ICANN is to give gTLD registries greater power to change their pricing under a proposed new deal.
The organization also says it could accept reduced fees from registries under some circumstances.
These are among about 40 substantial changes appearing in a new version of the standard new gTLD Registry Agreement that has been put out for comment.
The proposed new RA was posted last night after ICANN and registries spent months negotiating the details behind closed doors.
The contract would apply to registries that have signed the base new gTLD contract, not legacy gTLDs such as .com (though, in the passage of time, leaks may occur).
Many of the changes seek to bring clarity to registries’ technical obligations, particularly during their launch phases, and their data reporting requirements.
But there are a few notable changes concerning fees.
First, it seems registrars are going to be stripped of their right to challenge registry fee increases through the ICANN process.
Currently, any substantial changes to their Registry-Registrar Agreements has to go through scrutiny by ICANN and the registrars, and the registrars are allowed to object to the changes.
We saw such objections at the start of the year with .sucks, but RRA changes usually happen a few times a month.
Under the proposed new RA, that process would no longer apply when the only change made to an RRA is to change the registry fee.
Registrars would still have to be provided with 30 to 180 days notice, depending on the extent of the fee change, but there would be no ICANN review or registrar challenge process.
ICANN reasons that this is sensible because, unlike legacy gTLDs, its new gTLD contracts don’t regulate prices anyway.
Second, ICANN has introduced a new “Fee Reduction Waiver” concept to the contract. The draft deal states:
In ICANN’s sole discretion, ICANN may reduce the amount of registry fees payable hereunder by Registry Operator for any period of time (“Fee Reduction Waiver”). Any such Fee Reduction Waiver may, as determined by ICANN in its sole discretion, be (a) limited in duration and (b) conditioned upon Registry Operator’s acceptance of the terms and conditions set forth in such waiver. A Fee Reduction Waiver shall not be effective unless executed in writing by ICANN as contemplated by Section 7.6(i). ICANN will provide notice of any Fee Reduction Waiver to Registry Operator in accordance with Section 7.9.
It’s not entirely clear who asked for this or why.
I can imagine scenarios in which struggling registries might seek a handout from cash-rich ICANN, or in which dot-brands whose registrations are not linked to revenue might ask for a waiver.
Dot-brands — that is, registries that have signed Specification 13 of the RA — also get some love in the new RA, including an effective right of veto over changes that could affect their special status.
If in future an RA change is proposed that would effectively amend Spec 13, it will not happen unless Spec 13 registries vote in favor of the change.
The vote would require a two-thirds majority, with registries voting power weighted according to how much they pay ICANN in registry fees.
The whole contract is now open for a 43-day public comment period, which you can find here.
Nominet is to run the back-end registry systems for .blog, the company announced this evening.
We reported earlier today that .blog has a surprise new owner — Knock Knock, Whois There, which belongs to Automattic, owner of WordPress.com — and it seems the change of ownership comes with a change of back-end.
Primer Nivel, the company that applied for .blog and just transferred the ICANN contract to Automattic, had named Malaysian also-ran Qinetics as its original back-end.
“Nominet will provide the registry services, as well as technical support to the registrar channel,” Nominet said tonight. The deal includes EPP and DNS.
Nominet’s press release confirms that registrants will not need a WordPress.com account to buy a .blog domain name.
It’s the second big back-end deal for Nominet in recent weeks. The company recently revealed it will be taking over technical services for all 28 of Minds + Machines new gTLDs.
Automattic/KKWT is predicting 250,000 .blog registrations in 2016, and general availability is not expected until the fourth quarter.
Web.com has acquired dozens of registrars from rival/partner Rightside, seemingly to boost the success rate of its SnapNames domain drop-catching business.
I’ve established that at least 44 registrars once managed by Rightside/eNom have moved to the Web.com stable in recent weeks, and that might not even be the half of it.
All of the registrars in question are shell companies used exclusively to register pre-ordered names as they are deleted by registries, usually Verisign.
The more registrars you have, the more EPP connections you have to the Verisign registry and the better your chance at catching a domain.
Web.com runs SnapNames, and is in a 50-50 partnership with Rightside on rival drop-catcher NameJet.
The two compete primarily with NameBright’s DropCatch.com, which obtained hundreds of fresh ICANN accreditations last year, bringing its total pool to over 750.
Web.com has fewer than 400 accreditations right now. Rightside has even fewer.
It’s usually quicker to buy a registrar than to obtain a new accreditation from ICANN.
If Web.com finds itself in need of more accreditations in order to compete, and Rightside is happy to let them go, it could be possible to infer that SnapNames is doing rather better in terms of customer acquisition than NameJet.
But the two services recently announced a partnership under which names grabbed by either network would be placed in an auction in which customers of either site could participate.
This would have the effect of increasing the number of caught names going to auction due to there being multiple bidders, and thus the eventual sales prices.
Domain investors are loudly complaining about DomainTools’ plan to double its prices and slash query limits.
Some are even calling for a boycott.
Effective June 25, all the existing non-enterprise membership tiers are being folded into a new “Personal” account, which costs $99 a month or $995 a year, DomainTools said.
Previously, customers on a “Professional” account paid $49.95 a month. Some were paying as little as $12 under older, discontinued Gold, Silver and Bronze plans.
If the price hike weren’t significant enough, the company is also reducing the number of queries customers can make.
Whois History reports have been slashed from 100 domains to 25, for example, as have Hosting History reports. The Brand Monitor tool has been reduced from 10 monitored strings to 3.
DomainTools offers a broad range of services in its standard bundle, and the cuts are pretty much across the board.
DomainTools said in an email to bloggers this week that a 30% discount will be offered on the first payment under the new plan for existing customers, adding:
The Personal Membership package adds four products that have never been offered before to individual members. Bulk Parsed Whois and Reverse Whois Research Mode have previously only been available to Enterprise members. In addition, we are including our newest product, Reverse IP Whois, which works like our Reverse Whois for domain Whois, but across IP Whois records. And finally, Personal Membership also includes 5 Domain Reports per month.
The company says that it is focusing more now on its enterprise security customers, where one imagines margins are higher than its mass-market domainer-oriented services.
Domainers, as you might expect, are not happy. Message boards and domainer blogs are filled with negative commentary.
Some are predicting customers will flock to rivals DomainIQ and Whoisology.
Disclosure: myself and several other domain industry bloggers are on complimentary plans and will not be affected by these changes. In some months, the new Personal plan would have been adequate for my needs; in others, not so much.
The Internet Watch Foundation said it found child abuse imagery on new gTLD domain names for the first time in 2015.
The UK-based organization, tasked with identifying and blocking child abuse imagery online, today released its 2015 annual report.
The report says that it found 68,092 unique URLs with this illegal content in the year, spread over 1,991 domains. It says:
Five top level domains (.com .net .ru .org .se) accounted for 91 per cent of all webpages identified as containing child sexual abuse images and videos.
However, it also says that child abuse was found on new gTLDs for the first time.
While the report doesn’t make much of this trend, it should be worrying.
The IWF said it took action on 436 new gTLD domains in 2015, many of which “appeared to have been registered specifically for that purpose”.
While new gTLD names appear to be responsible for a very small percentage of flagged URLs, they seem to be 21% of the total number of domains on which child abuse imagery was found.
This discrepancy may be explained by the fact that 78% of the total abuse URLs were found on free-to-use image hosting sites, probably concentrated in .com.
The IWF added that 138 of the new gTLD domains hosted “disguised” abuse sites. These are sites where illegal content is only shown when visitors arrive from a specific referrer link.
The IWF offers a “Domain Alerts” service to its members, which allows registries and registrars to quickly take down domains confirmed as containing illegal material.
Judging by its member list, not many domain name companies are members.
Members include Go Daddy, ICM Registry, .London Domains, Rightside, Afilias and Nominet.