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How .pw signed up more launch registrars than .xxx

Kevin Murphy, February 12, 2013, 07:59:27 (UTC), Domain Registries

Directi has signed up more registrars for its launch of the .pw top-level domain than .xxx managed a year ago, crediting pricing and “operating in new gTLD mode” for its progress.

Sandeep Ramchandani, business head of .pw at the company, said that over 90 registrars are currently accredited. That’s compared to the about 80 that ICM Registry launched .xxx with in December 2011.

The ccTLD for the tiny nation of Palau (pop. 20,956), .pw isn’t what you’d call an intrinsically exciting string, despite Directi’s attempt to rebrand it as “Professional Web”, making its relatively strong launch channel a bit of a head-scratcher.

The fact that Directi also runs registrar-in-a-box provider LogicBoxes has helped it add some registrars, no doubt.

But Ramchandani reckons a combination of low pricing, open registration policies, a focus on developing markets, and attractive registrar incentives, are helping the TLD gain channel traction.

“There’s going to be a massive shift in power from registries to registrars,” he said. “We’re basically operating .pw in the new gTLD mode.”

I had assumed that many registrars might have wanted to plug in to .pw in order to ease the need for integration work with Directi’s registry if/when the company launches the 30-odd gTLD it has applied for, but Ramchandani pointed out that this is not the case.

The company is using CentralNic as the back-end for .pw, but it’s signed up to use ARI Registry Services for its gTLDs.

“This is not something related to our gTLD business, because we’re working off a completely different platform,” Ramchandani said.

But with the imminent launch of new gTLDs, there’s recently been an increased industry focus on how registrars should be paying their registry fees. Typically, they prepay each TLD registry before they sell domains to registrants, tying up capital that they could be using for other purposes.

That model may work in a world of 1,700 registrars and 18 gTLDs, but it will become increasingly cumbersome and uneconomical for registrars as the number of TLDs approaches 1,000.

Some say it will make more sense for registries to scrap the prepay model, if they want to attract more registrars.

While Directi has stopped short of offering blanket post-pay to its registrars, Ramchandani said it will offer the model in some cases (unlike ICANN-contracted gTLDs, .pw has leeway to treat registrars differently).

“We will be asking for prepayment, but if a registrar is doing significant volume… If they feel they’re blocking a lot of capital and require a more convenient and flexible model we could offer post-payment,” he said. “But it’s not something we can offer every registrar.”

It’s also offering what it says is a more attractive way of handling promotional pricing.

Typically, if a gTLD registry runs a pricing promotion today it will rebate its registrars the difference between the promo price and the regular fee monthly or quarterly based on their sales volumes.

Ramchandani said the .pw model is more attractive to registrars: “With our programs, we will charge the discounted amount up-front, as opposed to charging the full amount and rebating later.”

“We will be coming up with some very, very aggressive promotions that will bring down the first-year registration cost a lot,” he added.

In contrast to SX Registry’s .sx (for the new nation of Sint Maarten), which is launching with prices of around $50 a year, Directi is selling .pw domains with a registry fee “sub-.com” before discounts.

Exact registry pricing for .pw domains has not been publicly disclosed, and Ramchandani declined to give out that information, but given current .com prices we can estimate a ceiling of about $7.85.

Directi reckons the low prices will drive volumes in developing markets, such as its native India.

The .pw launch is currently in the last few days of sunrise — which like so many other recent sunrise periods has been extended to cope with last-minute filings — during which trademark holders can defensively register their brands as domain names for a higher fee.

Not ever registrar is participating in sunrise; eNom, for example, which is .pw’s biggest registrar signing to date, does not plan to get involved until landrush.

Directi has something interesting planned for landrush, which begins next Monday, too.

According to Ramchandani, the registry will release and promote a list of unreserved “premium” domains that are available for registration during the landrush period.

This is slightly different to the standard registry practice of holding back premiums for auction. The names .pw will promote will not be “reserved”, they’ll just be examples of decent strings picked out of the available pool.

Each could technically be sold for the basic landrush fee if only one registrant attempts to register them. In practice, due to the promotion, there’s a higher likelihood of the domains going to auction, however.

“We’re making available a much larger set of premium names during landrush,” Ramchandani said. “We think it will help raise awareness to say: ‘Hey, these are the top picks.'”

“Since those names are generally reserved by the registry, we think it’s important to say: these are available,” he added.

The full list of registrars participating in .pw’s launch is available here.

Directi is promoting those registrars that have committed some marketing resources to the TLD, such as by creating dedicated landing pages.

It has not yet signed up Go Daddy, which is typically responsible for a quarter or more of all sales in gTLDs it sells, but Ramchandani said he expects more “top five” registrars to follow eNom in supporting .pw soon.

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