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Spanish cops raid .cat registry offices in referendum censorship row

Kevin Murphy, September 20, 2017, Domain Registries

Spanish police this morning raided the offices of .cat gTLD registry Fundació puntCAT, just days after demanding the company shut down any domains referring to a forthcoming referendum.

There are reports, unconfirmed by puntCAT at this time, that head of IT Pep Masoliver has been arrested in connection with the incident.

On Twitter, puntCAT said shortly after 10am local time (translation by Google Translate): “At this time @guardiacivil is performing an intervention in our offices.”

Guardia Civil is one of Spain’s various police forces.

The raid comes as the national government cracks down on a local referendum on independence for the Catalonia region.

Catalonia was to go to the polls October 1 to decide whether it should split from Spain, but the vote was recently declared illegal by Spain’s highest constitutional court.

Local government officials have reportedly been arrested this morning as part of the crackdown.

It has been reported by Spanish media that puntCAT’s head of IT Pep Masoliver was been arrested at his home.

puntCAT declined to confirm the arrest immediately, telling DI: “Our IT manager has been required for the intervention at our office.”

At the weekend, the registry wrote to ICANN to warn it that Spanish authorities had instructed it on Friday to “block all .cat domains that may contain any kind of information about the forthcoming independence referendum”.

“We are being requested to censor content and suppress freedom of speech,” the letter, which condemned the “unprecedented and absolute scope” of the order, said.

The letter was posted to Twitter in its entirety.

.cat, which is designed for people from the Catalonia region or who speak Catalan, went live in 2006 following ICANN’s 2003 round of “sponsored” gTLD applications.

It had 112,000 domains under management at the last count and a smooth growth curve that would make most new gTLD operators salivate.

As the raid happened just a couple of hours ago and appears to be ongoing, this is breaking news. I’ll provide updates throughout the day as more information emerges.

UPDATE 0950 UTC: The raid appears to have been temporarily frozen while the parties await the arrival of the court order authorizing the raid and the company’s CTO.

UPDATE 1022 UTC: Story updated to reflect reports of a puntCAT employee arrest.

UPDATE 1056 UTC: Updated with statement from puntCAT.

UPDATE 1653 UTC: Masoliver has been charged with “sedition”.

Okay, pedants, only 36% of new gTLDs are shrinking

Kevin Murphy, September 19, 2017, Domain Registries

Thirty-six percent of non-brand new gTLDs are shrinking, DI analysis shows.

According to numbers culled from zone files, 156 of the 435 commercial gTLDs we looked at had fewer domains yesterday than they did a year earlier.

On the bright side, that means the majority of them are still growing, but…

You: Wait, Kev, didn’t you write this exact same story yesterday, but said that 40% of new gTLDs were shrinking? Why are you now saying it’s 36%?

Me: People in the comments and on social media complained that I’d used domains under management (DUM) from May’s registry transaction reports — the most recent available — to collate the data yesterday, rather than more recent but less accurate zone files.

You: Why did they complain?

Me: I think because the May numbers show .xyz gaining on an annual basis, and yet everyone and his grandmother knows that .xyz’s numbers dropped off a cliff in July.

Your Grandmother: It’s true, they did. They lost millions…

You: Shut up, Gran. So, Kev, presumably if you do the same survey again, using the same TLDs, but use zone file data from this week instead, you’ll discover that the number of shrinking TLDs is far greater than 40%?

Me: Why would you presume that?

You: Because I also hate new gTLDs in general, not just .xyz specifically.

Me: Actually, the number of shrinking new gTLDs turns out to be smaller.

You: How come?

Me: Because only 36% of the gTLDs I surveyed had fewer numbers in their September 18, 2017 zone file than they did in their September 18, 2016 zone file.

You: So you actually over-reported the shrinkage in your first post? How come? I thought you were a shameless stooge of the new gTLD industry.

Me: I get that a lot.

You: Is .xyz at least on the list of biggest losers now?

Me: It is. Right at the top.

You: Good. I really fucking hate .xyz. What else changed? Stands to reason that some losers first time around are now gainers.

Me: Correct. Famous Four Media’s .party, for example, was a top 10 loser in the report comparing May 2016 DUM to May 2017 DUM, losing over 100,000 names, but it’s a top 10 gainer in the September-September zone file report, adding 85,000.

You: Explain.

Me: Well, .party’s reg numbers fell off a cliff in July 2016, and were still pretty depressed a year ago, but have since regained ground, presumably due to them costing less than a pack of gum.

You: Got it. Any others?

Me: It’s a similar story for .webcam, .work, .bar, .audio, .rest and a few others. They all shrunk May-May but gained September-September.

You: So, in summary, the new gTLD industry isn’t as unhealthy as you made out on Monday?

Me: Maybe. To be honest I don’t think the disparity between 36% and 40% makes a whole lot of difference. It’s still quite a lot of TLDs growing in the wrong direction. At one time, that kind of thing was virtually unheard of.

You: True dat.

Me: Anyway, can I get back to my blog post now?

You: Sure. Just don’t expect me to read to the end.

L’Oreal is using “closed generic” .makeup in an interesting way

Kevin Murphy, September 18, 2017, Domain Registries

What do you call a registry that defensively registers names on behalf of the very people that would be its most likely customers if the TLD weren’t so hideously overpriced?

L’Oreal, apparently.

About half of its .makeup new gTLD comprises the names or nicknames of social media “influencers” in the make-up scene, and they all seem to belong to the registry.

Ironically, these are precisely the kind of people you’d expect to actually go out and register .makeup domains, if they didn’t cost close to $7,000 a pop.

L’Oreal put a $5,500 wholesale price-tag on .makeup domains, evidently as a Plan B to avoid actually having to sell names to people, after its original plan to keep the string as a “closed generic” failed due to ICANN politicking.

As you might expect, uptake has been minimal. The zone file currently has about 266 domains in it.

Beyond L’Oreal itself, there are defensive registrations by companies not remotely related to the make-up industry, such as BMW and Intuit, and registrations by competing companies in the cosmetics industry, such as Christian Dior and Estee Lauder.

But there are also something like 150 .makeup domains that were all registered at the same time, this April, representing the names and social media handles of young women who post YouTube videos about makeup for their often thousands of subscribers.

It turns out these women are all participants (willing, it seems) in WeLove.Makeup, a web site created by L’Oreal to promote its products.

The site is basically a social media aggregator. Each “influencer” has their own page, populated by their posts from YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and such. It’s maintained by Findie, which specializes in that kind of thing.

The domains matching the participants names do not resolve to the site, however. They’re all registered to L’Oreal’s registry management partner Fairwinds and resolve to ad-free registrar parking pages.

The names were registered via 101Domain, which prices .makeup names at $6,999, but I’ve no idea what payment arrangement Fairwinds/L’Oreal has for this kind of thing.

This is what a wannabe closed generic can look like, it seems — the registry pricing its customers out of the market then registering their names on their behalf anyway.

Is this “innovation”?

Four in 10 new gTLDs are shrinking

Kevin Murphy, September 18, 2017, Domain Registries

Forty percent of non-brand new gTLDs are shrinking, DI analysis shows.

According to numbers culled from registry reports, 172 of the 435 commercial gTLDs we looked at had fewer domains under management at the start of June than they did a year earlier.

On the bright side, that means the majority of them are still growing, but it’s still a pretty poor showing.

As you might expect, registries with the greatest exposure to the budget and/or Chinese markets were hardest hit over the period.

.wang, .red, .ren, .science and .party all saw DUM decline by six figures. Another 27 gTLDs saw declines of over 10,000 names.

Of the portfolio registries, Famous Four Media, Uniregistry and Afilias saw the steepest falls, each churning through hundreds of thousands of domains.

FFM strings including .science, .party and .date, which are regularly offered for under $0.50 and have terrible renewal rates, were among the biggest losers.

For Afilias, its .red, .blue and .pink combined saw volumes plummet by over 300,000. Its Korean-surname-themed .kim lost 90,000 names over the year.

Much of Uniregistry’s decline, I believe, is due to the expiration of thousands of domains that were essentially registry-owned.

Here’s a list of the top 40 biggest losers.

TLDMay 2016 DUMMay 2017 DUMChange
wang1,063,080647,837-415,243
red309,31951,473-257,846
ren305,80181,840-223,961
science332,455183,626-148,829
party243,918140,063-103,855
click242,125149,179-92,946
kim128,05237,182-90,870
date190,506103,435-87,071
xn--ses554g192,076142,906-49,170
pink40,4677,838-32,629
property42,31413,187-29,127
blue41,54413,386-28,158
webcam86,92958,928-28,001
work100,76376,099-24,664
flowers26,0352,429-23,606
link396,611375,021-21,590
ninja54,65835,671-18,987
pics32,87014,907-17,963
xn--rhqv96g22,0245,271-16,753
cricket42,73626,192-16,544
black22,1515,888-16,263
audio24,5929,396-15,196
diet19,3214,164-15,157
lol95,11580,157-14,958
xn--3ds443g65,21750,628-14,589
bar20,1836,611-13,572
ooo18,9317,047-11,884
christmas15,5673,696-11,871
help53,17642,485-10,691
rest12,9222,768-10,154
blackfriday12,3932,288-10,105
hosting16,2306,461-9,769
news76,11966,754-9,365
love27,38418,125-9,259
fans17,9658,810-9,155
ink26,07017,896-8,174
xn--fiq228c5hs47,39340,289-7,104
faith60,04554,142-5,903
hiphop7,6221,934-5,688

At the opposite end of the table, the biggest gainers over the 12-month period were .xyz, .loan, .top, .online, .men, .tech, .kiwi, .club, .site and .bid.

Those 10 TLDs all saw volumes increase by over 100,000 names.

But that’s not necessarily hugely encouraging news, for various reasons.

We already know that .xyz is set to lose millions of names over its next couple of monthly registry reports.

One could guess that the peaks in Famous Four strings .bid, .loan and .men are likely to be matched by troughs before long.

.kiwi appears to be on the list due to its waiving the fees on about 200,000 domains, under a deal with a registrar last year.

.club recently said that it only expects to get 10% to 15% renewals on about 700,000 of its million total names.

Finally, .top is widely thought of as the TLD of choice for throwaway spam domains and has already lost a couple million names since June.

Here’s the top 30 gainers from my list:

TLDMay 2016 DUMMay 2017 DUMChange
xyz2,896,9835,995,2923,098,309
loan240,6422,132,8951,892,253
top2,494,4073,876,1081,381,701
online305,700749,097443,397
men14,904299,996285,092
tech132,507339,503206,996
kiwi10,997202,234191,237
club790,903980,327189,424
site405,596535,321129,725
bid363,751470,107106,356
win935,6091,030,09994,490
website178,863268,70989,846
space178,852265,07486,222
trade82,215161,11078,895
racing61,553135,02073,467
life38,813105,90667,093
accountant48,135111,04862,913
live47,42599,98852,563
host26,91865,55438,636
world29,99961,07931,080
download72,39899,90127,503
xin326,320353,63927,319
design43,53368,60025,067
city22,79344,83722,044
today53,72275,15821,436
press35,07955,92820,849
studio11,44029,73518,295
solutions52,15669,62817,472
email58,23670,53612,300
sale11,17422,77711,603

For the survey, I selected only new gTLDs from the 2012 round that had general availability dates in 2015 or earlier. I excluded any gTLD with Specifications 9 or 13, which act as a dot-brand flag, in their ICANN contract.

The 436 resulting TLDs include both wide-open, commercially available namespaces such as .link and .xyz, and the more restricted zones such as .bank and .law.

Domain growth flat in Q2

Kevin Murphy, September 18, 2017, Domain Registries

Growth in the volume of registered domain names was exactly the same in the second quarter as it was in the first.

That’s according to the latest Domain Name Industry Brief, published by Verisign late last week.

Q2 closed with 331.9 million registered names, up 1.3 million or 0.4% sequentially. The Q1 DNIB published three months ago also showed net growth of 1.3 million names.

That’s an increase of 6.7 million names, 2.1%, over the second quarter 2016, which compares unfavorably to the first quarter’s annual growth of 11.8 million names.

A slight majority of the 1.3 million bump seems to have come from .com and .net, which together grew from 143.6 million to 144.3 million names, roughly a 700,000 name or 0.4% sequential increase.

ccTLDs fared a little better, going to to 144.2 million names from 143.1 million in Q1. That’s a 1.1 million increase.

New gTLDs took the edge off the overall industry growth, shrinking from 25.4 million names in Q1 to 24.3 million in Q2.

That’s largely due to the expiration of millions of speculative .xyz registrations that were given away for free or nearly free in 2016.

As anticipated, .xyz fell off the top 10 list of all TLDs to be replaced by 17-year-old .info, which added an impressive 300,000 names to wind up in the #9 spot ahead of flat Netherlands ccTLD .nl.