WordPress.com owner Automattic has outed itself as the bankroll behind the winner of the .blog auction and the new owner of the forthcoming new gTLD.
Founder Matt Mullenweg also revealed that the company paid around $19 million for the domain at private auction in February 2015, about $1 million more than the amount DI estimated at the time.
Until now, the winning .blog applicant, which fought off competition from eight competitors including Google, M+M, Radix and Donuts, was only known as Primer Nivel.
Primer Nivel is a Panamanian company previously described to DI as an investment vehicle with links to Colombian registrar My.co.
To the best of my knowledge, Automattic’s involvement with the bid has never even been hinted at, but Automattic founder Matt Mullenweg said in a blog post last night that it has been involved since well before the auction took place.
It’s now public that Automattic is the company behind Knock Knock Whois There LLC, the registry for the new .blog TLD. (And a great pun.) We wanted to stay stealth while in the bidding process and afterward in order not to draw too much attention, but nonetheless the cost of the .blog auction got up there (people are estimating around $20M).
An earlier version of the blog post put the price at “about $19m”, as captured by Google.
ICANN approved the reassignment of the .blog contract from Primer Nivel to Knock Knock WHOIS There on April 29.
In the original Primer Nivel application, only My.co CEO Gerardo Aristizabal and VP of business development Carlos Neira were listed as shareholders of 15% or more of the company in its answer to question 11 of the application form.
ICANN processed a change request to the question 11 answer in March 2014, but did not publish the result of the change. It may merely have been a change of personal contact information.
One has to wonder whether, had WordPress’ involvement in Primer Nivel been public, the .blog auction could have fetched even more.
One might imagine that Google, which competes with WordPress with its Blogger service, would have viewed .blog as more threatening in a rival’s hands.
But Primer Nivel and now Automattic/KKWT appear to have no intention to make .blog a WordPress-exclusive gTLD. The original application stated that it would be open to all, and ICANN has since banned so-called “closed generics”.
The registry has already opened a web site at kkwt.domains, which is currently pitching the product to accredited registrars.
It says it plans to go to general availability and “activate” 250,000 .blog domains before the end of the year.
Automattic obtained an ICANN registrar accreditation back in October 2010 but to date has not sold a single domain via that accreditation.
It offers WordPress.com hosting customers domain registrations, but I believe it does so as a GoDaddy reseller.
.blog is currently in “transition to delegation” and it’s probably only a matter of days before it is delegated to the internet.
Mullenweg blogged that the sunrise period is expected to start in August, with and October landrush.
Pricing is expected to be in line with current industry standards, including premium tiers.
The gTLD has always been one of my favorites, and having WordPress backing it will almost certainly make it more successful than if the registry were an independent third party, possibly raising the profile of new gTLDs as a whole.