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Amid Ukraine crisis, Russia scared ICANN might switch off its domains

Kevin Murphy, September 19, 2014, Domain Policy

Russia is reportedly worried that the current wave of Western sanctions against it may wind up including ICANN turning off its domain names.

According to a report in the local Vedomosti newspaper, the nation’s Security Council is to meet Monday to discuss contingency plans for the possibility of being hit by internet-based sanctions.

Part of the discussion is expected to relate to what would happen if the US government forced ICANN to remove the local ccTLDs — .ru, .рф, and the discontinued .su — from the DNS root, according to Vedomosti’s source.

The paper reports, citing a source, that “officials want to control the entire distribution system of domain names in RUnet entirely”. RUnet is an informal term for the Russian-language web.

The report goes on to explain that the government’s goal is not to isolate the Russian internet, but to ensure it remains functioning within the country if its ccTLDs are cut off in the rest of the world.

Russia has been hit by sanctions from the US and Europe in recent months due to its involvement in the Ukraine crisis, but so far these have been of the regular economic kind.

Frankly, I find the possibility of the US government asking ICANN to intervene in this way — and ICANN complying — unlikely in the extreme. It would go dead against the current US policy of removing itself almost entirely from the little influence it already has over the root system.

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Which made more money — .website, .press or .host?

Kevin Murphy, September 19, 2014, Domain Registries

Radix Registry launched its first three new gTLDs yesterday, and the first day’s numbers make an interesting case study in how difficult it can be to judge the health of a TLD.

Based on zone file numbers, .website was the clear winner. It had 6,340 names in its zone at the end of the day, compared to .host’s 778 and .press’s 801.

There’s clearly more demand for .website names right now.

But which made the most money? That’s actually a lot harder to figure out.

To make those calculations accurately, you’d need to know a) Radix’s base registry fee, b) the promotional discounts it applied for the launch c) which premium names sold and d) for how much.

None of that information is publicly available.

If we were to use Go Daddy’s base retail pricing as a proxy guide, .host was hypothetically the biggest money-spinner yesterday. At $129.99 a year, it would have made $101,132.

Because .website only costs $14.99 at Go Daddy, it would have only made $95,037, even though it sold thousands more names.

But Radix offered registrars what appears to be steep discounts for the launch. Go Daddy marked down its .host names from $129.99 to $49.99. That would make revenue of $38,892, less than half of .website.

With the discounts in mind, .host didn’t have as good a day from a cash-flow perspective as .website, but it arguably looks healthier from a long-term revenue perspective.

That’s all based on the snapshot of today’s zone files and an obviously incorrect assumption that Go Daddy sold all the names, of course.

Complicating matters further are the premium names.

Radix has priced a lot of its names with premium renewal fees and Radix business head Sandeep Ramchandani said that the company sold five five-figure premium names across all three gTLDs.

Given the relatively small amount of money we’re talking about, those five sales would have significantly impacted the three new gTLD’s relative revenue.

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.website gets 6,500 regs in first four hours

Kevin Murphy, September 18, 2014, Domain Registries

The new gTLD .website got over 6,500 registrations in the first four hours of general availability, according to Radix Registry.

The TLD has been characterized as the first exciting, properly generic English-language new gTLD to launch.

With that in mind, one wonders whether 6,500 is a great start.

Bear in mind that .website has commodity .com pricing ($14.99 or thereabouts retail) and that Radix offered its registrars a promotional discount for the launch — 6,500 names does not equal a lot of money.

But it’s still early days (hours), and we don’t know how many of the registered names carry premium prices.

Radix’s premium names renew annually at the premium prices, as we’ve seen previously with gTLDs from the likes of Donuts, Uniregistry and Minds + Machines.

.website went to GA at 1600 UTC today, having been delayed 24 hours by a pricing glitch.

Radix has been conducting a sweepstakes on Twitter all day to guess the number of day-one registrations in .website. The prize is a Go Pro camera.

Based on nothing more than gut instinct, I went for 9,888, thinking I was probably erring slightly on the low side.

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CentralNic invests $1.5m in mystery gTLD applicant

Kevin Murphy, September 18, 2014, Domain Registries

Registry back-end provider CentralNic has stumped up $1.5 million to back a new gTLD applicant in a forthcoming private auction.

CentralNic CEO Ben Crawford declined to identify the beneficiary.

The company has also not disclosed what stake in the target company it will obtain if it wins the auction.

Here’s the entirety of the statement the company released to the market this afternoon:

CentralNic plc (AIM:CNIC), the internet platform business which derives revenues from the global sale of domain names, today announces that the Group intends to invest US$1.5 million in a Company which is in a contention set to acquire a new generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”). The funds will be placed into an escrow account, pending the resolution of the contention set, with the winning applicant expected to be resolved by a private auction within the next two weeks. The investment is contingent upon the Applicant Company successfully obtaining the rights to the gTLD by winning the auction. If the company is unsuccessful, the funds will be returned in full to CentralNic by the escrow agent.

Assuming CentralNic is investing in an existing registry services client, possible beneficiaries include Top Level Design, Fegistry, Merchant Law Group and XYZ.com.

These clients have more than 20 applications in contention right now, but not all of them could plausibly head to private auction soon.

Some have been blocked, some are in contention sets with applicants that do not participate in private auctions, and some strings have been applied for by more than one CentralNic client.

With those criteria in mind, one could possibly narrow down the target string to: .auto, .cafe, .chat, .design, .forum, .gay, .golf, .law, .news, .now, .realty, .school, .style or .sucks.

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Donuts racks up 8,000 sales with three gTLD launches

Kevin Murphy, September 18, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts’ sold another 8,000 domains on the first day of base-price general availability of its three latest gTLDs — .church, .guide and .life.

.church was the strongest performer of the three, with 3,409 new names registered. Its total is now 4,044.

.guide added to 2,895 to total 3,386, while .life added 1,783 to wind up at 2,106.

These are not exceptional numbers for new gTLD launches but they’re pretty much par for the course with niche TLDs nowadays.

All three gTLDs were won by Donuts at auction against other applicants over the last 12 months.

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