ICANN smacks Cheapies with the ban hammer

Kevin Murphy, September 16, 2013, Domain Registrars

ICANN for only the second time has suspended an accredited registrar’s ability to sell domain names.

Cheapies.com, which has roughly 12,000 gTLD domain names under management, will not be able to create new domains or accept inbound transfers until January 2, 2014, according to ICANN.

The 90-day suspension of its accreditation, longer by two months than the 30 days Alantron received last year, comes because it’s the third time this year Cheapies has been sent an ICANN breach notice.

The latest breach concerns the domain ebookvortex.com. Apparently Cheapies did not provide the registrant with the required authorization information when he initiated a transfer request.

In January, the company received breach notices related to its records-keeping and another instance of failing to abide by ICANN’s inter-registrar transfers policy.

It’s also being spanked for consistently ignoring or stonewalling ICANN’s attempts to resolve the situation.

Cheapies has the opportunity to rectify its problems to avoid losing its accreditation entirely. In the meantime, it also has to display the following notice “prominently” on its web site:

No new registrations or inbound transfers will be accepted from 4 October 2013 through 2 January 2014.

There’s a clear takeaway for fly-by-night registrars here: ignore ICANN Compliance at your peril.

Register.com hit by breach notice over 62,232 domains

Kevin Murphy, September 12, 2013, Domain Registrars

Register.com, a Web.com business that is one of the top ten registrars by domains under management, has been hit by an ICANN compliance notice covering 62,232 domain names.

It’s a weird one.

ICANN says that the company has failed to provide records documenting the ownership trail of the domains in question, which all currently belong to Register.com itself.

The notice names 000123.net, 0011pp.com, 00h4.com, 010fang.net, 01rabota.com, 02071988.com and 020tong.com, but it seems that these are merely the first in a alphabetical list that is much, much longer.

Judging by DomainTools’ Whois history, these domains all appear to have been originally registered at various times by individuals in China and India, then allowed to expire, then registered by Register.com to itself.

The only common link appears to be that they were kept by Register.com after they expired, for whatever reasons registrars usually hoard their customers’ expired domains.

According to the compliance notice, ICANN wants the registrar to:

Provide a detailed explanation to ICANN how 62,232 domains in which Register.com itself is the registrant are used for the purposes of Registrar Services, as defined by Section 1.11 of the RAA;

The Registrar Accreditation Agreement says registrars have to keep registrant agreement records, except for a limited class of cases where the domain is owned by the registrar itself and used for registrar-related stuff.

Register.com, one of the original five oldest competitive registrars, has been given until October 2 to come up with the requested information for face losing its accreditation.

The registrar has almost three million gTLD domains under management. Combined with its Web.com sister registrars, which include Network Solutions, the number is closer to 10 million.

Domain.com owner files for $400m IPO, to spend $110m buying Directi

Kevin Murphy, September 10, 2013, Domain Registrars

Endurance International, owner of Domain.com and HostGator, plans to raise up to $400 million in a Nasdaq IPO, and said it will spend up to $110 million of that buying Directi, India’s largest domain registrar.

As part of the proposed acquisition, Endurance has also agreed to bankroll Directi’s new gTLD auctions to the tune of $62 million.

The acquisition is not final, and appears to depend on a number of targets related to the IPO and Directi’s revenue performance. Endurance’s S-1 filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission reads:

In August 2013, we entered into a master share purchase agreement to acquire all of the outstanding capital stock of Directi from Directi Holdings, the seller, for an amount we estimate will be between $100 million and $110 million in cash or, at the election of the seller, a combination of cash and shares of our common stock, subject to the satisfaction or waiver of specified customary closing conditions and the achievement of specified financial targets.

The acquisition would close in the fourth quarter this year.

As well as running a top-ten registrar (and a few dozen others), Directi subsdiary Radix Registry has 29 active new gTLD applications, 26 of which are contested.

Endurance proposes to help Radix win these contention sets. On new gTLD auctions, the S-1 says:

in connection with our proposed acquisition of Directi, we entered into agreements with entities affiliated with Directi Holdings related to participation in the auction of new top level domain extensions and domain monetization activities, pursuant to which, among other things, we may be obligated to make aggregate cash payments of up to a maximum of approximately $62 million, subject to specified terms, conditions and operational contingencies.

Endurance is a complicated company. Its most familiar brands include Domain.com, iPage, FatCow, Homestead, Bluehost, HostGator, A Small Orange, iPower and Dotster.

But since December 2011 it has been controlled and majority owned by Warburg Pincus and Goldman Sachs, which paid a reported $975 million.

Its annual revenue for the last three calendar years has been $87.8 million, $190.3 million and $292.2 million. It’s currently not profitable, recording a net loss of $139.2 million in 2012.

It has seven million domains under management and had 3.4 million customers at the end of June 2013.

Judging by the S-1, the company has over a billion dollars of debt. Directi acquisition excluded, most of its IPO proceeds would go towards paying off some of that debt.

Go Daddy selling domains door-to-door in India

Kevin Murphy, August 29, 2013, Domain Registrars

Door-to-door sales have helped Go Daddy grow its Indian business by 86%, according to a company press release.

The market-leading registrar said today that the remarkable growth has come since it launched a customer support center in Hyderabad a year ago.

It’s taken 250,000 calls since then, Go Daddy said.

The company also pointed to some unconventional sales techniques:

Since launching on the ground in India, GoDaddy has connected with customers in a very personal way. A prime example is the recent “Cup of Coffee” campaign that demystified the process of leveraging the Internet by providing actual door-to-door demonstrations to show small businesses exactly how to get online. Professionally trained GoDaddy experts and GoDaddy Resellers engaged with prospective clients to demonstrate how beautiful websites can be built quickly. These personalized initiatives have helped fuel GoDaddy’s unprecedented growth.

Go Daddy’s reseller network in India has grown 88% since last year, the company added.

Registrar rapped for failing to transfer UDRP domain

Kevin Murphy, August 20, 2013, Domain Registrars

The domain name registrar Gal Comm has been warned by ICANN that it risks losing its accreditation for failing to transfer a cybersquatted name to Home Depot.

The compliance notice (pdf) concerns the domain name homedpeot.com, which was lost in a UDRP filed in early March and decided on April 21.

According to ICANN, Gal Comm, which has about 30,000 gTLD domains under management, failed to transfer the domain within 10 days of finding out about the decision, as required under the policy.

Whois records compiled by DomainTools show that the domain was instead deleted at in early April, and subsequently re-registered with a different registrar, where it’s currently under dubious-looking privacy.

According to the ICANN compliance notice, Gal Comm says that it deleted the domain because it received a Whois inaccuracy complaint about it.

Assuming that’s correct (and the Whois back in March was blatantly false) we have an interesting tension between policies that seems to have caused a slip-up at the registrar.

But registrars are supposed to lock domains they manage after they become aware of UDRP actions, so allowing the domain to delete seems to be a breach of the policy.

ICANN has given Gal Comm until September 10 to produce its records relating to the domain — and pay past-due accreditation fees — or face possible de-accreditation.

It’s very rare for ICANN to send compliance notices to registrars related to UDRP implementation.