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If 41% of .co is parked, how many domains will expire today?

Today is the one-year anniversary of the .co top-level domain entering general availability.

As you may recall, .co got off to a flying start, selling about 100,000 names in its first half hour and over 200,000 registrations during its first day.

The question is: how many of those domains will start expiring today and drop over the next few months?

A recent HosterStats survey, from June 1, apparently found that approximately 41% of the 593,622 .co domains it was able to detect were presumed parked.

The survey was not exhaustive, as .CO Internet reports over one million registered .co domains today, and HosterStats acknowledged that its breakdown may differ from the actual numbers.

Still, the data suggests that .co is likely just as heavily speculated as other TLDs, and that some short-term speculators will let their domains expire over the coming days and weeks.

HosterStats’ John McCormac wrote in a comment on an earlier DI post:

What typically happens just after a Landrush anniversary is that the percentage of PPC in a new TLD falls as many speculative domains that could not be flipped or monetised are dropped. The developed websites percentage increases but getting development started in a new TLD is a slow process and takes a few years.

Of course, .CO Internet is all about encouraging development. It has pumped millions into marketing the TLD as somewhere for entrepreneurs to get a good name for their sites.

But with a substantial base of speculative registrations, it seems inevitable that .CO is going to take a hit today, as the first-wave land-grab begins to die out.

I’m not sure whether this will massively impact the number of domains .CO Internet reports, however.

My estimate is that .co currently stands at over 1.1 million domains. It grew from around 600,000 in late December to one million in May, according to registry publicity.

Even if it starts to lose tens of thousands of speculative domains this week, I don’t think .CO will have to stop saying it has more than a million registrations any time soon.

The company does not publish its exact numbers. Chief executive Juan Calle has stated that he thinks registration volume is a poor metric for judging the “success” of a TLD.

UPDATE: The original version of this article stupidly used the word “drop” quite a lot, when “expire” was the more correct word.

CNN asks: Will .xxx domains cost $185,000?

If you’ve ever doubted what a rarefied world we work in, check out this new CNN interview with ICM Registry, which confusingly conflates .xxx with ICANN’s new top-level domains program.

Anchor Pauline Chiou uses the approval of new gTLD program as a segue into a brief interview with ICM president Stuart Lawley about the forthcoming .xxx sunrise period.

“If they want to apply for this one-time block do they have to pay this $185,000?” she asks

She goes on to press Lawley into launching a defense of ICANN’s program that I doubt he was expecting.

You’ll notice that Chiou also refers to ICANN as the “Internet Corporation for Assigned Names” and flatteringly describes it as “the group that oversees the development of the internet”.

For a casual viewer, it would be fairly easy to come away from this interview assuming Lawley works for ICANN, and that .xxx domains could cost $185,000.

Yawn… Google buys shortcut g.co for millions

Do I have to write another 19 of these stories?

.CO Internet has announced the sale of the domain name g.co to Google. It will be used – shock! – as a URL shortener for Google’s services.

While the selling price has not been disclosed, I believe the starting bid for single-character .co domains is around $1.5 million. I expect Google will have paid more.

Google said on its official blog that only Google will be able to create g.co short links and they’ll only redirect to Google sites, unlike goo.gl, which is its customer-facing shortening service.

This is excellent news for .CO, of course. It gets yet another super-high-profile anchor tenant that will spread .co links (and, hopefully for the company, awareness) around the web like a virus.

Amazon acquired a.co, z.co and k.co, Overstock is of course now known as O.co, Go Daddy got x.co and Twitter is using t.co as its official URL shortener.

By my reckoning, that leaves another 19 one-letter .co names to sell. The registry’s windfall could quite easily amount to a year’s revenue for just 26 registrations.

That’s not including the numbers, of course.

Speaking of numbers, .CO also announced today that Silicon Valley incubator 500 Startups is to use 500.co, instead of 500startups.com, as its official domain.

Entrepreneurs, not URL shorteners, are .CO’s target market, vital for its longevity, so it was a very smart PR move to combine these two customer wins into one announcement.

Legal fight breaks out over .pr domains

The University of Puerto Rico has accused the manager of the .pr top-level domain of hoodwinking ICANN in order to “illegally” take over the registry.

It recently filed a lawsuit seeking to regain control of .pr, saying that the current registry operator has made an estimated $2 million from domain registrations since it somehow took over the ccTLD.

The lawsuit and other documents tell a remarkable story, one in which a University department quietly spun itself out as a private for-profit company and took .pr with it.

If the claims are true, ICANN may have made a huge screw-up by inadvertantly allowing the ccTLD to be transferred from the University into private hands.

According to an archived copy of the IANA delegation record for .pr, the ccTLD was from 1988 until about 2007 delegated to:

University of Puerto Rico
Gauss Laboratory
Facundo Bueso Building
Office 265
Rio Piedras 00931
Puerto Rico

That’s the Sponsoring Organization. The administrative and technical contacts also stated that UPR was in charge of the domain. The contact email address was @uprr.pr, the University’s domain.

Today, the IANA record is quite different:

Gauss Research Laboratory Inc.
Calle Vesta 801
San Juan 00923
Puerto Rico

The University is no longer listed. The contact email addresses are now @nic.pr. These new details have been in effect apparently since some time in 2007.

To my eye, this looks like the stewardship of .pr was transferred from one organization, the University of Puerto Rico, to another, Gauss Research Laboratory Inc.

But IANA never produced a redelegation report – as it must when a registry changes hands – and the ICANN board never voted to redelegate.

According to a July 2007 letter (pdf) circulating this week from David Conrad, who was then IANA general manager at ICANN, the changes merely reflected a “structural reorganization” of the registry:

Since the underlying organization performing registry services for .PR did not change (it was Gauss Laboratory before and after the change), this is not considered a full redelegation, and therefore does not result in a public report with board approval.

But the University claims that long-time manager Oscar Moreno set up Gauss as a non-profit organization to handle .pr when he retired from UPR, then in 2007 changed it to the for-profit corporation that is now the designated registry manager.

A 2009 letter from UPR to ICANN general counsel John Jeffrey (pdf), which emerged on mailing lists last week, said Moreno was trying to sell his company, and the ccTLD, to a third party.

IANA, according to the letter, was fooled into thinking the University backed the transfer of control due to a letter from a faculty member who did not have the authority to authorize the changes.

The University sued Moreno in late May (pdf), seeking an injunction ordering him to transfer .pr back to UPR and to return the $2 million it believes .pr domain sales have raised since 2007.

IANA redelegations are rarely straightforward.

A recent report from the Country Code Names Supporting Organization found that ccTLD redelegations have been basically a bloody mess – unpredictable, opaque and poorly documented.

ICANN does not discuss IANA requests, but I’m currently aware of a handful of ongoing redelegation battles, such as those over Niue’s .nu and Rwanda’s .rw.

It is suspected that Irish operator IEDR is currently trying to have .ie taken away from its nominal sponsor, University College Ireland, which has put the fear into at least one registrar.

Former ICANN chair joins M+M

Peter Dengate Thrush, the former ICANN chairman who pushed through approval of the new top-level domains program less than a month ago, is to join new gTLD firm Minds + Machines.

He has become executive chairman of Top Level Domain Holdings, M+M’s parent company, which is listed on the Alternative Investment Market.

The hire will undoubtedly boost M+M’s credibility and raise its profile, but is already also raising eyebrows.

TLDH plans to apply to ICANN for potentially dozens of new gTLD contracts next year, both with partners and customers and on its own.

Dengate Thrush has been granted options to buy 15 million TLDH shares for 8p each, roughly the same as its current price, which he can exercise at a rate of 1.25 million per quarter through July 2014.

TLDH currently has no revenue to speak of. Its future share price will depend on its ability to sign registry services customers and win new gTLDs through the ICANN process.

It’s fairly easy to extrapolate scenarios where Dengate Thrush’s compensation package is worth millions.

His chairmanship of ICANN’s board of directors came to an end June 24, just a few days after it voted to approve the new gTLD program.

During that vote, dissenting director Mike Silber accused the board of voting too soon, saying it was being hurried by “ego-driven deadlines”.

This was a reference to Dengate Thrush and fellow new gTLD cheerleader Rita Rodin Johnston, both of whom were due to see their terms on the board expire that week.

Dengate Thrush is the first ICANN chair to take a high-paying domain name industry job following his time with ICANN.

His predecessor, Vint Cerf, joined Google. Earlier, Esther Dyson went on to invest in and work with a number of technology start-ups.

ICANN does not have a policy preventing former employees or directors taking lucrative jobs working for the companies that they were previously essentially regulating.

Indeed, some of its directors currently work for such companies.

Few in the ICANN community doubted that Dengate Thrush, an IP lawyer by trade, would join a new gTLD company. The question was which one.

I asked him, along with CEO Rod Beckstrom and senior VP Kurt Pritz, at a press conference in Singapore, whether they would be prevented from joining a new gTLD firm.

The answer, basically, was: “No.”

ICANN staff and board sign confidentiality agreements that prevent them taking secrets into future employers, but there’s nothing to prevent a “revolving door” between industry and regulator.

There have already been calls from parts of the ICANN community to create a new ethics policy, after senior registry liaison Craig Schwartz left to join the VeriSign-backed .bank project.

GNSO Council chair Stephane Van Gelder of the French registrar Indom suggested in a blog post this morning that ICANN should consider hiring independent directors and barring them from working in the industry for a year after their terms end.

It would be pretty difficult to enforce such a rule on the board as it is currently made up, given that it draws some of its members, by design, from the domain name industry.

ICANN’s new vice chair Bruce Tonkin works for Melbourne IT, a registrar, for example. He recused himself from the new gTLD vote because of this conflict of interest.

It would be silly for ICANN to ban him from working for Melbourne IT after his term expires if he’s allowed to work there during the term itself.

While no rules appear to have been broken, M+M’s new hire may sit uncomfortably with some.

It will certainly reinforce beliefs, where they are held, that the new gTLD program is largely a money-grabbing exercise by the domain industry.

ICM reveals .xxx launch dates, extends sunrise

Citing demand, ICM Registry has lengthened the .xxx sunrise period, which begins September 8, by three weeks. It will now end October 28, running for 50 days.

The new deadlines apply to all three sunrises, which will run concurrently.

Sunrise A-T – for porn publishers with trademarks.

Sunrise A-D – for porn publishers with matching domains in other TLDs.

Sunrise B – for anyone outside the porn business who wants to “turn off” their trademark in .xxx to prevent cybersquatting.

Successful Sunrise B applicants will see their chosen domains resolve to a standard information page explaining that the domain is not available for registration.

Post-launch, anyone can register a non-resolving domain that returns an NXDOMAIN response, but they’ll have to pay for it annually. Sunrise B applicants pay a one-time fee.

If applicants from Sunrise A and Sunrise B both apply for the same domains, the porn applicant will be given precedence, although they will be warned about possible trademark infringement.

If more than one Sunrise A applicant applies for the same domain, the fight will be taken to an auction, managed by Pool.com. Auction rules will be published at a later date.

The sunsrise is outlined in a policy document (pdf) ICM published on its web site today that sets out the rules for its pre-launch period.

The company has not yet announced details of its Charter Eligibility Dispute Resolution Procedure, nor its Rapid Evaluation Service, though it has said it expects them to cost between $750 and $1,500, depending on what deals it can come to with dispute resolution providers.

The Rapid Evaluation Service, previously referred to as “rapid takedown” will be an interesting one.

It’s expected to be a little like the Uniform Rapid Suspension process ICANN’s new gTLDs will have to implement, except it will only take about 48 hours to take down an obviously cybersquatted domain.

ICM says it expects to publish these policies before the sunrise begins.

Landrush is now expected to run November 8 until November 25. General availability will begin December 6.

VeriSign to raise .com and .net prices again

VeriSign has announced price increases for .com and .net domain name registrations.

From January 15, 2012, .com registry prices will increase from $7.34 to $7.85 and .net fees will go up from $4.65 to $5.11.

That’s a 10% increase for .net and a 7% increase for .com, the maximum allowable under its registry agreements with ICANN.

As ever, registrants have six months to lock down their domains at current pricing by renewing for periods of up to 10 years.

The last time VeriSign raised prices, also by 7% and 10%, the higher prices became effective a year ago, July 2010.

VeriSign’s contract for .net was renewed last month after it was approved by the ICANN board of directors.

Its .com contract comes up for renewal next year.

Last chance to tell ICANN how to plug new gTLDs

“How Do We Raise Global Awareness of New gTLDs?”

ICANN asked that question a month ago and tomorrow is your last chance to respond to the public comment period it set up to gather suggestions.

So far, the number of responses is in the single figures.

I quite like Danny Younger’s suggestion: “It might be wise for a communications plan to include a warning to the general public about misleading ‘pre-registration’ schemes.”

A press release containing such a warning would almost certainly gather headlines – hacks love a bit of conflict – but it could also risk making the new gTLD process look a bit slapdash.

Easily the most laughable suggestion filed with ICANN so far comes from 4U Systems:

I would like to offer the use of .4U.com in your campaign. For example, New-gTLDs.4U.com, Domains.4U.com,Internet-Innovations.4U.com, new-domains.4U.com, Internet-expansions.4U.com, ICANN-applications.4U.com, TLD-launch.4U.com, ICANN-facts.4U.com, podcasts.4U.com, social-media.4U.com…the possibilities are limitless… the avenues to the information, countless. Therefore, we would like to talk further about how we may assist in the gTLD campaign with 4U.

Has any reader ever encountered a more fundamentally badly judged or desperation-smacking piece of business development outreach?

Ambitious .app project seeks funding

A community initiative to apply to ICANN for the .app top-level domain is looking for expert assistance and, more importantly, financial backers.

The .app Project sprung up in late June, after ICANN approved the new gTLD program. It hopes to raise a total of $535,000 to support the application, via memberships and sponsorship.

It appears to have been launched and is being coordinated by Matthew Baxter-Reynolds, director of a British mobile software consultancy called AMX Software.

The project’s site, at dotappapp.com, says:

Our aim is to keep the .app gTLD open and accessible such that it becomes an entity that properly support the app software development community, particularly in areas of intellectual property protection.

To raise money for the $185,000 ICANN fee, it’s selling memberships for between $25 and $100, which include a number of “free” .app domains if the application is approved.

It hopes to later raise an additional $350,000 for the technical infrastructure through sponsorship and investment.

I say the project is “ambitious” because I fully expect .app to be a contested TLD with multiple serious bidders that may well wind up duking it out at auction.

The iPhone platform alone already has over 400,000 third-party apps in the Apple App Store, so .app is a string that could potentially be a modest commercial success.

Anti-.jobs coalition keeps up pressure on ICANN

The .JOBS Charter Compliance Coalition, which wants ICANN to rein in .jobs registry Employ Media, has sent a couple of stern letters to ICANN recently.

Neither are especially exciting, but as ICANN has yet to publish them on its correspondence page I thought I’d make them available here.

The first (pdf), sent July 5, demands to know why ICANN has not yet provided an update to its forthcoming arbitration with Employ Media, which was due a few weeks ago.

ICANN and the registry are set to face off at the International Chamber of Commerce over the disputed Universe.jobs service, which ICANN believes was launched in breach of the .jobs Charter.

My understanding is that the arbitration is going ahead, but that ICANN has been granted an extension to the deadline to file its reply.

The second letter (pdf) notes that .jobs’ IANA listing was recently updated with language more friendly to Employ Media’s position that not only human resources managers qualify for .jobs domains.

It asks why this change was made, invoking the Documentary Information Disclosure Policy.

The Coalition is made up of independent jobs site operators unhappy that Employ Media appears to be using its position as the .jobs registry to compete with them.