Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Despite IRP, .africa gets a new gTLD contract

Kevin Murphy, March 26, 2014, Domain Registries

ICANN has signed a Registry Agreement with ZA Central Registry for the new gTLD .africa, despite the string being subject to a legal dispute.

The RA was signed with the South African applicant on Monday.

Rival .africa applicant DotConnectAfrica filed an Independent Review Process complaint against ICANN in January, claiming the rejection of its bid, which came because it lacked government support, was “unfair, discriminatory, and lacked appropriate due diligence and care”.

Now that ZACR is a contracted party — meaning that .africa is likely to hit the root in two or three months — it will be very difficult for DCA to get appropriate recompense should it win the IRP.

Fortunately for ICANN, I think there’s a better chance of me getting elected Pope.

CentralNic kicks out ARI as back-end for four new Radix gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, March 23, 2014, Domain Registries

CentralNic has replaced ARI Registry Services as the exclusive back-end registry services provider for four new gTLDs.

Radix, the new gTLD portfolio applicant formerly affiliated with Directi, will use CentralNic “exclusively” for .press, .host, .website and .space, according to a press release this morning.

ARI was originally listed on Radix’s applications as the technical services provider for all four, but as a result of change requests submitted in January ARI is out and CentralNic is in.

All four were either originally uncontested strings or have since been won by Radix at auction.

The news of the switch follows the announcement last month that CentralNic has also become a “preferred” back-end for portfolio applicant Famous Four Media, alongside ARI and Neustar.

Neustar pays $109 million for .CO Internet

Kevin Murphy, March 20, 2014, Domain Registries

Four years after relaunching the Colombian ccTLD .co as a global top-level domain, .CO Internet has been acquired by its long-time partner Neustar for $109 million.

The .co registry will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Neustrar, which already runs .biz and .us, following the close of the deal.

.CO recorded revenue of $21 million in 2013, of which Neustar took $4 million as its back-end registry provider, according to Neustar.

The .co zone currently stands at about 1.6 million names, according to the companies. That seems to mean it added roughly 200,000 net new names in 2013, judging by its 2012 numbers.

The company relaunched .co in 2010, having jointly bid with Neustar for a Colombian government contract.

It was the last truly impressive TLD launch, with 200,000 registrations on day one and over 1 million in its first year.

While the space is still stuffed with speculators, unlike some other TLDs .co is also widely, visibly used by its intended audience — start-ups and entrepreneurs.

.CO is known primarily for its marketing acumen — some new gTLD registries could learn a thing or two — which Neustar CEO Lisa Hook raised as a selling point in today’s press release:

By combining .CO Internet’s innovative domain marketing capabilities with Neustar’s distribution network and technical resources, we will be able to broaden our registry services and the .co brand worldwide, while creating shareholder value.

Neustar expects the deal to close within a month.

TLD Registry sells 20k+ IDN gTLD names to Chinese gov

Kevin Murphy, March 19, 2014, Domain Registries

TLD Registry has sold 20,452 new gTLD domain names to the Chinese government as it prepares to launch .中文网 (“.chinesewebsite”) and .在线 (“.online”) tomorrow.

The deal, signed this week with the Service Development Center of the State Council Office for Public Sector Reform (SCOPSR) is for 10,226 names in each gTLD.

The domains include the Chinese-script names of every city in China with a population of over 200,000, as well as counties, municipalities and other regional names.

Strings that translate to things like “invest in [place name]” and “tourism [place name]” have also been registered to the government in both TLDs, according to the company.

It looks like this is the first significant anchor tenant deal we’ve seen in the new gTLD program.

Assuming China actually uses these names, it could be great publicity for the new registry’s gTLDs. The government has a policy of transitioning all of its services to fully IDN.IDN domains.

If not, it still means that both gTLDs stand to launch with over 10,000 names in each zone file on day one, even before regular registrants have had a chance to buy them.

The company is also set to auction a bunch of premium names in both namespaces on Friday simultaneously via Sedo and a live event at a private members’ club in Macau.

I’m posting this from Hong Kong airport, en route to the Macau event. As a matter of disclosure: TLD Registry is paying for my flights and accommodation.

Weirdest new gTLD launch yet? .wed launches with a single registrar

Kevin Murphy, March 18, 2014, Domain Registries

The new gTLD .wed went into sunrise yesterday with the strangest pricing model yet and a stringent Registry-Registrar Agreement that seems to have scared off all but one registrar.

Atgron is positioning .wed as a space for marrying couples to celebrate their weddings, but only temporarily.

It seemingly has little interest in domain investors or ongoing customer relationships beyond one or two years.

If you register a second-level .wed domain, you can have it for $150 a year for the first two years, according to the Atgron web site. After that, the price rockets to $30,000 a year.

Registrars, resellers and wedding-oriented businesses are allowed to opt out of the third-year spike on their own .wed names if they join Atgron’s reseller program and sell at least 10 a year.

Unlike Vox Populi, which is actively marketing .sucks domains at $25,000 as a reasonable value proposition, Atgron jacks the price up as a deterrent to registrants holding on to names too long. It says:

.WED domain names are sold to couples for one or two years to celebrate their wedding. The domain names then become available to another couple… Mary and John can have MaryandJohn.WED and then YES the next Mary and John can have MaryandJohn.WED a year or two later and so on and so on.

That alone would be enough to put off most registrars, which value the recurring revenue from ongoing annual renewals, but I gather that the .wed RRA contains even more Draconian requirements.

Incredulous registrars tell me that Atgron wants them to create an entirely new web site to market .wed domains — they’re not allowed to sell the names via their existing storefronts.

The only registrar to bite so far is EnCirca, known historically for promoting obscure gTLDs such as .pro and .travel, which is selling .wed via a new standalone site at encirca.wed.

I also gather that Atgron won’t let registrars opt out of selling its third-level .wed domains, which are expected to go for about $50 a year with no third-year spike.

That didn’t work well for .name — registrars hated its three-level structure, forcing the registry to ultimately go two-level — and I don’t think it’s going to work for .wed either.

Registrars also tell me that Atgron wants to ban them from charging a fee for Whois privacy on .wed domains. They can offer privacy, but only if it’s free to the registrant.

With privacy a relatively high-margin value-add for registrars, it’s hardly surprising that they would balk at having this up-sell taken away from them.

As weird as this all sounds, it is of course an example of the kind of innovative business models that the new gTLD program was designed to create. Mission accomplished on that count.

Another thing the program was designed to create is competition, something Atgron will soon encounter when Minds + Machines arrives with .wedding and eats .wed’s lunch. In my view.

The .wed launch period is also quite unusual.

Atgron is running a landrush period concurrently with its 30-day sunrise period.

Even if you don’t own a trademark, you can apply for a .wed domain today. You’ll get a refund if your name is registered by a trademark owner during sunrise, and names won’t go live until April 20.

The registry has extended the 90-day Trademark Claims period to cover the sunrise period too, so it appears to be in compliance with ICANN rights protection rules on that count.

It’s a 30-day sunrise, so it’s first-come, first served if you’re a trademark owner.

As for sunrise pricing, the third-year spike appears to apply too.

Atgron documentation does say there’s going to be an option to purchase a 10-year trademark block for a one-time fee, but I couldn’t find any way to do this on the EnCirca.wed web site today.