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MMX says .vip renewals to be at 70%+

MMX believes the biggest money-spinner in its new gTLD portfolio, .vip, will see first-year renewals in excess of 70%.

The company said this morning that it is projecting renewals towards the top end of industry norms based on manual renewals to date.

.vip was a bit of a hit in China, topping a quarter-million domains in its first month of general availability a year ago. It peaked at around 750,000 domains a month ago.

MMX said in a statement:

To date, actual deletions for the first 31 days of registrations for .vip from China are currently less than 1%, with manually confirmed renewals for the same period already at over 60%, with the remainder being placed on auto-renew by registrars on behalf of their customers.

Whilst not all of those placed on auto-renew will be renewed, MMX expects the overall renewal rate for the first month of .vip registrations, which will be published in late July, to place .vip in-line with the best-in-class renewal rates of leading western facing top-level domains (i.e. c. 70% and above).

While MMX has made much of the fact that it has not sold .vip names for almost nothing, unlike some competitors, they’re still pretty cheap in China.

.vip names sell for the CNY equivalent of $3 to $4 at the major Chinese registrars. GoDaddy prices them at $20.

CEO Toby Hall said that there had been some volume-based discounts available to registrars, but “nothing which took the pricing below our general availability pricing”.

Its actual renewal rate will become clear at the end of July, MMX said.

.xyz sets price for numeric domains at $0.65

XYZ.com has announced that it will charge just $0.65 wholesale for over a billion numeric domain names in .xyz.

The revelation came as part of a confusing launch of what the registry calls its “1.111B Class” domains.

That’s because the pricing affects all 1.111 billion numerical domains of six, seven, eight and nine digits in .xyz.

These will now all register and renew for $0.65 or a recommended $0.99 retail.

That’s the same price that regular alphanumeric .xyz domains are selling at at many registrars, but the pricing for the 1.111B names is said to be fixed forever; it’s not a temporary promotion.

The announcement was themed on a take on the 16-year-old “All Your Base” meme and a white paper (pdf) written in the color scheme and typeface of a 1990s Unix terminal.

There’s a whole lot of fluff involved, but the gist of it appears to be that XYZ thinks these domains have value, when registered in bulk, to do stuff like address “Internet of Things” devices. The white paper states:

With the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), the 1.111B Class serves as a platform to easily and uniquely identify different devices, ranging from laptops to smart thermostats. In fact, registrants can even secure tens, hundreds, thousands to millions of domains in sequential order to create a block. These blocks can match device serial numbers or vehicle VIN numbers, then be used as portals for consumers to connect with their products, and for their products to receive updates from manufacturers.

There are of course far cheaper ways to go about this, such as using subdomains of an existing branded domain (which would have the added benefit of semantic value).

XYZ also talks in vague terms about these cheap domains being similar to Bitcoin, with reference to how Chinese domainers trade worthless domains as a kind of virtual currency.

I must confess I don’t get this idea at all. In my mind, owning a domain that has no possibility of an end-user buyer is more of a liability that an asset.

Still, it’s interesting to see a registry attempting to market domains for non-traditional purposes, so I’m curious to see how it plays out.

$5 billion e-commerce site to dump .com for dot-brand

The online ticketing arm of the French national railway operator SNCF has revealed plans to migrate away from .com to its dot-brand gTLD, .sncf.

The web site voyages-sncf.com will become oui.sncf in November, the company has confirmed following press reports at the weekend.

The existing site, despite the cumbersome domain, processed €4.3 billion ($4.8 billion) of ticket and other sales in 2015.

That number was reportedly down slightly last year due to the impact of the various terrorist attacks on the continent.

Still, it’s one of France’s most visible online brands, and has been around since 2000. The site is also available in other European languages and via mobile apps.

The new domain, oui.sncf, is already online. It currently redirects to an FAQ about the rebrand, at the .com site

Parent company SNCF is France’s government-owned rail operator, with overall revenue of €32.3 billion ($36 billion).

While ICANN’s new gTLD program produced hundreds of dot-brands, only a handful to date have moved substantially away from their original domains.

Three-million-domain .au deal up for grabs

auDA has formally launched the process that will could see it replace .au back-end provider Neustar with an in-house registry by the end of June 2018.

The Australian ccTLD operator has opened a “Request for Expressions of Interest” as the first stage of a procurement process for software and/or services to support its recently announced Registry Transformation Project.

It’s looking for companies that can provide all the major pieces of a domain name registry — EPP registry, Whois, DNS, etc — and my reading of the REOI reveals a preference towards a system owned and operated by auDA.

Respondents can respond with products, technology and / or services for all or part of the elements of the Registry Transformation Project, and are free to partner with other respondents to put together combined proposals.

auDA intends to establish a dedicated .au registry, and have all arrangements in place to support this, by 30 June 2018.

The organization even talks about eventually becoming one of ICANN’s approved Emergency Back-End Registry Operators.

.au has grown to over 3 million domains over the 15 years it was being managed by AusRegistry, which was acquired by US-based Neustar in 2015. This deal is due to expire next year.

So it’s a big contract, and one that is likely to attract a lot of interest from players big and small.

That said, registry solutions are typically offered very much on a service basis. The market for licensed registry software is not exactly bustling, and auDA also requires source code access as a condition of any deal.

auDA said the deadline for responses to the REOI is June 26. It will decide upon its next steps, which could be a formal request for proposals, in the last week of July.

Further details can be found here.

Richemont kills off two more dot-brands

Luxury goods maker Richemont has decided to ditch two more of its dot-brand gTLDs.

The company has asked ICANN to terminate its registry contracts for .chloe and .montblanc, according to documents published by ICANN late last week.

Chloe is a fashion brand; Mont Blanc sells pens, jewelery and such.

No reason was given for either termination. Registries are allowed to self-terminate their Registry Agreements for any reason, given 180 days notice.

In both cases, ICANN has already agreed not to transfer the gTLD to a new operator. That’s a special privilege dot-brands get in their RAs.

Neither gTLD ever progressed beyond a single nic.brand placeholder page

Four additional Richemont dot-brands — .piaget, .iwc, .cartier, .panerai — have also been live for two years or more but are in identical states of disuse.

Richemont also runs .watches, .手表 and .珠宝 (Chinese for “watches” and “jewelry” respectively) which have been in the DNS for over 18 months but do not yet have any published launch plans.

The company was a somewhat enthusiastic early adopter of the new gTLD concept, providing speakers to industry events well before the application window opened back in 2012.

It applied for 14 strings in total, 10 of which eventually went live. It dumped two of its dot-brands before contract-signing and lost two auctions for generic strings.

Both .chloe and .montblanc are expected to be removed from the DNS in October.

There are now 22 new gTLDs that have voluntarily terminated their RAs.