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FairWinds hard-sells defensive gTLD applications

Kevin Murphy, March 6, 2012, Domain Services

Talk about a U-turn.

FairWinds Partners, the company behind the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse, has gone from using CADNA to oppose ICANN’s new gTLD program in its entirety to name-dropping the organization in sales pitches encouraging companies to defensively apply for “dozens” of new gTLDs.

According to an email pitch forwarded to DI by a reader today, the company is recommending potential clients apply for new gTLDs defensively, then drop out of the process after May 1 if it turns out their competitors are not aggressively pursuing new gTLDs.

The pitch appears to be tailored to the specific potential client – pimping keyword gTLDs relevant to its industry as well as dot-brands in general. Here are a few extracts (typos in original):

Many majors brands applying for at least one new gTLD – some more than a dozen. They don’t necessarily plan on using them straight away, but it is important for businesses to secure the option to leverage new gTLDs as most major businesses will.

FairWinds (through our non-profit advocacy group CADNA – the Coalition Again Domain Name Abuse) has actually been the strongest opponent of this program for years. That said, given the sheer number of businesses that are participating, it is something that brand owners can’t sit out on and businesses have decided to work with us as FairWinds is known to be the leading voice of the brand owner community on this topic.

So you know, many of our clients are exercising what we are calling the “behind the curtain” strategy. This involves applying for a new gTLD and if it turns out that your competitors don’t apply as aggressively as we think they will, you have the option to pull the application and receive a 70% refund on the application fee. This might be the right strategy for generic extensions like those listed above. That said, I highly recommend you apply for and follow through on .application as several brands in your space will most likely apply for their primary .BRANDS.

There’s nothing positive in the pitch – no praising the speculative SEO or branding/marketing benefits of new gTLDs, for example.

It’s a fully defensive, FUD-based sales call of the kind commonly served up by more established members of the domain name industry.

The fact that CADNA is mentioned – I’ve found that FairWinds is usually keen to draw a bright line between itself and the organization, even though they share management – makes this all the more remarkable.

For the record, I do feel slightly bad for singling out FairWinds here.

It’s not actually bad advice – the strategy it proposes is sound – and I’m certain the same and worse FUD tactics are being used today by other new gTLD consultants and registries.

But it’s interesting because as recently as May 2011 CADNA was calling for the new gTLD program to be scrapped, saying ICANN “has not managed demonstrate a need for new gTLDs, nor that the benefits will outweigh the costs, particularly for brand owners and consumers”.

At least its sales pitches are consistent with that view, I suppose.

FairWinds’ Singaporean conversion may not have been Damascene, but it was certainly opportunistic.

UPDATE: I’ve changed the headline to reflect that it’s FairWinds, not CADNA, that’s doing the selling. While I think the article makes that clear, not everybody reads beyond the headline.

Architelos makes $1 million in first year

Kevin Murphy, February 23, 2012, Domain Services

The new gTLD consultancy Architelos took in revenue of over $1 million in its just-concluded first year of operations, according to the company.

That impressive sum came from a combination of consulting fees and software licenses for its Business Case Builder, which helps new gTLD applicants model their financial outlook.

Named clients include Verisign, Nominet, .music applicant Far Further and the Canadian Internet Registry Authority, according to Architelos.

Company founder and CEO Alexa Raad earned her chops leading the .mobi and .org registries before going independent.

Introducing DomainIncite PRO

Kevin Murphy, January 11, 2012, Domain Services

As you know, today is a Big Day in the domain name industry.

That’s right, today’s the day that I’m excited to announce the launch of DomainIncite PRO, the industry’s newest research and analysis service.

DomainIncite PRO is a DI sister site providing in-depth coverage of industry trends, company case studies, and analysis of ICANN’s new generic top-level domains program as it begins to roll out.

I hope the service will quickly become the domain name industry’s premier source of independent research and objective, vendor-neutral analysis.

Let me assure you that regular DI is not going anywhere. This blog will continue to break the latest domain name news, in our unique style, at least five days a week.

While DI will continue to publish shorter news articles, DomainIncite PRO will carry white papers in the 1,500 to 3,000-word range, often accompanied by downloadable data.

Some highlights of the content available to PRO subscribers today:

Five thousand strings that could get your gTLD application rejected

This paper analyzes a wide variety of scenarios in which new gTLD strings could be rejected by ICANN and provides a downloadable spreadsheet of over 5,000 specific banned strings — including brands, abbreviations and generic terms — that could cause an application to fall at the first hurdle.

How .CO Internet relaunched Colombia’s .co registry

This case study looks at .CO Internet’s strategy in the run-up to .co’s launch and during its first year of operations, exploring its successes and failures with regards marketing, sales, channel partnerships and trademark protection.

Domain name sales price database

To help new gTLD applicants with their premium domain name pricing strategies, we’re making available a database of almost 60,000 domain name sales prices that can be used as a helpful pricing reference.

There’s also a free downloadable white paper about new gTLDs written with absolute newbies in mind.

Expect to see a lot more content, with a big focus on new gTLDs, to start appearing soon.

In the near future, DomainIncite PRO will also begin to carry in-depth data-driven market share analysis of the existing gTLD registry space. This coverage will be expanded to cover all new gTLDs when they begin to launch early next year.

We will also provide ongoing analysis of live policy development within ICANN, helping new community members navigate the minefield of acronyms, procedures and personalities.

While translating ICANN into plain English is one of my key goals, make no mistake: DomainIncite PRO is interested in politics only insofar as it affects businesses.

Don’t expect to find long, tedious reports about interminable internet governance debates, unless the outcome is likely to have a tangible impact on somebody’s bottom line.

I can reveal that DomainIncite PRO’s first contributing analyst is Adam Smith, World Trademark Review‘s well-respected former Senior Reporter.

Adam covered the development of the new gTLD program for WTR between 2008 and late 2011. He knows his stuff and I’m very grateful to have him on board.

I hope to add more writers in the near future (if you’re interested in contributing, please get in touch).

Now the bad news. This great content doesn’t come for free.

Memberships are available on an annual subscription basis, and it’s priced for a corporate wallet.

As it’s a new service, and because this post basically represents a “soft” launch for regular DomainIncite readers, the introductory price for single-user annual subscription is $799.

Multi-user company licenses are also available at a discounted rate upon request, but I do not currently anticipate offering trial subscriptions.

I think the content available today already offers a compelling ROI case.

If DomainIncite PRO sounds like something that could benefit your business, why not check it out for yourself right now?

Former ICANN CFO sues Sedari over €100k deal

Kevin Murphy, December 5, 2011, Domain Services

Kevin Wilson, who joined new gTLD consultancy Sedari as chief financial officer earlier this year, was fired in October and is now suing the company over a €100,000 investment deal gone bad.

Wilson, who spent four years as ICANN’s CFO, was one of a number of familiar domain name industry faces to join UK-based Sedari when it came out of stealth mode this summer.

But he was let go in October after falling out with CEO Liz Williams over financial matters.

Wilson claims that even as CFO he had to fight for access to Sedari’s financial records, and that when he finally questioned the company’s accounting he was terminated.

His termination letter said that Sedari had “very serious concerns” about his performance.

He had agreed to invest €100,000, in two €50,000 installments, and was fired shortly after deciding not to make the second payment, according to his legal complaint.

Wilson claims that he agreed to become an investor after being told about paying clients, including Cloud Registry, that he came to believe may not have existed.

He also alleges that “substantial sums” were taken from the company coffers by Williams for spa treatments and other personal expenditures.

The lawsuit alleges “fraud” on this basis, and seeks the return of Wilson’s initial €50,000 stake.

Wilson also wants the court to declare that, as a resident of California, he is not bound by the post-employment non-compete clauses of his contract.

He’s currently an independent new gTLDs consultant.

Sedari, through its solicitor Faegre & Benson, said in a statement:

Mr. Wilson has reneged on his legally binding obligations to Sedari both in relation to the payment by him of certain sums and his agreement not to act contrary to the best interest of the company. As a result, the Board has forfeited Mr. Wilson’s shares and taken further action to enforce its rights against him.

The statement notes that Sedari has not yet been formally served the complaint – which was filed in the Superior Court in Los Angeles on October 25 – adding:

In the event that Mr. Wilson proceeds with his complaint, it will be defended comprehensively.

The claim is devoid of merit, wrong in fact and all material allegations are rejected. Mr. Wilson will also be pursued for any further loss his actions may cause the alleged defendants.

Wilson said in a statement that he wants to “resolve matters amicably”.

According to exhibits filed with the lawsuit, Sedari’s other investors include Williams, with a majority 53.7% stake, as well as director Dennis Jennings and policy chief Philip Sheppard.

Registry services provider Afilias paid $375,000 for a 27.4% stake in the company, according to these documents. Its chairman, Philipp Grabensee, sits on the Sedari board.

Here’s the complaint.

Sedari hires Fay Howard as COO

Kevin Murphy, December 2, 2011, Domain Services

New gTLDs start-up Sedari has recruited Fay Howard, formerly general manager of CENTR, the Council for European National Top Level Domain Registries, as its new chief operating officer.

Howard has also previously worked at Nominet and Eurid, where she wrote the winning application for the .eu registry contract, according to Sedari.

It’s one of a number of recent senior hires for the company, which came out of stealth mode this summer to provide new gTLD applicants with application and registry management services.

Last month, the company hired Philip Shepard as director of policy.