Network Solutions gave away thousands of .xyz domain names for free to people who hadn’t requested them, artificially inflating the new gTLD’s launch day numbers.
As of last night, there were 36,335 domains in the .xyz zone, with something like 27,000 listed as having name servers belonging to NetSol and its parent, Web.com.
Before .xyz launched, only 1,287 new gTLD domains used NetSol name servers.
What this means is that for some reason thousands upon thousands of .xyz domain names were registered via one of the industry’s more expensive registrars.
That reason, as Mike Berkens at The Domains scooped, is that many names were given away for free to existing NetSol customers.
Not only that, but the giveaway was opt-out — if you were selected for the promotion you had to click a link in an email in order to prevent NetSol registering the .xyz that matches your .com.
So not only did the registrants of a significant portion of .xyz’s new registrations not pay for their names, they didn’t even request them.
A lot of garbage strings — some of which have matching .coms I suspect are being used for nefarious purposes — have therefore made it into .xyz’s zone alongside many decent-enough names.
When I asked NetSol, a spokesperson refused to confirm the giveaway, calling it a “market rumor”. This is apparently the kind of promotion you don’t want anyone hearing about.
It’s not clear how many of these 27,000 names were genuine registrations and which were part of the promotion, but I suspect, given NetSol’s prior performance in new gTLDs, that the vast majority were freebies.
This has happened before.
About 10 years ago, Afilias temporarily dropped its first-year price for .info to zero dollars, hoping to attract more registrations and paying renewals.
Instead, eNom decided to register a million .info names matching its customers’ .com names, put them in its customers’ accounts, and park the lot.
A year later, over 99% of those names were allowed to expire by registrants who hadn’t requested them in the first place.
The difference in this case seems to be that .xyz itself is still getting paid its registry fee for each of the names NetSol gave away.
But if history is any guide, .xyz’s numbers could be in for a big drop 15 months from now.