Verisign’s .net is on the rocks due to new gTLDs, executives have confirmed.
Speaking to investors and analysts on the company’s third-quarter earnings call last week, CFO George Kilguss said that .net “is experiencing some headwinds from the launch of the new gTLD program”.
Further comments from Kilguss and CEO Jim Bidzos seem to confirm what DI reported a month ago: .net is in trouble.
Latest stats collated by DI show that the .net zone file shrunk by over 121,000 domains in the seven months between March 26 and October 26 this year.
Executives said on the call that .net stood at 15.1 million names at the end of September. That compares to 15.2 million at the end of the previous quarter.
“It’s been relatively flat,” Kilguss said. “I actually think .net has held up pretty well over the year with all these new names coming on… So I don’t view .net’s performance as anything negative.”
Bidzos told analysts that “confusion” around the new gTLDs was to blame.
“I think generally, .net may be more susceptible to that confusion that swirls around new gTLDs,” he said.
He characterized .net as being like new gTLDs, falling into “that category of ‘different'”.
In my view, this is an implicit acknowledgement that .net has been getting a free ride for the last 20 years.
Asked whether the .net weakness could spill over to .com, Bidzos said that .com is a “trusted brand” because it’s almost 30 years old and has a 17-year record of uninterrupted up-time.
While there’s no doubt that .com is a trusted brand, it’s not because of its up-time or longevity, in my view — .net has the same stability record and is actually fractionally older than .com.
The reason .net is suffering now is that that for the last two decades it’s been essentially a defensive play.
People buy the .net when they buy the .com because they’ve been marketed as a bundle — the only two truly generic TLDs out there. Unlike .org, .net lost its semantic differentiation a long time ago.
As .com buyers start to see more and more options for duplicative or defensive registrations in their shopping carts, they’re going to be less likely to grab the .net to match their .com, in my opinion.
And it’s likely to get worse.
“It’s going to continue,” Bidzos said. “We’re seeing hundreds of more new gTLDs coming, and they’re coming at the rate of many every single week. So that confusion is likely to get worse.”
Minds + Machines posted an operating profit of almost £3 million ($4.9 million) for the first half of the year, almost entirely driven by the proceeds of losing new gTLD auctions.
The registry record a profit to June 30 of £2.9 million on revenue of $68,000.
The “profit on gTLD auctions” line item that permitted that seemingly impossible profit number was £7.1 million ($11.6 million), based on M+M losing eight out of 12 private auctions.
The company had £22 million ($36 million) in cash and other current assets on its balance sheet at the end of the period.
None of M+M’s big TLDs had launched in the first half, hence the low revenue. Since the half ended, .london has proven successful and several more new gTLDs wholly or partially owned by M+M have also launched.
In his statement to the market, chair Fred Krueger said:
A key variable in our financial position is the dynamic of private auctions, which we have embraced, and which has worked tremendously to our advantage. We believe that our current still contested strings represent significant assets which we have the potential to monetize either to further our existing new TLDs or to purchase additional new TLDs at auction.
He also reiterated CEO Antony Van Couvering’s call for a new metric to track gTLD registry health that is based on revenue-per-domain rather than simple volumes.
His outlook for new gTLDs was arguably less cautious than his counterpart at CentralNic, which reported its half-year numbers yesterday and talked of demand “falling short of industry expectations”.
Name registration data available to-date indicates a strong opening for a variety of new products/domains, and also shows that we are still very early in the adoption curve for new TLDs. We expect that the growth of almost all new TLDs will likely follow an “S curve”, as it historically has for newly launched TLDs, rather than a straight line.
He also reconfirmed that M+M plans to aggressively pursue its new integrated registrar business as a means to drive growth in its gTLDs, rather than simply relying on the channel.
Momentum Events has cancelled its planned new gTLD conference, which was due to take place in Amsterdam next month.
The Digital Strategy & DotOps Congress was designed primarily for potential dot-brand gTLD applicants — with free tickets on offer for eligible companies — but Momentum said there was not enough demand.
A Momentum rep tells me it was looking like fewer than 100 people were going to attend.
“[M]arket response to this event thus far has demonstrated that the use of TLDs by brands is still a developing area and at this time we are just a bit too ahead of the curve,” the company said in an email to participants. “As such and in consideration of your time, we decided to proceed with cancelling this event.”
The conference was to be held at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Amsterdam, Netherlands from September 18 to 19.
Momentum is tentatively thinking about rescheduling the show for the first quarter next year.
It’s not the first new gTLD conference to be cancelled due to the slow uptake of new gTLDs. The third .nxt conference was abandoned twice in 2012 due to lack of demand and delays in the ICANN process.
Unlike the .nxt situation, where some attendees said they did not get refunded for their event passes, Momentum tells me people who had already paid for tickets can be refunded.
They’ll also be offered access to other Momentum conferences — either the rescheduled spring conference or a more imminent brand-oriented show — as an alternative.
ICANN has warned internet users about a domain name scam that exploits the ICANN name and logo.
Not giving away much information, ICANN said in a statement:
It has been brought to ICANN’s attention that some online entities have attempted to sell fraudulent “certificates”, which they claim are required to protect generic top-level domain names. The perpetuators of this scam threaten registrants on the protection service with the objective of securing a fee from the registrant. The “certificates” look official and include an unauthorized use of the ICANN logo.
Please note that ICANN does not issue certificates to registrants and does not collect fees from registrants directly.
It’s not clear whether the scam is related to the “ICANN certificates” fraudsters sometimes demand as part of domain appraisal scams, which have been well-documented online.
The reference to a “protection service” and new gTLDs suggest this might be something new.
I asked ICANN for a sample of the scam in question yesterday but haven’t heard back yet.
UPDATE: The certificates look like this:
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