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ZADNA hikes up the price of .za domains

Kevin Murphy, September 15, 2020, Domain Registries

South African ccTLD registry ZADNA has upped the price of .za domains after a consultation.

Standard pricing will increase by ZAR 10 to ZAR 55 ($3.35), which works out at about a 22% increase, from April 1 next year.

There’s also a ZAR 10 increase on customers of its old, pre-EPP legacy system, where the base price is currently ZAR 130 ($7.58). That kicks in January 1.

ZADNA has been increasing the legacy pricing for years to encourage registrants onto its industry-standard EPP infrastructure.

The changes come despite receiving comments from the local internet community about affordability and the current economic conditions.

GoDaddy could lose control of .co this week

Kevin Murphy, September 8, 2020, Domain Registries

It looks like GoDaddy’s recently acquired .co registry could lose formal control of the ccTLD this week.

ICANN’s board of directors has “Transfer of the .CO (Colombia) top-level domain to the Ministry of Information and Communications Technologies” on its agenda for its meeting this Thursday.

Since 2009, IANA record for .co shows the Colombian company .CO Internet as the sponsor, admin contact and tech contact.

.CO Internet was acquired by Neustar for $109 million in 2014. Neustar’s registry business, including the .co contract, was acquired by GoDaddy earlier this year. Most of .CO Internet’s original staff are still with the company.

GoDaddy now has the contract to run .co for the next five years, but as a service provider rather than having full administrative control of the TLD.

A redelegation to the Colombian ministry will not affect that contract, and in fact seems to have been envisaged by it.

Back in April when the renewal was announced, MinTIC said it would in future “be in charge of its [.co’s] administration through a group dedicated to Internet governance with technical personnel with knowledge and ability to manage and administer the domain”.

The new deal also sees Colombia receive 81% of the profits from .co, compared to the 6-7% it received under the old deal.

Assuming the ICANN board gives the redelegation the nod this week, it usually only takes IANA a day or two to make the appropriate updates to its registry.

Verisign measures the industry’s lockdown bump

Kevin Murphy, September 2, 2020, Domain Registries

The domain name industry added a net 400,000 extra domain registrations in the second quarter, when compared to the same quarter a year ago.

That’s according to Verisign’s latest Domain Name Industry Brief, which is arguably the most comprehensive data on how domain names fared while much of the developed world was subject to coronavirus lockdown.

The second quarter of 2020 ended with 370.1 million regs across all TLDs, up by 3.3 million sequentially and 15.3 million year over year, Verisign said.

That compares to a Q2 2019 increase of 2.9 million domains.

ccTLDs appear — at least at first glance — to have performed particularly strongly, adding a net 2.6 million regs to end June at 160 million. That compared to Q2 2019 net adds of 1.9 million.

Unfortunately, those numbers include the free ccTLD .tk, which never deletes a domain, and that space saw 2.4 million adds in the quarter, dramatically damaging the optics for ccTLDs as a whole.

New gTLDs as a whole fared poorly, losing a net 600,000 names during the period, to end Q2 at 31.6 million.

Most of that dip is attributable to the fast-selling new gTLD .icu, which lost 400,000 domains during the quarter due to the effects of its first junk drop.

Verisign’s own .com was up by at 1.4 million names to 148.7 million at the end of June; .net was flat at 13.4 million.

The company sold 1.1 million more domains in Q2 2020 than it did in Q2 2019.

You can read the Q2 DNIB here (pdf).

Told us so? Nominet ditches auctions plan, will charge drop-catchers higher fees instead

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2020, Domain Registries

Nominet has ruled out auctioning off expired .uk domains names, after a member rebellion.

The .uk registry said last Thursday that it “will not pursue an auction model”, despite previously indicating that it was the best option for how to reform the dropping domains market.

This means the most likely model in future is going to be a huge increase in fees for registrars that aggressively engage in drop-catching.

A month ago, Nominet said that it was considering changing how it handles dropping domains, with either a system of registry-managed auctions or a system of increased fees for drop-catchers.

It appeared to many (yours truly included), based on a Nominet scoring system for each available option, that auctions were the preferred choice.

The registry originally denied that auctions were a shoo-in and now, apparently responding to critics, has ruled that option out completely.

Registry MD Eleanor Bradley wrote:

we will not pursue an auction model. While a proportion of responses from a wide range of sectors including the drop–catching market supported this approach, the prevailing view was this is not the role of the Registry.

Introducing a new approach for those that wish to drop–catch names where participants can purchase connections is the option we will pursue further.

Nominet says that some kind of change is “necessary” because currently .uk drop-catchers are sometimes in the habit of creating spurious Nominet memberships in order to increase the number of simultaneous EPP connections they can use, maximizing their chances of securing drops.

The registry calls this “collusion” and against its acceptable use policies.

In future, it seems drop-catchers will instead have to directly buy extra connections from Nominet. An annual price of £600 ($800) for a batch of six connections, up to a maximum of £6,000 for 60, has previously been floated.

Bradley said that the final details of the plan have yet to be determined.

The decision follows a consultation which received 107 comments and a member petition.

No lockdown bump for .eu as domain base shrinks in Q2

Kevin Murphy, August 20, 2020, Domain Registries

The European Union ccTLD .eu did not see an overall benefit from the pandemic lockdowns that affected many of its member states in the second quarter.

Registry operator EURid this week said that its total domains under management for .eu was 3,606,143 at the end of June, down by 16,907 from 3,623,050 at the end of March.

The company blamed Brexit for the decline, as Brits will no longer be eligible for .eu domains after the political transition period expires at the end of the year and many are therefore being allowed to expire.

This has been EURid’s story for many quarters, with the exception of a discount-related Portuguese aberration in Q1.

The number of regs from the UK dropped by 16.6% year-over-year and 5.1% quarter-over-quarter, to wind up at 135,355.

But .eu did not see the lockdown bump experienced by many other registries and registrars during the quarter either.

New regs in Q2 were at 163,277, compared to 190,011 in Q1 and 164,906 in Q2 2019. It sold fewer domains, even as its peers reported significant increases in sales.

I expect this is fairly easily explained.

Anecdotally, much of the pandemic-related boost the industry has experienced has been due to bricks-and-mortar microbusinesses such as mom-n-pop retailers, bars and restaurants selling online for the first time and needing domain names to make the switch.

These types of registrants, serving a small local area, don’t need a TLD reflecting their membership of a vast trading union, and are probably better served by their national ccTLD or a descriptive generic, so .eu got overlooked.

When it comes to the lockdown bump, it appears .eu was the exception to the rule.

After a year’s delay, .gay reveals launch dates

Kevin Murphy, August 19, 2020, Domain Registries

Top Level Design has revealed the launch plan for its .gay gTLD, after almost a year of delays.

General availability was originally planned for October last year, but it was pushed out twice, first due to marketing reasons and then because of coronavirus.

The new plan is for GA to begin at 1500 UTC on September 16. Unlike last year’s planned launch, there does not appear to be any special symbolism to the date.

There’s also going to be an early access period first, from September 8 through 15. This is the period where reg prices start high and reduce every day until they settle at regular GA pricing.

As I’ve previously reported, the registry has reserved five tiers of premium names, from $12,500 down to $100, all of which will renew at premium prices to deter domainers.

The base registry fee is $25, but expect to pay more at the checkout.

Most of the large registrars are on board, with half a dozen set to offer pre-regs, but I don’t see any of the big Chinese registrars on the registry’s list.

Countries ask Amazon for thousands more domain blocks

Kevin Murphy, August 19, 2020, Domain Registries

The eight South American nations of the Amazon region are demanding Amazon block more domain names in the recently delegated .amazon gTLD.

Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization secretary general Alexandra Moreira has written to Amazon VP of public policy Brian Huseman to complain that Amazon’s current set of “cultural” safeguards do not go far enough.

The August 14 letter, which was forwarded to DI, seems to mark a new phase of bilateral talks, after ICANN washed its hands of its reluctant role of third-party facilitator last month.

Currently, .amazon is governed by a set of Public Interest Commitments in its registry contract designed to protect the “Culture and Heritage specific to the Amazonia region”.

ACTO, as well as disagreeing with the use of the term “Amazonia”, has a narrow interpretation of the PICs that Moreira says is “insufficient to ensure respect for the historic and cultural heritage of the Amazon region”.

Under ACTO’s reading, Amazon is only obliged to block a handful of domains from use, namely the words “OTCA”, “culture”, “heritage”, “forest”, “river”, “rainforest”, the names of indigenous peoples and national symbols.

Moreira writes:

That would leave out a vast number of terms that can still cause confusion or mislead the public about matters specific to the Amazon region, such as the names of cities, villages, mountains, rivers, animals, plants, food and other expressions of the Amazon biome, biodiversity, folklore and culture.

ACTO wants the list of protected domains to be expanded to include these additional categories, and for Amazon and ACTO to sign a binding agreement to that effect.

Given that the Amazon forest is home to literally tens of thousands of distinct species and Brazil alone has over 5,500 municipalities, this could translate to a hell of a long list.

I should probably note that the .amazon PICs also offer ACTO the chance to block 1,500 strings of its own choosing, so ACTO’s narrow interpretation may not tell the whole story.

Dot-brand fizzles out after acquisition

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2020, Domain Registries

Another dot-brand gTLD has decided to terminate its ICANN contract, but this time it’s because the brand itself has been discontinued.

.ceb was applied for by the Corporate Executive Board Company, a consulting company, in 2012.

But the company was acquired by Gartner in 2017, and the CEB brand was discontinued the following year.

For some reason it’s taken Gartner a couple of years to remember it has a gTLD it doesn’t need, and it’s told ICANN it no longer wishes to operate it.

The .ceb dot-brand was never used.

It’s the 81st dot-brand to self-terminate, the 12th this year.

Domain industry had best April ever under lockdown

Kevin Murphy, August 10, 2020, Domain Registries

The domain industry had its best April ever in terms of new domains sold in gTLDs, according to my tally, despite much of the Western world spending the month in coronavirus lockdown.

There were a total of 5,291,077 domain adds in April, across all 1,253 gTLDs currently filing transaction reports with ICANN.

That’s up almost 100,000 on the 5,191,880 adds in April 2019 and the best April since the first new gTLDs started coming into circulation in 2013.

20205,291,077
20195,191,880
20185,062,852
2O175,031772
20164,314,305
20153,847,510
20143,809,862
20133,584,271

While a measly 100k jump may be less impressive than expected based on the enthusiastic descriptions of the lockdown bump coming from registries and registrars over the last few months, it makes a bit more sense when you factor out Chinese volume success story .icu.

.icu, currently the largest of the new gTLDs, was having a bit of a growth spurt at the start of 2019, and added 267,287 domains in April last year. That was down to 56,714 this April. The TLD has been declining for the last few months.

Looking at the TLDs that seem most obviously related to lockdown, the standout is .bar, which added 26,175 names this April, compared to just 151 a year ago.

It’s been well-reported that many restaurants and bars affected by coronavirus switched to online ordering and home delivery, and .bar appears to be a strong beneficiary of this trend.

.bar currently has more than 100,000 names in its zone file, roughly double its pre-lockdown level.

.com fared well, adding 3,382,029 domains this April, compared to 3,360,238 in the year-ago period.

But .xyz did better, relatively, adding 256,271 names, compared to 200,003 a year earlier.

Also noteworthy was .buzz, which has been performing very strongly over the last 12 months. It added 60,808 names this April, compared to just a few hundred.

This table shows the 20 gTLDs with the most adds in April 2020, with their April 2019 numbers for comparison.

TLDApril 2020 AddsApril 2019 Adds
com3,382,0293,360,238
xyz256,271200,003
net233,449195,328
org184,209145,394
online132,09265,244
site96,61790,224
info96,546121,980
top89,965138,425
buzz60,808669
icu56,714267,287
club56,12757,335
shop40,38867,337
website32,55317,000
store31,59915,424
live28,82322,620
page27,5662,457
space26,70621,749
bar26,175141
link24,5683,852

No .sex please, we’re infected!

MMX saw poorer-than-expected sales of porn-related defensive registrations in the first half of the year, the only blip in what was otherwise a strong period for the company.

The registry updated the market today to say that its domain name base grew by 31% year over year during the half, ending June with 2.38 million names under management. It only grew by 19% in the same period last year.

Billings for H1 were up 7% at $7.9 million, MMX said.

But because the mix shifted away from one-off brokered sales, which are registered on the earnings report as a lump sum, and towards regular automated registrations, which are recognized over the lifetime of the reg, MMX expects to report revenue 5% down on last year.

While that’s all fair enough, the company said that it didn’t sell as many defensive blocks in .xxx, .sex, .porn and .adult as it had expected, which it blamed on coronavirus:

Management also notes that expected H1 channel sales from the Company’s brand protection activity were held back due to the impact of COVID-19, but anticipates those brand protection initiatives that were delayed in Q2 will resume in H2.

It’s a reference to the AdultBlock and AdultBlock Plus services launched last year, which enable trademark owners to block (and not use) their marks in all four adult TLDs for about $350 to $800 a year.