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Pay up or sell up, ICANN tells failing new gTLD

Kevin Murphy, January 25, 2019, 14:53:47 (UTC), Domain Registries

ICANN has responded to a request for it to reduce the $25,000 annual fee it charges gTLD registries.

The answer is no.

That wholly unsurprising reply came in a letter from registry services director Russ Weinstein to John McCabe, CEO of failing new gTLD operator Who’s Who Registry.

McCabe, in November, had asked ICANN to reduce its fees for TLDs, such as its own .whoswho, that have zero levels of abuse. ICANN fees are the “single biggest item” in the company’s budget, he said.

His request coincided with ICANN commencing compliance proceedings against the company for failure to pay these fees

Weinstein wrote, in a letter (pdf) published today:

We sympathize with the financial challenges that some new gTLD registry operators may be facing in the early periods of these new businesses. New gTLD operators face a challenging task of building consumer awareness and this can and may take significant time and effort.

But he goes on to point out that the $25,000-a-year fee was known to all applicants before they applied, and had been subject to numerous rounds of public comment before the Applicant Guidebook was finalized.

Weinstein writes:

The AGB made clear that evaluation phase was to determine whether an applicant had the requisite technical, operation and financial capabilities to operate a registry, and was not a assessment nor an endorsement of a particular business plan.

It’s pretty clear that the .whoswho business plan has failed. It’s sold no more than a handful of non-defensive domains over the four years it has been available.

Weinstein concludes his letter by pointing out that all new gTLD registries are free to terminate their contracts for any reason, and that it’s perfectly permissible under ICANN rules to sell your contract to another registry.

ICANN told Who’s Who earlier this month that it has until February 10 to pay its overdue fees or risk having its contract terminated.

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Comments (3)

  1. Snoopy says:

    This one will be very interesting to watch as Donuts has been buying out lots of failing extensions so far.

    Let’s see if they (or someone else) will now buy out a tld that will never make money just to carry on with the illusion that the NTLD area isn’t falling apart. At some point they will have to have a Lehman Bros moment in my view and let failing extensions die.

  2. mike says:

    Why did these guys waste their money on this,.whoswho like really???????????????? all they had to do was apply for .coin instead, and they could have made a small fortune.

  3. Rich says:

    I think the majority of the new TLD purchases are a waste. I look at the average user, and they spend most of their time on Facebook, Instagram, snapchat, and more. When in a web browser, they click hyperlinks that have Text shown, not the full URL.

    I don’t think the average person, which is the majority of users, even notices the URL of websites they visit. I’m in this industry and even I don’t pay attention. I have a tab open on my phone from a few weeks ago with a recipe I need for a dinner. Couldn’t even tell you the site name, let alone the URL.

    I think brands mistakenly assumed that their customers, or whomever makes them money, needed/cared about following a branded path to reach their web properties. They don’t. They reach them via social media, or word of mouth. Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t think so. Hell – here I am writing this comment and I realized I didn’t even look at the address of this website!

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