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Afilias set for $100m London IPO

Kevin Murphy, October 21, 2014, Domain Registries

London’s Alternative Investment Market is fast becoming the stock market of choice for new gTLD registries, with .info mainstay Afilias today announcing an upcoming IPO.

The Ireland-based company hopes to raise $100 million by selling off about 30% of the company, giving it a growth war-chest and giving its investors a shot at getting some of their money back.

Afilias earmarked part of the expected windfall for new gTLD auctions, as well as acquisitions of new gTLD “assets” and operational registries and expansion of its registrar business.

Executive chairman Jonathan Robinson said in a statement:

The Placing will bring significant benefits – by providing further capital to fund our organic and acquisitive growth plans, and raising our corporate profile with existing and new customers.

In addition to .info, .mobi and .pro, Afilias is associated with 254 new gTLD applications either as applicant or back-end provider. As registry, it already has about a dozen 2012-round gTLDs in the root.

The company’s revenue for 2013 was $77.6 million, up from $74.5 million in 2012. Earnings before deductions were $38.6 million in 2013, up from $32.1 million in 2012.

Fellow gTLD registries CentralNic and Minds + Machines are also listed on AIM.

Two-letter domains to be released in new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, October 20, 2014, Domain Registries

New gTLD registries will be able to release all two-character strings in their zones, following an ICANN decision last week.

The ICANN board of directors voted on Thursday to instruct ICANN’s executive to

develop and implement an efficient procedure for the release of two-character domains currently required to be reserved in the New gTLD Registry Agreement

The procedure will have to take into account the advice of the Governmental Advisory Committee issued at the end of last week’s ICANN 51 meeting in Los Angeles.

But that advice merely asks that governments are informed when a registry requests the release of two-character names.

All two-character strings were initially reserved due to the potential for confusion with two-letter ccTLDs.

But the GAC decided in LA that it doesn’t really have a problem with such strings being released, with some governments noting that ccTLD second-levels such as us.com and uk.com haven’t caused a problem to date.

The board’s decision is particularly good news for dot-brand applicants that may want to run domains such as uk.google or de.bmw to service specific regions where they operate.

Registries representing over 200 new gTLDs have already filed Registry Service Evaluation Process requests for the release of some two-character strings (some including ccTLD matches, some not).

It’s not yet clear how ICANN will go about removing the two-character restriction.

It may be more efficient to offer all registries a blanket amendment to the RA rather than process each RSEP request individually as it is today.

However, because the GAC has asked for notification on a case-by-case basis, ICANN may be forced to stick to the something along the lines of the existing procedure.

Donuts sells millionth domain name

Kevin Murphy, October 13, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts today sold its millionth domain name, according to a company press release.

The name, according to Donuts, was heavenly.coffee.

I’m not saying heavenly.coffee wasn’t the one millionth name, but I reckon that if the one millionth name had been get-free-viagra.guru, I’d still be looking at a press release talking about heavenly.coffee this afternoon.

Donuts is obviously the first company to hit this target. It owns the largest portfolio of new gTLDs by a considerable margin.

The company has 150 delegated gTLDs, 140 of which are in general availability.

Iceland yanks Islamic State domain

Kevin Murphy, October 13, 2014, Domain Registries

Iceland’s ccTLD operator has suspended one or more domain names affiliated with Islamic State, the terrorist group currently running riot in parts of Iraq and Syria.

ISNIC runs .is, which matches the IS acronym.

In a statement on its web site, the company said:

ISNIC has suspended domains that were used for the website of a known terrorist organisation. The majority of ISNIC’s board made this decision today, on the grounds of Article 9 of ISNIC’s Rules on Domain Registration, which states: “The registrant is responsible for ensuring that the use of the domain is within the limits of Icelandic law as current at any time.”

Never before has ISNIC suspended a domain on grounds of a website’s content.

The domain in question was reportedly khilafah.is, which had a web site titled “Khilafah #IS | Media Releases from Islamic State”. Khilafah is the Latin-script version of the Arabic word for Caliphate.

IS has previously been known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). It’s current media practice here in the UK to call it “so-called Islamic State”.

Governments totally cool with two-letter domains

Kevin Murphy, October 13, 2014, Domain Registries

ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee does not plan to advise against the release of two-character domain names in new gTLDs.

In fact, judging by a GAC discussion at ICANN 51 in Los Angeles yesterday, the governments of many major nations are totally cool with the idea.

Under the standard Registry Agreement for new gTLD registries, all two-character domains (any combination of letters, numbers) must not be sold or activated in the DNS.

The blanket ban was designed to avoid clashes with two-letter ccTLD codes, both existing and future.

ICANN left the door open for registries to request the release of such names, however, and many companies have formally applied to do so via the Registry Services Evaluation Process.

Some registries want all two-character domains released, others have only asked for permission to sell those strings that do not match allocated ccTLDs.

There seems to have been an underlying assumption that governments may want to protect their geographic turf. That assumption may turn out to be untrue.

Representatives from the United States, Netherlands, Spain, Denmark, Australia, Austria and Iran all said yesterday that the GAC should not issue formal advice against the the two-character proposals.

No governments opposed that apparent consensus view.

“The use of the ‘US’ two-letter country code at the second level has not presented any technical or policy issues for the United States,” US rep Suzanne Radell said.

“We, in fact, do not require any approval for the use of US two-character country codes at the second level in existing gTLDs, and do not propose to require anything for new gTLDs,” she said.

She even highlighted domains such as us.com and us.org — which are marketed by UK-based CentralNic as alternatives to the .us ccTLD — as being just fine and dandy with the US government.

It seems likely that the GAC will instead suggest to ICANN that it is the responsibility of individual governments to challenge the registries’ requests via the RSEP process.

“What we see at the moment is that ICANN is putting these RSEP requests out for public comment and it would be open to any government to use that public comment period if they did feel in some instances that there was a concern,” Australian GACer Peter Nettlefold said.

I’ve not been able to find any government comments to the relevant RSEP requests.

For example, Neustar’s .neustar, which proposes the release of all two-character strings including country codes, has yet to receive a comment from a government.

Many comments in other RSEP fora appear to be from fellow dot-brand registries that want to use two-letter codes to represent the countries where they operate.