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New gTLDs pass 200,000 registrations

The number of domain names in new gTLDs passed 200,000 last night, according to zone files.

The exact number, according to the DI PRO database, is 201,184.

It’s based on incremental organic growth over the last week since the last batch of new gTLDs went into general availability, rather than any big launch events or surges.

Here are the top 10 zones, all of which belong to Donuts.

guru41,161
photography25,308
today12,157
tips11,444
technology9,066
clothing8,270
bike8,232
directory8,194
land7,569
gallery7,383

What the 200,000 count does not reflect is the first day of general availability for Google’s first-to-launch gTLD, .みんな (Japanese for “everyone”), which I’m expecting to start showing numbers tomorrow.

In related news, the DI PRO new gTLD zone file league table service (here) was upgraded today to make it a bit more useful during periods of patchy data availability.

The service will now show all delegated new gTLDs that have started publishing zone files, along with the most-recent domain counts, on days when the file was for whatever reason not available.

.club “will overtake .guru” in week one

Now that we’ve seen how many domain names are actually being sold in new gTLDs, you might reasonably expect some registries to rein in their more ambitious sales targets.

Not so with .CLUB Domains, which plans to go to general availability with .club on May 7.

CEO Colin Campbell told DI today that he’s sticking by his target of selling five million .club names in the first five years.

What’s more, he has big hopes for the gTLD’s first week on the market.

“I firmly believe that .CLUB will exceed all other new generic top level domains in the first week of launch in registrations and overtake .GURU as the leader,” Campbell said in an email.

Donuts’ .guru has over 41,000 domains today and is adding 250-500 more per day. It could be around the 60,000 mark by the time .club hits registrar storefronts.

Campbell notes that all the new gTLDs to launch so far have been uncontested — .CLUB beat out two other applicants for .club in the first private auction last June.

He also reckons .club’s .com-level pricing will help sales — most of the new gTLDs launched to date are priced at over $20 a year.

I don’t doubt that .club will be a decent seller — it has lots of use cases — but five million names in five years still seems wildly ambitious to me.

US revives .kids.us in new Neustrar contract

Neustar has been awarded a new three-to-five-year contract to manage the .us ccTLD, under a deal with the US Department of Commerce announced today.

It’s a renewal of a role that Neustar has held since .us was relaunched in 2001, but the new contract come with a few notable new provisions.

First, it seems that the company is now obliged to bring some “multi-stakeholder” oversight into the management of the TLD. Neustar said in a press release:

In 2014, Neustar plans to launch a new multi-stakeholder council including members representing localities, registrars, small businesses and non-profit organizations as well as entities involved with STEM education and cybersecurity. The .US TLD Stakeholder Council will provide a vibrant, diverse, and independent forum for future development of the .US TLD, working directly with .US TLD stakeholders and helping Neustar to identify public needs and develop policies, programs, and partnerships to address those needs while continuing to enhance America’s address.

Second, it looks like .kids.us might not be dead after all.

The third-level service was introduced as a result of the poorly considered Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002, which forced Neustar to operate a child-friendly zone in .us.

The Department of Commerce killed off .kids.us in 2012, but the new .us contract (pdf) says:

Notwithstanding the June 2012 determination to suspend operation of kids.us domain under the current contract, DOC seeks proposals to rejuvenate the kids.us space to increase utilization, utility and awareness of the kids.us domain.

The contract has several more references to Neustar’s obligation to promote the SLD. At the time it was killed off, there were just a handful of registered names in the space.

The contract also says that .us currently has just shy of 1.8 million names under management.

Afilias wins .green auction

Afilias won the auction for the .green new gTLD, it emerged today.

Rightside withdrew its application for the string in the last few days, according to the ICANN web site, leaving Afilias the only remaining applicant in the four-way contention set.

Top Level Domain Holdings said last week that it had lost a private auction with Afilias and Rightside. The fourth applicant, Dot Green, withdrew last year citing the likely cost of an auction.

It’s not known how much Afilias paid in the auction, but it’s likely to have been in the millions.

Disappointing .sexy launch shows the importance of the channel

Kevin Murphy, February 27, 2014, Domain Registries

.sexy not so sexy after all?

Uniregistry’s first new gTLDs to launch, .sexy and .tattoo, have showed a poor first-day performance after the company failed to secure Go Daddy as a registrar partner.

During the 60-day sunrise period and the first 30 hours of general availability, .sexy sold just shy of 2,700 domains, judging by zone files, while .tattoo racked up a pitiful 700 registrations.

This makes .sexy the 19th most popular new gTLD. On the DI PRO league table it’s sandwiched between .holdings and .camera, and .tattoo the 28th, between .voyage and .careers.

It’s not a completely terrible performance for .sexy — .camera and .holdings have been on the market for three and four weeks respectively — but one might have expected better sales for a string that isn’t tied to a particular vertical niche and is, arguably, just intrinsically attractive.

.sexy’s first-day performance is in the same ball park as Donuts’ .gallery and .estate, hardly strings to get excited about.

For .tattoo, the story is less gray — under 1,000 domains sold is not a success in anyone’s book.

I think there are a couple reasons for the poor showing.

First, the strings themselves. While I can see .sexy proving popular with regular buyers, it doesn’t easily lend itself to domain names that are instinctively attractive to domainers.

You can put pretty much any profession or product name in front of a .guru and it is meaningful as a brand or a rather grandiose self-appointed title. Not so with .sexy.

Ironically, this appears to be Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling’s “Toilet Paper Test” in action.

Schilling argues that the test of how generic, and by extension popular, a gTLD is should be whether toiletpaper.[tld] works. I think toiletpaper.guru works, but toiletpaper.sexy does not.

Second, Uniregistry lacked distribution.

While it had big registrars such as eNom and NameCheap (almost 50 in total) on its books, it lacked Go Daddy and 1&1 — the two companies that have been pushing pre-registrations more heavily than any other.

The reason Donuts’ gTLDs performed better in their first hours is that these companies, mainly Go Daddy, had been collecting pre-regs for weeks and spammed the registry with registration requests at the first second they were able. Day one registrations actually represent weeks of marketing and leads.

Uniregistry took an awfully big risk by demanding registrars hand over part of the customer relationship to the registry, and it seems to have impacted its sales.

The company plans to shortly launch its own registrar, and is betting hard of this being a successful sales channel.

I’m somewhat skeptical about this strategy, at least in the short term.

Go Daddy has spent tens (hundreds?) of millions of dollars on marketing over the last decade or so. It has a lot of eyeballs already and it’s going to be nigh-on impossible to replicate that degree of success.

Uniregistry is not the only new gTLD portfolio registry enthusiastically embracing vertical integration.

The trail was blazed by Minds + Machines, which launched its own registrar last November. Today, it’s difficult to tell on the company’s web site where the registrar ends and the registry begins.

What’s M+M’s launch channel going to look like? We’re not going to know for sure until its first TLDs hit the market.

Are the big registrars going to make the vertically integrated business model difficult to carry off successfully? While registries are obliged to give access to any registrar that wants to sell their names, registrars have no obligations to carry any TLD they don’t want to.