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Staff changes at new gTLD consultancies

Kevin Murphy, November 16, 2011, Domain Services

There’s movement in the new top-level domains consultancy market this week, with new hires and departures at a couple of startups.

It’s been a case of one in, one out at Sedari, the registry management services company founded by Liz Williams this summer.

The company has hired Philip Sheppard, most recently director of public affairs for AIM, the European Brands Agency, as its new policy director.

Sheppard is an ICANN veteran from the IP/business side of the house, who has chaired multiple policy committees since becoming involved in 1999.

But Sedari has also lost another industry vet, Jothan Frakes, who’s decided to go freelance.

Elsewhere, FairWinds Partners, which shares management with the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse, has also emerged publicly as a new gTLD consultancy.

The Washington DC-based company hope to use its track record of criticizing the new gTLD program to win the support of big brands skeptical about the ICANN process.

FairWinds said this week it’s taken on former ICANN director Michael Palage of Pharos Global, who has worked for both proponents and opponents of the program, apparently on a freelance basis.

Twitter co-founder to headline DOMAINfest

Kevin Murphy, November 9, 2011, Domain Services

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone is to keynote the 2012 DOMAINfest Global conference, organizer Oversee.net has just announced.

It sounds rather like his speech will focus on the “inspirational story” angle, rather like Go Daddy founder Bob Parsons’ keynote at the 2011 show.

According to the agenda, Stone will “share his thoughts on Twitter’s future and the evolving world of social media”.

Judging by the other speakers and panelists lined up, it’s an SEO-heavy agenda, but there will be a workshop entitled “Everything You Need to Know about New TLDs”.

For the new gTLDs panel, so far only Neustar’s Ken Hansen is listed as a confirmed speaker. I don’t expect that state of affairs to last long.

The show will be held at the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica, California, from January 31 to February 2 next year. Prices start at $1,195 if registering before December 31.

Google threatens domain names with Direct Connect

Kevin Murphy, November 8, 2011, Domain Services

Google’s latest social networking play is a potential threat to the relevance of domain names.

The company has announced the launch of Direct Connect, a feature that enables direct navigation to Google+ pages via the search engine.

Essentially, typing a + sign before the name of a brand in the search box will take you directly to that brand’s Google+ page, assuming it has one, bypassing search results.

This video explains it pretty well:

Google said yesterday that at launch a handful of brands, including Pepsi, Toyota and Angry Birds, are signed up, but from where I’m sitting only +google seems to work as advertised.

The feature also only seems to work when used with the search box on Google’s home page.

However, it does not require a massive leap of the imagination to see it quite easily showing up soon in the Google Toolbar and the integrated search/URL bar in Chrome.

Direct Connect was launched alongside Google+ Pages, the company’s answer to Facebook Pages – a way for companies to have their own branded fan page for interacting with customers.

Many companies are already advertising their Facebook addresses, or simply encouraging people to search Facebook for their brand, in print, on TV and elsewhere.

It might not be long before we see +brand advertising along similar lines.

Could Google train people to type +pepsi instead of pepsi.com? It’s an interesting notion.

The + operator was of course until recently a way of telling Google that you really, really wanted to see search results containing your query.

As Google has increasingly crapified its search engine with infuriating “user-friendly” guff over the last few years, I’ve trained myself to automatically put a + in front of every search in order to get the results I want rather than what Google, in its infinite wisdom, thinks I might want.

I’m sure I’m not alone.

While the + function has now been deprecated in favor of enclosing queries in quotation marks, it is nevertheless already trained user behavior in many cases.

I’m not suggesting that Google is going to kill domain names, but at first glance Direct Connect certainly seems to be a step toward attempting to make them less relevant for branding and advertising.

I can’t help but note that Google+ Pages was launched unilaterally by Google with no multi-stakeholder consultation, no battles with intellectual property interests, and no government oversight.

The Association of National Advertisers has yet to demand that Google shuts it down.

NetNames puts gTLD.com domain to good use

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2011, Domain Services

European registrar Group NBT has a pretty great domain for its new generic top-level domains consulting business: gTLD.com.

Under its NetNames corporate registrar brand, the company is targeting the “.brand” market, like so many others, judging by its recently relaunched web site.

Its services include pre-application consulting, help with applications, and ongoing management services, provided through its relationships with registry infrastructure partners.

It will also keep track of other ICANN gTLD applications and alert clients about potential cases of trademark infringement.

One thing’s for sure, new gTLD applicants in general are spoiled for choice now when it comes to selecting a consultant.

DomainTools opens massive email record database

Kevin Murphy, August 29, 2011, Domain Services

DomainTools has opened up a huge database that matches domain names to the mail servers they use.

A search on ReverseMX.com for a domain name returns the mail servers that domain uses. In reverse, you can search for a mail server or IP address and find out which domains use it.

For example, a query for one of Google’s mail servers will spit back a short list of some of the domains that use Google for their email, along with an aggregate domain count.

DomainTools said in a press release:

ReverseMX can be used by a wide audience – basically anyone interested in researching the footprint of small or large email providers. For example, users can analyze which mail servers’ domains are using certain email providers, or how Microsoft’s hosted email is doing against Gmail or Yahoo.

The data currently covers the 130 million domains registered under .com, .edu, .net, .org, .info, .biz, and .us – the largest TLDs for which zone files are freely available.

DomainTools has already uncovered a few interesting factoids, such as that 30 million domain names use Go Daddy for their email, making it easily the largest provider.

The service also interrogates domains’ SPF records to work out which IP addresses are authorized to send email for any given domain.

I can imagine ReverseMX being useful for researchers in the security industry (and their spammer adversaries?).

But unlike DomainTools’ other services, it does not immediately appear to be something that many people in the domain name industry will find themselves using on a daily basis.