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Three more digital archery services launch

Kevin Murphy, June 19, 2012, Domain Services

Surely the market must be saturated by now?

With a little over a week left before ICANN shuts down its digital archery new gTLD batching mechanism, three more companies are vying for applicants’ business.

We’ve received three press releases from newcomers this week, which I believe brings the total to eight.

Of course, it’s looking somewhat possible that digital archery will prove to be irrelevant, should ICANN decide to abandon batching altogether next.

In no particular order, these are the new ones:

Timestamp Technology

American. Affiliated with Nations Media Partners, Timestamp says it will offer applicants a 150% refund if it fails to get them into the first batch. It costs $20,000 for a single application.

MySingleShot

Bulgarian. Affiliated with Uninet. Says 90% of its shots come within 10ms of target. It’s a software play, with licenses selling for $1,000. If you want somebody to take the shot for you, it’s an extra $100 per TLD.

Digital Archery Hotshots

British. Run by Vladimir Shadrunov, a former Telnic executive now gTLD consultant. Fees not disclosed on the web site, but claims to have a “guaranteed lowest price”.

How Uniregistry wants to make Whois “two-way”

Kevin Murphy, June 11, 2012, Domain Services

If someone uses a Whois database to look up personal information such as your home address and phone number, wouldn’t it be nice to know a little something about them, too?

That’s the philosophy behind one of Uniregistry’s more interesting new gTLD policies, according to Frank Schilling, founder of the new new gTLD portfolio applicant.

Uniregistry has applied for dozens of gTLDs and says it has a “registrant-centered” outlook that extends to the mandatory thick Whois databases.

If its gTLDs are approved, the company will record the IP addresses of people doing Whois queries and make the records available to its registrants, Schilling said.

He suggested that Whois users may have to give up more info about themselves, in certain cases, too.

“To get certain pieces of information, you’ll have to agree to share some information about yourself,” Schilling said in an interview with DI yesterday.

Registrants would be able to view archived data about who’s been looking them up, which could help them during subsequent legal disputes about names, or during sales negotiations.

For domainers, this could be handy. Imagine you own the domain soft.drink and you receive a low-ball offer from a random stranger you suspect might be a proxy for a large corporation. Wouldn’t it be nice to know Coca-Cola has recently been checking out your Whois?

It’s going to be interesting to see how IP interests and law enforcement agencies – the two ICANN lobbies most deeply invested in Whois accuracy – react to Uniregistry turning the tables.

June .nxt conference canceled

Kevin Murphy, May 23, 2012, Domain Services

The .nxt conference on new generic top-level domains, planned for London next month, has been postponed until later this year, the organizers have announced.

.nxt CEO Kieren McCarthy blamed the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the new gTLD program timetable following ICANN’s six-week TLD Application System outage.

McCarthy wrote on the .nxt web site:

Our main goal for this conference is to give a comprehensive overview of the new gTLD process, including: providing an understanding of this new market; assisting applicants in moving forward; learning lessons from the past; and giving everyone a significant new industry an opportunity to meet, debate and network. We just don’t feel this is going to be possible for the 20-22 June timeframe.

We gave serious consideration to running the conference despite the lack of information and tight timeline but decided in the end it would be better for everyone to hold a conference that was in a position to achieve its aims.

The conference had already signed up almost twice the number of attendees than the previous two San Francisco-based events (which were in the 150-200 range), according to McCarthy.

Tickets for the June event will be honored for the rescheduled .nxt, which is likely to happen in the late third or early fourth quarter, he said.

People who booked hotels through official channels will get a full refund, but those who made their own arrangements will have to make their own cancellations.

DomainDiction hires industry vets to market gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, May 21, 2012, Domain Services

DomainDiction, a new marketing company set up to help new generic top-level domain registries, officially launches today.

The largely European company, headed by France-based CEO Jennie-Marie Larsen, says it is “the first marketing consultancy dedicated solely to Top Level Domains”.

Larsen started off her career in the domain name industry at NeuStar, and was most recently chief marketing officer at the new gTLD business management firm Sedari.

Fellow industry veteran Pinky Brand, who helped launch .mobi and was revealed last week to have left registry manager Afilias, is DomainDiction’s new chief strategy officer.

Larsen said in a press release:

DomainDiction´s expertise is multi-channel, international domain marketing. By utilizing a wide range of marketing tools, we are able to offer innovative strategies and outreach programs across each phase from sunrise, landrush, to renewals. We leverage our close registrar channel relationships, international PR, online marketing, and complex SEO & PPC strategies to ensure success for each TLD.

Also on the team: John Kirkham (formerly with HostEurope), Tina Lord (former CMO of EasySpace), Henry Lewington (Barracuda Digital) and Christoph Hausel (whose agency, Element C, has previously worked for Afilias and NeuStar).

Rob Rozicki, who a couple of years ago made a lot of noise about applying for five sports-based gTLDs (.skate, .ski, .board, etc) is on board as head of North American online marketing.

While DomainDiction is certainly the first pure-play new gTLD marketing outfit that I can think of, the company will face competition from traditional PR firms and other gTLD consultancies.

Architelos, which made over a million dollars consulting with new gTLD applicants over the application period, recently launched its own marketing service, Velocity.

DomainDiction is set to launch this afternoon.

Brands are Pool.com’s surprise digital archery clients

Kevin Murphy, May 17, 2012, Domain Services

Companies applying to ICANN for “dot-brand” top-level domains are among those signing up for Pool.com’s new digital archery service, according to Rob Hall, CEO of parent Momentous.

The company launched its Digital Archery Engine last month, not too long after ICANN confirmed its controversial method of batching new gTLD applications for processing.

Now, Pool is receiving interest from not only mass-market generic string applicants, but also dot-brands.

“It’s a wider swath of TLDs that I thought originally,” said Hall. “At first I thought for sure the generics and the domains that might be in competition.”

“It’s amazing to me that a lot of people out there are saying the brands don’t care, the brands are doing this just defensively, the brands couldn’t care less about going first… but a lot of them do,” he said.

“A lot of them are saying ‘I want to be in that first batch’, which I wouldn’t have necessarily expected,” he added.

He said he had no idea what the motivations are for these brands.

“Our job is to get them in the first batch, not to ask them why they want to be there,” he said.

Hall said it wasn’t clear how many clients Pool would eventually sign up to the service, but said he expects it to be definitely much more than 50.

ICANN’s digital archery system – which will batch applicants according to which can most accurately send a message over the internet to a target time – was poorly received by most people.

Unsurprisingly, Hall is not one of those people.

Pool is one of several companies that have been competing to register expiring domain names for the better part of a decade, so its systems have been fine-tuned for sending messages over the internet quickly.

While the big registries such as .com use the EPP protocol, some of the registries Pool interacts with use HTTP, which seems to be ICANN’s preferred option for digital archery.

Hall said Pool aims for latency of less than 6 milliseconds. Its servers are positioned topologically close to registries – typically one or two hops – and the software measures monitors network conditions.

“The key is being able to detect what is the latency and to predict it, then factor that into the engine to say ‘When do I fire?’,” he said.

He does not anticipate the CAPTCHAs or other Turing tests presenting a problem – Pool would simply bring a human into the equation.

The Digital Archery Engine is not cheap. If Pool gets you into the first batch, you’re $25,000 out of pocket. If you’re in the top half of batches (batch three of five counts as top half) it’s $10,000.

The company was singled out recently by ICANN’s Intellectual Property Constituency as an “insider” exploiting the digital archery system as a “revenue extraction opportunity”.

A letter highly critical of the system from IPC chair Steve Metallitz said:

This arcane and seemingly arbitrary batching method will also reinforce the widespread impression that all ICANN procedures are dominated by “insiders” with contractual relationships to ICANN, who will surely know best how to manipulate this initiative to their own benefit, or that of their paying customers. It is difficult to reconcile such an outcome with ICANN’s obligation to act in the public interest.

Hall said was happy for the free advertising. “I’d like to thank them,” he said.

But he said Pool isn’t “manipulating” anything.

“They’ve called this ‘digital archery’,” he said. “It’s a game to see who’s best at it. That’s what they’ve designed. We’re not gaming anything. And we’re not offering this to insiders, we’re offering this to everyone.”