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Scottish gTLD may launch before independence vote

Kevin Murphy, January 27, 2014, Domain Services

The application for .scot, a new gTLD for Scottish people, is ahead of schedule and is likely to launch before the nation heads to voting booths for an independence referendum later this year.

Glasgow-based applicant Dot Scot Registry signed its ICANN Registry Agreement on January 23. That’s despite having a processing priority number way down the pile at 1,453.

The company had previously expected that it would launch in “early 2015”, according to a press release. Now it’s hoping to launch before the Commonwealth Games kicks off, also in Glasgow, on July 23.

If .scot moves as quickly through the remaining stages of the application process as other registries have, it could be delegated in late March, meaning general availability could come as early as June.

This means the domain is likely to be in the hands of Scots and those of Scottish heritage before the landmark independence referendum, which is set for September 18 this year.

The vote will see Scots asked “Should Scotland be an independent country?”. If the majority says “yes”, Scotland would withdraw from the United Kingdom and become fully self-governing.

Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, said in the press release:

2014 is an exciting year for Scotland, and I’m delighted that this distinct online identity for the nation, and all who take an interest in Scotland, will become available this summer.

If Scotland does become the world’s newest formally recognized country, it will be eligible for its own two-character ccTLD too.

The string would be designated by the International Standards Organization and is not likely to be particularly meaningful. The only two-character strings remaining that begin with S are .sf, .sp, .sq and .sw.

The process of obtaining a ccTLD would also take at least a year after (if) Scotland is recognized by the United Nations as an independent nation, which wouldn’t be until at least 2016.

Whatever happens, .scot is going to see the light of day well before any potential Scottish ccTLD, perhaps making it the .com to the country’s .us over the long term.

DomainFest to return in March

Kevin Murphy, January 24, 2014, Domain Services

The DomainFest conference has confirmed its return for 2014.

The ninth annual show in the series is going back to the name DomainFest, having dabbled with a change to WebFest.

Organizers say the conference is “is dedicated to bridging the gap between domain name industry, online advertising, affiliates, social media and mobile.”

The agenda is split into three tracks: mobile, monetization and “gTLDs and registrars”, which seems to have a heavy focus on new gTLDs.

It will be held at the Loews Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles from March 31 to April 2.

Prices for early bird registration are currently $695, with a $30 booking fee, rising to $995 on February 14 and then to $1,495 on the door.

Right Of The Dot partners with Heritage for hybrid auctions

Kevin Murphy, January 15, 2014, Domain Services

Domain sales consultancy Right Of The Dot and collectibles auctioneer Heritage Auctions have made a deal to bring hybrid live/online auctions to the new gTLD space.

According to a ROTD press release, such services will be made available for new gTLD contention set resolution and premium second-level domain sales.

Heritage is pretty new to the domain name space, but its IP division is headed by Aron Meystedt, current owner of symbolics.com, the world’s oldest .com domain.

TLDH opens up list of 70,000 premium names for all new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2014, Domain Services

Top Level Domain Holdings has ramped up its new gTLD pre-registration effort with a new database service that enables registries to automatically collate and price their premium names.

The new OpenDB.co service builds on the Online Priority Enhanced Names system we reported on during the ICANN meeting in Buenos Aires a couple months ago.

TLDH chairman Fred Krueger told DI today that new gTLD registry operators will be able to automatically generate a list of up to 70,000 premium names — with associated prices — for their TLD(s).

It works using a proprietary taxonomy of strings in 500 categories, put together by about 30 people working for TLDH, and baseline .com pricing estimates calculated by various online tools such as Estibot.

If you’re the registry for .web, for example, you might decide that all premium .web domains are worth 50% of the .com price, and you could create your premium names list accordingly with just a few clicks.

But if you’re the registry for a narrower, niche gTLD, you might want to assign values by category, subcategory or individual name.

If you’re .poker, you might decide that names in the OpenDB “gambling” category are worth 300% of .com, due to the affinity between the TLD and the second level, and that “sports” names are worth 50%, but everything else is worth just 1% of the corresponding .com name.

A possible drawback of the system might be that the algorithmic .com price estimates underlying it are just that — estimates, based on factors such as Google search volume and Adwords cost-per-click.

Online tools that do this kind of price estimation are quite often criticized or mocked for under- or over-pricing names in existing TLDs.

Another drawback might be that while 70,000 is certainly a lot of strings, it might not dive deeply enough into the potential premium pool for very niche gTLDs.

If the service catches on, I expect it will wind up competing with consultancies that offer expertise-based pricing, such as Right Of The Dot, and brokerage platforms such as Sedo.

So far only PeopleBrowsr (.ceo, .best) has openly committed to use the system.

TLDH says that it will start offering any names in OpenDB via its affiliated Minds + Machines registrar, with a 20% markup.

There’s also an OpenDB API that registrars can use to add these premium names to their own storefronts, Krueger said.

TLDH to invest in rival new gTLD names

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2014, Domain Services

Top Level Domain Holdings is to launch a new company, backed with a $2 million starting pot, devoted to investing in second-level names in rival registries’ new gTLDs.

TLDH chairman Fred Krueger told us today that the new company, which will be found at SecondLevel.co, will start buying up attractive names as soon as new gTLDs start going into general availability.

The move is one of several announcements TLDH is making — focusing on the registry, registrar and buyer levels — at the NamesCon conference here in Las Vegas this week.

SecondLevel.co will take money from institutional investors, buy up new gTLD second-levels, and return 70% of the profits to its investors on a quarterly basis if and when the names are flipped, Krueger said.

There are no plans to monetize the names in other ways yet, Krueger said. He doesn’t think new gTLD domains are going to get enough type-in traffic to exploit, for example.

It sounds like there’s going to be a bit of bargain-hunting going on here.

Other new gTLD registries have of course already slapped premium pricing, and in many cases premium renewal fees, on the names they consider most attractive.

When TLDH buys up such a name it will effectively be saying that it reckons its competitor undervalued the name.

That said, rivals such as Donuts have claimed that they’ve priced their premium names at levels that will still allow flippers to make a profit, so maybe there’s an opportunity here.

NamesCon will be biggest new gTLD show yet

Kevin Murphy, January 8, 2014, Domain Services

The inaugural NamesCon new gTLDs conference, set to run for three days in Las Vegas next week, has attracted roughly 525 registrations, making it the largest such event to date.

Organizers are speculating that the final tally of attendees could pass 600, despite the fact that early bird pricing ended last night and tickets went up $200 to $599.

All of the previous new gTLD conferences I’m aware of — .nxt, gTLD World Congress, newdomains.org and a handful of smaller ones — have struggled to get half that number of delegates.

I suspect that the relatively low cost of tickets, hotel rooms and flights will have something to do with the relatively high participation for an as-yet unproven event.

According to organizers, there are about 100 speakers/panelists and 30 sessions over the two full days of the conference.

With just 45 minutes scheduled for most sessions, and five speakers on many of the panels, moderators will have their work cut out making sure discussions are balanced yet focused.

I will be on two panels, “Meet the industry Press” and “Important Tools of the Industry”, both of which are on Wednesday afternoon.

Donuts picks young British firm for Sunrise disputes

Kevin Murphy, January 6, 2014, Domain Services

A newish UK company managed by some old internet policy hands has been appointed by Donuts to handle disputes arising from its Sunrise and Domain Protected Marks List policies.

Oxford-based Synetergy, which says it worked with Interconnect Comunications on new gTLD evaluations, is managed by Emily Taylor (formerly of Nominet) and Tony Holmes (formerly of BT).

The company will handle Donuts’ Sunrise and DPML Dispute Resolution Policy, which ICANN published (pdf) today.

The policy comes into play whenever somebody suspects that a Sunrise registration or DPML block in a Donuts gTLD was made based on a bogus trademark submission.

The price of filing a complaint under the process is £250 for up to five names registered to the same registrant.

Taylor said that IP experts from Sipara will handle the substantive evaluations, with Synetergy administering the process.

United TLD, the Demand Media/Rightside new gTLD applicant subsidiary, is also using Synetergy for its dispute resolution services, Taylor said.

Our unpredictions for 2014

Kevin Murphy, January 2, 2014, Domain Services

Over the close to four years we’ve been publishing, DI has so far resisted running annual prediction lists.

As a reader, they always strike me as being largely holiday-period filler guff. As a writer, they kind of obligate you to revisit and score yourself a year later. Hugely embarrassing pain in the bum.

But this year we’ve had a change of heart.

It’s really, really quiet out there today.

So here’s our list of events we think will definitely, definitely, definitely happen in 2014.

  • Bob Parsons will give ten bucks to a homeless guy outside a Scottsdale Starbucks, according to a Go Daddy press release.
  • NomCom, hands tied by its gender quotas policy, will be forced to appoint a minor Kardashian to the ICANN board of directors.
  • Pat Kane will quit Verisign in order to head up kp.com, the newly launched sub-domain service for North Koreans who couldn’t get the .kp name they really wanted.
  • A pseudonymous domainer will send TLDH’s share price into a death spiral by predicting that “all new gltds will fail lol” in a comment on an industry blog.
  • Tucows CEO Elliot Noss will accidentally blind four people during a particularly enthusiastic bout of gesticulation.
  • An ICANN director will answer Paul Foody’s question during the Public Forum in Singapore. Foody will leave the room moments later, never to be seen again.
  • Somebody will write a blog post about 27-year-old .xyz applicant Daniel Negari without mentioning his age.
  • ICANN will blame a “glitch” after accidentally delegating .islam to a New York synagogue.
  • Mike Berkens will use apostrophes correctly for a week straight.
  • After the GNSO dies for the fifth time, the entire Council will regenerate as Peter Capaldi, forcing an immediate structural review.
  • 1&1 will start selling pre-registrations in new gTLDs that it expects will probably be applied for at some point between 2018 and 2024.
  • Fox will green-light the production of “Jeff Neuman vs Predator”.
  • DotConnectAfrica will finally withdraw its application for .africa, but only after failed attempts to withdraw applications for .africas, .africka, and .dotdotafrica.
  • Christine Jones will suffer a humiliating wardrobe malfunction during a campaign rally.
  • A smartphone-friendly version of DI will be launched.
  • During an unannounced visit to ICANN’s LA office, Fadi Chehade will stumble across John Jeffrey fucking an apple pie in the staff kitchen.
  • Jennifer Wolfe will speak during a GNSO Council meeting.
  • The Intellectual Property Constituency will complain that ICANN’s latest rights protection mechanisms “go too far to protect trademark owners” and demand an immediate rollback.
  • Rick Schwartz will invest $200 million in Donuts.
  • The sentence “Esther Dyson declined to comment.” will appear in a mainstream media article about new gTLDs.

Happy new year everyone!

Today’s new gTLD passes, signings and withdrawals

Kevin Murphy, December 23, 2013, Domain Services

ICANN signed 21 new gTLD registry contracts late last week, while one applicant has withdrawn and another has passed evaluation.

First, Donuts has pulled out of its two-way contest for .global, leaving the path clear for CloudNames to be awarded the gTLD, which is to be an open-registration generic.

I gather that the contention set was settled in a rare example of a privately negotiated deal, rather than an auction, involving Donuts.

On Thursday, several applicants signed Registry Agreements with ICANN.

Famous Four Media, which applied for 60 strings, signed its first RA, for .bid.

Fellow portfolio applicant Top Level Domain Holdings signed for .miami, .country, .work, .vodka and .rodeo; Donuts got .supplies, .supply and .商店 (“shop”) and Top Level Spectrum got .feedback.

PeopleBrowsr contracted for .best and .kred and Punto 2012 got .rest (for “restaurant” and its many non-English variants).

In dot-brands, World Trade Centers Association got .wtc, Sohu.com got .sohu, Frogans got .frogans, AXA got .axa and Brazilian media conglomerate Globo got .globo.

In geographic strings, PointQuebec got .quebec, while FAITID got .moscow and its Cyrllic IDN equivalent .москва.

Finally, on Friday ICANN passed Bosch Rexroth’s dot-brand application for .rexroth through Extended Evaluation.

NamesCon ticket winners selected

Kevin Murphy, December 16, 2013, Domain Services

Over the weekend we randomly selected the five winners of free tickets to the NamesCon conference.

To enter, all you had to do was leave a comment answering the question:

What’s the best way to explain the benefits of new gTLDs to somebody from outside the domain industry?

The prizes are free conference passes to NamesCon, which runs at the Tropicana hotel in Las Vegas from January 13 to 15.

The winners were picked using the random number generator at Random.org. By screen name, they are:

  1. JS
  2. Tony C
  3. Nic Steinbach
  4. Adam Strong
  5. Pat

They will be all contacted via email by DI today to arrange for ticket delivery.

Many thanks to everyone who participated. There were some interesting answers in there.