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Roussos sells his .home new gTLD application

Kevin Murphy, November 5, 2012, Domain Registries

In what I believe is the first instance of a new gTLD bid changing hands, CGR E-Commerce has sold off its .home application to another applicant.

CGR is the Cyprus-based company controlled by prominent .music applicant Constantine Roussos.

Among 29 changes to new gTLD applications approved by ICANN and published late last week were substantial alterations to CGR’s application for .home, which is contested by 10 other applicants.

All references to Roussos, his colleague Tina Dam, and CGR itself were removed, replaced by the names of executives from Defender Direct.

The applicant name is now “Dothome Ltd”, whereas originally it was “DotHome/CGR E-Commerce Ltd”.

“We just sold that company,” Roussos confirmed to DI. “All our assets and intellectual property pertaining to .HOME were transferred to Defender Direct, a company that also applied for .SECURITY.”

“They are the second largest home security company in the U.S and have a lot of resources to provide to create value in both the home and security arenas,” he added.

Back in April, while the new gTLD application period was still open, Roussos was known to be shopping around some spare TLD Application System slots.

The .home gTLD is one of the most-contested strings in the current round, but all 11 applicants face the risk that the string itself may be rejected on security and stability grounds.

TLDH expects gTLD auctions in second half of 2013

Kevin Murphy, November 2, 2012, Domain Registries

While some new gTLD portfolio applicants are trying to get their contention sets resolved as quickly as possible, Top Level Domain Holdings reckons auctions won’t happen until the second half of 2013.

In a trading update this week, the company also said that it expects to start seeing revenue from its first successful new gTLD applications next year, with contested bids producing revenue in 2014.

TLDH said in a statement:

Provided that the ICANN proposed timetable is broadly adhered to, the Board of TLDH believes that a number of the Group’s 17 uncontested gTLD applications on its own behalf and the 5 uncontested client gTLD applications are likely to be revenue producing in 2013, with the balance becoming so in the first half of 2014. TLDH has commenced discussions with the leading worldwide registrars, premium name specialists, and secondary market platforms for distribution of these gTLD names.

TLDH is also working with other gTLD applicant groups to define formats for private auctions and other name resolution arrangements in respect of the contested names that TLDH has applied for. The Board expects that these auctions are likely to happen in the second half of 2013.

As we reported last week, fellow portfolio applicant Donuts approached competing applicants at the Toronto ICANN meeting last month with a proposal for running private auctions in early 2013.

The idea was not warmly received by many, we hear, and TLDH evidently does not agree.

The company also revealed this week that it plans to move its headquarters to Dublin, Ireland, and expects to start hiring more staff and directors in the near future.

Clark Landry, who has been a non-executive director of TLDH for several years, has left the board, TLDH announced.

Caspar von Veltheim, who has been managing some of TLDH’s geographic gTLD bids in Europe, has joined the board as an executive director, the company added.

Verisign defends .com price increases

Kevin Murphy, November 2, 2012, Domain Registries

Verisign has assured investors that it is confident its .com registry agreement is not in jeopardy, after seeing its stock plummet due to uncertainties over the deal.

In a statement yesterday, the company also defended the planned continuation of its price-raising powers.

It emerged last week that the US Department of Commerce is looking into the pricing arrangements of the new .com deal, which ICANN approved back in June.

Commerce has the right — in consultation with the Department of Justice and others — to approve or reject the contract based on its security/stability and pricing terms.

Whatever happens, it’s virtually unthinkable that Verisign will lose the contract. The company said:

While the review process with the Commerce Department may extend beyond Nov. 30, 2012, it could also be concluded by Nov. 30, 2012. In either case, Verisign expects to continue to run the .com registry.

It also said that its ability to increase prices by 7% in four of the six years of the contract is in fact in the public interest, saying in a lengthy statement:

The .com registry has an unequaled record of achievement, with full availability of DNS resolution in .com for more than 15 consecutive years. The economic activity supported by the .com registry is significant by any measure in an environment where the consequences of a failure of even a very short duration or degradation of the Domain Name System (DNS) resolution service, due to either a cyber attack or failure of hardware, software, or personnel, would have significant economic and non-economic impacts to the global economy.

The level of security and stability offered by Verisign is only possible with investments in overcapacity and redundancy, network security, intellectual property (IP) and in human capital: The engineers and employees at Verisign who operate the .com registry and ensure its security and stability. The pricing terms of the .com Registry Agreement enable Verisign to make these investments, develop the necessary IP, know-how and purpose-built systems, respond to new threats to stability as they emerge, and recruit and retain the specialized talent necessary to maintain our network, including dozens of globally distributed constellation sites and data centers in the U.S. and elsewhere.

In essence, Verisign is saying that the security and stability record — which Commerce evidently has already reviewed to its satisfaction — are inextricably linked to its ability to raise prices.

The company’s share price fell 18% in the aftermath of last week’s news, but recovered slightly yesterday — gaining about 11% — after the statement was released.

ICM to intro sponsored search results with $75 credit for registrants

Kevin Murphy, November 2, 2012, Domain Registries

Tearing several chapters out of the Google playbook, ICM Registry is to introduce a sponsored search placement service for .xxx registrants, along with a substantial introductory credit.

The company will give each registrant a $75-per-domain credit against its forthcoming search platform, which in many cases will completely offset the cost of their .xxx domain.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, it’s the AdWords model for porn, following on from the recent launch of search.xxx, which ICM says has already had more than 12 million page views.

The ad system is expected to roll out in “early 2013″, but ICM has launched the credits incentive now in order to get early registrants to renew their domain names.

The vast majority of .xxx’s roughly 140,000 registrations occurred during its first two months of general availability and will be coming up for renewal in December and January.

That said, ICM had said even prior to this announcement that its early renewals were looking promising.

The ad credit will apply to all .xxx domains renewed or registered before January 31, 2013, ICM said in a press release.

The company has long talked about its plans for generating advertising and micropayment-based revenue. Over the long term, selling domains may prove to be a small part of its business.

Demand Media: ignore our Republican gTLD rivals

Kevin Murphy, October 31, 2012, Domain Registries

Demand Media has asked ICANN to “ignore” complaints from the US Republican party about its application for the .republican gTLD.

Last month, the Republican National Committee and the Republican State Leadership Committee submitted comments to ICANN arguing that Demand would be an unsuitable custodian for the gTLD.

Demand is best known for its “unofficial, mediocre and sometimes incorrect” content farms, such as eHow, the letter (pdf) said.

The company should not be allowed to run .republican because it implies endorsement by the Republican party, or some kind of community backing for a non-Community application, the letter said.

This week, Demand has responded, saying it’s nothing but competitive posturing, given that the RSLC has applied for .gop (for “Grand Old Party”, a nickname for the Republicans):

A letter to ICANN from Demand subsidiary and .republican applicant United TLD Holdco, says:

Because the RSLC and RNC have applied for .GOP, an arguably competing string, it is easy to see through these arguments and ignore them as nothing more than an attempt to undermine the credibility of United TLD in order to gain a competitive advantage.

By their own admission, RSCL and RNC agree that “.REPUBLICAN has the potential to be a very powerful gTLD.” It is natural then, that they would attempt to discredit United TLD in the hope of eliminating competition for their own string.

The thrust of Demand’s rebuttal is that Republicanism is not an exclusively American movement — other parties around the world use the name — and that it also has generic meaning.

It further argues that the quality of the content Demand provides elsewhere is irrelevant, because the company plans to sell .republican domain names, not produce content there.

Demand has also applied for .democrat, the other major US political party, but did not receive any complaints from the Democratic party during the designated ICANN comment period.