Ken Hansen has surprised many by resigning from Neustar, where he was general manager of the slam-dunk .nyc new gTLD initiative, to become CEO of .co.com, a new pseudo-TLD registry.
The announcement raises a couple of big questions.
First, why is .co.com being launched as a registry?
The name belongs to domain investor Paul Goldstone. He put it up for sale in March 2012, with broker DomainAdvisors speculating aloud that it would fetch a price in the millions.
We wondered at the time whether CentralNic, whose bread and butter back then (before its interests in new gTLDs became clear) was two-letter country-codes in .com, would swoop to buy it.
We also wondered whether .CO Internet would make an offer, in order to eliminate competition and reduce existing and potential confusion with its own ccTLD, .co.
If either company made an offer, it does not seem to have been accepted.
Goldstone is instead going to try to build a registry around the name, with Hansen as CEO and himself as president. DomainAdvisors founder Gregg McNair is chairman of the new venture.
Second, why on earth would Hansen, who has been leading business development for Neustar’s own .nyc — the forthcoming new gTLD for the city of New York — join an unproven .com subdomain provider?
He tells us that his confidence in .nyc’s prospects has not waned, but that he is one of the owners of the new company.
He said in an email:
Sometimes following the crowd is not the best thing to do in business. New gTLDs have always been about choice from my perspective. I still believe in new gTLDs in general, but there is still a VERY significant market for short recognizable domains ending in .com. We will meet that demand. Not to mention, we can move quickly without waiting on ICANN.
Gaining visibility for a subdomain product can be tricky at the best of times, but with hundred of new generic TLDs coming to market… Hansen, Goldstone and McNair really do have a challenge on their hands.
The new company intends to run sunrise, landrush and “premium” names phases for its launch, which is expected to kick off in the first quarter next year. No word yet on whether it will follow the CentralNic model and also voluntarily incorporate ICANN policies on UDRP, Whois and so forth.