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.icu gets China nod as it tops 900,000 regs

Chinese regulators have approved .icu for sale and use in China, according to the registry.

ShortDot COO Kevin Kopas told DI today that the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has approved its year-old gTLD for mainland use.

The company plans to launch .icu there formally June 12, he said.

Kopas also said that .icu has recently topped 900,000 registrations.

It’s a remarkable growth achievement for a gTLD with barely a year on the clock, given that SpamHaus stats show that its level of spam abuse is still comparable to .com.

But with prices at around $1.50 at its largest registrars and very little semantic value, one has to assume that a lot of its registrations are speculative. Its first junk drop could be brutal.

MIIT approval may help it continue its growth trend. To date, China-based registrars have recorded no .icu sales.

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These 27 companies have ditched the .com for their dot-brand

Earlier today, I listed what I believe might be the top 10 dot-brand gTLDs with the most active web sites, but noted that it was probably a rubbish way to gauge the success of the dot-brand concept.

As a follow-up, I thought I’d figure out which brands have taken the bold step of ditching the .com and made their dot-brand their primary web destination.

I found 27 TLDs, which is simultaneously not a lot and easily twice as many as I was expecting.

The most-popular second-level string was “home”, with 12 examples. The string “global” occurs five times on the list.

I did this research manually with Google and a list of 275 dot-brands — anything with Spec 13 in its contract and more than two domains in its zone file — culled from my database.

To get on this list, at least one of the following had to be true:

  • The dot-brand was the top hit on Google when searching for the brand in question.
  • The .com redirects to the dot-brand.

Sometimes I had to factor out Google’s enormously irritating habit of localizing results, which would prioritize a .uk domain, particularly in the case of automotive brands.

On a few occasions, if I could not be certain whether the “official” primary site was in a ccTLD or the dot-brand, I used the brand’s Wikipedia page as a tie-breaker.

Some entries on the list may be a bit debatable.

I’m not sure whether .barclays should be there, for example. There’s little doubt in my mind that barclays.co.uk is the site that the majority of Barclays’ banking customers use, but barclays.com redirects visitors to home.barclays, so it fits my criteria.

In general, I’ve erred on the side of caution. If the top search result was for the brand’s .com, it was immediately ruled out, no matter how enthusiastic a dot-brand user the company otherwise appeared to be.

Here’s the list. Please let me know if you think I’ve missed any.

TLDBrand2LD
bnpparibasBNP Paribasgroup
bradescoBanco Bradesco S.A.banco
canonCanon Inc.global
cernEuropean Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)home
cuisinellaSALM S.A.S.ma
dhlDeutsche Post AGlogistics
fageFage International S.A.home
hisamitsuHisamitsu Pharmaceutical Co.,Inc.global
ipirangaIpiranga Produtos de Petroleo S.A.portal
komatsuKomatsu Ltd.home
kpmgKPMG International Cooperativehome
locusLocus Analytics LLChome
neustarNeuStar, Inc.home
pictetPictet Europe S.A.group
pioneerPioneer Corporationglobal
praxiPraxi S.p.A.praxi
sandvikSandvik ABhome
saxoSaxo Bank A/Shome
schmidtSALM S.A.S.home-design
senerSener Ingeniería y Sistemas, S.A.ingenieriayconstruccion
toyotaToyota Motor Corpglobal
warmanWeir Group IP Limitedhome*
weberSaint-Gobain Weber SAhome
weirWeir Group IP Limitedglobal

Twenty-seven gTLDs is not a great many, of course, considering that some dot-brands have been delegated for half a decade already.

It’s about half as many as have already torn up their ICANN registry agreements, and it represents less than 6% of the new gTLDs that my database says have Spec 13 in their contracts.

But I reiterate that this is not a list of companies using their dot-brands but rather of those apparently putting their .com firmly in the back seat to their dot-brand.

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These are the 10 most-used dot-brands

It occurred to me recently that my regular coverage of companies that choose to abandon their unused dot-brand gTLDs may have created a misleading impression that the dot-brand portion of the new gTLD program has been a big old waste of time.

I make no apologies for this. As a news guy, I look for deviations from the norm — “man bites dog” stuff — when deciding what to write about, and that quite often means reporting what could be considered Bad News.

When companies do adopt their dot-brands in a big way, they tend to do it rather quietly and almost always in a foreign language, so the news doesn’t usually cross my radar until long after it has ceased to be timely.

But it is true that the background noise of dot-brands is that quite a lot of them are being actively used to varying degrees, and I’m feeling some sense of obligation to report on that activity too, despite it being thoroughly un-newsworthy.

So here I present an unofficial list of the top 10 most-used dot-brands.

It’s based on how many active web sites I’ve found in each of the 460-odd dot-brand gTLDs I regularly spider.

I count a “dot-brand” as any gTLD that has Specification 13 in its ICANN contract, and here I’m defining an active web site to exclude redirects to sites in other, off-brand TLDs.

The numbers may not be precisely accurate today, because sites come and go, but I think they’re a decent guide.

I’m also fairly certain that “number of active web sites” is an absolutely terrible way to compare and rank dot-brands, but if nothing else I think the metric is a good indicator of enthusiasm for dot-brands (by the brand, if not necessarily its customers).

Here goes.

.seat — SEAT, S.A.

Spanish car manufacturer SEAT had 532 active .seat web sites at my last count, the vast majority of which appear to be template-driven brochureware sites named after and designated to the company’s authorized dealers across Europe.

The domain bradys.seat, for Dublin-based dealer Brady’s, is a rare example of an English-language version of the site.

I call the sites “brochureware” because, while it does appear to be possible to buy a car via these sites, you are invariably redirected to SEAT’s local ccTLD site before you get to this stage of the transaction.

SEAT itself does not appear to use .seat domains for its own web sites, preferring instead to use local ccTLDs.

SEAT is a subsidiary of Germany-based Volkswagen Group.

.lamborghini — Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

The second brand on the list is another car maker and another Volkswagen subsidiary, Italy-based Lamborghini. It had 145 active .lamborghini web sites at my last count.

Like sister-company SEAT, Lamborghini’s dot-brand is most-often used by its official dealers across the world, also using identikit, non-transactional templates.

Unlike SEAT, which grants its dealers domains matching their brands, dealer .lamborghini domains are in almost all cases geographic. For example, the German dealer MAHAG gets the domain munich.lamborghini.

Lamborghini has some domains for its own non-dealer use, such as home.lamborghini and contact.lamborghini, but these redirect to its .com site so I have not counted them here.

.bmw — Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft

BMW also makes cars, but it’s not owned by VW. Its dot-brand, .bmw, had 83 live sites at my last count.

While the ownership may differ, the strategy does not. Most .bmw sites appear to be template-driven dealer sites.

BMW also has a few branded call-to-action domains, such as missiontomars.bmw and enjoytheride.bmw, but these redirect outside of .bmw.

While researching this TLD, I also found my first-ever example of an expired dot-brand domain, at productgeniusclips.bmw. Of course, one of the benefits of a dot-brand is that nobody else will be able to register this name when it drops.

.weber — Saint-Gobain Weber SA

We seem to be looking at an example here of a company that missed out on good domains to similarly named companies in different industries and is compensating with a dot-brand.

There are several companies in the world called Weber, and I had to do a double-take when I realized that this one is the “world leader in industrial mortars”.

It’s a concrete company, owned by 354-year-old French multinational Saint-Gobain.

It appears to be the first example on this list of a company that is using its dot-brand for its primary web site.

When I search for Weber from here in the UK, the first result for this particular company is uk.weber. It’s former domain in the UK seems to have been netweber.co.uk, which now redirects to the dot-brand.

A barbecue maker also called Weber, which owns weber.com, currently has far better search engine rankings from where I’m sitting.

Mortar-making Weber’s list of .weber domains are primarily two-character country-codes, but it also has a few generic terms that point to resolving web site wecare.weber, a domain that matches one of its slogans.

.bnpparibas — BNP Paribas

BNP Paribas is the world’s eighth-largest bank and one of several companies to wholeheartedly throw its weight behind the dot-brand concept.

It ditched its .fr and .net domains in 2015, instead pointing its retail banking customers in France to mabanque.bnpparibas. It also uses group.bnpparibas as its primary corporate web site.

Both of those domains are in the top 100,000 most-visited domains worldwide, according to Alexa data.

It had 62 active .bnpparibas sites at my last count, many of which appear to be fully-developed sites dedicated to groups such as shareholders and enterprise customers. There are also country-focused sites such as usa.bnpparibas and informational sites such as history.bnpparibas.

.abbott — Abbott Laboratories, Inc.

Abbott is a $30 billion-a-year healthcare company with 57 sites in its .abbott gTLD. It’s the only US-based company on this list.

The company appears to have a hybrid strategy when it comes to its dot-brand. While it has many active sites, it also has many redirects to sites in off-brand TLDs.

The domain shop.abbott bounces visitors to abbottstore.com, for example, while fully fledged product-specific sites such as transfusion.abbott, pediasure.abbott and diabetescare.abbott all remain in .abbott.

Google searches for the term “abbott” track this hybrid approach, returning a mixture of URLs in dot-brand and off-brand TLDs.

Abbott has yet to make the leap to using .abbott for its primary web sites, which remain in ccTLDs and .com.

.leclerc — A.C.D. LEC Association des Centres Distributeurs Edouard Leclerc

This huge “hypermarket” retail chain will no doubt be a household name to my French readers, but it’s a new one to this rosbif.

Leclerc logoInterestingly, the company has been called E.Leclerc — with the dot — since it was founded by Edouard Leclerc in 1949. This is apparently the logo it was using from its foundation until 2012, when it made most of the letters lower-case. This was of course the same year it applied for the .leclerc gTLD.

As you might imagine, the domain e.leclerc was a no-brainer.

The cool thing about the domain is that if somebody “searches” for the brand in their browser’s navigation bar, the browser will actually resolve it as a domain and take them straight to the retailer’s web site, avoiding the Google SERPs advertising tax that many companies feel obliged to pay.

The uncool, maddening flipside is that e.leclerc bounces visitors to e-leclerc.com, which seems like a huge missed trick in terms of branding.

That said, Leclerc does have a number of non-redirect .leclerc web sites that focus on specific product groups, such as technology, culture and homecare.

This could turn out to be the model Amazon eventually uses, if/when it gets its .amazon gTLD.

.bradesco — Banco Bradesco S.A.

Banco Bradesco is a Brazilian bank with almost $62 billion of annual revenue.

Like BNP Paribas, it’s ditched its old TLDs in favor of its dot-brand, and now uses banco.bradesco as its primary web site. The .com and .com.br both redirect to the .bradesco.

There’s also lots of redirecting internal to the TLD, with a few dozen brand/product .bradesco domains pointing back to banco.bradesco pages.

.aquarelle — Aquarelle.com

Aquarelle.com Group is a French flower delivery company, an early mover in the e-commerce world that has been using aquarelle.com since 1997. It operates in several European countries.

It has not made the leap away from the .com domain that has been its brand for the last 22 years, but it does use .aquarelle for a variety of creative purposes.

art-floral.aquarelle, for example, offers bouquet-making video tutorials. Sites such as chocolats.aquarelle act as promo pages for specific products that can be bought at the .com site. It also appears to be running a transactional web site for a third-party retailer, Darty, at darty.aquarelle.

.fage — Fage International S.A.

Finally, yoghurt! Or, as my US English spell-checker insists, “yogurt”.

Fage is brand I’ve never heard of, of a product I despise, but I gather it’s one of Greece’s most recognizable dairy brands.

It’s another example of a company that has thrown itself fully behind its dot-brand.

Before it applied for .fage, it was using fage.gr for its primary web site. Now, that domain redirects to greece.fage. The matching .com is owned by an unrelated entity.

It’s also the only example on this top 10 list of a dot-brand using “home” at the second level as its primary domain.

Other domains include various translations of the word “recipe”, which redirect internally to other .fage sites.

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GRS has lost three million domains since Famous Four died

The old Famous Four Media gTLD portfolio has shrunk by roughly 60% since old management were kicked out.

At the same time, the new registry is selling less than one percent of the domains it used to add each month.

The 16 TLDs, now managed by GRS Domains, have a total of approximately 2 million domains in their zone files today, compared to about 5 million at the end of August 2018.

Last August was when GRS, which seems to have taken over the portfolio about a year ago, announced that it was introducing “much more transparent and sensible pricing strategy” of $9.98 per domain per year across the board.

Its 16 TLDs include the likes of .loan, .win and .bid. Many had been offered in the sub-$1 range, largely via former affiliate AlpNames, attracting huge volumes of registrations but low renewals and a lot of spammers.

I compared the zone file counts at the end of August 2018 to yesterday’s numbers, rounding to the nearest thousand, and came up with this:

TLDThenNowChangeChange (%)
TOTAL5,092,0002,010,000-3,082,000-60.53
accountant64,00022,000-42,000-65.63
bid318,000104,000-214,000-67.30
cricket26,0008,000-18,000-69.23
date155,00061,000-94,000-60.65
download146,00046,000-100,000-68.49
faith62,00021,000-41,000-66.13
loan2,200,000990,000-1,210,000-55.00
men421,000144,000-277,000-65.80
party122,00044,000-78,000-63.93
racing81,00033,000-48,000-59.26
review260,00060,000-200,000-76.92
science95,00039,000-56,000-58.95
stream319,000130,000-189,000-59.25
trade182,00068,000-114,000-62.64
webcam60,00027,000-33,000-55.00
win581,000213,000-368,000-63.34

Don’t think for a second that the correction is over. The story of the old FFM portfolio’s decline will roll for many more months. Each TLD is still seeing monthly deletes in the thousands.

The number of new regs across the portfolio every month has dropped off a cliff — a big cliff with jagged rocks and sharks circling at the bottom — since the August price changes.

Whereas in January 2018 the 16 gTLDs saw a combined total of over 400,000 adds, by January 2019 this had dropped to fewer than 1,700, a 99.59% decline.

TLDAdds Jan 18Adds Jan 19ChangeChange (%)
TOTAL400,6921,645-399,047-99.59
accountant6,58222-6,560-99.67
bid2225871-22,187-99.68
cricket3,35713-3,344-99.61
date11,27823-11,255-99.80
download12,83030-12,800-99.77
faith4,44031-4,409-99.30
loan20649936-206,463-99.98
men23,98853-23,935-99.78
party16,862143-16,719-99.15
racing4,27135-4,236-99.18
review16,95649-16,907-99.71
science9,501101-9,400-98.94
stream19,655101-19,554-99.49
trade12,300123-12,177-99.00
webcam5,54127-5,514-99.51
win24,374787-23,587-96.77

In each case, the drop-off in adds started in August last year. Each TLD went almost immediately from thousands of new regs per month, to under 100.

I compared Januaries because January 2019 is the date of the most-recent registry transaction data. January 2018 was not an atypically strong month for sales for any of the TLDs; for many, it was on the slow side.

Famous Four was replaced by GRS about a year ago after investors in Domain Venture Partners, the ultimate owner of the portfolio, fell out with FFM management.

The registrar AlpNames, which was responsible for a huge share of FFM’s sales and was managed by the same people, has also since gone out of business.

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Four presidents slam .amazon decision

Kevin Murphy, May 28, 2019, Domain Policy

The leaders of four of the eight governments of the Amazon region of South America have formally condemned ICANN’s decision to move ahead with the .amazon gTLD.

In a joint statement over the weekend, the presidents of Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia, said they have agreed to “to join efforts to protect the interests of our countries related to geographical or cultural names and the right to cultural identity of indigenous peoples”.

These four countries comprise the Andean Community, an economic cooperation group covering the nations through which the Andes pass, which has just concluded a summit on a broad range of issues.

The presidents said they have “deep concerns” about ICANN’s decision to proceed towards delegating .amazon to Amazon the company, over the objections of the eight-nation Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization.

ICANN is “setting a serious precedent by prioritizing private commercial interests over public policy considerations of the States, such as the rights of indigenous peoples and the preservation of the Amazon in favor of humanity and against global warming”, they said (via Google Translate).

ACTO had been prepared to agree to Amazon running .amazon, but it wanted effective veto power on the TLD’s policy-setting committee and a number of other concessions that Amazon thought would interfere with its commercial interests.

As it stands, Amazon has offered to block thousands of culturally sensitive domains and to give the ACTO nations a minority voice in its policy-making activities.

ICANN will soon open these proposed commitments to public comment, and will likely decide to put .amazon into the root not too long thereafter.

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