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ICANN security advisor predicts “hundreds” of new gTLDs will “go dark”

Kevin Murphy, December 4, 2015, 14:37:32 (UTC), Domain Registries

A security company led by a member of ICANN’s top security committee reckons that “hundreds” of new gTLDs are set to fail, leading to web sites “going dark”.

Internet Identity, which provides threat data services, made the prediction in a press release this week.

IID’s CTO, quoted in the release, is Rod Rasmussen. He’s a leading member of the Anti-Phishing Working Group, as well as a member of ICANN’s influential Security and Stability Advisory Committee.

He has a dim view of new gTLDs:

Most new gTLDs have failed to take off and many have already been riddled with so many fraudulent and junk registrations that they are being blocked wholesale. This will eventually cause ripple effects on the entire domain registration ecosystem, including consolidation and mass consumer confusion as unprofitable TLDs are dropped by their sponsoring registries.

The press release acknowledges that ICANN has an Emergency Back-End Registry Operator (EBERO) program, which will keep failing gTLDs alive for up to three years after the original registry operator goes out of business.

But it continues:

questions abound as to who would risk an investment in poorly performing TLDs, especially as they start to number in the hundreds. “That’s why eventually some are going to just plain go dark,” added Rasmussen.

The prediction is for “2017 and beyond”. Given the existence of the EBERO, we’re probably looking at 2020 before IID’s claim can be tested.

It’s a bit of a strange prediction to come out of a security company.

The whole point of EBERO is to make sure domain names do not go dark, giving either the registry the chance to sell on the gTLD or the registrants a three-year heads-up that they need to migrate to a different TLD.

It would be a bit like being told that there’s a horrible bit of malware that is set to brick your computer, but that you’ll be fine if you change your anti-virus provider in the next three years.

I could live with that kind of security threat, personally.

But what are the chances of hundreds of live, non-dot-brand going fully post-EBERO dead in the next few years?

I’d say evidence to date shows the risk may be over-stated. It may happen to a small number of TLDs, but to “hundreds”?

We’ve already seen new gTLD registries essentially fail, and they’ve been taken over by others even when they’re by definition not profitable.

Notably, .hiv — which has a contractual agreement with ICANN to not turn a profit — failed and was nevertheless acquired by Uniregistry.

We also see registries including Afilias and Donuts actively searching for failing gTLDs to acquire.

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Comments (14)

  1. frank.schilling says:

    Some namespaces may indeed go dark, but it will be by design. Operators may make the decision to give away or sunset unprofitable strings. I don’t view that as such a bad thing. We’ve never been through a process like this before with so many new names added. Renewal is cathartic and healthy. I predict a round 2 with strings that are worth more and drive more registrations than some of the 20 million dollar auction extensions in round 1 .. I predict a New GTLD nobody saw coming, 10 years from now that does more registrations than all of round 2. Naming is where art, business and science intersect. There are no bad things. Only good things to come : )

    • Steve says:

      It’s great that you give an honest perspective on things. Yes some will succeed and some won’t. The big question is which ones. In the meantime any business serious about projecting a stable/solid identity online should default to .com and/or their local cctld. Sure you can build out sites on the new extensions and then hopefully that effort will produce results but putting all your eggs in the new gtld basket would be a very bad idea. imo.
      A similar situation happens when business’ put their entire online identity in the hands of a 3rd party. faceb00k. etc. When the company sells or closes or changes their terms of service all of your efforts and $$ are gone. poof….
      A domain name will solve that problem. Just pick the right extension. 😉

    • “There are no bad things.”

      And they say the rich are out of touch!

  2. Sean Ottey says:

    The protections created to prevent domains/registries going “dark” are extensive and will preclude domains falling into the ether. Additionally, no one doubts there will be consolidation of registries, this is natural in any new market. I would be curious what facts/data were used to determine the focus of this article. It is not often that you read an article based on “gut feeling” with no data.

    Disclaimer: I am the Technical Evangelist for Rightside, the largest backend provider in the new TLD program.

  3. Donuts Inc. says:

    Thanks for the coverage Kevin. First, IID isn’t speaking for ICANN here, and Rod is an adviser much as are others who likely have conversely predicted success for new TLDs. We would echo Sean Ottey’s note that there’s little data in this report, which is troubling.

    Speaking for Donuts, we will not sunset or shutter any of our TLDs, and are skeptical of speculation about this kind of “market.” From our perspective, a portfolio approach brings stability to this equation, thanks to efficiencies and lower relative costs.

    Our company is highly profitable even though we have some TLDs with fewer names. Specific TLDs, such as “.bank”, for example can command higher prices than can generic TLDs, and perhaps are therefore more profitable per name than TLDs with larger volume. We speculate that some TLDs with high volume are losing money, while some with low volume are very profitable. At best there is no correlation between volume and profitability as the report supposes.

    Finally, it’s important to point out that even if a TLD fails financially, ICANN has procedures in place to ensure it doesn’t go suddenly dark (e.g., the emergency back-end system, and cash / letters of credit on deposit with ICANN). There’s little to be concerned about on this front. In fact, ICANN has backup systems in place that are more extensive than what exists for registrars that go dark (which happens fairly frequently), and even those instances leave no damage to end users.

    Regardless, we’re seeing accelerating growth in new gTLD registrations — now surging past 10 million. The document quotes a six-month-old stat of five million.

    • The Google-Centric Ad companies are supporting the new GTLDs as the superior Marketing Strategy. This osolesced Google-Centric strategy will sink many new Net denizens new launch aspirations. The mere fact that the New GTLD operators have this cavalier attitude that fragile new Online business’s should not be alarmed if their businesses should go dark with a shallow assuring (Trust Us its a minor issue )??
      The Brand Damage this would cause is not minor but a major Online Marketing Strategy Misfire that can be avoided by using an already established extensions credibility (Prefferably the Dominant .COM Traffic Channel URLs, and employing a subdomain that incorporates the new GTLDs characteristics. This is what a really smart Marketing Strategist would choose.
      Sorry Donuts your arguments are filled with holes. JAS 12/4/15

      Gratefully, Jeff Schneider (Contact Group) (Metal Tiger) (Former Rockefeller IBEC Marketing Analyst/Strategist) (Licensed CBOE Commodity Hedge Strategist) http://www.UseBiz.com

    • The mere fact that the New GTLD operators have this cavalier attitude that fragile new Online business’s should not be alarmed if their businesses should go dark with a shallow assuring (Trust Us its a minor issue )??
      The Brand Damage this would cause is not minor but a major Online Marketing Strategy Misfire that can be avoided by using an already established extensions credibility (Prefferably the Dominant .COM Traffic Channel URLs, and employing a subdomain that incorporates the new GTLDs characteristics. This is what a really smart Marketing Strategist would choose.
      Sorry Donuts your arguments are filled with holes. JAS 12/4/15

      Gratefully, Jeff Schneider (Contact Group) (Metal Tiger) (Former Rockefeller IBEC Marketing Analyst/Strategist) (Licensed CBOE Commodity Hedge Strategist) http://www.UseBiz.com

  4. Rubens Kuhl says:

    There are many forms of operational excellence that can make a TLD that failed with one RO to succeed with another RO: “same for less”, “more for same”, “much more for more”… economies of scale in the supply side and sales channel size in the demand side can significantly change the bottom-line of a TLD.

    • Hello Rubens Kuhl,

      Do you realize how farcical your statement above is to real Online Marketing Strategy Professionals? What are your credentials? Who do you represent and how far into the New GTLDs does your gambling profile place you ?

      Gratefully, Jeff Schneider (Contact Group) (Metal Tiger) (Former Rockefeller IBEC Marketing Analyst/Strategist) (Licensed CBOE Commodity Hedge Strategist) http://www.UseBiz.com

  5. Garth Miller says:

    The commercial viability of a TLD just depends on how much one is paying for back-end registry services marketing, staff etc. There are many small TLD registries – ccTLD and nTLD that are ICANN gTLD compliant, only have a few hundred names and are commercially viable if the operator is frugal. Add to that the ICANN EBRO program it is hard to see how any nTLD would “go dark”. IMO there is no need to hand over a poorly performing nTLD registry to a back end operator if you cant pay the back and bill bills, just run it yourself, cut costs etc.

  6. The Google-Centric Ad companies are supporting the new GTLDs as the superior Marketing Strategy. This osolesced Google-Centric strategy will sink many new Net denizens new launch aspirations. The mere fact that the New GTLD operators have this cavalier attitude that fragile new Online business’s should not be alarmed if their businesses should ( GO DARK ) – or Offline with a shallow assuring (Trust Us its a minor issue )??
    The Brand Damage this would cause is not minor but a major Online Marketing Strategy Misfire that can be avoided by using an already established extensions credibility (Prefferably the Dominant .COM Traffic Channel URLs, and employing a subdomain that incorporates the new GTLDs characteristics. This is what a really smart Marketing Strategist would choose. Sorry Donuts your arguments are filled with holes. JAS 12/4/15

    Gratefully, Jeff Schneider (Contact Group) (Metal Tiger) (Former Rockefeller IBEC Marketing Analyst/Strategist) (Licensed CBOE Commodity Hedge Strategist) http://www.UseBiz.com

    !00s of New GTLD sites may ( GO DARK ) – or Offline Read this damaging Report Google hopes you never read. http://internetidentity.com/press-release/iid-predicts-massive-botnet-takeover-of-iot-devices-by-2017/

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