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Google Chrome handles new TLDs badly

Kevin Murphy, May 17, 2012, Domain Tech

Sint Maarten’s new .sx country-code top-level domain has been online for at least a couple months now, but Google’s Chrome browser appears to be still a bit wary of it.

Typing “registry.sx” and “nic.sx” into Chrome’s combined URL/search bar today, instead of being sent to my chosen destination I was instead sent to a page of Google search results.

The browser presented the message “Did you mean to go to http://registry.sx?”.

Chrome .sx

Once my intentions were confirmed, Chrome bounced me to the registry’s web site and seemed to remember my preference on future visits. Other Chrome users have reported the same behavior.

Chrome is understood to use the Public Suffix list to figure out what is and isn’t a domain, and .sx does not currently appear on that list.

Internet Explorer and Firefox (also a Public Suffix list user) both seem already to resolve .sx names normally.

While not a massive problem for .sx, which has just a handful of second-level domains active, new gTLD applicants might want to pay attention to this kind of thing.

Chrome has a significant share of the browser market – about 15% by some counts, as high as 38% by others.

Launching a new gTLD without full browser support could look messy. Chrome isn’t blocking access to .sx, but its handling of the new TLD is not particularly graceful.

Imagine a scenario in which you’ve just launched your dot-brand, and instead of arriving at your web site Chrome users are instead directed to Google (with the top sponsored result a link you’ve probably paid for).

ICANN is currently pondering ways to promote the universal acceptance of TLDs for precisely this reason.

Searches for the pop producer Will.I.Am prompt Chrome to attempt to find an address in the Armenian ccTLD.

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Brands are Pool.com’s surprise digital archery clients

Kevin Murphy, May 17, 2012, Domain Services

Companies applying to ICANN for “dot-brand” top-level domains are among those signing up for Pool.com’s new digital archery service, according to Rob Hall, CEO of parent Momentous.

The company launched its Digital Archery Engine last month, not too long after ICANN confirmed its controversial method of batching new gTLD applications for processing.

Now, Pool is receiving interest from not only mass-market generic string applicants, but also dot-brands.

“It’s a wider swath of TLDs that I thought originally,” said Hall. “At first I thought for sure the generics and the domains that might be in competition.”

“It’s amazing to me that a lot of people out there are saying the brands don’t care, the brands are doing this just defensively, the brands couldn’t care less about going first… but a lot of them do,” he said.

“A lot of them are saying ‘I want to be in that first batch’, which I wouldn’t have necessarily expected,” he added.

He said he had no idea what the motivations are for these brands.

“Our job is to get them in the first batch, not to ask them why they want to be there,” he said.

Hall said it wasn’t clear how many clients Pool would eventually sign up to the service, but said he expects it to be definitely much more than 50.

ICANN’s digital archery system – which will batch applicants according to which can most accurately send a message over the internet to a target time – was poorly received by most people.

Unsurprisingly, Hall is not one of those people.

Pool is one of several companies that have been competing to register expiring domain names for the better part of a decade, so its systems have been fine-tuned for sending messages over the internet quickly.

While the big registries such as .com use the EPP protocol, some of the registries Pool interacts with use HTTP, which seems to be ICANN’s preferred option for digital archery.

Hall said Pool aims for latency of less than 6 milliseconds. Its servers are positioned topologically close to registries – typically one or two hops – and the software measures monitors network conditions.

“The key is being able to detect what is the latency and to predict it, then factor that into the engine to say ‘When do I fire?’,” he said.

He does not anticipate the CAPTCHAs or other Turing tests presenting a problem – Pool would simply bring a human into the equation.

The Digital Archery Engine is not cheap. If Pool gets you into the first batch, you’re $25,000 out of pocket. If you’re in the top half of batches (batch three of five counts as top half) it’s $10,000.

The company was singled out recently by ICANN’s Intellectual Property Constituency as an “insider” exploiting the digital archery system as a “revenue extraction opportunity”.

A letter highly critical of the system from IPC chair Steve Metallitz said:

This arcane and seemingly arbitrary batching method will also reinforce the widespread impression that all ICANN procedures are dominated by “insiders” with contractual relationships to ICANN, who will surely know best how to manipulate this initiative to their own benefit, or that of their paying customers. It is difficult to reconcile such an outcome with ICANN’s obligation to act in the public interest.

Hall said was happy for the free advertising. “I’d like to thank them,” he said.

But he said Pool isn’t “manipulating” anything.

“They’ve called this ‘digital archery’,” he said. “It’s a game to see who’s best at it. That’s what they’ve designed. We’re not gaming anything. And we’re not offering this to insiders, we’re offering this to everyone.”

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Domainmonster joins 123-reg stable

Mesh Digital, owner of the Domainmonster and Domainbox registrars, has been acquired by rival/partner Hosting Europe Group for an undisclosed sum.

Operating mainly in the UK and Germany, the buyer says it is the largest privately owned hosting company in Europe, already the owner of large registrars including 123-reg/Webfusion, a Mesh reseller.

“They’ve been a technology partner of ours for some time with the Domainbox product, so it’s the logical partner for us,” Mesh CEO Matt Mansell said.

“Our focus isn’t on hosting,” he added. “They’ll bring a good range of hosting and software-as-a-service products to our customers and we’ll bring good domain services to their customers.”

Mansell will join Host Europe as head of domain strategy.

The fact that new gTLDs are expected to launch next year was not a particular driver of the deal, he said.

With its new acquisition, Host Europe will have five million domains under management, according to the company.

Mesh, based in Godalming, UK (it’s 30 miles away and I’ve never heard of it either) has 15 employees and turnover of about $5 million, Mansell said.

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Even when the domains are free, Irish small businesses prefer .com to .ie

Irish small businesses overwhelmingly chose .com domains over .ie and .eu during the first year of a Blacknight Solutions web presence freebie initiative.

Blacknight said today signed up 10,000 Irish small business customers through Getting Business Online, a partnership with Google and the local postal service, which it launched a year ago.

The scheme, which Google has been promoting with local partners in various territories around the world, gives companies a free domain and basic web hosting for a year.

According to Blacknight managing director Michele Neylon, 61% of sign-ups chose a .com domain, while 21% chose Ireland’s .ie, 13% chose .eu and 4% chose .biz.

“The way .ie is run, you have to go through an extensive validation process, and it’s also restricted what domains you can register,” Neylon, a regular critic of .ie policy, said.

As the initiative is just a year old, it’s not yet clear how many of these 10,000 companies plan to stick around on paid services.

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Nominet involved in seven gTLD applications

Nominet, the .uk registry, is providing registry services for seven new generic top-level domain applications, according to CEO Lesley Cowley.

Cowley told Nominet’s Annual General Meeting today that five of the applications are for dot-brands, a Nominet spokesperson said.

The identities of the clients are currently protected by non-disclosure agreements.

The other two bids are for .wales and .cymru, which Nominet is applying for with the approval of the Welsh government.

The other big European ccTLD operator to already announce its applications, Austria’s Nic.at, said recently that it has submitted 11 applications, six of which were geographic.

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