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Brexit blamed as .eu hits six-year low

Kevin Murphy, February 4, 2019, Domain Registries

EURid’s .eu top-level domain has hit a six-year low in terms of total registrations, and Brexit is to blame.

The registry has just announced that it had 3,684,750 domains under management at the end of 2018, down 63,129 domains compared to the 3,747,879 it had at the end of September.

That’s the lowest end-of-quarter number since September 2012, when it had 3,665,525 domains.

EURid said in a statement that the decline can be attributed to its “ramped up efforts towards tackling domain name abuse” and “uncertainty surrounding Brexit”.

The registry recently announced that UK-based .eu registrants can expect to lose their names by May, should the country crash out of the EU with no transition deal on March 29.

EU citizens living in the UK could also risk having their names temporarily suspended.

The number of .eu domains registered to the UK addresses dropped from 273,060 at the end of Q3 to 240,887 at the end of Q4, a 32,173 decline.

EURid said it also suspended 36,520 domains for abuse during the period.

Factoring out both of these drops, registrations would have otherwise been up by about 5,000.

CentralNic expects flat profit as revenue almost doubles

Kevin Murphy, February 4, 2019, Domain Registries

London-listed domain firm CentralNic today gave investors a sneak preview of its 2018 financial performance.

The company expects its profits at the adjusted EBITDA level to be up only slightly — from £6.6 million ($8.62 million) to £6.7 million ($8.75) — compared to 2017.

But revenue is expected to soar from £24.3 million ($31.7 million) to £42.5 million ($55.5 million), largely due to the impact of its merger with KeyDrive, which completed in August.

KeyDrive was the holding company for brands including the registrars Key-Systems, Moniker and BrandShelter, and the registry providers OpenRegistry and KSRegistry.

The Luxembourgish firm reversed into AIM-listed CentralNic in a deal, described as “transformative” for CentralNic, valued at up to $55 million.

Most of the company’s revenue now comes from the registrar part of the business, though the registry division is the more profitable.

CentralNic said today that “subscription products” are now roughly 90% of total revenue.

The company expects to save £1 million ($1.3 million) this year by migrating its old registrars over to the KeyDrive platform and migrating its new registries onto the CentralNic platform.

It has also appointed KeyDrive’s former CFO as CentralNic CFO, replacing Don Baladasan. Michael Riedl has also joined the board of directors, while Baladasan remains on the board as group managing director.

Full, audited financial results will be announced in May.

XYZ reveals .monster gTLD launch dates

Kevin Murphy, February 4, 2019, Domain Registries

XYZ.com has quietly unveiled its launch plan for its recently acquired gTLD, .monster.

General availability, with no eligibility requirements, is due to begin April 1.

The 30-day sunrise period is due to begin in just a couple of weeks — February 18.

.monster was acquired late last year from recruitment web site Monster.com, which had intended to operate it as a dot-brand, for an undisclosed sum.

Before the acquisition closed, Monster and ICANN amended the registry contract to cut the special dot-brand terms that would have removed the need for a sunrise period and would have prevented the domain being sold to regular registrants.

XYZ also intends to run a week-long Early Access Period — where premium prices apply — starting March 21.

I quite like the idea of .monster as an open gTLD.

While it’s certainly not going to perform as well volume-wise as .xyz, say, I can see it fitting nicely into the “quirky” niche occupied currently but the likes of Donuts’ .guru and .ninja — not really viable as standalone TLDs, but decent enough as part of a portfolio.

The company is pitching the TLD as “a domain for creative thinkers, masters of their craft, and modern-day renegades.”

Huge batch of Afilias TLDs approved in China

Kevin Murphy, January 31, 2019, Domain Registries

Seventeen Afilias-operated gTLDs have been approved for use in China.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced yesterday that the following Afilias-owned TLDs now have its official seal of approval: .archi, .bio, .black, .blue, .green, .lotto, .organic, .pet, .pink, .poker, .promo, .ski, .vote, .voto and .移动 (xn--6frz82g, means “mobile”),

Also approved are .asia and .网站 (.xn--5tzm5g means “website”), which to the best of my knowledge are not owned by Afilias but are quite closely managed by it.

All 17 were approved via the same Shanghai-based Afilias subsidiary, due to MIIT’s local presence requirements.

Chinese approval means Chinese registrants using Chinese registrars will be permitted to have their names resolve in China, subject to the country’s rather stringent censorship practices.

It’s the first batch of Afilias names to get the nod since April 2017, when .info, .pro and .mobi were approved.

.SE sells off $3.2 million registrar biz

Kevin Murphy, January 31, 2019, Domain Registries

Swedish ccTLD registry IIS has sold off its registrar business, .SE Direkt, to a local registrar for an undisclosed sum.

The buyer is Loopia, a web hosting company focused on the Swedish market. It will take over in a couple of weeks.

IIS said that starting February 12, lasting a few days, its customers’ domains will be transferred to Loopia. No disruption is expected.

.SE Direkt had 121,836 .se domains under management and 87,852 customers at the last count. Its 2018 revenue was expected to be around $3.2 million.

Loopia has around 225,000 customers. It does not appear to be ICANN-accredited, but you don’t need to be to sell ccTLD names.

It might actually be good news for departing .SE Direkt customers. Loopia sells .se domains for SEK 149 ($16.50), whereas .SE Direkt’s list price is SEK 270 ($29).

IIS said the sale was finalized following a review of competing bids following its October announcement that the unit was up for sale.

The .SE Direkt business has been on the decline for the best part of a decade, apparently deliberately. It was created as part of .se’s transition to a two-tier registry-registrar model in 2009.

IIS had expected to divest the business earlier, but customers did not jump ship as fast as expected.

ICANN approves two new TLDs, including THAT one

Kevin Murphy, January 30, 2019, Domain Registries

ICANN’s board of directors has given the nod to two more country-code TLDs.

The eight-year-old nation of South Sudan is finally getting its possibly controversial .ss, while Mauritania is getting the Arabic-script version of its name, موريتانيا. (.xn--mgbah1a3hjkrd), to complement its existing .mr ccTLD.

Both TLDs were approved by ICANN after going through the usual, secretive IANA process, at its board meeting at the weekend.

The recipient of موريتانيا. is the Université de Nouakchott Al Aasriya, while .ss is going to National Communication Authority, a governmental agency.

As previously noted, .ss has the potential to be controversial due to its Nazi associations, and the fact that Nazis are precisely the kind of people who have trouble finding TLDs that will allow them to register names.

But none of that is ICANN’s business. It simply checks to make sure the requester has the support of the local internet community and that the string is on the ISO 3166 list.

The Mauritanian IDN has already been added to the DNS root, while .ss has not.

MMX sees better profits than expected

Kevin Murphy, January 29, 2019, Domain Registries

Portfolio registry MMX saw 2018 financial results slightly ahead of expectations, the company told investors yesterday.

It now expects revenue to be over $15.5 million for the year, compared to $14.3 million in 2017. Operating EBITDA, its preferred profitability indicator, will be “marginally ahead of market expectations”.

It expects revenue from renewals — which MMX has been trumpeting as a key indicator of stability — to be $9.4 million, compared to $4.8 million in the prior year.

That’s mainly due to the $3.4 million contribution of recently acquired porn TLD specialist ICM Registry. Without ICM, renewal revenue was still up 20% though.

The company’s exposure to the Chinese market has also been reduced. It now contributes 36% of sales, compared to 50% in 2017.

Volatile one-off premium domain sales are also on the decrease in terms of revenue share — 15% in 2018 compared to 38% in 2017.

Its full audited results will be published later in the quarter.

Pay up or sell up, ICANN tells failing new gTLD

Kevin Murphy, January 25, 2019, Domain Registries

ICANN has responded to a request for it to reduce the $25,000 annual fee it charges gTLD registries.

The answer is no.

That wholly unsurprising reply came in a letter from registry services director Russ Weinstein to John McCabe, CEO of failing new gTLD operator Who’s Who Registry.

McCabe, in November, had asked ICANN to reduce its fees for TLDs, such as its own .whoswho, that have zero levels of abuse. ICANN fees are the “single biggest item” in the company’s budget, he said.

His request coincided with ICANN commencing compliance proceedings against the company for failure to pay these fees

Weinstein wrote, in a letter (pdf) published today:

We sympathize with the financial challenges that some new gTLD registry operators may be facing in the early periods of these new businesses. New gTLD operators face a challenging task of building consumer awareness and this can and may take significant time and effort.

But he goes on to point out that the $25,000-a-year fee was known to all applicants before they applied, and had been subject to numerous rounds of public comment before the Applicant Guidebook was finalized.

Weinstein writes:

The AGB made clear that evaluation phase was to determine whether an applicant had the requisite technical, operation and financial capabilities to operate a registry, and was not a assessment nor an endorsement of a particular business plan.

It’s pretty clear that the .whoswho business plan has failed. It’s sold no more than a handful of non-defensive domains over the four years it has been available.

Weinstein concludes his letter by pointing out that all new gTLD registries are free to terminate their contracts for any reason, and that it’s perfectly permissible under ICANN rules to sell your contract to another registry.

ICANN told Who’s Who earlier this month that it has until February 10 to pay its overdue fees or risk having its contract terminated.

Brexit boost for Irish domains

Kevin Murphy, January 25, 2019, Domain Registries

Irish ccTLD .ie saw record growth in 2018 after the registry relaxed its registration rules.

According to IEDR, there were 262,140 .ie domains at the end of the year, an increase of 10.4%.

There were 51,040 new registrations, a 29% increase, the registry said.

Almost 10,000 names are registered to Brits (excluding Northern Ireland), which IEDR chalks down to Brexit, saying:

Interestingly, new .ie registrations from Great Britain increased by 28% in 2018 compared to the previous year, a fact that may correlate with enduring Brexit uncertainty and suggests some migration of British businesses to Ireland.

The Irish Passport Service has reportedly seen a similar increase in business since the Brexit vote.

Irish registrar Blacknight also believes its own pricing promotions and marketing efforts are partly responsible for the increase in .ie reg numbers.

The .ie eligibility rules were changed in March last year to make it simpler to provide evidence of a connection to Ireland.

Nazis rejoice! A TLD for you could be coming soon

Kevin Murphy, January 21, 2019, Domain Registries

The domain name system could soon get its first new standard country-code domain for eight years.

This weekend, ICANN’s board of directors is set to vote on whether to allow the delegation of a ccTLD for the relatively new nation of South Sudan.

The string would be .ss.

It would be the first Latin-script ccTLD added to the root since 2010, when .cw and .sx were delegated for Curaçao and Sint Maarten, two of the countries formed by the breakup of the Netherlands Antilles.

Dozens of internationalized domain name ccTLDs — those in non-Latin scripts — have been delegated in the meantime.

But South Sudan is the world’s newest country. It formed in 2011 following an independence referendum that saw it break away from Sudan.

It was recognized by the UN as a sovereign nation in July that year and was given the SS delegation by the International Standards Organization on the ISO 3166-2 list a month later.

The country has been wracked by civil war for almost all of its existence, which may well be a reason why it’s taken so long for a delegation request to come up for an ICANN vote. The warring sides agreed to a peace treaty last year.

South Sudan is among the world’s poorest and least-developed nations, with shocking levels of infant and maternal mortality. Having an unfortunate ccTLD is the very least of its problems.

The choice of .ss was made in 2011 by the new South Sudan government in the full knowledge that it has an uncomfortable alternate meaning in the global north, where the string denotes the Schutzstaffel, the properly evil, black-uniformed bastards in every World War II movie you’ve ever seen.

The Anti-Defamation League classifies “SS” as a “hate symbol” that has been “adopted by white supremacists and neo-Nazis worldwide”.

When South Sudan went to ISO for the SS delegation, then-secretary of telecommunications Stephen Lugga told Reuters

We want our domain name to be ‘SS’ for ‘South Sudan’, but people are telling us ‘SS’ has an association in Europe with Nazis… Some might prefer us to have a different one. We have applied for it anyway, SS, and we are waiting for a reply.

To be fair, it would have been pretty dumb to have applied for a different string, when SS, clearly the obvious choice, was available.

There’s nothing ICANN can do about the string. It takes its lead from the ISO 3166 list. Nor does it have the authority to impose any content-regulation rules on the new registry.

Unless the new South Sudan registry takes a hard line voluntarily, I think it’s a near-certainty that .ss will be used by neo-Nazis who have been turfed out of their regular domains.

The vote of ICANN’s board is scheduled to be part of its main agenda, rather than its consent agenda, so it’s not yet 100% certain that the delegation will be approved.