New gTLD registry Famous Four Media has confirmed its connections to registrar AlpNames and two other Gibraltar-based companies involved in the mass development of new gTLD domains.
FFM chief legal officer Oliver Smith said that the company shares owners with AlpNames, A Domains Ltd and a company I’d never heard of before called Socium Networks.
“It is fair to say that some of the shareholders in FFM do hold shares in and part fund these companies,” he said in an email.
“FFM is leading Gibraltar’s evolution as a technology hub by engaging with new businesses, offering up our experience, and in some circumstances such as A Domains and Socium Networks, incubating their operations,” he said.
“We engage at this level predominantly because it’s in our interest, and the domain name industries’, to support businesses who share a common purpose in growing the new gTLD market space,” he said.
“FFM has a great working relationship with all three companies, much in the same manner as we have with our other client partners, except that our geographic proximity allows for greater face time and collaboration,” he said.
The link between AlpNames and FFM will not surprise many members of the industry.
AlpNames is FFM’s biggest registrar partner by a long shot, accounting for 75%+ of the registrations in many of of the gTLDs in FFM’s stable.
It consistently prominently advertises FFM’s domains on its storefront with sub-$1 pricing.
What’s perhaps less well known are A Domains and Socium, both of which seem to be involved in bulk-developing hundreds of thousands of domains from FFM’s gTLD portfolio.
As I noted Friday, A Domains owns huge chunks of the .party, .trade and .review zones (to name three), largely long-tail geographic domains.
A UDRP complaint A Domains won last year revealed that the strategy is to algorithmically register domains matching towns and cities of over 30,000 inhabitants then populate the sites with scraped content. For example.
Socium appears to be run by the same person, Chris Cousins, and has the same strategy.
Socium’s web site states: “We have over 100,000 sites currently under management and plans to launch over 1,000,000 more by the third quarter of 2016.”
This triple-play (registry, registrar, registrant) combo seems to be at least partly responsible for the large numbers of domains in FFM’s zone files.
At least a third of .review seems to be owned by A Domains, for example.
All the A Domains names I came across were registered via AlpNames during the early days of general availability when AlpNames was selling names at cost.
It’s not a completely new way for a registry to try to (indirectly) monetize its portfolio.
When .pro was owned by Hostway, a registry subsidiary owned and developed around 43,000 .pro domains matching US zip codes, under a service known as Zip.pro.
That seems to have been a failure, however. When Afilias took over .pro in early 2012 it did not acquire Zip.pro and the domains all expired in August that year.
Employ Media has tried something similar with a partner, the DirectEmployers Association.
The Universe.jobs project, controversial when it launched, saw DirectEmployers register and mass-develop thousands of geographic and industry-focused jobs portals. Universe.jobs appears to still live.