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Radiohead backs .music community bid

Kevin Murphy, December 15, 2015, Domain Registries

Ed O’Brien, guitarist with the band Radiohead, has become the latest musician to throw his support behind DotMusic’s community-based application for the new gTLD .music.

In a letter to ICANN today (pdf), O’Brien said that if DotMusic loses its ongoing Community Priority Evaluation, it will “be setting back the world’s chances of a Fair Trade Music Industry by many years”.

“I challenge The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers views that the global music community to which I belong does not exist,” he wrote.

He’s arguably the highest-profile musician to support DotMusic to date. Radiohead have sold over 30 million records and a few years ago O’Brien was ranked by Rolling Stone as the 59th greatest guitarist of all time.

The phrase “Fair Trade Music Industry” appears to have been coined last week at TechCrunch Disrupt by Grammy-nominated musician Imogen Heap, another one of DotMusic’s celebrity supporters.

It refers to the notion that artists should be fairly compensated for their work, opposing services such as Spotify, which reportedly pays artists less than a tenth of a cent every time one of their songs is played.

Both Heap and Radiohead are noted for their innovative uses of technology in their music (for example, listen to Radiohead’s incredible 1997 album OK Computer, bootlegs of which are available to stream for free on YouTube).

Radiohead is also known for its love-hate relationship with internet-based music business models.

In 2007, Radiohead released a new album for free on its web site, allowing fans to set their own price. But in 2013, it pulled its back catalog from Spotify, with lead singer Thom Yorke calling the service “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse”.

Its music is back on Spotify now.

But you can see why the band would support DotMusic’s application for .music, which proposes a number of novel rights protection mechanisms covering not just trademarks, but also copyright.

One interesting proposal is to ban any domain name from .music if a matching domain in another TLD has received over 10,000 copyright infringement notices from a big music industry body. This is to prevent TLD “hopping” affecting .music.

So, for example, if thepiratebay.com had received 10,000 notices, thepiratebay.music would be permanently blocked from registration.

The company is proposing a somewhat restricted namespace too, where only “community members” are allowed to register domains.

But prospective registrants merely need to self-identify as a member of one of the community’s dozens of subsets — which includes “fans” and “bloggers” — in order to register.

Parking will be prohibited, however, which would cut down on domain investor speculation.

Quite how .music will enhance the move for “fair trade” for artists is not entirely clear from O’Brien’s letter. After .music launches, there will still be hundreds of other TLDs that do not have DotMusic’s rules in place.

It’s also unlikely that the Economist Intelligence Unit, which is currently handling the CPE, will even see O’Brien’s letter.

ICANN told DotMusic (pdf) recently that the EIU “may not consider” any support letters received after October 13, which was two months after the official deadline for letters to be submitted.

DotMusic has letters of support — mostly the same letter with a different signature — from literally hundreds of musicians, trade groups, producers and publishers.

CEO Constantine Roussos told DI last week that it has more support letters than all the other “Community” gTLD applicants combined.

He said he’s confident that DotMusic’s CPE will be successful, citing positive precedent set by EIU panels in .osaka, .hotel and .radio CPE cases.

But the closest precedent we have so far is the Far Further application for .music, which comprehensively lost its CPE a year ago, scoring just three points out of the available 16, well short of the 14-point passing score.

There are differences between the applications, but Far Further’s CPE panel told it that there was no such thing as “the music community”, which sets a pretty high bar for DotMusic to leap.

If DotMusic wins its CPE, the remaining seven competing applications for the string get kicked out of the program. If it loses, it goes to an auction it has little chance of winning.

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Twitter and Justin Timberlake targeted by This.sucks

Kevin Murphy, December 15, 2015, Domain Registries

This.sucks, a company with close ties to .sucks registry Vox Populi, has started registering domain names matching famous brands to itself.

Twitter, along with singer Justin Timberlake, software maker Adobe and investment bank Goldman Sachs all saw their matching .sucks domains registered by This.sucks on Friday, according to the .sucks zone file and Whois queries.

The domains twitter.sucks, goldmansachs.sucks, justintimberlake.sucks and adobe.sucks currently resolve in browsers, but only to a password-protected web site.

New York-based This.sucks says its service is in beta. It plans to give 10,000 .sucks domains away for free, and to sell them for as little as $12 per year. Its business model has not been revealed.

That’s a deep discount from their regular $250 suggested retail price, which rises to $2,500 for domains matching famous brands.

Technically, the company should have just paid around $10,000 for the four brand-matching domains it has just registered.

But it is broadly suspected that This.sucks shares ownership with Vox Populi, the .sucks registry operator, which would make this a case of the right hand paying the left.

As we uncovered in October, Vox Populi originally hosted This.sucks’ web sites and the CEO of Momentous, which founded Vox Pop, paid for its web site to be developed.

The two companies also share a physical address and a Cayman Islands lawyer.

Vox Pop has denied any involvement in This.sucks, saying it’s just another customer.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes for one of the four affected brands to file a UDRP or URS complaint on these new domains.

As far as I can tell, the .sucks namespace currently has an unblemished UDRP record.

Unlike rival Top Level Spectrum, which runs .feedback, neither Vox Pop nor This.sucks has revealed any plans to use brands belonging to third parties as part of their services.

TLS has said it plans to sell 5,000 branded .feedback domains to a third party after its sunrise period ends next month.

It has already registered fox.feedback to itself as one of its special 100-domain pre-sunrise registry allowance.

Since we last reported on .feedback a month ago, the registry appears to have also registered the names of all the current US presidential candidates — such as donaldtrump.feedback and hillaryclinton.feedback — to itself.

The sites are all live, as is santaclaus.feedback, which seeks commentary on the “fictional” character.

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CentralNic to swell with $24m Instra buy

Kevin Murphy, December 8, 2015, Domain Registrars

CentralNic is set to grow revenue by almost three quarters by acquiring Australian registrar Instra for $23.7 million.

The acquisition is for AUD 33 million, AUD 30 million of which will be in cash.

CentralNic plans to raise £10 million ($15 million) with a share placement to help fund the deal.

“This acquisition will grow our current revenues by 70% and extend our retail capabilities to serve customers in the fast growing emerging markets, globally,” CEO Ben Crawford said in a statement to the markets.

Instra had revenue of AUD 14.8 million ($10.7 million) in its fiscal 2015, and was profitable.

CentralNic’s revenue for the first half of this year was £4.4 million ($6.8 million).

The deal makes CentralNic, which started life as a registry, a much larger player in the registrar market.

It acquired Internet.bs for $7.5 million a couple of years ago, which brought in $2.8 million of revenue in the first half of this year.

Instra offers 150 ccTLDs and all the gTLDs, according to CentralNic.

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Berkens flogs the lot to Go Daddy

Kevin Murphy, December 7, 2015, Domain Sales

Domain investor Mike Berkens has sold almost his entire portfolio of domain names to Go Daddy, both parties said today.

Berkens’ company, WorldWide Media sold about 70,000 names to the company, which plans to list most of them on its Afternic Fast Transfer Network.

That’s the service that tries to streamline the purchasing of premium-priced domains as much as possible by making them available intermingled with unregistered names on registrars’ storefronts.

Berkens said on his blog, The Domains, that the decision to sell off most of his portfolio came about largely due to his personal circumstances.

“Simply put, life is short and this it was the perfect time for myself and my family to make a move that doesn’t require working 7 days a week, 365 days a year on the computer,” he wrote.

He intends to continue his work with RightOfTheDot, the auction and premium sales company he founded with Monte Cahn, which is running a big auction at the NamesCon conference next month.

He has also retained a portfolio of adult-themed domains, which he plans to sell via a web site at adult.domains.

A small portfolio of mostly new gTLD domains will be sold via the.domains.

Financial details of the Go Daddy deal were not disclosed, but Berkens said he could have made more money selling the names individually. He expects Go Daddy will find the domains profitable too, he said.

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Former ICANN director Blokzijl dies at 72

Kevin Murphy, December 7, 2015, Domain Registries

Rob Blokzijl, a former ICANN director widely acknowledged as an internet pioneer, died last week at the age of 72.

He passed away December 1, according to RIPE.

Blokzijl, a citizen of the Netherlands, was one of the founders of RIPE NCC, the European IP address registry and the first of the internet’s Regional Internet Registries, in 1989.

He was chair of the organization for 25 years until his retirement in 2013. He then held the title of Chair Emeritus.

RIPE said in a statement:

To many of us in the RIPE community and beyond, Rob was a mentor, a friend, a trusted confidante and always the voice of reason. His legacy stretches from the physical networks the Internet is made of to the community he built and the wisdom he injected into that community’s make-up from the very beginning. His legacy will continue to be felt as the community continues to grow and its participants often ask themselves, “What would Rob do?”

Blokzijl also sat on the board of ICANN, representing the Address Supporting Organization, from 1999 to 2002.

ICANN’s board passed a resolution in his memory last week, stating:

He was a gentle man who radiated warmth and optimism, while working constructively in the Netherlands, in Europe and, indeed, throughout the world to foster the development of the Internet.

Blokzijl was made Officer in the Order of Oranje-Nassau — a title awarded by the Dutch monarchy — in 2010 for his contributions to the internet.

Almost 200 people have left tributes on the RIPE web site.

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