Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

MMX vows to refocus under new boss after crappy 2020

Kevin Murphy, January 25, 2021, Domain Registries

MMX says it plans to refocus its business on higher-margin products after a 2020 marred by plummeting registrations, product delays and financial irregularities that led to senior management being oustered.

The new gTLD registry also revealed that it laid off 20% of its staff in a “right-sizing” exercise last year. Due to its modest size, this means about four or five people lost their jobs.

The company said today that acting CEO Tony Farrow has been confirmed for the job full-time, and that he will join the board of directors after regulatory checks.

Farrow took over last October, when CEO Toby Hall and CFO Michael Salazar were both ejected after admitting to over-stating MMX’s revenue and profit in 2019.

Now, Farrow says MMX will spend 2021 focusing on “quality” regs — those with a higher chance of renewing or with higher-margin reg fees — and on its AdultBlock services, which block trademarks and typos across its four porn-themed gTLDs.

Overall domains under management declined 19% in 2020, which appears to be almost entirely down to .vip, a cheap gTLD that initially performed strongly with Chinese speculators, losing about half a million names.

AdultBlock, which covers the old ICM Registry portfolio, launched at the end of 2019 with a high price tag and a couple bulk sales, but stalled during 2020. MMX blames this for a 3% decline in overall billings last year.

The company also hinted that it may try to offload some of its crappier gTLDs, saying:

The new executive team is also reviewing the contribution received from each of its TLDs and the growth prospects for each from new sales initiatives to ensure the carrying values associated with each TLD is appropriate going forward.

Farrow said in a news release:

Our FY 2021 plan will focus on AdultBlock sales, extensive release of inventory to the market, quality registrations with the view of future renewal revenue and standardized promotions for our channel partners. It is a straightforward business where focus must remain on the quality of our domain registrations and promotions with our channel partners. We lost some of the momentum after the initial launch of AdultBlock in FY 2019. However, FY 2021 was always the target year for the full rollout of this new product, and I am encouraged by the dialogue with our channel partners to really move AdultBlock in FY 2021.

AdultBlock, which sets trademark-match domains aside as non-resolving reserved names, launched with a price tag of between $349 and $799 per trademark per year.

MMX separately announced today that it is paying ICM Registry’s investors, primarily founder Stuart Lawley, over alleged (and denied) breaches of unspecified warranties made at the time of the acquisition in May 2018.

Farrow was COO of ICM from the 2011 launch of .xxx until the MMX acquisition.

Failed .org buyer Ethos Capital buys Donuts

Kevin Murphy, January 22, 2021, Domain Registries

Donuts is to be acquired by Ethos Capital, the private equity company that tried and failed to buy .org manager Public Interest Registry a year ago.

Donuts tells me that Ethos is to purchase the controlling interest in the company from Abry Partners, which acquired Donuts two years ago.

The value of the deal, which comes hot on the heels of Donuts’ acquisition of Afilias, was not disclosed.

It also confirmed that former ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé, who used to work for Abry, is co-CEO of Ethos along with founder Erik Brooks.

Donuts is of course headed by Akram Atallah, who used to be Chehadé’s number two at ICANN.

Given Ethos’ proposed acquisition of PIR was rejected by ICANN due to .org’s unique circumstances as a legacy non-profit concern, it strikes me as unlikely this deal will face the same degree of regulatory scrutiny, though Chehadé’s involvement may raise eyebrows.

The company holds the largest portfolio of gTLDs, with about 260 owned-and-operated strings and contracts to back-end a couple hundred more.

Free domains for .in registrants

Kevin Murphy, January 8, 2021, Domain Registries

Registrants of new .in domain names will be offered a free domain in a non-Latin script, the Indian government announced today.

The National Internet Exchange of India said it will offer one free internationalized domain name, along with a free email account in the same script, when they register a .in name before the end of the month.

India has over 100 spoken languages, and NIXI runs 15 IDNs ccTLDs that it says cover the 22 official Indian languages, such as Hindi, Bengali and Gujarati, by far the most IDNs of any nation.

The offer is also available to existing .in registrants who renew their names during January.

The deal is designed to “to stimulate the adoption of भारत (IDN) domain name and proliferation of local language content”, NIXI said.

In 2017, India issued five million Hindi email addresses to government workers.

Donuts punter welcomes our new alien overlords in December premium sale

Kevin Murphy, January 5, 2021, Domain Registries

When humanity finally confirms the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life, what’s the new gTLD domain name you’d want to have in your portfolio?

Why, first.contact, of course. The domain name was registered with premium pricing from Donuts in December, according to registry data published this week, and is currently listed for resale with a $1 million price tag.

If domaining is often likened to gambling, first.contact has to be one of the biggest lottery tickets of them all — you’re betting on the biggest news story in human history breaking during your lifetime.

The chances of a final solution to the Fermi paradox may be unknowable, but a million bucks might not be an unreasonable ask if the gamble pays off.

I like the name, anyway, even if it’s more likely to be a drain on the registrant’s resources for the rest of his life.

It’s one of three .contact domains Donuts counted among its top 20 premium-priced sales for December, the others being my.contact and business.contact.

The company took over .contact from Top Level Spectrum in 2019 and took it to general availability last month.

.contact does not rank in the top 10 of Donuts’ portfolio of gTLDs for the month.

While Donuts does not publish sale prices for its premiums, the top name for December appears to have been category-killer office.furniture.

Fuji Xerox kills off gTLD after rebrand

Kevin Murphy, January 4, 2021, Domain Registries

Fuji Xerox has become the latest multi-billion-dollar company to ditch its dot-brand gTLD.

The Japanese-American company, a joint venture of Xerox and Fuji, has told ICANN it wants to terminate its registry contract for .fujixerox, and ICANN has indicated its intention to let the string die.

The gTLD was not in use, beyond the mandatory nic.fujixerox placeholder site.

That said, the termination appears to be primarily due to a rebranding as the joint venture fizzles out.

Fuji Xerox is, according to Wikipedia, the world’s oldest Japanese-American joint-venture company, at 59 years old. It’s in the document processing space and had $11 billion in annual revenue.

But the companies said last year they would end the relationship, with Xerox no longer providing its tech, leading to rebranding the company Fujifilm Business Innovation. The dot-brand is clearly no longer needed.

Xerox also owns .xerox, and it’s not using that either. There is no .fuji or .fujifilm.

.fujixerox the first dot-brand to jump off the cliff this year, and the 86th in total.

EURid suspends 80,000 domains as Brexit transition ends

Kevin Murphy, January 4, 2021, Domain Registries

EURid suspended about 80,00 domain names on Friday, as the UK’s 11 months of Brexit transition came to an end.

All the names were registered to UK-based, non-EU citizens and organizations, which are no longer eligible under registry policy.

“On 1 January 2021 we suspended around 80 000 domain names and send out just over 48 000 notifications to the registrants,” a registry spokesperson told DI today.

From Friday, the domains have not been resolvable, meaning email, web sites and other services using those names are no longer functional.

Affected registrants have a few months to get their records in order, if they wish to to keep them, by transferring them to a EU-based registrant or informing their registrar they’re an EU citizen living in the UK.

They’ll have until a minute before midnight CET March 31 to make the change. A minute later, the domains will move from “suspended” status to “withdrawn” status, at which point they will become unrecoverable.

Withdrawn domains will become available for registration again in 2022.

.eu had 130,114 UK-registered names at the end of September, suggesting about 50,000 domains were relocated at the eleventh hour, despite the eligibility policy being publicized for at least a couple of years.

Losing 80,000 names from its register would mean about a 2.2% decline in overall .eu regs compared to the end of the third quarter.

The UK officially left the EU at the end of January, but operated provisionally under the same trade rules during the transition period.

Donuts acquisition of Afilias closes, integration work begins

Kevin Murphy, January 4, 2021, Domain Registries

Donuts’ acquisition of Afilias closed without incident on December 29, the companies announced last week.

The registries said that registrants and registrar partners should not see any immediate disruption, but added that it’s now working on an integration plan that should see some changes over the longer term.

“Our combined teams can now begin developing an integration plan, with a goal of minimizing disruption to those we serve,” Akram Atallah, Donuts’ CEO, said in a press release. “We expect no changes in the short term, and ample notice on any changes that are decided.”

Atallah has previously told DI that it’s likely that Afilias’ owned and operated TLDs will likely be transferred to Donuts’ registry back-end, which is hosted on the Amazon cloud.

He also said that services such as the Domain Protected Marks List, currently available in 240+ Donuts gTLDs, should soon become available in Afilias’ 20-odd.

The deal, for an undisclosed sum, was subject to scrutiny by ICANN, which could have blocked it, but its board of directors considered the merger last month with no resolution passed.

Verisign drops half a mill on pandemic relief

Kevin Murphy, December 28, 2020, Domain Registries

Verisign has donated over half a million dollars to pandemic-related causes, the company announced last week.

The donations are aimed at relieving economic side-effects of the pandemic such as food poverty and unemployment.

The .com registry operator said in a blog post it has given $275,000 to food banks in Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware where most of its US operations are based, and in Fribourg, Switzerland, its European HQ.

It’s also given $250,000 to Virginia Cares, an initiative dedicated to retraining unemployed Virginians for in-demand jobs in the tech sector.

Verisign was of course an inadvertent beneficiary of the pandemic, as lockdown regimes worldwide led to a boost in domain registrations as businesses such as bars and cafes moved online.

Fraud checks coming to .ch as SWITCH renews contract

Kevin Murphy, December 15, 2020, Domain Registries

Swiss ccTLD registry SWITCH has agreed to implement new security measures as part of its contract renewal with the government.

The company said Friday that it has extended its contract to run .ch names with the telecoms regulator OFCOM for five more years, bring it up to December 2026.

But as part of the renewal, SWITCH has agreed to “speed up the adoption and implementation of technical security standards”.

This will involved financial incentives for registrars to adopt DNSSEC, the registry said.

It will also introduce measures to combat fraud at the point of registration, with SWITCH saying “in the event of suspected fraudulent intent, newly registered domain names can be used only after an identity check.”

The policy appears similar to those at other ccTLDs, including .uk, where new regs are flagged under certain circumstances (such as containing coronavirus-related terms) and cannot resolve until further checks are carried out.

South African registry to be merged with film censor, broadband regulator

Kevin Murphy, December 15, 2020, Domain Registries

South African ccTLD operator ZADNA is to be merged with two other government agencies, including the film censor, under a program announced by the nation’s government this week.

The non-profit state-owned company will merged with Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), which regulates telecoms and broadband, and the Film and Publications Board, which censors and classifies movies, under plans announced today.

It comes as part of a broader government initiative to rationalize South Africa’s state-owned enterprises.

While it’s far from uncommon for a ccTLD to be managed by a state telecoms regulator, I’m not aware of any instances where a registry shares a roof with a movies regulator.

ZADNA is currently the official ccTLD manager for .za, though in practice it’s operated under contract by non-profit ZA Central Registry.