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Afnic appoints Pierre Bonis new CEO

Kevin Murphy, September 1, 2017, Domain Registries

French ccTLD registry Afnic has named Pierre Bonis its new CEO.

Bonis officially started his new job today, but he’s been in the role on an interim basis since May 1, when he replaced Mathieu Weill.

Weill had abruptly quit after 12 years at Afnic in order to join the Digital Economy Department of the French government’s Directorate-General for Enterprise.

Bonis was Weill’s deputy for five years, so being kicked up the ladder by the Afnic board of trustees was perhaps not unexpected.

No $17 million rebate for struggling new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2017, Domain Registries

ICANN has turned down a request for about $17 million to be refunded to under-performing new gTLD registries.

The organization cannot spare the cash from its $96 million new gTLD program war chest because it does not yet know how much it will need to spend in future, Global Domains Division president Akram Atallah told registries this week.

The Registries Stakeholder Group made the request for fee relief back in March, arguing that the $25,000 per-TLD fixed annual fee each registry must pay amounts to an unfair “burden” that has “hampered their success and put them at a competitive disadvantage”.

The RySG proposed that this $6,250 per quarter fee should be reduced by $4,687.50 per quarter for a year, a 75% reduction, at a cost to ICANN of $16.87 million.

The money, they said, should be drawn from the $96.1 million in new gTLD application fees that were still unspent at the time.

The new gTLD program charged each applicant $185,000 per application. About third of the fee was to cover unforeseen events, and is often sniggeringly referred to as its legal defense fund.

Because the program was meant to work only on a cost-recovery basis, there are question marks hanging over what ICANN should ultimately do with whatever cash is left over.

(It should be noted that this cash is separate from and does not include the quarter-billion dollars ICANN has squirreled away from its new gTLD last-resort auctions).

Now that the vast majority of the 2012 round’s 1,930 applications have been fully processed, it must have seemed like a good time for the RySG to ask for some cashback, but ICANN has declined.

Atallah said in a August 29 letter (pdf) to the group that ICANN has had to spent lots of its program reserve on unanticipated projects such as name collisions, universal acceptance, the EBERO program and the Trademark Clearinghouse. He wrote:

We do not yet know how much of the New gTLD Program remaining funds will be required to address future unanticipated expenses, and by when. As such, at this time, ICANN is not in a position to commit to the dispensation of any potential remaining funds from the New gTLD Program applications fees.

It seems for now the hundreds of new gTLDs with far fewer than 10,000 registrations in their zones are going to keep having to fork over $25,000 a year for the privilege.

MMX: three gTLDs approved for sale in Beijing

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2017, Domain Registries

Three foreign new gTLDs have been approved for sale and resolution in Chinese capital Beijing, according to MMX.

The portfolio registry said today that its .vip is among the first to receive approval from the Beijing Communications Administration, one of China’s many regional authorities.

According to MMX, while many gTLDs have managed to pass through the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology’s stringent vetting process, the Beijing local authority has so far been slow to follow the national regulator’s lead.

But BCA approved .vip, along with GMO’s .shop and Donuts’ .ltd on August 16, the registry said in a market update.

This gives .vip national coverage in China, adding Beijing’s 22 million inhabitants.

MMX added that 188,764 different .vip sites, of the over 600,000 in its zone file, are currently indexed by Chinese search engine Baidu.

It also said that it plans to start selling Chinese-script internationalized domain names in .vip (in IDN.ascii format) in November.

CentralNic promises $30 million .sk will only ever mean “Slovakia”

Kevin Murphy, August 30, 2017, Domain Registries

CentralNic has committed that it will not repurpose Slovakian ccTLD .sk to mean anything other than “Slovakia”, following its purchase of SK-NIC this week.

The acquisition of the Bratislava-based registry, which will cost between €21 million and €26 million ($25 million to $31 million) depending on performance, has been controversial in Slovakia, with many leading registrars campaigning against the sale.

One of the charges leveled against CentralNic was that its modus operandi has been to market ccTLDs as if they have other meanings. It markets Laos’ .la as a TLD for Los Angeles, and acts as the back-end for Palau’s .pw, which is marketed as an acronym for “Professional Web”.

“From a technical point of view, it’s definitely a good acquisition. CentralNic has a good system that is stable and working well, but we don’t agree with their sales and marketing policies,” Ondrej Jombik of Slovak registrar Platon told DI today.

Jombik is the person who organized a petition against the sale that attracted almost 10,000 signatures.

“We don’t agree with how they manage national TLD registries,” he said. “What they do in Palau is not acceptable. What they do in Laos is not acceptable. We’re kind of scared what they plan to do with our domain, how they plan to market it.”

But CentralNic CEO Ben Crawford said in an email interview that these concerns are misplaced. He said:

CentralNic has never had plans to repurpose .sk, and CentralNic commits not to market it with any other meaning than as the Slovak country code. Moreover, while some of the ccTLDs we work with welcome the export revenues from repurposing their TLDs, such practices are specifically restricted under recent contractual requirements put in place by the Slovak Government in response to this concern being raised by SK-NIC’s policy committee.

Jombik’s petition, which claimed to be supported by 13 of the top 15 .sk registrars covering 73% of .sk’s 360,000 domains, called for the ccTLD to be handed over to a “new independent non-profit organization” that more fairly represented the Slovak internet community.

But Crawford said that .sk already has strong community representation, which is guaranteed by the registry’s contract with the Slovak government.

“I am honestly unaware of any ccTLD where the Government, the internet community in general and the registrars all have such a defined and important role,” he said, adding:

There will be changes under our management: The Government contract has recently been beefed up placing further stability and disclosure responsibilities on SK-NIC, including escrowing the registry data to the Government cloud, a formalised Service Level Agreement, giving the Government the right to audit SK-NIC’s performance, etc., all of which we will abide by. We have other ideas too on contributing to the Slovak internet, and we are planning to hold discussions with not for profits, industry associations, Universities and other such entities in Slovakia, to seek their guidance on the best ways to do this.

Whether these promises and actions will be enough to assuage critics of the deal, who are also motivated by a sense of national pride and aggrieved that what is arguably a national resource is falling into foreign hands, remains to be seen.

Having a ccTLD manager acquired outright by a foreign entity without a redelegation by ICANN/IANA is an unusual occurrence. Only the $109 million acquisition of .CO Internet by US-based Neustar back in 2014 springs to mind.

Five million Indian government workers to get IDN email

Kevin Murphy, August 30, 2017, Domain Registries

The Indian government has announced plans to issue fully Hindi-script email addresses to some five million civil servants.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology announced the move, which will see each government employee given an @सरकार.भारत email address, in a statement this week.

सरकार.भारत transliterates as “sarkar.bharat”, or “government.india”.

The first stage of the roll-out will see the five million employees given @gov.in addresses, which apparently most of them do not already have.

Expanding the use of local scripts seems to be a secondary motivator to the government’s desire to bring control of government employee email back within its borders in a centralized fashion.

“The primary trigger behind the policy was Government data which resides on servers outside India and on servers beyond the control of the Government of India,” the MEITY press release states.

India currently has the largest number of internationalized domain names, at the top level, of any country.

NIXI, the local ccTLD manager, is in control of no fewer than 16 different ccTLDs in various scripts, with ample room for possible expansion in future.

The registry has been offering free IDN domains alongside .in registrations for about a year, according to local reports.

There are about two million .in domains registered today, according to the NIXI web site.