The new gTLD .wed went into sunrise yesterday with the strangest pricing model yet and a stringent Registry-Registrar Agreement that seems to have scared off all but one registrar.
Atgron is positioning .wed as a space for marrying couples to celebrate their weddings, but only temporarily.
It seemingly has little interest in domain investors or ongoing customer relationships beyond one or two years.
If you register a second-level .wed domain, you can have it for $150 a year for the first two years, according to the Atgron web site. After that, the price rockets to $30,000 a year.
Registrars, resellers and wedding-oriented businesses are allowed to opt out of the third-year spike on their own .wed names if they join Atgron’s reseller program and sell at least 10 a year.
Unlike Vox Populi, which is actively marketing .sucks domains at $25,000 as a reasonable value proposition, Atgron jacks the price up as a deterrent to registrants holding on to names too long. It says:
.WED domain names are sold to couples for one or two years to celebrate their wedding. The domain names then become available to another couple… Mary and John can have MaryandJohn.WED and then YES the next Mary and John can have MaryandJohn.WED a year or two later and so on and so on.
That alone would be enough to put off most registrars, which value the recurring revenue from ongoing annual renewals, but I gather that the .wed RRA contains even more Draconian requirements.
Incredulous registrars tell me that Atgron wants them to create an entirely new web site to market .wed domains — they’re not allowed to sell the names via their existing storefronts.
The only registrar to bite so far is EnCirca, known historically for promoting obscure gTLDs such as .pro and .travel, which is selling .wed via a new standalone site at encirca.wed.
I also gather that Atgron won’t let registrars opt out of selling its third-level .wed domains, which are expected to go for about $50 a year with no third-year spike.
That didn’t work well for .name — registrars hated its three-level structure, forcing the registry to ultimately go two-level — and I don’t think it’s going to work for .wed either.
Registrars also tell me that Atgron wants to ban them from charging a fee for Whois privacy on .wed domains. They can offer privacy, but only if it’s free to the registrant.
With privacy a relatively high-margin value-add for registrars, it’s hardly surprising that they would balk at having this up-sell taken away from them.
As weird as this all sounds, it is of course an example of the kind of innovative business models that the new gTLD program was designed to create. Mission accomplished on that count.
Another thing the program was designed to create is competition, something Atgron will soon encounter when Minds + Machines arrives with .wedding and eats .wed’s lunch. In my view.
The .wed launch period is also quite unusual.
Atgron is running a landrush period concurrently with its 30-day sunrise period.
Even if you don’t own a trademark, you can apply for a .wed domain today. You’ll get a refund if your name is registered by a trademark owner during sunrise, and names won’t go live until April 20.
The registry has extended the 90-day Trademark Claims period to cover the sunrise period too, so it appears to be in compliance with ICANN rights protection rules on that count.
It’s a 30-day sunrise, so it’s first-come, first served if you’re a trademark owner.
As for sunrise pricing, the third-year spike appears to apply too.
Atgron documentation does say there’s going to be an option to purchase a 10-year trademark block for a one-time fee, but I couldn’t find any way to do this on the EnCirca.wed web site today.