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Another failing gTLD not paying its “onerous” dues

Kevin Murphy, January 15, 2019, Domain Registries

ICANN has sent out its first public contract breach notice of the year, and it’s going to another new gTLD registry that’s allegedly not paying its fees.

The dishonor goes to Who’s Who Registry, manager of the spectacularly failing gTLD .whoswho.

According to ICANN, the registry hasn’t paid its registry fees for several months and hasn’t been responding to private compliance outreach.

The company has a month to pay up or risk suspension or termination.

CEO John McCabe actually wrote to ICANN (pdf) the day after one of its requests for payment in November, complaining that its fees were too “onerous” and should be reduced for registries that are “good actors” with no abuse.

ICANN’s annual $25,000 fee is “the single largest item in .whoswho’s budget”, McCabe wrote, “the weight of which suppresses development of the gTLD”.

Whether ICANN fees are to blame is debatable, but all the data shows that .whoswho, which has been in general availability for almost four years, has failed hard.

It had 100 domains under management at the last count, once you ignore all the domains owned by the registry itself. This probably explains the lack of abuse.

Well over half of these names were registered through brand-protection registrars. ICANN statistics show 44 names were registered during its sunrise period.

A Google search suggests that only four people are currently using .whoswho for its intended purpose and one of those is McCabe himself.

The original intent of .whoswho was to mimic the once-popular Who’s Who? books, which contain brief biographies of notable public figures.

The gTLD was originally restricted to registrants who had actually appeared in one of these books, but the registry scrapped that rule and slashed prices from $70 to $20 a year in 2016 after poor uptake.

I’d venture the opinion that, in a world of LinkedIn and Wikipedia, Who’s Who? is an idea that might have had its day.

.CLUB announces three years of price increases

Kevin Murphy, January 15, 2019, Domain Registries

.CLUB Domains is to increase its wholesale registry fees by $1.90 over the next three years.

The company announced that the increases for .club names will come on July 1 this year, next year, and in 2021.

The current price is $8.05 per domain per year. This will go up to $8.95, then $9.45, then $9.95.

They’re the first price changes .CLUB has implemented, other than discounts, since its launch in 2014.

The gTLD had almost 1.5 million names under management at the last public count, and has about 1.16 million names in its zone file today.

It saw a growth surge in the second half of 2018 due to aggressive discounting in China — with AliBaba selling new names for as little as $0.44 — which led to a corresponding increase in abuse.

.CLUB is a rare example of a private TLD operator that is fairly open about its financials.

Chile opens .cl to all ICANN registrars

Kevin Murphy, January 9, 2019, Domain Registries

The Chilean ccTLD registry has opened its doors to all ICANN-accredited registrars, no matter where they are based.

NIC Chile, part of the University of Chile, this week announced its Registrar Agents Program, an effort to grow the TLD internationally.

Becoming .cl-accredited appears to be a relatively simple process, requiring a brief application, technical tests (it’s an EPP registry) and contract-signing.

A pilot program that kicked off in September 2016 has already attracted 11 ICANN-accredited registrars, mostly but not exclusively those in the corporate brand-protection space.

Chilean companies that want to act as registrars must go through a separate process and do not need ICANN accreditation.

There are no local presence requirements to register a .cl domain.

Today, the TLD has just shy of 575,000 registered domains, having broke through the half-million mark about three years ago.

It may be interesting to see if growth rates increase with a larger pool of registrars, but .cl is already quite broadly available at major retail registrars (presumably via gateway or reseller arrangements) so getting hold of one doesn’t appear to be problematic.

.eu domains to be sold to non-residents

Kevin Murphy, December 10, 2018, Domain Registries

In a few years, you’ll no longer have to live in the European Union in order to buy a .eu domain name.

Residency requirements are to be dropped under new regulations approved by the European Parliament, Council and European Commission last week.

When the new rules come into effect — not expected until April 2023 — EU citizens based anywhere in the world will be able register .eu domains.

It’s not entirely clear how EURid, the current registry, will determine eligibility at point of sale, but I guess they have plenty of time to think about it.

Notably, the proposed new Regulation will shift oversight of .eu from one based on EU regulations to one based on a contract between the Commission and the registry operator.

It is hoped that this will give EURid the flexibility to more rapidly change its business model in future, merely having to agree upon a contract change rather than waiting for the EU institutions to chug through their lengthy legislative processes.

DNS inventor says .luxe first innovation in a decade

Kevin Murphy, December 10, 2018, Domain Registries

DNS inventor Paul Mockapetris has endorsed MMX’s foray into the blockchain as “the first genuine piece of DNS related innovation that I have seen in the last decade”.

The quote came in an MMX press release this morning, which provided an update on the launch of .luxe as the first gTLD that publishes information to the Ethereum blockchain as well as the DNS.

As I attempted to describe a few months ago, .luxe is being sold as an alternative way to address blockchain assets such as cryptocurrency wallets, which currently use nonsense, immemorable 40-character hashes.

MMX has built an API that allows registrars to automatically associate .luxe domains with Ethereum addresses.

The registry said today it now has 11 registrars signed up to use this API, along with 60 more selling vanilla .luxe domains.

In addition to its launch distribution partner, the wallet provider imToken, MMX said it has also signed up Bitxbank, BeeNews, BEPAL, Hillstone Partners, Math Wallet, MTC Mesh Network, Qufen, Fbee, and ChainDD, which all appear to be Asian blockchain software companies.

It expects to announce support for two non-Ethereum blockchains in the first half of next year.

Judging by zone files, .luxe names have not exactly been flying off the shelves since launch.

It had around 2,600 names in its zone file yesterday, having entered general availability about a month ago.

Despite this, CEO Toby Hall said in this morning’s press release that MMX’s initial investment in .luxe (I assume he’s referring to the R&D investment rather than the cost of applying for the gTLD) has already been recouped.