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Blacknight warns about new gTLD “false promises”

Kevin Murphy, June 30, 2011, 11:44:28 (UTC), Domain Registrars

Domain name registrar Blacknight Solutions has warned domain buyers not to be “duped” by registrars offering preregistration in new top-level domains that have not yet been approved.

“Every time an end user gets duped it hurts our industry and companies like us have to clean up the mess,” managing director Michele Neylon said.

In a press release, Blacknight said:

After receiving several queries from customers, Blacknight discovered that registrants interested in acquiring domains in rumoured new gTLDs had become confused by these offers, as they are not familiar with how the new TLD implementation might work. This sort of speculative offer is the equivalent of taking a down payment on a concept car that has not been approved for production. It is a false promise.

While the company was diplomatic enough to avoid naming names, I strongly suspect the release refers primarily to United Domains, which has been offering preregistration for the last few months.

UD currently offers such services for dozens of non-existent TLDs, such as (without leaving the B’s) .bank .bayern .bcn .berlin .bike and .board.

Given that none of the 50-odd potential gTLD applicants listed have revealed what their registration policies will be, it seems possible that many wannabe registrants will be left disappointed.

Don’t expect to be able to get a .bank domain via preregistration.

UD’s preregistering process looks a lot like a regular shopping cart, albeit with $0 pricing and no requirement to submit credit card details.

There is a FAQ that, if you read it, explains that there can be no guarantee you’ll get the names you ask for.

These services, and others like it, are basically ways to build up mailing lists of interested buyers, in order to contact them when domains actually start becoming available.

The registrar has already been burned by a couple of gTLD applicants.

LACNIC sent UD a nastygram in April, for example, when it discovered the registrar was offering preregistration in .lac.

Bizarrely, UD was at one stage accepting preregistration in .brand gTLDs in which literally no third party will qualify to buy a domain, such as .unicef.

ICANN has not to my recollection publicly stated a position on preregistration since 2000, when it said that “the practice of pre-registration should not be encouraged”.

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Comments (6)

  1. M says:

    If this is bad then what several ICANN accredited registries are doing in a couple countries around the world is definitely worst as they are selling air pretty much in the form of ‘domains’ which are not a part of the global DNS (Alternate root).

    ICANN Needs to do more against practices like this, Allowing them to continue with the official ICANN seal helping the cause is damaging in many ways to local businesses, consumers and helps spread confusion overall.

  2. Tom G says:

    We included a ‘Pre-Registration Reality Check’ on our page: http://bit.ly/joSD03

    Also, I think it’s fair that if an organization makes definitive claims about their intentions to make a gTLD available, it’s ok for a registration service to start collecting ‘Expressions of Interest’ for that gTLD, as long as it is clear what the service can and cannot provide. I wouldn’t call it pre-registration though.

  3. theo says:

    Good article from Blacknight. Ever since ICANN made their announcement last week i am getting super irritated by all the rubbish i read on websites about the new gTLD’s

    Yes ALOT is possible but there is also ALOT uncertain during an application.
    And the whole process is not a walk thru the park.

    And 95% of what i seen in the media as what is going tobe released next year will NOT make the list and will not be released after the first round.

    .HOTEL , gimme a break……

  4. I don’t see a real problem with the United Domain approach, per se, as they are making it fairly clear not to have expectations tied to anything.

    That said, there is a very large educational divide in the world outside the orbit of ICANN about what it is and is not, as well as the new TLD program, timing, and how it works.

    There is a large opportunity for the general public to make incorrect assumptions about pre-registrations in the absence of clear messaging about it.

    In the period leading up to the 2k1 round (Round 1) of the new TLDs, there were 7 domains that were going to be introduced, including .shop and others.

    There were some “entremanures” who left ambiguous that they could not actually activate the domains until ICANN would approve them, and collected registration fees for those and delivered no results, then ran with the money.

    United Domains are being very responsible about their approach, clearly articulating the expectations and collecting no money.

    The reason I am defending them in public like this is that they have historically been good actors, I know the principles there and have never had any bad dealings with any of them.

    United Domains are illustrating demand in the registrant / consumer audience helped to dispel the argument that new TLD ‘haters’ were asserting about the only interest being the providers of registration services like registrars and registries.

    I am afraid that we may see other players who fail to offer such transparency and authenticity about the process in the span of time between now and the launch/implementation of the new TLD program.

    I think that a scenario like that would be bad.

    Many registrants have a trusting relationship with their registrar as their “agent” in some sense, so they check in with their registrar to catch themselves up on whats going on with new TLDs in general.

    In the case of Blacknight, and I can confirm others, registrars are receiving a growing number of customer service calls asking about how to obtain registrations in new TLDs, which increases an operational cost in the form of meeting the increased volume of contact.

    I’d reckon ICANN or some official channel speaking up on this is going to help clarify things. We’re just at the front end of the New TLD communication and outreach window which was triggered by the ICANN board resolution on June 20th.

  5. Agree with Jothan Frakes, at least the number of pre-registrations will give a good indication of which newTLD will be worth for registrars to spend those peanuts and operate. .web number of pre-registrations for example show that this will be a successful newTLD, costs for owning the operation of the newTLD will probably be covered upon registrants paying for the first year registration for their domain. .ven is a good example of a TLD that will fail with such low number of interested registrants.

  6. Drewbert says:

    Perhaps it’s time for the Registrar Management at ICANN to begin doing their job policing errant “accredited” ICANN registrars?

    Pre-registration is CLEARLY against the intent of ICP3 (go read it). http://www.icann.org/en/icp/icp-3.htm

    In addition to this another “accredited” ICANN registrar webnames.ru is selling ALTROOT IDN gTLD’s such as .ком and .ру (which is confusingly similar to Paraquay’s ccTLD) right alongside ICANN TLD’s and witht he ICANN logo proudly displayed.

    Does clause 5.3.6 of the Registrar Agreement actually still exist? Will Tim Cole ever take action?

    Probably not.

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