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Here’s how the new number two new gTLD got so big so quick

Kevin Murphy, January 13, 2015, Domain Registries

Attentive DI readers will recall my journalistic meltdown last week, when I tried to figure out how the Chinese new gTLD .网址 managed to hit #2 in the new gTLD zone file size league table, apparently shifting a quarter of a million names in a week.

Well, after conversations with well-placed sources here at NamesCon in Las Vegas this week, I’ve figured it out.

.网址 is the Chinese for “.url”.

Its rapid growth — hitting 352,000 names today — can be attributed primarily to two factors.

First, these weren’t regular sales. The registry, Knet, which acquired original applicant Hu Yi last year, operates a keyword-based navigation system in China that predates Chinese-script gTLDs.

The company has simply grandfathered its keyword customers into .网址, I’m told.

The keyword system allows Latin-script domains too, which explains the large number of western brands that appear in the .网址 zone.

The second reason for the huge bump is the fact that many of the domains are essentially duplicates.

Chinese script has “traditional” and “simplified” characters, and in many cases domains in .网址 are simply the traditional equivalents of the simplified versions.

I understand that these duplicates may account for something like 30% of the zone file.

I’ve been unable to figure out definitively why the .网址 Whois database appeared to be so borked.

As I noted last week, every domain in the .网址 space had a Knet email address listed in its registrant, admin and technical contact fields.

It seems that Knet was substituting the original email addresses with its own when Whois queries were made over port 43, rather than via its own web site.

Its own Whois site (which doesn’t work for me) returned the genuine email addresses, but third-party Whois services such as DomainTools and ICANN returned the bogus data.

Whether Knet did this by accident or design, I don’t know, but it would have almost certainly have been a violation of its contractual commitments under its ICANN Registry Agreement.

However, as of today, third-party Whois tools are now returning the genuine Whois records, so whatever the reason was, it appears to be no longer an issue.

The new massive number two new gTLD has me paralyzed with confusion

Kevin Murphy, January 8, 2015, Domain Registries

The Chinese-script gTLD .网址 powered to the number two spot in the new gTLD rankings by zone file size this week, but it’s doing some things very strangely.

.网址 is Chinese for “.site”, “.url” or “.webaddress”.

The registry is Hu Yi Global, ostensibly a Hong Kong-based registrar but, judging by IANA’s records, actually part of its Beijing-based back-end Knet.

I’m going to come out and admit it: even after a few hours research I still don’t know a heck of a lot about these guys. The language barrier has got me, and the data is just weird.

These are the things I can tell you:

  • .网址 has 352,727 domains in its zone file today, up by about a quarter of a million names since the start of the week.
  • The names all seem to be using knet.cn name servers
  • I don’t think any of them resolve on the web. I tried loads and couldn’t find so much as a parking page. Google is only aware of about eight resolving .网址 pages.
  • They all seem to have been registered via the same Chinese registrar, which goes by the name of ZDNS (also providing DNS for the TLD itself).
  • They all seem to be registered with “nameinfo@knet.com” in the email address field for the registrant, admin and technical contacts in Whois, even when the registrants are different.
  • That’s even true for dozens of famous trademarks I checked — whether it’s the Bank of China or Alexander McQueen, they’re all using nameinfo@knet.cn as their email address.
  • I’ve been unable to find a Whois record with a completed Registrant Organization field.
  • Nobody seems to be selling these things. ZDNS (officially Internet Domain Name System Beijing Engineering Research Center) is apparently the only registrar to sell any so far and its web site doesn’t say a damn thing about .网址. The registry’s official nic.网址 site doesn’t even have any information about how to buy one either.
  • ZDNS hasn’t sold a single domain in any other gTLD.
  • News reports in China, linked to from the registry’s web site, boast about how .网址 is the biggest IDN TLD out there.

So what’s going on here? Are we looking at a Chinese .xyz? A bunch of registry-reserved names? A seriously borked Whois?

Don’t expect any answers from DI today on this one. I’ve been staring at Chinese characters for hours and my brain is addled.

I give up. You tell me.

.reise is first live new gTLD to hit the auction block

Kevin Murphy, January 7, 2015, Domain Registries

German domain registry Dotreise has become the first company to reveal that it wants to sell off a new gTLD.

Innovative Auctions is to handle an auction on February 27 at which Dotreise will attempt to unload the unwanted string, it emerged this evening.

The word “reise” is German for “travel”.

The gTLD has failed to capture much interest since it launched. As of today, it has just 1,254 domains in its zone file, about 1,000 of which were registered in its first week of general availability last August.

At launch, it had just a handful of registrars. Only four registrars sold more than 100 names in August.

It’s currently a relatively big-ticket TLD, which may account for the low sales. It retails for about $170 to $180 at United-Domains, the registrar that has shifted the most .reise names to date.

That would put revenue for .reise at under a quarter of a million dollars a year, based on its current volume, I guess.

It competes with Donuts’ .reisen, which has pretty much the same meaning but has been available a month longer and retails for under $25 a year; .reisen has a slightly bigger zone file, at 3,839 domains.

According to Innovative, the company behind Applicant Auction, which helps settle new gTLD contention sets with auctions:

The .REISE TLA will be a simultaneous ascending clock auction, similar to the format of the Applicant Auction. There will be no buyer commission for this auction, so no additional fees – you just pay the winning price if you win.

It’s a one-day auction.

Innovative had planned to auction off multiple live gTLDs in October, but was hit by delays.

Fatal timeout? A dozen dot-brands procrastinating to death

Kevin Murphy, January 7, 2015, Domain Registries

Over a dozen new gTLD applications have been iced because the applicants couldn’t or wouldn’t talk to ICANN about signing contracts before their deadlines.

Volvo and PricewaterhouseCoopers are among the 13 dot-brand applicants whose $185,000+ investments could vanish in a puff of smoke because they can’t bring themselves to sign on the dotted line, I’ve discovered.

The following gTLD applications, filed by 10 different companies, are no longer active because of contracting problems:

.select, .compare, .axis, .origins, .changiairport, .nissay, .lamer, .clinique, .pwc, .volvo, .amp, .招聘 (Chinese “.recruitment”), .wilmar

They’re all uncontested applications. They’re also all, with the exception of .招聘, envisaged having single-registrant policies (dot-brands, in other words).

All had their apps flagged by ICANN as “Will Not Proceed” in the new gTLD process late last year, having failed to sign or start negotiating their Registry Agreements in time.

Under program rules, applicants originally had nine months from the day they were invited to contract with ICANN in which to sign their RAs.

After protests from dot-brand applicants planning to sign up for so-called “Spec 13″ code of conduct exemptions, ICANN last June gave such applicants an extension until July 2015, as long as they hit a September 1 deadline to respond to ICANN’s overtures.

Applicants that did not request an extension had an October 29 deadline to sign their RAs.

According to an ICANN spokesperson, a failure to hit such “interim milestones” disqualifies applicants from signing RAs.

It’s not entirely clear from the Applicant Guidebook how applicants can extricate themselves from this limbo state without withdrawing their applications, but ICANN assures us it is possible.

“Will not Proceed is not a final status,” the spokesperson cautioned. “But they are currently not eligible to sign the RA with ICANN. But if that status changes, we’ll update it accordingly on the site.”

Withdrawals would qualify the applicants for a 35% refund on their application fees, he confirmed.

Afilias cancels $100m London IPO

Kevin Murphy, January 6, 2015, Domain Registries

Afilias has cancelled its planned London Stock Exchange IPO due to “market conditions”.

It seems to be a cancellation, rather than a postponement, according to a company spokesperson.

“The final decision to cancel the IPO was based on market conditions at the time,” she told DI today.

No additional information was available, but I suspect the company was not able to drum up sufficient interest, at its target price, from institutional investors in the two-week period between its IPO filing and its due date.

Afilias said on October 28 that it planned to raise approximately $100 million selling shares on London’s Alternative Investment Market.

The flotation was expected to take place November 12, but that date came and went with no action.

AIM is currently the home of rival TLD registries CentralNic and Minds + Machines, neither of which saw any particular share price problems during that two-week window.

Afilias had revenue of $77.6 million in 2013, making an operating profit of $30.4 million and $45 million in operating cash flow, largely from selling .info and .mobi domain names.

The company is the back-end provider for almost 50 live 2012-round new gTLDs and has a couple hundred more deals with applicants whose strings have not yet been delegated.