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Registrars screwing up new gTLD launches?

Kevin Murphy, March 18, 2014, 11:16:13 (UTC), Domain Registrars

Some of the largest domain name registrars are failing to support new gTLDs properly, leading to would-be registrants being told unregistered names are unavailable.

The .menu gTLD went into general availability yesterday, gathering some 1,649 registrations in its first half day.

It’s not a great start for the new gTLD by any stretch, but how much of it has to do with the channel?

I tested out searches for available names at some of the biggest registrars and got widely different results, apparently because they don’t all properly support tiered pricing.

Market leader Go Daddy even refuses to sell available names.

The .menu gTLD is being operated by a What Box? subsidiary, the inappropriately named Wedding TLD2.

The company has selected at least three pricing tiers as far as I can tell — $25 is the baseline registry fee, but many unreserved “premium” names are priced by the registry at $50 and $65 a year.

For my test, I used noodleshop.menu, which seems to carry the $65 fee. Whois records show it as unregistered and it’s not showing up in today’s .menu zone file. It’s available.

This pricing seems to be accurately reflected at registrars including Name.com and 101domain.

Name.com, for example, says that the name is available and offers to sell it to me for $81.25.

Name.com

Likewise, 101domain reports its availability and a price of $97.49. There’s even a little medal icon next to the name to illustrate the fact that it’s at a premium price.

101domain

So far so good. However, other registrars fare less well.

Go Daddy and Register.com, which are both accredited .menu registrars, don’t seem to recognize the higher-tier names at all.

Go Daddy reports the name is unavailable.

Go Daddy

And so does Register.com.

Register.com

For every .menu name that carried a premium price at Name.com, Go Daddy was reporting it as unavailable.

With Go Daddy owning almost half of the new gTLD market, you can see why its failure to recognize a significant portion of a new gTLD’s available nice-looking names might impact day-one volumes.

The experience at 1&1, which has pumped millions into marketing new gTLD pre-registrations, was also weird.

At 1&1, I was offered noodleshop.menu at the sale price of $29.99 for the first year and $49.99 thereafter, which for some reason I was told was a $240 saving.

1&1

Both the sale price and the regular price appear to be below the wholesale cost. Either 1&1 is committed to take a $15 loss on each top-tier .menu name forever, or it’s pricing its names incorrectly.

A reader informed me this morning that when he tried to buy a .menu premium at 1&1 today he was presented with a message saying he would be contacted within 24 hours about the name.

He said his credit card was billed for the $29.99, but the name (Whois records seem to confirm) remains unregistered.

I’d test this out myself but frankly I don’t want to risk my money. When I tried to register the same name as the reader on 1&1 today I was told it was still available.

If I were a new gTLD registry I’d be very worried about this state of affairs. Without registrars, there’s no sales, but some registrars appear to be unprepared, at least in the case of .menu.

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Comments (16)

  1. Volker Greimann says:

    Well, one could argue that registries are screwing up their own launches by needlessly complicating their pricing models.

    Registries should realize that tiered pricing is a new business model, and guess what:

    New models may require additional implementation work on the registrar side as well, work that may very well not be worth the effort to implement.

    • Rubens Kuhl says:

      Flat pricing across the board only makes sense to registrars, who usually provide registration services to get value-added services like hosting… so this tension will continue until the market addresses the needs of all parties in the sales chain, not just one or the other.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Go Daddy handled Donuts’ tiers.

      • Luc Seufer says:

        Donut’s is handling their so-called dynamic pricing themself via the DAS, while the registry for .menu is not providing an easy way for registrars to display the applicable pricing.

        In theory we would need to cram our database with one price per premium domain… just not realistic when you are looking to manage more than 1300 extensions.

        This is why we (eurodns.com) require our customers to contact our customer care for those premium domain names.

        Maybe you owe to rename this post “Registries forgot they needed to actually sell domain registrations?”

      • Volker Greimann says:

        Depending on the volume a registrar handles, implementation even of onerous requirements can be worthwhile, however for most registrars this volume simply is not there, so compromises must be made.

  2. Part of the issue is pre-registrations. It appears as though registrars took preregistrations on TLDs who they eventually did not enter into a contract with.

    I purchased a premium name using GoDaddy whereby I was charged $500 for the name (yes, charged to my credit card) and a week later was informed that name was taken. I sent an inquiry on why I was not invited to an auction. The response I received from GoDaddy:
    “Thank you for contacting Aftermarket support.

    Unfortunately, the registry did not make the domain available for GoDaddy to offer for sale. At this time the domain would be purchased by another and is no longer available. The registry it was registered at was not made available to us”.

    So they refunded my credit card however, I no longer have a chance of getting the domain. I doubt the registry received any feedback or has any knowledge on the loss of sales.

    • Reg says:

      Given who you are, it’d probably be worth shooting an email off to the registry in question explaining this. The registry will very likely be grateful for the feedback.

  3. Phil Buckingham says:

    Kevin, I have been doing the same exercises , trying to compare prices , availability, launch date etc . For the ordinary end user (potential customer ) it is already creating huge confusion and time wasting. The bottom line – they are simply not going to register. And we have another 500 odd generics to come ! Huge steep learning curve for all. I totally agree. They are not ready. What about financial tracking , reporting of all this . Another tsunami awaits.

  4. Month One says:

    This is the least of the problems. Far more serious is the fact that a) the gtlds are stupid b) there was no big bang as promised c) the public is not aware of them d) the public, even if educated, will reject them (as has happened before) and e) they will hemorrhage email and trafic tot e owner of the .com.

    Yes, having a registrar erroneously say that a domain is unavailable when, in actuality, it is would be damaging, but I think this is the least of their problems. Fixing this “serious” problem would be paramount to rearranging the chairs on the deck of a sinking ship.

    The whole gtld concept was flawed and ill-thought out – from business plan to delivery. What were they possibly thinking?

  5. Rob Golding says:

    Unlike the ‘original’ open gtlds com/net/org, ‘newer’ gtlds are largely only registered when the .com isn’t available (no-one *actually* wants a .info or a .biz) or because they offered something different (like .tel)

    All the ‘launched’ newgtlds so far are just me-too johnny-come-lately pointless reitterations of everything that has gone before.

    Add in the (as seen so far) oddities of
    * registry greed with ‘premium’ pricing
    * strange requirements in the RRAs
    * tiers
    * the TMCH farce
    * sheer number of them rushing to market
    * general apathy from real registrants (who may want 1 or 2 specific newgtlds, but no interest at all in 99% of them)
    and it becomes easy to see why many registrars dont support all the features, dont support the gtld at all, or are being careful about ‘premium’ offerings.

    Plus the whole scam of ‘pre-registrations’ should have been stamped out befoe it was allowed to start.

    Give it a couple of years and most of them will have gone t1tsup.com and we can start the process of ‘unpoluting’ the namespace

  6. Some of these new gTLD strings are great answers to the questions (and market demands) of 2008 when much of each day’s drop was hoovered up by domain tasters. It was hard to get any dropping gTLD domains then. And of course some of the larger registrars introduced their own auctions so that they could profit from domains that would otherwise be dropped without having to have agreements with the other domain auction houses.

    The multiple tiers and complexity of regulations tend to work against the whole idea of making things simple for the end user to actually buy domain names.

    The withholding of premiums by registries may well backfire because the Landrush is a major boost (the other being trademark/brand protection registrations) for new TLDs. That has the effect of dampening demand and killing the buzz that normally accompanies the launch of a new TLD – the idea that some end user might get rich with a lucky registration.

    Looking at some of the new gTLDs launches is like looking at a highly fragmented view of some of the new TLD launches of recent years. The problem for some of the more specific new gTLD strings is that the string is actually a limiter on the number of possible, usable, registrations compared to the generic, global nature of the strings of com/net/org/etc.

    The real issues are ahead for the new gTLDs and the brick wall is that of website usage. If people don’t develop and use these new gTLDs for websites then some of these new gTLDs will end up as dead zones with little activity. There will of course be usage “surveys” by spoofers who claim to measure web development in a TLD and who couldn’t tell a Godaddy PPC landing page for undeveloped domain names from a hole in the ground. All the registry hype in the world won’t help if people do not develop on and use the TLD. At best, the keyword style domains in some of these new gTLDs could end up being pointed at the registrant’s primary brand website in .com or some .ccTLD.

    What may actually occur is that end user patience with the generic strings might result in low initial uptake of these new gTLDs while regional and city new gTLDs make more of an impact. Some financial projections about the numbers of registrations might be wildly inaccurate in both good and largely bad ways. A typical launch period in a new TLD lasts about six months after that, the daily registrations volume settles down to a more average value. If some of these new gTLDs and their registrars don’t iron out the end user problems then they are going to be quickly entering brown trousers territory because the launch (Sunrise/Landrush) timeline is often compressed on smaller TLDs.

    The advantage that some of these early launches have is that there is little public awareness of the new gTLDs and errors have less of an audience.

  7. Notcom Tom says:

    New gTLDs combined regs will be in 7 figures in two months.

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