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Seller’s remorse despite .club leading $1m NamesCon auction

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2015, Domain Services

The Right Of The Dot and SnapNames auction here at the NamesCon conference in Las Vegas last night raised just shy of $1 million, in what attendees broadly seem to agree was a successful event.

The grand total was $990,851, with 87 out of the 134 lots hitting their reserve and selling during the live/online bidding.

Leading the pack was homecare.com, which sold for $350,000.

But that deal actually closed before the live event began, leaving .CLUB Domains’ wine.club at the top of the sold list with a winning $140,000 bid.

Despite the sale, registry CEO Colin Campbell — evidently disappointed he had not placed a higher reserve on the name, expressed some seller’s remorse on Twitter this morning.

.CLUB also offloaded reserved names weed.club ($16,000), fight.club ($13,500) and tequila.club ($8,000), among others.

.com of course had the best night, with carauctions.com going for $90,000, susan.com going for $34,000 and tik.com and vil.com both going for $33,000.

Organizer Mike Berkens took a $76,000 hit on sexeducation.com, which he purchased for $100,000 and sold without reserve for $24,000.

Also noteworthy was what I believe was the biggest bid of the night — a $1.2 million in-room bid for auctions.com, owned by .xyz registry CEO Daniel Negari.

The domain failed to meet its reserve, however, and will join the other unsold names in an extended online auction that begins this weekend.

NamesCon 2015 bigger, longer and more popular

Kevin Murphy, January 5, 2015, Domain Services

NamesCon 2015 is due to kick of in Las Vegas this coming weekend with about 50% more attendees that its inaugural outing last year.

Organizers tell me that so far roughly 750 people (not including press and staff) have registered to attend the conference, which is taking place for the second year at the Tropicana hotel. That’s up from the roughly 525 registered a week before the 2014 event.

Some are expecting the final turnout to top 800.

Registrations were boosted as 2014 came to a close by the announcement that NamesCon had acquired the rights to use the longstanding DomainFest brand and domain to promote its own show.

The show is due to run from Sunday, January 11 to Wednesday, January 14, a day longer than the year-ago event.

NamesCon is a bit of a strange beast, catering heavily to domainers but with also a strong series of sessions aimed at digital brand managers and the intellectual property side of the industry.

Where else could you see sessions called “Workshop: I’m Getting Sued – What Do I Do Now?” and “Making the Most of Your .BRAND and the Evolving Internet” running side by side?

For domainers, a highlight of the week may be the live domain auction, which is being run by Right Of The Dot and SnapNames from January 13 from 1630 until 1930 local time.

There are 350 names going to auction, in an eclectic mix of legacy and new gTLDs.

Currently, slightly more than half of the 23 names with bids are new gTLD domains, though their asking prices are a lot lower than the .coms on the list — most seeing bids in the $250 range compared to a top .com bid fo $51,000 for agree.com.

Domains that do not sell during the live event will carry over to an extended auction that ends February 5.

TLD Registry, which runs a couple of Chinese-script new gTLDs, has a strong presence at NamesCon too, sponsoring a day-long session on the Chinese domain market on the Sunday.

Keynote speakers during the conference proper include Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s Global Domains Division, as well as executives from Go Daddy, Donuts, Uniregistry and others.

DI will be in attendance. I’ve agreed to do a presentation on DI PRO and industry metrics on Sunday, probably sharing the stage with another tools vendor, on Sunday, but the exact time and location have yet to be confirmed.

Conference passes are still available for $799 from the NamesCon web site. Registration on the door goes up to $849. For context, that’s still less than half the price you’d paid to go to TRAFFIC.

Most new gTLDs use NameSentry after Famous Four signs with Architelos

Kevin Murphy, December 18, 2014, Domain Services

Architelos yesterday announced that Famous Four Media has signed up to use its NameSentry security service across its portfolio of new gTLDs.

The company said that it now has 60% of launched new gTLDs on the platform, which gives registries a way to view potentially abusive domain names and automate remediation. That’s over 250 TLDs.

Famous Four only has five delegated gTLDs currently, but it has another 30 active applications. The bulk of NameSentry’s TLD base comes from early adopter Donuts, which has 157. Rightside, with its 33 new gTLDs, is also a customer.

Architelos said that .build, .ceo, .lat, .luxury, and .ooo have also recently signed up to the service.

Is the free ride over for Verisign’s .net?

Kevin Murphy, October 27, 2014, Domain Services

Verisign’s .net is on the rocks due to new gTLDs, executives have confirmed.

Speaking to investors and analysts on the company’s third-quarter earnings call last week, CFO George Kilguss said that .net “is experiencing some headwinds from the launch of the new gTLD program”.

Further comments from Kilguss and CEO Jim Bidzos seem to confirm what DI reported a month ago: .net is in trouble.

Latest stats collated by DI show that the .net zone file shrunk by over 121,000 domains in the seven months between March 26 and October 26 this year.

Executives said on the call that .net stood at 15.1 million names at the end of September. That compares to 15.2 million at the end of the previous quarter.

“It’s been relatively flat,” Kilguss said. “I actually think .net has held up pretty well over the year with all these new names coming on… So I don’t view .net’s performance as anything negative.”

Bidzos told analysts that “confusion” around the new gTLDs was to blame.

“I think generally, .net may be more susceptible to that confusion that swirls around new gTLDs,” he said.

He characterized .net as being like new gTLDs, falling into “that category of ‘different'”.

In my view, this is an implicit acknowledgement that .net has been getting a free ride for the last 20 years.

Asked whether the .net weakness could spill over to .com, Bidzos said that .com is a “trusted brand” because it’s almost 30 years old and has a 17-year record of uninterrupted up-time.

While there’s no doubt that .com is a trusted brand, it’s not because of its up-time or longevity, in my view — .net has the same stability record and is actually fractionally older than .com.

The reason .net is suffering now is that that for the last two decades it’s been essentially a defensive play.

People buy the .net when they buy the .com because they’ve been marketed as a bundle — the only two truly generic TLDs out there. Unlike .org, .net lost its semantic differentiation a long time ago.

As .com buyers start to see more and more options for duplicative or defensive registrations in their shopping carts, they’re going to be less likely to grab the .net to match their .com, in my opinion.

And it’s likely to get worse.

“It’s going to continue,” Bidzos said. “We’re seeing hundreds of more new gTLDs coming, and they’re coming at the rate of many every single week. So that confusion is likely to get worse.”

M+M turns profit on the back of gTLD auctions

Kevin Murphy, September 24, 2014, Domain Services

Minds + Machines posted an operating profit of almost £3 million ($4.9 million) for the first half of the year, almost entirely driven by the proceeds of losing new gTLD auctions.

The registry record a profit to June 30 of £2.9 million on revenue of $68,000.

The “profit on gTLD auctions” line item that permitted that seemingly impossible profit number was £7.1 million ($11.6 million), based on M+M losing eight out of 12 private auctions.

The company had £22 million ($36 million) in cash and other current assets on its balance sheet at the end of the period.

None of M+M’s big TLDs had launched in the first half, hence the low revenue. Since the half ended, .london has proven successful and several more new gTLDs wholly or partially owned by M+M have also launched.

In his statement to the market, chair Fred Krueger said:

A key variable in our financial position is the dynamic of private auctions, which we have embraced, and which has worked tremendously to our advantage. We believe that our current still contested strings represent significant assets which we have the potential to monetize either to further our existing new TLDs or to purchase additional new TLDs at auction.

He also reiterated CEO Antony Van Couvering’s call for a new metric to track gTLD registry health that is based on revenue-per-domain rather than simple volumes.

His outlook for new gTLDs was arguably less cautious than his counterpart at CentralNic, which reported its half-year numbers yesterday and talked of demand “falling short of industry expectations”.

Krueger said:

Name registration data available to-date indicates a strong opening for a variety of new products/domains, and also shows that we are still very early in the adoption curve for new TLDs. We expect that the growth of almost all new TLDs will likely follow an “S curve”, as it historically has for newly launched TLDs, rather than a straight line.

He also reconfirmed that M+M plans to aggressively pursue its new integrated registrar business as a means to drive growth in its gTLDs, rather than simply relying on the channel.