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Former MarkMonitor execs join new brand protection registrar

Kevin Murphy, August 30, 2017, Domain Registrars

Two former MarkMonitor executives have teamed up with a Fairwinds co-founder to launch a new “next generation” brand protection registrar.

The new company is Brandsight. It was set up by CEO Phil Lodico, who left brand consultancy Fairwinds about a year ago, and was accredited by ICANN earlier this month.

The first two hires are Matt Serlin, who until a couple months ago was VP of client services at MarkMonitor, and Elisa Cooper, who joins after being VP of marketing at the intellectual property management company Lecorpio.

Cooper, who also worked for MarkMonitor in the same position until a couple of years ago, will be Brandsight’s head of marketing and policy. Serlin will head up operations and client services.

The two told me yesterday that Brandsight will attempt to differentiate itself from its alma maters through a combination of better technology, expertise and use of data.

Both have many years experience in the domain industry and ICANN and, one imagines, thick contacts books of potential clients.

The Brandsight site, which went live today, will feature improved workflow via a streamlined user interface, they said.

The company also hopes “better leverage big data to help companies make better decisions and streamline processes around domain management”, Cooper said.

“Legacy registrars haven’t been focused on building new technology, some for almost 10 years,” she said.

It looks like it’s going to be a boutique operation at first — I believe Lodico, Serlin and Cooper are the only three employees right now — but Cooper said the plan is to staff up over the remainder of the year in areas such as sales.

The idea is to be a company that is purely focused on corporate domain services as its core competency, as opposed to what they called the “legacy” larger registrars that have domains as just one service among many, Cooper and Serlin said.

Brandsight is based in New York state and funded by private investors.

GoDaddy’s reason for dumping Uniregistry doesn’t make a lot of sense

Kevin Murphy, August 24, 2017, Domain Registrars

GoDaddy, as you may have read, has again decided to dump Uniregistry’s portfolio of TLDs, following wholesale price increases.

But its explanation for the move — trying to provide its customers with a “great product experience” — doesn’t seem to tally with the way it has gone about implementing the change.

The company confirmed this week that it will no longer offer new registrations in Uniregistry’s stable of new gTLDs, but will continue to support existing customers.

The registrar’s EVP of domains, Mike McLaughlin, reportedly explained the move like this:

GoDaddy strives to provide its customers with great product experiences wherever possible. After careful consideration, we decided to stop offering new Uniregistry domain names for sale because their pricing changes caused frustration and uncertainty with our customers.

But the way GoDaddy has gone about this looks like it is set to provide anything other than a great product experience.

For starters, existing registrants of Uniregistry names will find their registrations migrated over to the wholesale registrar Hexonet, for which GoDaddy will act as reseller.

They’ll still be able to manage their names via their GoDaddy control panels, but technically GoDaddy will no longer be the registrar.

This could well add friction to the customer support process, as well as meaning Hexonet will now show up in Whois as the sponsoring registrar.

Accompanying this move is the unexplained removal of Whois privacy services for all affected domains. Registrants will get a refund for their privacy service and will have the opportunity to switch registrars to one that will support privacy.

For those that remain, suddenly their personally identifiable information will become publicly available. This could lead to an increase in complaints and support calls as registrants realize what has happened.

In terms of price, existing registrants will presumably still be affected by Uniregistry’s increases to the same extent as they were previously. Again, their customer experience has not changed.

Overall, the explanation doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense to me. I put the above points to GoDaddy and VP of domains Rich Merdinger responded, via a company spokesperson:

After we made the decision to stop supporting Uniregistry domain names, we worked to provide the best possible experience we could to our customers. We wanted them to have a transparent experience. They will log in to the same GoDaddy account and service the domain names the same way they always have. Because of the transfer of the name to a different registrar, privacy had to be removed. While this impacts a small subset of these customers, we have done everything to make this transition as smooth as possible.

It’s true that GoDaddy isn’t a big seller of Uniregistry names. It’s one of Uniregistry’s smaller channel partners and the number of Uniregistry names it’s sold — measured in the thousands — is a drop in the ocean of the over 55 million gTLD names it currently has under management.

The two companies are also competitors, it probably should be noted.

But while Uniregistry’s registrar seems to be have been well-received by customers, and its domain volume has grown rapidly in the last three years, it still only had about 1.5 million domains under management at the last count; hardly an existential threat to the Scottsdale behemoth.

It should also be noted that GoDaddy is not the only registrar to distance itself from Uniregistry.

NameCheap also recently discontinued support for the TLDs that are experiencing the biggest price increases. Tucows announced a similar move in May.

GoDaddy had already said it would drop Uniregistry once before, but changed its mind, before changing it back again.

GoDaddy CEO to retire at 58

Kevin Murphy, August 22, 2017, Domain Registrars

GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving tonight announced his retirement from the company.

Irving, 58, said he will leave the corner office at the end of 2017, and will stick around on its board of directors until June next year.

He will be replaced by current chief operating officer Scott Wagner, who joined the registrar in 2013 from KKR, one of the three investment companies that owned GoDaddy in its interregnum between founder Bob Parsons and its 2013 initial public offering.

“After more than three decades in technology, I’ve decided it’s time to retire and begin the next phase of my life,” Irving said in a press release.

He added that revenue and profits had doubled under his watch, which commenced in 2013.

Wagner served as interim CEO of GoDaddy in 2012, after Parsons protege Warren Adelman’s short stint in the role.

He was also named president of the company last year.

GoDaddy’s share price has dipped slightly in after-hours trading in the hour or so since the announcement was made.

Endurance losing founder-CEO next week

Kevin Murphy, August 16, 2017, Domain Registrars

Endurance International, the parent company of registrar brands including Public Domain Registry, BuyDomains, Domain.com and BigRock, will see its founding CEO resign next week.

The company said this week that Hari Ravichandran will be replaced by Jeff Fox, most recently chair of customer relationship management software vendor Convergys, on August 22.

Endurance, which makes about 12% of its revenue from domain registrations, had disclosed Ravichandran’s plan to move on back in April, when it was characterized as an effort to move the company to the next stage of growth.

But it comes in the context, as the company has acknowledged, of an ongoing Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into its 2015 acquisition of Constant Contact.

The SEC probe has been going on since at least December 2015.

Endurance is also facing flattening top-line growth — revenue of $292.3 million, up 1% on last year, in the second quarter — and deepening losses.

Fox was CEO of Convergys from 2010 to 2012. He is also principal of The Circumference Group, his own investment/advisory firm.

Google dumps Nazi domain in hours

Kevin Murphy, August 14, 2017, Domain Registrars

Neo-Nazi blog The Daily Stormer found itself without a registrar for the second time in a day this evening, after Google cancelled its registration.

The company told BBC News:

We are cancelling Daily Stormer’s registration with Google Domains for violating our terms of service.

The cancellation came not many hours after GoDaddy, the controversial site’s original registrar, gave its owners 24 hours to find a new registrar.

That was in response to people on Twitter complaining that the Stormer had published an article attacking a victim of alleged right-wing domestic terrorism, which GoDaddy said broke its terms of service inciting violence.

The current Whois record for dailystormer.com indicates that it is still with Google, but in a clientTransferProhibited status.

That means it should not be possible to transfer the name to a third registrar, unless and until Google changes the status.

The domain still resolves, however, from where I’m sitting.

It might be that the Stormer will now find itself registrar-hopping and/or facing a period of downtime.