based public policy reasons for denying Amazon’s applications,” and to provide options for the Board to consider in addressing the Panel’s recommendation.

The notion of a “prompt” resolution appears to be subjective, but Amazon might not have much longer to wait for a firmer decision.

While the BAMC’s charter requires it to have meetings at least quarterly, if it follows the practice of its predecessor they will be far more frequent.

It’s possible Amazon could get an answer by the time of the public meeting in Abu Dhabi at the end of next month.

ICANN’s board did also resolve to immediately pay Amazon the $163,045.51 in fees the IRP panel said was owed.

The .amazon gTLD application, along with its Chinese and Japanese versions, was rejected by ICANN a few years ago purely on the basis of consensus GAC advice, led by the geographic name collisions concerns of Peru and Brazil.

However, the IRP panel found that the GAC advice appeared to based on not a great deal more than whim, and that the ICANN board should have at least checked whether there was a sound rationale to reject the bids before doing so.

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.xyz back on sale in China

Kevin Murphy, September 25, 2017, Domain Registries

Chinese registrars have started to carry .xyz domains again, about five months after a Chinese government ban.

West.cn and Net.cn are two of the China-based companies that appear to be selling .xyz names at the yuan equivalent of a US dollar, based on a spot check this morning.

West.cn flagged the “restoration” of service on its blog today, saying it was “overjoyed” to resume sales.

XYZ.com revealed back in May that its new gTLD domains were “temporarily” no longer available via Chinese registrars, after the government there suspended its license.

The reason for the suspension has always been a little vague, but the registry told DNW back in May that it related to Real Names Verification.

RNV is the government-mandated identity check that must take place before anyone in China can register and use a domain name.

XYZ had been outsourcing the function to ZDNS, but that relationship fell apart for some reason (rumor has it there was a money dispute) and XYZ decided to switch to Tele-info.

In the interim, Chinese registrars, apparently under order of their government, dutifully stopped carrying .xyz domains.

XYZ also went through ICANN’s Registry Services Evaluation Process to get its move to Tele-info approved at the Registry Agreement level.

The downtime prevented XYZ from masking the precipitous decline in its number of domains under management, which has fallen by over three million since May.

XYZ and the Chinese government have yet to issue statements about the newly reinstated license.

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puntCAT head of IT charged with “sedition”

Kevin Murphy, September 20, 2017, Domain Registries

Catalan gTLD registry puntCAT has confirmed that its head of IT, Pep Masoliver, has been arrested as part of a Spanish government crackdown on pushes for independence.

He’s been charged with “sedition” and is still in police custody this evening, a company spokesperson told DI.

His arrest coincided with the military police raid of puntCAT’s office in Barcelona that started this morning, related to a forthcoming Catalan independence referendum.

Spanish authorities had called for the registry to delete .cat domain names used to host content related to the referendum, which has been ruled illegal by the Spanish courts.

puntCAT, which had already alerted ICANN to what it characterized as the sweeping “censorship” of .cat, has now started up a social media campaign calling for Masoliver’s release.

The hashtag appears to translate as “All With You, Pep”.

Masoliver was among a dozen people arrested today by Spanish national authorities in a series of raids that have been condemned as anti-democratic.

The Guardian has a good round-up of the day’s events and local reaction.

“Sedition” isn’t a word you hear very often nowadays, particularly in democratic Western Europe, and I’m not going to pretend to have the first idea how it is treated under Spanish law.

UPDATE 1944 UTC: puntCAT issued a statement condemning the events of today in very strong terms. It’s worth quoting in its entirety.

The Fundació puntCAT wants to express its utmost condemnation, indignation and reprobation for the actions that it has been suffering lately with successive judicial mandates, searches and finally the arrest of our Director of Innovation and Information Systems, Pep Masoliver.

We are a private and non for profit foundation devoted to ensuring that Catalan – a persecuted and maltreated language – has its space in the digital world. We assist all our users with the greatest professionalism and we are a reference entity in Catalonia and in the world.

The show that we have experienced in our offices this morning has been shameful and degrading, unworthy of a civilized country. We feel helpless in the face of these immensely disproportionate facts.

We demand the immediate release of our colleague and friend.

We will continue to work for our foundational objectives as well as for the defense of freedom of expression on the Internet.

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Spanish cops raid .cat registry offices in referendum censorship row

Kevin Murphy, September 20, 2017, Domain Registries

Spanish police this morning raided the offices of .cat gTLD registry Fundació puntCAT, just days after demanding the company shut down any domains referring to a forthcoming referendum.

There are reports, unconfirmed by puntCAT at this time, that head of IT Pep Masoliver has been arrested in connection with the incident.

On Twitter, puntCAT said shortly after 10am local time (translation by Google Translate): “At this time @guardiacivil is performing an intervention in our offices.”

Guardia Civil is one of Spain’s various police forces.

The raid comes as the national government cracks down on a local referendum on independence for the Catalonia region.

Catalonia was to go to the polls October 1 to decide whether it should split from Spain, but the vote was recently declared illegal by Spain’s highest constitutional court.

Local government officials have reportedly been arrested this morning as part of the crackdown.

It has been reported by Spanish media that puntCAT’s head of IT Pep Masoliver was been arrested at his home.

puntCAT declined to confirm the arrest immediately, telling DI: “Our IT manager has been required for the intervention at our office.”

At the weekend, the registry wrote to ICANN to warn it that Spanish authorities had instructed it on Friday to “block all .cat domains that may contain any kind of information about the forthcoming independence referendum”.

“We are being requested to censor content and suppress freedom of speech,” the letter, which condemned the “unprecedented and absolute scope” of the order, said.

The letter was posted to Twitter in its entirety.

.cat, which is designed for people from the Catalonia region or who speak Catalan, went live in 2006 following ICANN’s 2003 round of “sponsored” gTLD applications.

It had 112,000 domains under management at the last count and a smooth growth curve that would make most new gTLD operators salivate.

As the raid happened just a couple of hours ago and appears to be ongoing, this is breaking news. I’ll provide updates throughout the day as more information emerges.

UPDATE 0950 UTC: The raid appears to have been temporarily frozen while the parties await the arrival of the court order authorizing the raid and the company’s CTO.

UPDATE 1022 UTC: Story updated to reflect reports of a puntCAT employee arrest.

UPDATE 1056 UTC: Updated with statement from puntCAT.

UPDATE 1653 UTC: Masoliver has been charged with “sedition”.

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