Will .sexy and .tattoo trip on the starting blocks today due to registrars’ fears about competition and Whois privacy?
Uniregistry went into general availability at 1600 UTC today with the two new gTLDs — its first to market — but it did so without the support of some of the biggest registrars.
Go Daddy — alone responsible for almost half of all new domain registrations — Network Solutions, Register.com and 1&1 are among those that are refusing to carry the new TLDs.
The reason, according to multiple sources, is that Uniregistry’s Registry-Registrar Agreement contains two major provisions that would dilute registrars’ “ownership” of their customer base.
First, Uniregistry wants to know the real identities of all of the registrants in its TLDs, even those who register names using Whois privacy services.
That’s not completely unprecedented; ICM Registry asks the same of .xxx registrars in order to authenticate registrants’ identities.
Second, Uniregistry wants to be able to email or otherwise contact those registrants to tell them about registry services it plans to launch in future. The Uniregistry RRA says:
Uniregistry may from time to time contact the Registered Name Holder directly with information about the Registered Name and related or future registry services.
We gather that registrars are worried that Uniregistry — which will shortly launch its own in-house registrar under ICANN’s new liberal rules on vertical integration — may try to poach their customers.
The difference between ICM and Uniregistry is that ICM does not own its own registrar.
The Uniregistry RRA seems to take account of this worry, however, saying:
Except for circumstances related to a termination under Section 6.7 below, Uniregistry shall never use Personal Data of a Registered Name Holder, acquired under this Agreement, (a) to contact the Registered Name Holder with a communication intended or designed to induce the Registered Name Holder to change Registrars or (b) for the purpose of offering or selling non-registry services to the Registered Name Holder.
Some registrars evidently do not trust this promise, or are concerned that Uniregistry may figure out a way around it, and have voted with their storefronts by refusing to carry these first two gTLDs.
Ownership of the customer relationship is a pretty big deal for registrars, especially when domain names are often a low-margin entry product used to up-sell more lucrative services.
What if a future Uniregistry “registry service” competes with something these registrars already offer? You can see why they’re worried.
A lot of registrars have asserted that with the new influx of TLDs, registrars have more negotiating power over registries than they ever did in a world of 18 gTLDs.
Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling is basically testing out this proposition on his own multi-million-dollar investment.
But will the absence of these registrars — Go Daddy in particular — hurt the launch numbers for .sexy and .tattoo?
I think there could be some impact, but it might be tempered by the fact that a large number of early registrations are likely to come from domainers, and domainers know that Go Daddy is not the only place to buy domains.
Schilling tweeted at about 1605 UTC today that .sexy was over 1,800 registrations.
Longer term, who knows? This is uncharted territory. Right now Uniregistry seems to be banking on the 40-odd registrars — some of them quite large — that have signed up, along with its own marketing efforts, to make up any shortfall an absence of Go Daddy may cause.
Tomorrow, I’d be surprised if NameCheap, which is the distant number two registrar in new gTLDs right now (judging by name server counts) is not the leader in .sexy and .tattoo names.
It seems the new gTLD .voting will not be restricted to Germans after all.
We reported earlier today that .voting registry Valuetainment had submitted a registration policy that required all registrants to have a presence in Germany.
The language used in the policy was identical, we later discovered, to that found in the equivalent policy for .ruhr, a German geographic gTLD operated by a different registry.
But Thomas Rickert of the German law firm Schollmeyer & Rickert, which has both .voting and .ruhr registries as clients, just called to let us know that the policy as submitted to ICANN was a mistake.
It seems there will be no local presence requirement for .voting after all.
Valuetainment will be submitting a revised policy to ICANN without the error. The German-language version of the policy does not contain the error, Rickert said.
Rickert said he’d like it to be known that the registry was blameless in this instance.
Two more new gTLDs — .wedding and .green — have been auctioned off, with proceeds amounting to millions of dollars.
Top Level Domain Holdings said in a press release that it won .wedding and lost .green, which cost it a net $2.23 million.
That’s the amount it paid for .wedding, minus its share of the .green winning bid and its ICANN refund for withdrawing its .green application.
I don’t think we can infer the exact sale price of .wedding from that, other than to say that it was definitely over $2.2 million.
TLDH did not say who won the .green auction. The only other remaining applicants, after Dot Green’s withdrawal last year, were Rightside and Afilias. Neither has withdrawn their applications yet.
In the .wedding auction, conducted by Applicant Auction, it beat rival portfolio applicants Donuts and What Box?
Reading through the policies of new gTLD registries has given me cause to double-take several times, but .voting has to be one of the oddest yet.
Ostensibly an English-language gTLD, managed by a registry based in Switzerland, .voting domains will be essentially restricted to residents of Germany, according to its policies.
[UPDATE: The policy was actually submitted by mistake. See this story for an update.]
The Domain Name Registration Policy (pdf) submitted to ICANN by the registry, Valuetainment, states:
Registrants are obliged to supply an individual resident in the Federal Republic of Germany as contact person for all registered domains. This contact is generally described as the administrative contact (Admin-C). The registrant ca name himself as Admin-C.
My German isn’t great, and I’m aware that German speakers are very relaxed about adopting English words into common usage, but I’m pretty sure the language has its own verb for voting.
What makes the Germans-only admin contact policy weirder is that Valuetainment is Swiss and its policies state that the registration agreement is subject to Swiss law.
The .voting policy only states that the Administrative contact in Whois has to be German, which means that the main Registrant contact could technically be based in any country.
But if that registrant can’t name a German as an Administrative contact, technically they’ll be in violation of the rules.
It’s possible that registrars will be able to supply a local proxy in Germany, if they have one or want to go to the expense of setting one up, but it seems like a hassle.
There are a few other oddities in .voting’s policies.
Notably, Valuetainment is not just selling you a domain name, it’s granting you a license to use its “.voting” European Community trademark. Its Eligibility Policy (pdf) states:
For the duration of the registration, the Registry grants the user of a . VOTING domain a right of use with regard to the European Community Trade Mark No. 1111568 (. VOTING]. The license fees are included in the registration fee.
Registrants will be banned from charging for their services — .voting web sites must all be provided free of charge unless they’re providing “statistical voting evaluations”.
They’ll also be banned from offering directories of .voting sites, because Valuetainment intends to offer such a service and doesn’t want any competition.
Also, presumably so the registry can comply with local laws, any attempt to deny the Holocaust will cause your domain to be yanked under the company’s Rapid Takedown Policy (pdf).
Uniregistry and Donuts have settled at least five new gTLD contention sets this week, raising the question of whether Uniregistry has reversed its objection to private auctions.
I think it has.
In five of the six head-to-head contention sets between the two companies, Donuts has won the rights to .furniture, .auction and .gratis, and Uniregistry has won .audio and .juegos.
The losing company has already withdrawn their applications in all five cases.
I gather that a deal was made, but Uniregistry won’t say whether it was via a private auction or not and I’ve not yet had a reply to a request for comment from Donuts.
But Uniregistry, which has previously spoken out against the private auction concept — saying it raises antitrust concerns — declined to confirm or deny whether these five contests were resolved by auction.
“We’re grateful to have found a way through the impasse and resolved the contention,” was all Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling would say.
Applicant Auction’s project director Sheel Mohnot confirmed that a new gTLD auction took place this week but said he could not disclose the participants or the strings.
To the best of my knowledge, that’s a new line — the auctioneer has always kept quiet about sales prices in the past, but has always revealed which companies were involved.
So has Uniregistry changed its mind about the legality of private new gTLD auctions? My guess is: “Yes.”
The only remaining string where the two companies are competing in a two-horse race is .shopping, according to the DI PRO database, but that’s subject to some weird string similarity nonsense and probably not suitable for a private auction yet.