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Krueger removed as chair as M+M finally starts seeing some revenue

Minds + Machines co-founder Fred Krueger has been kicked out of his job as executive chairman of the company.

The news came as the new gTLD registry reported its first full year of results as a proper, revenue-generating company.

The company reported revenue of $1.9 million for 2014, compared to $56,000 in 2013.

Its report includes a “cash revenue” line of $5 million, to show off revenues that it has deferred to future periods due to standard domain industry accounting.

For accounting purposes, M+M was profitable to the tune of $22 million for the year, but almost none of that is from actually selling domains — $33.7 million of profit came from losing new gTLD auctions.

That’s not a sustainable or predictable part of the business — nobody knows exactly when or if ICANN will launch the next round of new gTLDs — but it did help M+M grow its cash pile to $45.7 million.

That pile may grow or shrink depending on how aggressive the company is in its 11 remaining new gTLD contention set auctions.

CEO Antony Van Couvering said that M+M is also eyeing acquisition opportunities as the new gTLD industry enters an early consolidation phase.

He said that M+M’s early priorities include a focus on selling premium domains that have higher than usual annual renewal fees.

At the same time as announcing its results, the company said Krueger, who founded M+M with Van Couvering in 2009 in anticipation of the new gTLD program, has quit.

While he’s technically resigned, he left no doubt in his unusually frank resignation letter that he’s actually been forced out by the M+M board of directors.

He wrote that the decision was “initiated by the board” and that his “decision” to leave “was unexpected – for me at least”.

He added that he was “OK with it, indeed supportive of it” and that he has no intention to sell off his substantial stake in the company.

Krueger will now focus on Mozart, a web site building software maker that he’s been leading for the last couple of years. M+M has a deal to offer Mozart to its registrants.

He’s been replaced, albeit in a non-executive capacity, by Keith Teare, an existing director.

Teare is a tech veteran perhaps best known in the domain industry for launching and running RealNames, which attempted to replicate AOL Keywords for the Internet Explorer browser at the turn of the century.

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NameVault terminated by ICANN

NameVault, a registrar that once had over 75,000 domains under management, has been terminated by ICANN over multiple alleged contract breaches.

ICANN told (pdf) the Canadian company this week that its right to sell gTLD domain names will come to an end June 17.

The breaches primarily relate to its failure to provide records relating to the domain stronglikebull.com and its failure to provide ICANN with a working phone number.

NameVault belonged to domain investor Adam Matuzich, but I hear he may have sold it off to an Indian outfit several months ago (that may have been a surprise to ICANN too).

Back in 2011, it had over 75,000 names on its books. Today, it has fewer than 1,000.

The decline seems to be largely due to the departure of fellow domain investor Mike Berkens, who started taking his portfolio to Hexonet a few years ago.

ICANN will now ask other registrars if they want to take over NameVault’s domains.

It’s the fourth registrar to lose its accreditation this year.

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ICANN says “no impact” from TMCH downtime

The 10-hour outage in the Trademark Clearinghouse’s key database had no impact on domain registrations, ICANN says.

We reported earlier this week that the TMCH’s Trademark Database had been offline for much of last Friday, for reasons unknown.

We’d heard concerns from some users that the downtime may have allowed registrants to register domain names matching trademarks without triggering Trademark Claims notices.

But that worry may have been unfounded. ICANN told DI:

The issue occurred when two nodes spontaneously restarted. The cause of this restart is still under investigation. Although both nodes came back up, several services such as the network interface, TSA Service IP and the SSH daemon did not. All TMDB Services except the CNIS service were unavailable during the outage. From a domain registration point of view there should have been no impact.

CNIS is the Claim Notice Information Service, which provides registrars with Trademark Claims notice data.

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Chehade quits as ICANN CEO

Kevin Murphy, May 21, 2015, Domain Policy

ICANN president and CEO Fadi Chehade will step down from the post March 2016, he said in the last hour.

The shock news means he will have served just three and a half years in the top job by the time he leaves. He started September 14, 2012.

It sounds like he might already has a new job lined up. (UPDATE: He’s told AFP that he does, and the identity of his employer will be disclosed later this year.)

He’s told ICANN he intends “to move into a new career in the private sector (outside the Domain Name Industry)”, according to a press release.

Chehade will probably leave just about the same time as the transition of the IANA functions from US government oversight is finalized, assuming ICANN misses the target date of September 2015 and gets a six-month extension.

Here’s the full text of the press release:

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) today announced that President and CEO Fadi Chehadé has informed the Board he will be concluding his tenure in March 2016 to move into a new career in the private sector (outside the Domain Name Industry).

At the request of the Board, Chehadé will be available to work closely with ICANN after March 2016 to support the transition to a new leader, as well as to advise the Board on any issue they require including the implementation of the IANA Stewardship Transition from the US Government to ICANN and the technical operating community.

“I want to thank Fadi for his strong commitment,” said Dr. Stephen Crocker, Chair of the Board of Directors. I am very confident that with Fadi’s continued leadership and ICANN’s very experienced management team who have the breadth to ensure that ICANN continues to manage its key responsibilities effectively, that the organization’s work will proceed smoothly.”

“I am deeply committed to working with the Board, our staff, and our community to continue ICANN’s mission as we still have much to accomplish,” said Chehadé. “During the remaining 10 months of my tenure, it’s business-as-usual. My priority remains to continue strengthening ICANN’s operations and services to the global community.”

Personally, I think this is going to be horrible for continuity at ICANN. Chehade is a vision guy who had set out long-term goals for the organization that I don’t think he’ll be able to wrap up in his remaining 10 months.

What do you think?

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Concern over mystery TMCH outage

Kevin Murphy, May 20, 2015, Domain Tech

The Trademark Clearinghouse is investigating the causes and impact of an outage that is believed to have hit its primary database for 10 hours last Friday.

Some in the intellectual property community are concerned that the downtime may have allowed people to register domain names without receiving Trademark Claims notices.

The downtime was confirmed as unscheduled by the TMCH on a mailing list, but requests for more information sent its way today were deflected to ICANN.

An ICANN spokesperson said that the outage is being analyzed right now, which will take a couple of days.

The problem affected the IBM-administered Trademark Database, which registrars query to determine whether they need to serve up a Claims notice when a customer tries to register a domain that matches a trademark.

I gather that registries are supposed to reject registration attempts if they cannot get a definitive answer from the TMDB, but some are concerned that that may not have been the case during the downtime.

Over 145,000 Claims notices have been sent to trademark owners since the TMCH came online over a year ago.

(UPDATE: This story was edited May 21 to clarify that it is the TMCH conducting the investigation, rather than ICANN.)

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