PuntCAT, the .cat registry, has become the first gTLD operator to apply to ICANN for the right to dump the registrar ownership ban in its contract.
If the request is approved by ICANN, the company will be able to own an ICANN-accredited registrar and start selling .cat domain names more or less directly to registrants.
The company has proposed several amendments to its existing contract that would allow it to become an “affiliate” of — ie own — a registrar with respect to its own gTLD.
ICANN believes the request, which is open for public comment until February 13, will not create any competition problems.
ICANN approved the rules for enabling cross-ownership in October, after competition concerns from the European Commission and US Department of Commerce appeared to disappear.
The .cat request was handled via the Process for Handling Requests for Removal of Cross-Ownership Restrictions on Operators of Existing gTLDs, which absolutely nobody is calling PFHRFROCOROOOEG.
Under the rules, the alternative to amending an existing contract is adopting the standard new gTLDs registry agreement wholesale, but I’m not expecting any incumbent registries to do that.
PuntCAT is pretty much unique among “sponsored” gTLD operators in that it’s experienced steady growth, not subject to the same degree of speculation-related spikes as others, since launching in 2006.
It currently has roughly 60,000 domains under management, growing at about 10,000 names a year. Three Spanish registrars hold over half of the market between them, led by Nominalia.
But the gTLD faces an uncertain future.
The Catalonia region of Spain, which .cat represents, is set for an independence referendum in 2014. If it were to split off into a new country, it would get its own potentially competing ccTLD.
Sales could benefit from the imminent delegation of .dog, which three companies have applied for as a gTLD, but PuntCAT’s rules state that all .cat sites must have Catalan-language content.