Afilias acquires .pro operator RegistryPro

Kevin Murphy, January 17, 2012, Domain Registries

Afilias has acquired .pro registry manager Registry Services Corporation, which does business as RegistryPro, for an undisclosed sum.

The deal will see .pro domain names migrate to Afilias’s back-end, bringing the number of TLDs the company supplies registry services for to 17, the largest of which is .info .org.

It’s not yet clear whether the deal includes Zip.pro, a “local search” service operated by RegistryPro’s former parent Hostway using tens of thousands of self-owned zip code .pro domains.

(UPDATE: Afilias has confirmed that Zip.pro is staying with Hostway. The former owner of .pro is essentially now its biggest customer.)

Hostway bought RegistryPro in early 2004 shortly before .pro went live. The deal was somewhat controversial at the time.

Since May last year the company has been headed by CEO Karim Jiwani, a former Afilias executive. Jiwani will stay in place as president of RegistryPro, Afilias said.

While RegistryPro has been offering new gTLD back-end registry services since last June, the acquisition “is specifically in support of the .pro domain,” the Afilias spokesperson said.

The gTLD will be migrated to Afilias’ back-end infrastructure, he confirmed.

“A migration plan is being put into place,” the spokesperson said. “Current .pro customers will see no issues; the platform change will be invisible to them (and as easy as possible for registrars.)”

ICANN was told about the deal, but did not need to approve it because the corporate structure of RegistryPro has not changed, he said.

The .pro gTLD has about 45 registrars, though only four of them have taken more than 10,000 registrations. EnCirca, which signed up on day one, leads the pack with 13,000 domains.

However, Network Solutions and RU-Center came on board in 2008 and have been responsible for contributing most of the gTLD’s organic growth in the last few years.

Despite these modest improvements, .pro is still broadly considered very much an also-ran gTLD.

It had roughly 117,000 registered .pro domains at the last official count, but 43,000 of those are US zip codes registered by a shell company belonging to Hostway back in 2008.

It appears that this Zip.pro service is a similar concept to the Employ Media-backed Universe.jobs services – an exercise in mass domain development backed by the (former) registry itself.

At some point quite recently, some of these zip code domains have started going live with what could be loosely be described as “content”.

If you visit 94110.pro, for example, you’ll see a bunch of stuff about the Mission district in San Francisco, an old haunt of mine.

Tiny start-up secures .bank gTLD trademark

Kevin Murphy, January 12, 2012, Domain Registries

A likely new gTLD applicant has secured a US trademark on the term “.bank”.

Asif LLC, a Wisconsin start-up with an undisclosed number of employees, won approval for the trademark 4,085,335 on Tuesday, for use in “domain name registration services”.

(UPDATE: Asif actually does business now as Domain Security Company LLC, but the trademark application was filed under its former name.)

As Domain Name Wire reported last year, Asif became a Go Daddy reseller in order to provide the US Patent & Trademark Office with proof it was using the brand.

It appears the gambit was successful, and the company now has a card to play in its inevitable battle with other .bank applicants, such as the BITS/American Bankers Association project.

Mary Iqbal, Asif’s CEO, told DomainIncite today that the company also has a trademark pending in Pakistan, where it has existing business connections.

Iqbal says she’s serious about her .bank application. It’s an idea she’s been working on for a few years.

Asif has been talking to security companies about providing the security infrastructure for the gTLD and has already signed up with a registry back-end provider, she said.

All she was prepared to disclose at the moment is that one of these partners has “ground-breaking encryption technology” and that the company has solid plans for its security profile.

The .bank gTLD would of course be limited to manually verified financial institutions, Iqbal confirmed.

Explaining the reseller site used to get the trademark, Iqbal said: “We intend to use that in future to sell .bank domain names but for now we’re selling names in other TLDs.”

Asif also has a pending US trademark on “.secure”, which it also plans to apply for as a gTLD.

Iqbal said that the company plans to offer small and medium sized e-commerce businesses extra security services if they redirect their customers to their .secure domain at the checkout.

While I am unaware of any other public .secure applicants, the .bank gTLD is expected to be contested.

A joint project of the American Bankers Association and BITS, part of the Financial Services Roundtable, has already essentially confirmed that it plans to apply for .bank and possibly two other financial gTLDs, using Verisign as its back-end.

“We don’t know for sure if they’re going to apply for .bank,” Iqbal said, however. “If somebody else does apply, all I can say that we are the legal rights holder for .bank.”

Holding a trademark on a term gives companies the right to file a Legal Rights Objection against new gTLD applicants.

However, as much as I love an entrepreneur, I estimate the chances of Asif getting its .bank application approved at roughly zero, trademark or not.

There are about half a dozen different reasons Asif would probably not pass the Legal Rights Objection test, which would leave it in a contention set with other .bank applicants.

The final mechanism offered by ICANN to resolve contested gTLDs is an auction, and nobody goes into an auction against the American Bankers Association expecting to win.

ICANN also encourages applicants in contention sets to talk it out amongst themselves before resorting to auction. If Asif is lucky, a rival .bank applicant will pay it to go away before the string goes to auction.

If it’s very lucky, somebody will acquire the trademark before the company – which Iqbal said is already funded but would welcome additional investment – splashes out $185,000 on its application fee.

The Asif .bank application also stands a substantial chance of being objected to by governments.

ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee, and in particular the influential US representative, has very strong views on gTLDs purporting to represent regulated industries.

If the GAC is faced with a choice between a .bank backed by the ABA and BITS with a Verisign back-end, and one backed by a tiny Wisconsin start-up, I believe there’s a pretty good chance the Wisconsin start-up is going to find itself on the receiving end of a GAC Advice objection.

Just a hunch.

SportAccord picks CORE for .sport gTLD bid

Kevin Murphy, January 10, 2012, Domain Registries

SportAccord, an international association of sporting federations, has picked CORE as its registry services provider for its .sport generic top-level domain application.

The organization, which has International Olympic Committee backing, has also confirmed that it will be applying for .sport as a “community” gTLD.

Community applications can avoid a costly auction in the event that their chosen gTLD string is contested and the applicant can meet a rigorous set of community support criteria.

With over 100 international sporting organizations, covering everything from football to tug of war, comprising its membership, SportAccord’s bid should be good for a few points on the Community Priority Evaluation, but success is by no means assured.

The Lausanne, Switzerland-based organization announced its intention to apply for .sport, issuing an RFP, back in September 2011.

I’m aware of at least two other organizations that have publicly announced potential .sport applications.

CORE currently runs the back-end for the .cat and .museum gTLDs.

The first .xxx phishing site?

Kevin Murphy, January 3, 2012, Domain Registries

Those readers following @domainincite on Twitter may have noticed I spent a lot of time on Friday Googling for .xxx web sites, to get an idea how the new namespace is being used.

All in the name of research, of course.

As well as the expected video, dating and forum sites, I found one or two inexplicably safe-for-work oddities.

I also found what I believe may be the first .xxx site set up for phishing.

The domain name signin.xxx, registered to an individual in Ohio, looks extremely suspicious, especially when you consider the subdomains the registrant has created.

Here’s a screenshot of the URL www.hotmail.com.signin.xxx:

Signin.xxx

I have no evidence that the site has been used in a phishing attack, or that the registrant intends to use it in one. However, it seems pretty clear that he’s noticed the potential for abuse.

The page’s footer offers to sell the domain for a seven-figure sum.

Key-Systems wins .dm registry deal, 20 others

Kevin Murphy, December 19, 2011, Domain Registries

The German domain name registrar Key-Systems will provide the registry platform for Dominica’s soon-to-relaunch .dm country-code domain, the company has announced.

The company will provide local registry manager DotDM Corp with “tools to facilitate .dm registrations at the registry, registrar and reseller levels”, according to a press release.

It’s the first TLD deal Key-Systems, under its KSregistry registry services brand, has announced since it stopped providing back-end services for .cd back in 2005.

But KSregistry will also be involved in “more than 20″ new ICANN gTLD applications next year, including brand, geographic and generic strings, according to a spokesperson.

DotDM has been the de facto manager of the .dm zone since 2001, but did not receive its official IANA redelegation until 2007. It plans to “market the .dm suffix worldwide” according to its web site.

It plans to launch the new system in the first quarter next year and is currently looking for registrars interested in accreditation.

Dominica is a small Caribbean island with a population of around 72,000, best known for its bananas.