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Demand Media says Google change no big deal, yet

Kevin Murphy, February 25, 2011, Domain Registrars

Demand Media has said that recent changes to Google’s search engine algorithm does not appear to have had a material impact on its business.

Google said yesterday that it has changed its code to demote “sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful”.

This was widely interpreted as being designed to hit “content farms”, which make up one of Demand’s major revenue streams. The company also owns number two domain registrar eNom.

In a blog post, published less than four hours after Google announced the change, Demand executive vice president Larry Fitzgibbon wrote:

As might be expected, a content library as diverse as ours saw some content go up and some go down in Google search results… It’s impossible to speculate how these or any changes made by Google impact any online business in the long term – but at this point in time, we haven’t seen a material net impact on our Content & Media business.

It remains to be seen if the changes will have any impact on traffic and revenue at Demand, which recently executed an IPO, but Fitzgibbon played down the company’s focus on search traffic.

Demand also measures success based on metrics such as direct navigation, repeat visits and traffic from social media, he wrote.

DomainTools doubles prices, relaunches site

Kevin Murphy, February 16, 2011, Domain Registrars

Whois specialist DomainTools has revamped its web site and raised the price of its services.

The price increase is quite substantial. The cheapest paid-for tier appears to be the $30-a-month Standard Membership, a 100% increase on the old $15 basic package.

Existing members have been grandfathered in at their current rates. DomainTools said that it’s the first price increase in five years.

It does appear that subscribers may get more bang for their buck under the new tiers. At least, my subscription appears to be buying me more services than it was before the relaunch.

But that may be because I was never entirely clear what I was paying for. The confusing old “unit”-based pricing has gone, and the new site is a lot clearer about what you get for the money.

Many of the other changes appear to be cosmetic. The site does look a bit slicker than before, while retaining its familiar look-and-feel.

The company also appears to have sorted out its dispute with Go Daddy, which recently started blocking Whois aggregators including DomainTools.

A few test look-ups I did for domains registered at Go Daddy returned full Whois results, not the stubs it was delivering following the block.

Given that registrars are allowed to charge $10,000 a year for access to bulk Whois records, I’m tempted to draw a connection between the Go Daddy situation and the price increase, but I have no hard information to support that conclusion.

UPDATE: I’ve heard from DomainTools that the Go Daddy situation has not yet been resolved.

DomainTools subscribers currently see full Whois records when they search for domains registered at Go Daddy. In order to throttle the vast majority of the traffic the site sends to Go Daddy’s servers, non-subscribers are still receiving incomplete data.

The dispute is evidently more complex than a simple $10k shakedown.

ICANN terminates another registrar

Kevin Murphy, February 14, 2011, Domain Registrars

Another tiny domain name registrar has been given its marching orders by ICANN.

Best Bulk Register, which looks to have only a few hundred domains under management, will be shut down March 4, according to a letter (pdf) from ICANN’s compliance department.

The company had failed to pay over $10,000 in fees, and was not providing Whois services as required by the Registrar Accreditation Agreement, according to ICANN.

The registrar’s web site does not currently appear to resolve.

Best Bulk has until tomorrow to pick a registrar to take over its domains, or ICANN will pick one for it.

Gratuitous Go Daddy girl chest shot

Kevin Murphy, January 31, 2011, Domain Registrars

I know, I know, I’m an utter hypocrite.

Complaining about the journalistic standards of The Sun in the morning and posting a photo that’s little better than a Page 3 shot in the evening.

I do so only in the spirit of crowd-sourced investigative journalism. And traffic, obviously.

Go Daddy Girl boobs

In case you’re wondering, it’s the latest in the series of teaser shots Go Daddy has been releasing ahead of its Super Bowl 2011 commercial.

Note the strategic positioning of “.CO” on the T-shirt.

We’re supposed to start guessing who it is now.

Knock yourselves out.

.XXX demands approval in Brussels

Kevin Murphy, January 25, 2011, Domain Registrars

ICM Registry has called on ICANN to quickly give final approval to its .xxx top-level domain contract after its meeting with governments next month.

Company president Stuart Lawley, in a letter to ICANN (pdf), said ICM has “invested extraordinary resources” in its TLD proposal and has waited almost seven years to get into the DNS root.

Its hopes of getting the nod from ICANN’s board of directors in Cartagena last month were dashed, when it was decided that a final consultation with the Governmental Advisory Committee was required.

That consultation is set to take place in Brussels at the end of February (although ICANN’s announcement of the meeting last Friday conspicuously made no mention of .xxx).

Lawley writes:

ICM Registry urges the ICANN Board to fulfill its explicit commitments to ICM Registry and to the ICANN community, and to uphold the integrity of the ICANN process by conducting and completing its consultations with the GAC

Neither ICM Registry nor the ICANN community can be expected to stand by while ICANN allows yet another self-imposed deadline on this matter to come and go without a plausible explanation.

The letter notes that it’s almost a year since ICANN’s Independent Review Panel told the organization that, despite its protestations to the contrary, .xxx had already been approved.

Lawley tells me ICM is spending, on average, $100,000 a month to keep the company ticking over. He believes that the proposed registry contract has dealt with all of the GAC’s concerns.

The one concern it will never be able to avoid, of course, is that .xxx is for porn, and there are plenty of governments (be they Middle Eastern theocracies, communist Asian states or conservative Western democracies) opposed to porn in principle.

The GAC said in an official Communique in 2006 that “several members of the GAC are emphatically opposed from a public policy perspective to the introduction of a .xxx sTLD.”

As far as I can tell, that’s pretty much the only major stumbling block remaining before ICM can sign a registry contract.

UK GAC rep Mark Carvell told me yesterday that the GAC believes the 2006 statement constitutes “advice” that ICANN is duty-bound to take into account, even though it was not a consensus GAC position.

In my opinion, ICANN has no choice but to disregard this advice.

If we suddenly start living in a world where the public policies of a handful of backward nations are sufficient to veto a TLD, then we may as well pack up the whole internet and move it to Saudi Arabia or Utah.