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KeyDrive reverses into CentralNic in $55 million deal

CentralNic this morning confirmed that it has signed a deal to merge with KeyDrive to dramatically grow its market share in the registrar and registry markets.

The deal, technically a reverse takeover, is worth up to $55 million, $10.5 million of which is performance-related.

KeyDrive is the holding company for brands including the registrars Key-Systems, Moniker and BrandShelter and the registries OpenRegistry and KSRegistry.

It is by far the bigger player in the registrar space. The combined company will have 7.1 million domains under management, 5.8 million of which will come from the Luxembourg-based firm.

“The acquisition of KeyDrive is transformative for CentralNic, significantly increasing the Company’s scale and giving it significant extra firepower in the domain name industry to rival the traditional major players,” CentralNic CEO Ben Crawford said in a statement.

CentralNic says the deal will make it the 11th-largest registrar in terms of gTLD domains under management and the fifth-largest registry back-end in terms of TLDs managed (which will hit 118).

KeyDrive had 2017 revenue of $58.26 million and adjusted EBITDA of $5.87 million. Operating profit was $4.3 million.

CentralNic had 2017 revenue of £24.3 million ($32.2 million), adjusted EBITDA of £6.6 million ($8.7 million) and operating profit of £1.8 million ($2.4 million). These numbers do not include the £3.2 million-a-year SKNIC business, which CentralNic acquired right at the end of last year.

KeyDrive CEO Alexander Siffrin will become COO of CentralNic and one of its largest shareholders, owning 16.4% of the combined company’s shares.

The acquisition itself is fairly complex.

CentralNic will raise $16.5 million cash in a share placement and it will issue $19.3 million of shares to a holding company majority-owned by Siffrin. The remaining $10.5 million is performance related and may be paid in a combination of cash and shares, mostly shares.

It’s all subject to shareholder approval at an August 1 general meeting.

Assuming the deal closes, CentralNic says its plan is to become the “GoDaddy of Emerging Markets”, though what this means in practice is not immediately clear.

It does seem that there will be some job losses as the company rationalizes staffing across its various locations.

As far as technical integration goes, CentralNic’s registrars will migrate to KeyDrive’s platform and KeyDrive’s registries will migrate to CentralNic’s registry platform.

The potential for a deal was first revealed in March, after a leak. Trading in its shares was halted as a result, but resumed this morning.

GoDaddy signs up for basically unrestricted .travel gTLD

Donuts has started to market the now practically prehistoric and newly liberalized gTLD .travel, and it’s signed up GoDaddy to offer domains there.

The registry, which acquired .travel from former owner Tralliance in February, announced a soft relaunch on its blog last week, highlighting that GoDaddy, Name.com and Encirca are now among its registrars.

GoDaddy appears to be only new signing there — Encirca and Name.com have been carrying .travel from long before Donuts got involved and are in fact its two largest registrars.

The big daddy of the registrar space appears to have become interested after Donuts “simplified” the process of registering .travel domains. Donuts said:

Since the acquisition, Donuts has simplified the registration process, enabling registrants to stay on the registrar’s website for the entirety of the registration/checkout process. Donuts believes that this streamlined registration process will increase registrations, as compared to the previous process, which was disjointed and complex for registrants.

What this seems to translate to is: .travel is essentially an unrestricted TLD, despite being applied for in 2003’s round of “sponsored” gTLDs.

If you attempt to register a .travel domain at GoDaddy today, the only additional friction en route to the purchase button is a simple, prominent check-box asking you to confirm you are a member of the travel community.

That’s apparently enough for Donuts to say it has fulfilled the part of its ICANN contract that says it has to carry out a “review of Eligibility prior to completion of all registrations.”

Under its previous ownership, .travel required registrars to bounce their customers to the registry web site to obtain an authentication code during the registration process.

.travel names are still pretty pricey — GoDaddy was going to hit me with a bill of over $110 before I abandoned my cart, and that was just a year-one promotional price.

The gTLD peaked at 215,000 domains 10 years ago but now sits at under 18,000, having seen slight declines every month for the past five years.

Web.com to be acquired for $2 billion

Web.com is to go private in a deal valued at roughly $2 billion.

The company, which owns pioneering registrars Network Solutions and Register.com as well as SnapNames and half of NameJet, will be bought by an affiliate of Siris Capital Group, a private equity firm.

The cash, $25-a-share deal has been approved by the Web.com board but is still open to higher bids from third parties until August 5.

The offer is a 30% premium over Web.com’s 90-day average price prior to the deal’s announcement.

While Nasdaq-listed Web.com has briefly topped $26 over the last year, you’d have to go back five years to find it consistently over the $25 mark.

Christians rail against GoDaddy’s six-color gay rights flag

GoDaddy changed its social media avatars to a gay rights flag yesterday, incurring the wrath of some self-declared Christians and US right-wingers.

GoDaddy rainbow

The change was made in recognition of LGBT Pride Month, in which every June gay rights groups hold marches and generally celebrate/call for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The most egregious thing about the change is surely that there’s a color missing. For some reason, the world’s largest registrar has decided that rainbows look better with only six colors.

But many customers took to Facebook to decry the change on religious or political grounds.

Here’s a sample of some of the comments on the logo.

Now finding another service !!! I don’t support this crap !! I serve s higher power and I am as a Christian warrior to turn my back on this !!!

Don’t you start making a hard left turn to GoDaddy, are you gonna choose the coastal liberals over the other half of the country? Stay out of politics and picking sides. Your not above Boycott like every other Mega Company that chooses a Globalist agenda…

Keep your sexual or political opinion out of your business or I’ll leave your business son! Weather I agree or disagree Im not doing business with you for you to push your views upon me! Just sell me websites and hosting and keep your mouth shut, thanks!

Not doing business there anymore

To be fair, compared to the size of GoDaddy’s customer base, the number of outraged commenters was vanishingly small. I don’t think anyone at GoDaddy is shaking in their boots over the possible loss of a few hard-core right-wing customers.

But those saying it’s a political statement may have a point.

It might be interesting to note that on GoDaddy’s Facebook page for the UK, where equal rights are far less controversial and barely considered a mainstream political issue, the company has not changed its logo.

There were also lots of comments in favor of the change, of course.

Always been a huge fan of godaddy. Your customer service and products are superior. Now I’m even more of a fan. Thanks for taking a powerful stand, even amidst these trolls. I can’t even believe the hate spewing from them. #teamGoDaddy

Comment section, its not getting political or “imposing views” on others to support & respect gays as human beings. They’re not talking about gun rights or abortion or whatever, its LGBT, thats not a belief, or a view. So if you’re gonna seriously stop using the website over human decency & compassion during pride month, thats on you if ya wanna be a whining mope

The amount of offended people in these comments is killing me 😂 much love, GoDaddy. Happy pride. To all the high- strung offended snowflakes: you and your kind have enjoyed thousands of years without LGBT visibility. One site changes their profile pic and your anger burns for nothing. Suck it.

And there were plenty of ambivalent comments.

I am ok with supporting LGBT rights. I am not ok with my slow as hell server that I paid extra for it to be fast, but I paid up front for 3 years so whatever I guess I am hanging out awhile.

While I generally tend to steer away from stories about bogus, whipped-up, social media controversies (this is maybe the third time DI has posted such an article) I find it interesting as it reflects GoDaddy’s perception shift as a company.

A large reason GoDaddy got into the leading position it is today is due to its unabashedly breast-based advertising and sponsorship of sports only Republicans understand.

Less than a decade ago, it was more common for the company to attract controversy when founding CEO Bob Parsons did something dumb like brag about shooting an elephant.

Now it’s taking flak for making a half-assed nod towards gay rights? How times change.

Disclosure: it’s not lost of me that throughout this article I’ve used the word “gay” interchangeably with “LGBT”.

EnCirca partners with PandoraBots to push .bot names to brands

Specialist registrar EnCirca has partnered with bot development framework vendor PandoraBots to market .bot domains at big brands.

The two companies are pushing their wares jointly at this week’s International Trademark Association annual meeting in Seattle.

In a press release, the companies said that PandoraBots is offering bot-creation “starter kits” for brand owners that tie in with .bot registration via EnCirca.

Bots are rudimentary artificial intelligences that can be tailored to answer customer support questions over social media. Because who wants to pay a human to answer the phones?

Amazon Registry’s .bot gTLD is a tightly restricted space with strict preregistration verification rules.

Basically, you have to have a live, functioning bot before you can even request a domain there.

Only bots created using Amazon Lex, Botkit Studio, Dialogflow, Gupshup, Microsoft Bot Framework, and Pandorabots are currently eligible, though Amazon occasionally updates its list of approved frameworks.

The .bot space has been in a limited registration period all year, but on May 31 it will enter a six-month sunrise period.

Despite not hitting general availability until November, it already has about close to 1,800 domains in its zone — most of which were registered via EnCirca — and hundreds of live sites.

EnCirca currently offers a $200 registration service for brand owners, in which the registrar handles eligibility for $125 and the first year reg for $75.