Exactly 11 months after the first new gTLDs were delegated to the DNS root, DI has learned that a batch of live gTLDs are heading to auction for the first time.
There’s now officially an aftermarket for top-level domains.
“Multiple” delegated 2012-round new gTLDs will be auctioned off next month, with the exact date yet to be finalized, according to a reliable source.
The venue will be Applicant Auction, which has been helping applicants resolve gTLD contention sets via private auction for the last year.
The auction is understood to be invitation-only and the identities of the gTLDs up for grabs, and their associated registries, are a closely-guarded secret.
What conclusions we can come to will rather depend on which gTLDs are being sold.
If they’re gTLDs that are already in general availability, and perhaps have suffered worse-than-expected sales, it probably wouldn’t look very good for the new gTLD program.
But if they’re pre-launch strings belonging to portfolio applicants that have always looked like obvious investment vehicles, the optics might not be as damaging.
We’ll have to wait and see. If the auctions are successful, at some point over the next couple of months we can expect to see one or more new gTLDs change hands.
It won’t be the first time a gTLD has been bought — successful applicants from earlier rounds have been acquired by larger competitors — but it will be the first time a delegated new gTLD has been auctioned off when it’s still basically an unproven asset rather than a full-blown business.
It could be the first example of “domaining” with TLDs.
In this round, NCC Group bought .trust — an uncontested application with no ICANN contract — from Deutshe Post in February, while Rightside has acquired some TLDs from Donuts under a pre-existing deal.
Donuts has emerged the victor from four new gTLD auctions this week, getting its hands on .money, .video, .sale and .legal.
Notably, Uniregistry, Minds + Machines and Amazon have withdrawn from the .video race, leaving Donuts the winner.
.video was one of the gTLDs Amazon had originally applied for as a “closed generic” that it intended to keep for itself and its affiliates. Now, it will be an open generic under Donuts.
Donuts also won .sale against Uniregistry, Dot-Sale and Famous Four.
Minds + Machines withdrew its .sale application in April 2013, before even Initial Evaluation.
Colombian applicant Primer Nivel, affiliated with My.co, withdrew its application for .legal, leaving Donuts the only remaining bidder, while Famous Four dropped out of the two-horse race for .money.
Meanwhile, dotCOOL has pulled its bid for .memorial, leaving applications from Afilias and Donuts still active. Presumably, one of these will withdraw later in the week.
As usual, winning bids have not been revealed.
Accent Media, one of four applicants for .tickets, has won the new gTLD at auction after receiving a $1.62 million investment from CentralNic.
As part of the deal, Accent has dumped Afilias as its back-end provider and will switch to CentralNic instead.
Competing applicants Donuts, Famous Four Media, Shubert Internet and Tickets TLD are now expected to pull their applications, though none appear to have had their withdrawals accepted by ICANN yet.
It’s not clear how much .tickets sold for.
CentralNic acquired a 12% stake in Accent in exchange for its investment. Both companies are based in the UK.
The deal is believed to be unrelated to the $1.5 million investment in a gTLD applicant that CentralNic announced — with the proceeds earmarked for auction — last week.
Accent has applied for a quite restricted TLD, with anti-fraud measures at its heart. Its authenticated registration process is described as being a bit like the process of buying an SSL certificate.
CentralNic CEO Ben Crawford said in a statement:
The “.tickets” Top-Level Domain will be a compelling new tool to assist consumers to easily identify legitimate and trusted ticket sales sites, as well as empowering venues, entertainers and sports organizations to improve their use of the internet for enabling fans to purchase tickets. This investment realizes our strategy of investing in Top-Level Domain applicants as well as operating as a business partner to their operators.
Radix Registry launched its first three new gTLDs yesterday, and the first day’s numbers make an interesting case study in how difficult it can be to judge the health of a TLD.
Based on zone file numbers, .website was the clear winner. It had 6,340 names in its zone at the end of the day, compared to .host’s 778 and .press’s 801.
There’s clearly more demand for .website names right now.
But which made the most money? That’s actually a lot harder to figure out.
To make those calculations accurately, you’d need to know a) Radix’s base registry fee, b) the promotional discounts it applied for the launch c) which premium names sold and d) for how much.
None of that information is publicly available.
If we were to use Go Daddy’s base retail pricing as a proxy guide, .host was hypothetically the biggest money-spinner yesterday. At $129.99 a year, it would have made $101,132.
Because .website only costs $14.99 at Go Daddy, it would have only made $95,037, even though it sold thousands more names.
But Radix offered registrars what appears to be steep discounts for the launch. Go Daddy marked down its .host names from $129.99 to $49.99. That would make revenue of $38,892, less than half of .website.
With the discounts in mind, .host didn’t have as good a day from a cash-flow perspective as .website, but it arguably looks healthier from a long-term revenue perspective.
That’s all based on the snapshot of today’s zone files and an obviously incorrect assumption that Go Daddy sold all the names, of course.
Complicating matters further are the premium names.
Radix has priced a lot of its names with premium renewal fees and Radix business head Sandeep Ramchandani said that the company sold five five-figure premium names across all three gTLDs.
Given the relatively small amount of money we’re talking about, those five sales would have significantly impacted the three new gTLD’s relative revenue.
The new gTLD .website got over 6,500 registrations in the first four hours of general availability, according to Radix Registry.
The TLD has been characterized as the first exciting, properly generic English-language new gTLD to launch.
With that in mind, one wonders whether 6,500 is a great start.
Bear in mind that .website has commodity .com pricing ($14.99 or thereabouts retail) and that Radix offered its registrars a promotional discount for the launch — 6,500 names does not equal a lot of money.
But it’s still early days (hours), and we don’t know how many of the registered names carry premium prices.
Radix’s premium names renew annually at the premium prices, as we’ve seen previously with gTLDs from the likes of Donuts, Uniregistry and Minds + Machines.
.website went to GA at 1600 UTC today, having been delayed 24 hours by a pricing glitch.
Radix has been conducting a sweepstakes on Twitter all day to guess the number of day-one registrations in .website. The prize is a Go Pro camera.
— Radix (@RadixRegistry) September 18, 2014
Based on nothing more than gut instinct, I went for 9,888, thinking I was probably erring slightly on the low side.