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One-letter .lu domains could be bought for peanuts

Kevin Murphy, November 3, 2020, Domain Sales

Luxembourg’s ccTLD registry is auctioning off 2,825 one and two-character .lu domain names, and so far bids are looking very affordable.

The names have been reserved for two decades, but Restena began releasing them to trademark owners in August, and yesterday the landrush phase began.

The company has set up a special website for the auction.

After the first day of bidding, only one domain, j.lu, has attracted a bid in four figures (€2,000).

All 36 letters and numbers have at least one bid. Another 15 internationalized domains — single letters with diacritics or accents — have not yet attracted bids.

The domain with the most action so far is hu.lu — I wonder why — with a €500 top bid.

It’s still early days, and obviously most auction activity happens towards the end.

The plan is for the auctions to run for a minimum of 12 more days, but they could be extended into December.

On December 15, anything not already registered will be released for registration on a first-come, first-served basis.

Will you shut up, man? Trump takedown domain on sale for ridiculous fee

Kevin Murphy, September 30, 2020, Domain Sales

Proving once again that there’s no neologism or emergent catchphrase that won’t be registered as a .com, a domainer has put willyoushutupman.com on sale in the wake of last night’s ludicrous US Presidential debate.

The line “Will you shut up, man?” was uttered in exasperation by Democrat candidate Joe Biden midway through the debate, after being ceaselessly harangued and interrupted by President Trump.

It’s currently listed on Dan.com with a “make an offer” tag, but Newsweek reported earlier today that the seller had priced the domain at $175,000.

The domain currently redirects to an affiliate link to the bespoke printing company Zazzle, so even if it doesn’t sell, the domainer may make a bit of cash.

Newsweek also reports that Biden’s campaign are already selling “Will you shut up, man?” merch, but I was unable to find such an item on the official Biden site.

Radix premium renewals approach $1 million

Kevin Murphy, September 8, 2020, Domain Sales

New gTLD registry Radix made almost a million bucks in the first half of the year from renewal fees on its premium domains.

That’s one data point that jumps out from Radix’s latest premium sales report, released last night.

The company said that it made $1.96 million at the top line from premiums in the period, up 19% on the second half of 2019.

It added that $996,771 of that was from renewals, up from $903,687 in H2 2019.

Radix is one of the registries that charges a premium fee every year over the lifetime of the registration, a practice controversial among domain investors.

Still, it appears there is demand (or, at least, acceptance) among end users. Radix said it saw a 41% sequential increase in the number of premium sales in H1.

.tech, .online and .store were the biggest sellers, with the vast majority of sold names clustering in the $250 to $2,500 range.

The renewal rate after the first year was 63%, growing to 72% at the second renewal and a very respectable 78% thereafter.

Radix said it saw .store premium sales grow by more than fivefold during the half, which it attributed to the coronavirus pandemic:

While premium registrations and revenue have grown steadily for five quarters since Q2 2019, the 2020 pandemic has led to significant demand in eCommerce and have urged businesses from all verticals to build a strong web presence.

This has led to a surge in the adoption of premium domain names on meaningful extensions that are most suited for these businesses such as .STORE. Premium registrations for .STORE in Q2 2020 was up by 5.5X compared to Q2 2019.

More stats can be found here.

Domainers immune from the lockdown bump?

Kevin Murphy, July 30, 2020, Domain Sales

While the can be little doubt that the domain industry saw a boost in the second quarter due to the impact of coronavirus lockdown mandates, the same may not be true for those playing in the secondary market.

Data out from Escrow.com last night shows the weakest quarter for secondary market sales since the company started publishing its data two years ago, with average prices and overall sales volume down.

The company, which acts as a trusted intermediary for domain transfers, said it processed $55.2 million of sales in Q2, down from $85.8 million in the first quarter.

All of the primary geographical markets saw a decline apart from Hong Kong, with the US suffering the worst dip.

The US obviously has taken the biggest dose of the virus and has little in the way of a social safety net, so it’s perhaps not surprising that buyers are being more cautious with their cash.

The declines fly in the face of data and commentary from the primary market, where registries and registrars have generally been seeing unexpected boosts to sales as lockdown-impacted small businesses rush online.t

It’s tempting to speculate that while the virus has created more customers for domain names, fears over the incoming recessions have made buyers less likely to want to splash out on a premium domain.

Escrow.com said that the median price of a domain name without associated content dropped from $3,000 to $2,500 in the quarter.

Not every coronavirus domain registrant is a douchebag

Kevin Murphy, March 16, 2020, Domain Sales

While there are plenty of domain registrants apparently trying to make a quick buck out of the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve managed to dig up several that appear to have less parasitical motives.

I spent some time today poking around gTLDs where one might reasonably expect to find coronavirus information, products or services. In each TLD, I looked up the second-level strings “coronavirus”, “covid-19” and “covid19”. I did not check any ccTLDs, IDNs or geographic gTLDs.

In the large majority of gTLD cases, the domain was parked, offered for sale, or displayed default web host information.

Some were being monetized in other ways, and at least one appears to be actively dangerous to public health.

These are the ones that don’t seem to be purely out to make a quick buck or get people killed:

  • covid19.health — a web site, attributed to one Steven Liu, has been produced containing interactive data about the current state of worldwide infections, deaths and recoveries.
  • coronavirus.live — redirects to the pandemic data page at the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, which resembles a scene from War Games (1983).
  • covid19.news, covid-19.news, covid-19.live and covid19.live — all redirect to covid2020.com, a web site run by somebody going by “CovidDataGirl” that appears to be at the very least a serious attempt to build a web site containing actual information. It does, however, also solicit small “buy me a coffee” donations to support the site, so it might not be fully altruistic.
  • covid-19.com — frames Chinese-languages news and data about the outbreak from two other web sites, as it has since day one. I can’t fully verify the sources are legit, but they appear to be at first glance.
  • coronavirus.com — this has been registered since 2002 and reportedly belongs to GoDaddy following its recent acquisition of Frank Schilling’s portfolio. It bounces visitors to the World Health Organization’s coronavirus web page. GoDaddy didn’t really have any choice here — any appearance of an attempt to monetize would have been public relations suicide.
  • coronavirus.app — more hard data overlaid onto a fairly slick world map.
  • covid19.care and covid19.today — somebody is attempting or has attempted to make a useful web site here, but it’s either a work in progress or abandoned.
  • covid19.consulting — bare-bones pandemic data.
  • coronavirus.media — a news aggregator that looks like it was abandoned over a month ago.
  • coronavirus.rehab — all the information is copy-pasted from sources such as WHO and Johns Hopkins, or fed in via open news APIs, but at least it’s therefore factual and there does not appear to be any overt attempt at monetization.
  • covid-19.rehab — Russian news aggregator with no obvious monetization.
  • coronavirus.horse — I had no particular reason to check this one out, other than I know the internet’s penchant for putting wacky stuff on .horse domains. To my surprise, it resolves, bouncing users to the nightmare fuel at the aforementioned Johns Hopkins site.

There were no registered domains in tightly restricted spaces such as .loan, .insurance and .pharmacy, as you might expect.

And now the bad news.

I found no clearly non-douchey uses in .blog, .doctor, .center, .clinic, .education, .equipment, .fit, .fitness, .flights, .healthcare, .hospital, .lawyer, .supplies, .supply, or .wiki. Just parking, sales and host default pages.

Sadly, coronavirus.science is being used by a bunch of irresponsible quacks to peddle dangerous pseudoscience.

I found one Spanish-language splog at coronavirus.consulting and an Amazon affiliate page selling hand sanitizer and face-masks at coronavirus.equipment.

One guy has registered one of the three strings in at least 10 different new gTLDs — including .deals, .host and .enterprises — each of which invites visitors to click on a link to the next in a never-ending cycle. None of the pages are monetized.

Somebody is attempting to make money selling merchandise featuring a cartoon cat in a face mask at coronavirus.shop and coronavirus.rocks. I have mixed feelings on this one, but I am a sucker for cats.

I was close to featuring the three .org domains in the “good” list above, as they actually present a great deal of content related to coronavirus, but they appear to belong to the same guy who’s currently arguing with Andrew Allemann on Domain Name Wire about whether it’s acceptable for domainers to profit from tragedy.

For the record, I agree with Allemann: serious domain investors should never attempt to exploit these kinds of crises for financial gain. Not coronavirus, not anything. It casts the entire profession in a terrible light and will probably harm domainers’ collective interests in the long run.

There’s a reason the Internet Commerce Association has a code of conduct banning such activity.

It’s a lot easier to ignore their complaints about, say, price increases in .com or .org, if you can easily characterize domainers as a bunch of ambulance-chasing assholes. Verisign has already done this and ICANN could well be next.

Guy gets 14 years for trying to steal a domain with a gun

Kevin Murphy, December 12, 2019, Domain Sales

An American man has received a sentence of 14 years in prison after being found guilty of a plot to steal a domain name at gunpoint.

Rossi Lorathio Adams II received the sentence on Monday, according to the US Attorney’s Office in Iowa, having been found guilty of “one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by force, threats, and violence”.

Adams, who went by the screen name Polo, attempted to obtain the domain doitforstate.com from its registrant to support a popular social media channel he managed.

When the registrant refused multiple times, Adams drove his cousin — armed with a gun and written instructions how to push the domain into Adams’ GoDaddy account — to the registrant’s house.

A fight broke out, described vividly by the US Attorney, during which both the registrant and the gunman got shot.

Both survived, and the gunman got 20 years behind bars for his role in the attack.

If there’s a moral about domaining here, I invite the reader to discover it on their own.

Berkens says new gTLDs mostly suck but geos suck hardest

Kevin Murphy, August 12, 2019, Domain Sales

Ever since he cashed out his massive portfolio of domain names in a bulk sale to GoDaddy three and a half years ago, domain investor Mike Berkens has been dabbling in new gTLDs, and so far he’s not impressed.

In a recent conference speech and blog post, he revealed some of his experiences parking and trying to sell his new g names, and he has come down particularly harshly on geographic TLDs.

City TLDs such as .london, .nyc and .miami are “death” to a domain investor, he said at a domainer meetup in Asheville, North Carolina last week.

His portfolio of 29 .miami names has had just 532 type-in visits in the last year, and have not received a single offer, he wrote on TheDomains.com.

On the flip-side, Berkens told his audience that domain combinations that naturally fit together, such as online.dating, atlantic.city, moving.company and bank.loans are profitable from type-in traffic and can get thousands of visitors a year.

They can be profitable even when the registry charges a premium renewal fee, he said. The domain obama.care makes him $500 a year parked and has a $150 annual renewal, he said.

But when asked directly whether he would recommend new gTLDs to domain investors, Berkens said he would not, citing among other things the added risk of unregulated price increases in the new gTLD space.

Berkens made eight figures selling his portfolio of 70,000 names to GoDaddy in 2015, but the deal apparently did not include the new gTLD names he’d picked up along the way.

You can watch his 24-minute talk here.

Uniregistry offers dating-inspired buy-now domains

Kevin Murphy, June 20, 2019, Domain Sales

Uniregistry has come up with a novel way to flog its clients’ domains, inspired by a dating web site.

It has published a list of 60 domains where a final price had already been negotiated by its brokers and agreed by both sides but the sale had for whatever reason not been completed.

The total value of the list appears to be $433,800.

VP of sales Jeffrey Gabriel blogged that the listed prices won’t come down, but that the sellers may decide not to sell at the stated price after all.

All the sales will go through the usual Uniregistry landing-page offer system.

Andrew Allemann has already bought one.

It appears to be a one-off (or occasional) proposition, rather than a new formal, developed, automated buy-it-now service.

I imagine it will be more popular among buyers — who don’t have to muck about too much negotiating a price — than sellers.

Smart sellers, from what I can tell, tend to base their price to a large extent on how rich they think the buyer is.

Gabriel said he’s calling this hook-up service “Missed Connections”, named after the section of Craigslist where people who make meaningful eye contact on public transport can post classifieds in an attempt to make contact with their near-miss.

I once told my girlfriend I loved her for the first time via Missed Connections. True story. Of course, that was back in San Francisco in the mid-noughties, a time and place in history when almost every meaningful transaction or life experience was carried out via Craigslist.

Nowadays, I hear it’s mainly just prostitutes.

Watch John Oliver take down voice.com’s buyer

Kevin Murphy, June 19, 2019, Domain Sales

The blockchain developer that just spaffed $30 million on the domain name voice.com was the subject of a takedown on Last Week Tonight With John Oliver a year ago.

Oliver spent four minutes of a 25-minute rant about cryptocurrency offering some harsh criticisms of Block.one, which made the record-breaking purchase to brand its forthcoming crypto-based social media platform Voice.

He’s primarily concerned with warning viewers that initial coin offerings may be nothing but huge scams, and that a key Block.one backer (who left the company shortly after the show aired) may be a bit shady.

The whole segment’s worth a watch for context, but here’s the part concerning Block.one.

    Last Week Tonight, in case you somehow don’t know, its a weekly topical comedy show that airs on HBO in North America, Sky Atlantic in the UK and Ireland, and The Comedy Channel in Australia. It’s one of the best things on the telly, and I consider John Oliver the de facto UK ambassador to the US.

Record-breaking $30 million domain sale was financed by cryptocurrency

Kevin Murphy, June 19, 2019, Domain Sales

Records were broken yesterday when voice.com became the most-expensive domain name ever sold.

Handed over for a cool $30 million cash, it more than doubled the previous record for a domain-only transaction, 2010’s $13 million sale of sex.com.

The seller was MicroStrategy, an analytics software provider that just happens to have a stash of high-end, one-word .com domains among its assets.

The new owner is Block.one, a blockchain software developer that has raised a staggering amount of money despite not yet having any products.

The voice.com domain will be used for Voice, its first service, a social media platform based on the EOSIO blockchain platform that Block.one develops.

How Voice specifically differs from existing social media offerings is currently a little vague. It’s currently just a press release and a beta-signup form.

But the company says it will be more transparent than competitors such as Facebook or Instagram, with revenue generated feeding its content-creating users rather than the platform owner.

Not even the blogs covering crypto on a daily basis seem to understand the Voice business model yet.

A crucial step in the early stages appears to be enticing so-called “influencers” — social media personalities with large followings — over from the current dominant platforms with the promise of huge financial rewards (presumably paid in cryptocurrency) if they bring their fans with them.

Key differences include the fact that users will need a government-issued ID to sign up (mitigating the problem of anonymous trolling and bots), and that every post will be recorded for eternity in the blockchain.

Is this what social media users are crying out for? More friction and less privacy? I don’t get it, personally. But then I didn’t get Twitter at first either.

The product was announced at a flashy news event in Washington, DV a few weeks ago. An executive discusses the value proposition briefly at around the 20-minute mark in this video recording.

Block.one itself is an equally odd fish.

It has amassed oodles of cash despite having no obvious business model. It may be the only company with a billion-dollar-plus valuation that doesn’t even have its own Wikipedia page.

It reportedly raised over $4 billion through an initial coin offering — where speculators buy a basically unused cryptocurrency in the hope that it will be adopted and its value will rise — over the space of a year.

The ICO’s success appears to be partly based on the personal branding of its founders, backers and executives, who have made names for themselves in the burgeoning crypto space.

Since the ICO ended about a year ago, the company has been pumping tens of millions of dollars into third-party projects that use its EOS blockchain, in an attempt to spur adoption.

It also reportedly expects to spend $150 million developing Voice.

So, $30 million is pretty much pocket change to these guys, who’ve rewarded MicroStrategy’s speculation in domain names with the fruits of their own investors’ speculation in another type of essentially worthless digital record.

In many ways, I guess cryptocurrency really is turning out to be to this decade what domain investment was to the last.

Ten years from now, perhaps voice.com will be sold for a trillion dollars, paid for in telepathic tulips or something.