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Viking victor in .cruise gTLD auction

Kevin Murphy, October 2, 2015, Domain Registries

Viking River Cruises has emerged as the winner of the .cruise new gTLD contention set.

It seems to have beaten Cruise Lines International Association, which has withdrawn the only competing application, in an auction.

Both applicants originally proposed a single-registrant model, in which only the registry could own domains, but changed their plans after ICANN adopted Governmental Advisory Committee advice against so-called “closed generic” gTLDs.

There was controversy in July when CLIA claimed Viking had waited too long to change its proposed registration policies.

The group accused Viking of deliberately delaying the contention set.

ICANN, however, rejected its argument, saying applicants can submit change requests at any time.

Viking’s updated application seems to envisage something along the lines of .travel, where registration is limited to credentialed industry members, defined as:

Applicant and its Affiliates, agents, network providers and others involved in the delivery of cruise-related services, including without limitation: companies that hold a license from a governmental or regulatory body to offer cruise services, companies that provide services or equipment to cruise providers, as well as consultants, resellers, engineers, etc., working with the cruise industry.

Viking is already the registry for its dot-brand, .viking.

Uniregistry will stick with risky .hiv model for now

Kevin Murphy, September 29, 2015, Domain Registries

Uniregistry has agreed to take over the new gTLD .hiv from original registry dotHIV, and said it has no plans to immediately change the business model.

“We are going to maintain the status quo, at least at the start,” said Uniregistry general counsel Bret Fausett. “We will give it a year or so on our platform and then evaluate it.”

dotHIV launched last year with what I then described as “one of the strangest and riskiest business models of any new gTLD to date.”

It’s a not-for-profit TLD with an optional “Click-Counter” service that makes microdonations, pulled from reg fees, to HIV/AIDS charities whenever somebody visits a .hiv web site.

The idea hasn’t really caught on.

When dotHIV put its ICANN contract up for auction in April it had only 345 fee-paying registrations and total revenue was $83,000.

The auction, which made it plain that the buyer would not be allowed to make a profit, failed to meet the $200,000 reserve.

Uniregistry said in a press release that while it is a for-profit company, it will continue to run .hiv as a “social enterprise”.

Fausett said the gTLD’s numbers could go up once it’s on Uniregistry’s platform.

“We think this will get a natural bump when it moves to our registrar channel,” he said. “We have over 175 registrars on our platform, which is 4x the current .HIV distribution channel.”

M+M lays off dozens in focus on S&M, promises profit next year

Kevin Murphy, September 22, 2015, Domain Registries

Minds + Machines has outlined its plan to refocus its business on sales and marketing, which has already resulted in a couple dozen job losses, as the latest stage of its profit runway.

The new gTLD company also outlined plans to return about half of its cash reserves — mostly obtained by losing new gTLD auctions — to its shareholders.

For the first half of the year, the London-listed company reported an EBITDA loss of $1.2 million, compared to income of $5.7 million a year earlier, on revenue that was up to $3.6 million from $113,000 in the comparable 2014 period.

The company said it is “committed to achieving its stated goal of crossing over into profitability in 2016” and blamed high operating costs for the loss, but said it has been restructuring to help it return to profit.

M+M said its headcount has been reduced from 58 to 44, but that it has added ten jobs in sales and marketing, which seems to indicate at least 24 people recently lost their jobs.

The bottom line was also affected by the fact that most of the company’s cashflow to date has been generated by auction losses, and there were more of those last year than this.

The company hit three of its six “key performance indicator” targets — domains under management market share, premium sales growth and standard sales growth — but fell short of the other three.

Average revenue per name for premiums was $184 versus a $200-$225 target, and average revenue per standard name was down from $28 to $10, largely due to a deep discount promotion for .work domains. Higher prices for soon-to-launch .law could increase the average, M+M said.

The company also announced that it will spent £15 million ($23.1 million) of its cash reserves on a share buyback.

That’s almost half of the $48.3 million is has in the bank. This time last year, M+M’s share price peaked at 12p; it’s currently at 8.55p.

The price saw a spike in May, shortly before then-chairman Fred Krueger was asked to resign by the board. Krueger has since sold off the majority of his substantial shareholding, despite explicitly saying that he would not.

Apple using as (yawn) redirect service

Kevin Murphy, September 22, 2015, Domain Registries

Apple has become the latest famous brand to deploy a new gTLD domain in the wild.

The domain has been observed this week being used as a URL redirection service by its Apple News app.

It seems that when somebody shares a link to a news site via social media, using Apple News, the app automatically shares an redirect link instead.

The domains and do not resolve to web sites (for me at least) but Google has already indexed over a thousand URLs. Clicking on these links transparently punts the surfer to the original news source.

UPDATE: Thanks to Gavin Brown for pointing out in the comments that does resolve if you specify “https://” rather than “http://” in the URL. The secured domain bounces visitors to

It puts me in mind of .co’s original flagship anchor tenant, Twitter, which obtained five years ago and continues to use it as its core URL redirection service.

It’s impossible to tell what impact had on the success of .co — the domain was in use from .co’s launch — but it surely had some impact.

.news, a Rightside TLD, had just over 24,400 domains in its zone file yesterday. We’ll have to see whether Apple’s move has an impact on sales.

Taryn Naidu, Rightside’s CEO, said in a press release:

This is just the start, but Apple.NEWS is the most significant use of a new top-level domain (TLD) yet, and I am very excited at the promise and potential that this development signals. Whether they’re used as a complementary domain, content-sharing links (, but with branding) or a simple re-direct, new domain extensions have a real and important place in every company’s overarching brand strategy today.

There’s no denying that having popular software automatically generating links for your gTLD is a great way to raise awareness.

But is this as significant as Apple actually launching a web site at, or switching from .com to .apple, and encouraging people with marketing and branding to actually type those domains into their browsers? I’m skeptical.

New gTLDs growing faster than .com, latest Verisign data shows

Kevin Murphy, September 18, 2015, Domain Registries

New gTLDs grew faster than .com in the last 12 months.

That seems to be one of the conclusions that can be drawn from Verisign’s Q2 Domain Name Industry Brief, which was published (pdf) yesterday, if you dig into the numbers a little.

The headline number is that the number of all domains across all TLDs was 296 million, up sequentially by 2.2 million domains. That’s annual growth of 16.4 million domains, Verisign said.

I thought it might be interesting to see where that growth came from, so I plugged the numbers from Verisign’s last five DNIB reports into a spreadsheet, reproduced in this table.


From these numbers, we can calculate the quarterly sequential growth, measured in domains, for the whole DNS, for .com, for new gTLDs and for ccTLDs.

That table looks like this:


It appears from this table that .com grew by more domains than new gTLDs over the last year — 4.8 million versus 4.36 million — but the numbers are a bit misleading due to the way Verisign sources its data.

For most ccTLDs, Verisign has always used the third-party research outfit ZookNic, which has its own way of estimating registration volumes.

For new gTLDs, Verisign uses the zone files as published daily by ICANN — the same source DI and others use to measure volume.

However, for .com Verisign uses its own in-house data source. It is, after all, the .com registry.

The numbers for .com you find in the DNIB reports are exactly the same as the numbers Verisign gives financial analysts and investors when it reports its quarterly earnings.

And the company changed the way it reports those numbers in Q1 this year.

See that unusually high addition of 2.2 million names in .com in Q1 in the above table? That reflects the addition of very nearly 750,000 hidden .com names in March this year.

At that time, Verisign started counting domains that are on “hold” statuses, largely due to new ICANN policies on unverified Whois information.

The last two DNIB reports have sourced .com numbers with this disclosure:

The domain name base is the active zone plus the number of domain names that are registered but not configured for use in the respective Top-Level Domain zone file plus the number of domain names that are in a client or server hold status.

The actual Q1 growth number for .com should in the 1.4 million to 1.5 million range, which would bring .com’s total growth over the last four quarters down to roughly 4.1 million names.

An apples-to-apples comparison of extant zone-file domain growth would show new gTLDs beating .com, in other words.

But is this a fair measure of demand?

No. It’s fairer to say that .com still outsells its competition by a long way.

New gTLDs had yet to experience any significant churn by Q2 this year, as most had been on the market for under a year, so the growth numbers are more or less untempered by the renewal cycle.

While Verisign’s .com growth is net, for new gTLDs it’s almost all gross.

Verisign says in the latest DNIB has it had 8.7 million new registrations across .com and .net in the second quarter, which would be roughly eight times as many as new gTLDs — all several hundred of them combined — managed to move.