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Toilet-maker’s dot-brand gets flushed

Kevin Murphy, September 1, 2021, Domain Services

A Japanese building materials company known for its smart toilets has become the latest multi-billion-dollar brand to decide it doesn’t need a gTLD of its own.

Lixil, which turned over roughly $12 billion in its last fiscal year, has told ICANN to tear up its .lixil registry agreement.

No specific reason was given, but it appears the gTLD was lightly used — just one domain was active, and it redirected to lixil.com.

As usual, ICANN has determined that, as a dot-brand, .lixil will not be redelegated and instead simply removed from the root.

It’s number 94 on the dot-brand dead list, the sixth this year.

GoDaddy rides another 21 gTLDs into its stable

Kevin Murphy, July 28, 2021, Domain Services

GoDaddy may have disavowed the domain registry business for much of the last decade, but it’s fast becoming one of the largest registry operators out there.

The company’s GoDaddy Registry unit this week took over the ICANN contracts for 21 more gTLDs, bringing the number of TLDs it either contracts for or technically manages close to the 200 milestone.

As well as taking on new gTLD success story .club, it’s also signed the Registry Agreements for 19 more strings formerly belonging to MMX, aka Minds + Machines, which plans to bow out of the industry after 10 years in business.

The MMX TLDs being moved are: .law, .abogado (“lawyer” in Spanish), .beer, .casa (“home” in Spanish), .cooking, .dds (“dentists” in American), .fashion, .fishing, .fit, .garden, .horse, .luxe, .rodeo, .surf, .vip, .vodka, .wedding, .work, and .yoga.

GoDaddy took over the back-end for .xxx, .porn, .adult and .sex, belonging to former MMX subsidiary .ICM Registry, last week.

The remaining string to enter the portfolio is .design, which GoDaddy acquired from Top Level Design, which is still a going concern with its small portfolio of gTLDs.

There are still a few MMX TLDs that have not moved over, all of which appear to be the geographic strings it operates in partnership with local government backers. These will need additional clearances before transfer.

While GoDaddy has taken over the registry contracts for the 19 MMX TLDs listed above, their back-ends are still Nominet, according to IANA records. Clearly, that will change in future.

The MMX deal was worth $120 million. The values of the .design and .club deals were not disclosed.

CentralNic expects H1 revenue of $174 million

Kevin Murphy, July 28, 2021, Domain Services

A decade ago, CentralNic was scraping by selling domain names at the third level, and now it’s now on track to clear $300 million top line this year.

The domain industry consolidator said yesterday that it expects revenue for the first half of 2021 to be in the region of $174 million, which earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization of $20 million.

Third-quarter revenue is expected to be about $90 million, which works out to 63% growth or roughly 25% organic growth, excluding the impact of recent acquisitions.

Organic growth was 16% for the first quarter 2021 and 9% for the full year 2020.

The company also said cash is up and debt is down.

It’s pretty good going for a company that, when it listed on London’s AIM market in 2013 had H1 revenue of about $2 million, based on not much more than its dubious business of selling 3LDs under the likes of .gb.com and .uk.com and a couple of low-volume ccTLD back-end contracts.

Since then, its acquisition streak has seen it branch out into registrars (where it owns a bunch, wholesale and retail, of various sizes, all over the world) new gTLD back-end services (where it runs at least 90 TLDs) and, more recently, domain monetization.

Epik buys DNForum, explores member ownership options

Kevin Murphy, July 6, 2021, Domain Services

Controversial registrar Epik has acquired DNForum and says it is thinking about ways to make the site member-owned.

DNForum is a forum targeted mainly at domain investors. It competes with NamePros and has seen multiple sets of owners over the last few years.

Posting on DNForum, Epik CEO Rob Monster said he hopes to improve industry communication, interoperability and commercial opportunities — registrars will be welcome to pitch their promotions to users.

He said that Epik is “actively investigating a legally compliant way to turn DNForum into a member owned community based on crypto token”.

While popular with domainers, Epik has attracted controversy in recent years for soliciting and welcoming the business of domain names that have been “cancelled” elsewhere due to political extremism.

Whether this laissez-faire stance on free speech will extend to DNForum’s moderation practices in future remains to be seen.

NamesCon will be virtual again this year, and more expensive

Kevin Murphy, April 29, 2021, Domain Services

The popular NamesCon conference has scrapped its plan to return to in-person events this year, and will instead host another virtual con in September.

Organizers said today that NamesCon Online 2020 will take place from September 22 to 24, in a return to its in-house online networking platform.

It’s shuffled its pricing scheme since the last event, too.

At the low end, gone are the free passes for new attendees. Instead, the first 150 newbies to sign up will get their pass for $19.

Regular pricing is $99, reduced to $79 for those who register before July 4.

There’s also a new, more expensive tier for members of the sell-side of the industry. Employees of registries, registrars and marketplaces will have to pay $299 for their tickets.

NamesCon is also continuing its partnership with DNAcademy. A domaining course and conference ticket bundle will set you back $499 again.

NamesCon had planned to return to in-person meetings by the middle of 2021 with NamesCon Europe, back when phrases like “variant of concern” and “third wave” were largely hypothetical, but that event was recently cancelled.

NamesCon Europe cancelled — “pandemics suck”

Kevin Murphy, March 17, 2021, Domain Services

The year’s NamesCon Europe conference has been cancelled.

The organizers said today that the 2021 event, which had been due to take place in Budapest this June, will not go ahead due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic:

Since Hungary still has a high rate of COVID infections and in-person gatherings are not allowed, we cannot produce NamesCon Europe in Budapest in July. Nobody can predict when things will improve and our recent NamesCon survey showed a high reluctance to travel, so planning this intimate in-person gathering didn’t make sense. Pandemics suck.

Unlike ICANN 71, which was last week rescheduled from The Hague to Zoom, NamesCon is not moving to the bespoke online platform it used last year.

Organizers said that they’re not setting a new date yet, but there appears to be the possibility of other online events in future.

Hungary currently ranks 4th-worst in terms of deaths per capita, according to Statista, sandwiched between the UK and Italy, two of the earliest and hardest-hit countries.

It’s currently seeing more daily cases and deaths than the UK in absolute numbers, despite having less than a sixth of the population.

CentralNic buys German monetization firm for up to $13 million

Kevin Murphy, February 22, 2021, Domain Services

CentralNic today continued is diversification outside of its core domain business by acquiring Berlin-based monetization firm Wando.

The company said it will pay €5.4 million ($6.5 million) up front and up to €5.4 million more depending on performance through Q3 2022.

CentralNic said Wando makes €4.9 million ($5.6 million) in revenue a year, over half of which already comes through its partnership with CentalNic.

Security firm sues Facebook to overturn UDRP loss of “good faith” typo domains

Kevin Murphy, February 11, 2021, Domain Services

Security company Proofpoint has sued Facebook in order to keep hold of several typo domains that are deliberately intended to look like its Facebook and Instagram brands.

Proofpoint wants an Arizona court to declare that facbook-login.com, facbook-login.net, instagrarn.ai, instagrarn.net and instagrarn.org are not cases of cybersquatting because they were not registered in bad faith.

Proofpoint — a $7 billion company that certainly does not phish — uses the domains in anti-phishing employee training services, as it describes in its complaint:

Proofpoint uses intentionally domain names that look like typo-squatted versions of recognizable domain names, such as , and the other Domain Names at issue in these proceedings.

By using domain names similar to those of well-known companies, Proofpoint is able to execute a more effective training program because the workforce is more likely to learn to distinguish typo-squatted domains, which are commonly abused by bad actors to trick workers, from legitimate domain names.

Employees who click the bogus links are taken to harmless web pages describing how they were duped.

The court case comes shortly after Facebook prevailed in a UDRP case filed with WIPO.

In that case, the panelist decided that Proofpoint had no legitimate interest in the domains because they led to web sites that linked to Proofpoint’s web site, where commercial services are offered.

He therefore found that the names had been registered in bad faith, because visitors could assume that Facebook or Instagram in some way endorsed these services.

Proofpoint wants the court to reverse that decision and allow it to keep the names. Here’s the complaint (pdf).

It strikes me as at the very least bad form for Facebook to go after these domains, given that Proofpoint is tackling the Facebook phishing problem at source — user idiocy — rather than the reactive, interminable UDRP whack-a-mole Facebook seems to be engaging in.

NamesCon Europe founder Dietmar Stefitz reportedly dies

Kevin Murphy, December 4, 2020, Domain Services

I’m very sorry to report that Dietmar Stefitz, founder of the domainer conference that would become NamesCon Europe, has died, according to social media posts.

His Facebook profile this morning filled with tributes, variously describing him as “passionate”, “kind” and “genuine”, after his niece announced his death.

Stefitz was best known in the domain industry for founding the Domaining Europe conference in 2008, which he hosted annually, typically in his home town of Valencia, Spain, for a decade.

The event was eventually merged with GoDaddy’s NamesCon to become NamesCon Europe in 2018, and Stefitz took a backseat role in its management.

I did not know Dietmar well, but I spent a enjoyable evening at his table during the inaugural NamesCon Europe and found him warm and engaging.

Eerily, Stefitz’s Twitter profile was updated this afternoon, encouraging readers to “take advantage of the little moments”, over 15 hours after his death was announced. I don’t know whether it was a time-delayed post or was posted by a relative.

While the tweeted video prominently features the character of the Grim Reaper, and it’s a Christmas advertisement for meat products, it does carry the message “Disfruta en vida”, which I believe translates as “Enjoy Life”.

It’s a message that, by all accounts, Stefitz lived by.

NamesCon will be back to in-person events next July

Kevin Murphy, October 8, 2020, Domain Services

The NamesCon conference plans to be back to in-person meetings by July 2021, according to the organizers.

NamesCon said today that there will be three conferences next year. The first will be virtual, the second physical, and the third hybrid.

The first meeting will be from January 27 to January 29 next year. That’s the typical “Global” event. But this time it will be another NamesCon Online, because, well, you know.

NamesCon seems to be optimistic that this coronavirus nonsense will be largely settled by next July, because it’s planning an in-person conference in Budapest, Hungary, for July 14 to July 17 next year.

The third 2021 meeting will somewhere in North America about a year from now. It will be a “hybrid” live/online deal.

Let’s hope this is all possible. Let’s face it, none of us knows.