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.blog tops 200,000 regs due to WordPress partnership

Knock Knock Whois There, the WordPress-affiliated .blog registry, said today that it has topped 200,000 names for the first time.

The milestone comes after about 28 months of general availability, during which growth has been slow but stable.

The company said it has a respectable renewal rate of 72.74%, which is only a couple of points behind .com.

KKWT’s relationship with its parent company, Automattic, owner of WordPress.com and an accredited registrar in its own right, has been crucial to .blog’s growth.

According to registry transaction reports, two-thirds of all .blog domains are sold via Automattic, which had over 128,000 .blog domains under management at the end of 2018.

Tucows is a distant second, with about 10,000 names.

Automattic promotes .blog prominently on its registrar site, selling for $18.95 a year.

But it’s still sold more .com domains, over half a million so far, at the slightly cheaper price of $15 per year.

.london disaster leads to mixed 2018 for MMX

New gTLD registry MMX, aka Minds + Machines, suffered a huge net loss in 2018, largely due to its disastrous .london contract, even while its operating fundamentals improved.

For the year, MMX reported a net loss of $12.6 million, compared to a 2017 profits of $3.8 million, on revenue up 5% to $15.1 million.

The loss was almost entirely attributable to charges related to an “onerous contract” with one of its partners.

MMX has never disclosed the identity of this partner, but the only outfit that fits the profile is London & Partners, the agency with which MMX partnered to launch .london several years ago.

The registry, expecting big things from the geo-TLD, promised to pay L&P millions over the term of the contract, which expires in 2021.

But it’s been a bit of a damp squib compared to former management’s expectations, peaking at about 86,000 regs last year and shrinking ever since.

MMX says the estimated gap between the minimum revenue guarantee payable to L&P and the expected revenue is expected to bring in before 2021, is $7.2 million.

It’s recorded this as a charge on its income statement accordingly, along with another $4.2 million impairment charge related to the same contract.

The company recorded a $7.7 million accounting charge related to this contract in 2016, too.

The company says that to date it has lost about $13.7 million on the deal.

These charges, along with a few other smaller one-off expenses, were enough to push the company into the black for 2018.

But other key performance indicators showed more promise, helped along by the acquisition last year of porn-themed registry operator ICM Register, best-known for .xxx.

Notably, renewal revenue almost doubled, up 97% to $9.4 million.

Domains under management was up 37% to 1.81 million.

Operating EBITDA was $3.6 million, up 12.5%.

Looking ahead, MMX said billings for the first quarter are expected to be up 246%, due to the first impact of the ICM acquisition.

It also said it closed $500,000 of sales in .law in China in March. That would work out to over 5,000 domains, based on the retail price of about $100 a year, but those domains have yet to show up in the .law zone file, which only grew by about 200 domains last month.

MMX said it is planning to launch “a high-value defensive registration product” for corporate registrars by the third quarter.

If I had to guess, I’d say that is probably a clone of Donuts’ Domain Protected Marks List service, which offers trademark owners deep discounts when they defensively block strings across the whole Donuts gTLD portfolio.

It’s a model copied by other registries, including recently Uniregistry.

Donuts raises prices on most TLDs by up to 9%

Portfolio registry Donuts is to jack up prices on most of its 241 gTLDs by up to 9% later this year.

Base-rate price increases of between 6% and 9% will his 220 TLDs, while 16 will remain at their current pricing.

The increases, which do not affect registry-reserved “premium” domains, will likely mean an increase of a few dollars in most cases.

(UPDATE: Donuts says the average price increase is about $1.75.)

Five gTLDs will see their prices reduced. Donuts said .group will see a 35% price reduction. It currently sells for about $30 a year at GoDaddy.

The prices were announced to registrars yesterday and, due to ICANN rules, will not come into effect until October 1.

Registrants are able to lock in their current pricing for up to 10 years by renewing before that deadline.

.com outsells new gTLDs by 2:1 in 2018

The number of registered .com domains increased by more than double the growth of all new gTLDs last year, according to figures from Verisign.

The latest Domain Name Industry Brief reports that .com grew by 7.1 million names in 2018, while new gTLDs grew by 3.2 million names.

.com ended the year with 139 million registered names, while the whole new gTLD industry finished with 23.8 million.

It wasn’t all good news for Verisign, however. Its .net gTLD shrunk by 500,000 names over the period, likely due to the ongoing impact of the new gTLD program.

New gTLDs now account for 6.8% of all registered domains, compared to 6.2% at the end of 2017, Verisign’s numbers state.

Country codes fared better than .com in terms of raw regs, growing by 8.2 million domains to finish 2018 with 154.3 million names.

But that’s including .tk, the free ccTLD where dropping or abusive domains are reclaimed and parked by the registry and never expire.

Excluding .tk, ccTLDs were up by 6.6 million names in the year. Verisign estimates .tk as having a modest 21.5 million names.

The latest DNIB, and quarterly archives, can be downloaded from here.

Registry offers “$2,500” in sweeteners for .inc registrants

Kevin Murphy, March 27, 2019, Domain Registries

The newly launching .inc gTLD may be eye-wateringly expensive, but the registry is offering a package of incentives it reckons adds up to a $2,500 value to new registrants.

Intercap Registry’s .inc went into sunrise today. It’s expected to have retail price of $2,000 and up when it goes to general availability May 7. Sunrise registrants can expect to pay a couple thousand more.

Given the high price, and the fact that many businesses that end in “Inc” will likely view it primarily as an opportunity to waste yet more cash on defensive registrations, I’ve always been a bit skeptical of this particular gTLD.

But I’ve got to give the registry credit for at least making an effort to bump up its value proposition.

It’s currently listing 17 freebies, provided mostly by partners, that new .inc registrants can cash in to soften the dent in their wallets.

Registrants can get a free business formation package from LegalZoom and a free press release announcing their new business issued on GlobalNewsWire, for example. Together, that’s worth over a grand, Intercap says.

Most of the other benefits on offer are discounts on services such as telephony, shared office space, printing, accounting, payment processing and advertising services. Some require additional spending before they can be cashed in.

Partners include Google, Ting, Delta Airlines, Vistaprint and Quickbooks. Some of the offers look like typical affiliate marketing deals.

I imagine different registrants will find different benefits appealing. Some may use none at all. Intercap says more sweeteners will be added in future.

The registry says that its high pricing is there to deter cybersquatters. I imagine this will be successful to a large extent, but that it will probably attract a healthy defensive registration business also.