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NTIA throws a bomb, cancels IANA contract RFP

Kevin Murphy, March 10, 2012, Domain Policy

Just hours before ICANN’s Costa Rica meeting kicks off, the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration has cast uncertainty over the new gTLD program by throwing another of its now-traditional last-minute bombs.

CLICK HERE for the updated story.

It’s canceled the request for proposals that was expected to lead to ICANN being awarded a new IANA contract – the contract that enables it to approve new top-level domains.

In an amendment to the November RFP posted last night, the Department of Commerce said it “hereby cancels RFP SA1301-12-RP-IANA in its entirety.”

In a notice on the Federal Business Opportunities web site, it added:

Request for Proposal (RFP) SA1301-12-RP-IANA is hereby cancelled. The Department of Commerce intends to reissue the RFP at a future date, date to be determined (TBD). Interested parties are encouraged to periodically visit www.fbo.gov for updates.

ICANN’s current IANA agreement is due to expire at the end of March and, by my reading, the NTIA has used up all of its options to extend.

Many expected ICANN or the NTIA to announce that the new contract had been awarded to ICANN yesterday, or when the Costa Rica meeting officially kicks off this coming Monday.

For the RFP to be canceled now without explanation hangs a huge question mark over ICANN’s ongoing ability to approve new gTLDs.

There are already community murmurs about ICANN extending the current gTLD application window beyond its current April 12 deadline, and this development may feed such rumors.

This is a developing story, but at the moment it appears that yet again the NTIA’s last-minute attention-seeking bombshell has stolen the show before the show even begins.

UPDATE: Shortly after this story was published, the NTIA released its rationale for the cancellation. Read about it here.

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Aussie telco to apply for dot-brand gTLD

ARI Registry Services has managed to persuade another client to come clean about its dot-brand gTLD plans.

According to a report in the Australian press, Perth-based carrier/ISP iiNet plans to apply for .iinet using ARI for application support.

The report also states that rival telco Optus is mulling its options, while Telstra is saying it will not apply.

ARI has previously announced Singapore telco StarHub and the Australian Football League as dot-brand clients.

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Paul Goldstone puts co.com up for sale

Kevin Murphy, March 8, 2012, Domain Sales

The domain name co.com has been put up for sale by domain investor Paul Goldstone.

The domain, which received 4.5 million unique visitors and 14 million page views in 2011, will be brokered jointly by DomainAdvisors and SellDomains.com, according to a press release.

I can immediately think of two companies that should be interested.

It might be a very smart move for .CO Internet, the .co registry, to buy the name and wildcard the third level in order to capture .co typo traffic.

It’s also exactly the kind of address CentralNic – which sells third-level names under domains such as us.org and uk.com – likes to use as a pseudo-gTLD.

If these two and others get into a bidding war, Goldstone could wind up making a packet.

DomainAdvisors CEO Tessa Holcomb said she expects the domain to fetch a “multi seven-figure” price.

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Russians flee from IDN during first junk drop

Russia’s internationalized ccTLD, .РФ, lost 18% of its registered domains under management after its first launch anniversary, according to the registry.

Coordination Center for ccTLD said that the registry peaked at 954,012 names on December 28, but DUM had dropped to 779,264 by February 15, a 174,748 domain decline.

While the Center spun this as lower than expected – some experts had apparently predicted 25% to 30% of the early-adopter names would expire – it’s still relatively high.

Telnic deleted about 15% of its names during .tel’s first junk drop, the most recent in the gTLD space, for example.

The Russian registry has also made an eye-opening set of stats related to .РФ available on a new web site.

It reveals that just 33% of .РФ domains resolve to a web site (any web site, presumably including parking) while 29% do not even have name servers.

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FairWinds hard-sells defensive gTLD applications

Kevin Murphy, March 6, 2012, Domain Services

Talk about a U-turn.

FairWinds Partners, the company behind the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse, has gone from using CADNA to oppose ICANN’s new gTLD program in its entirety to name-dropping the organization in sales pitches encouraging companies to defensively apply for “dozens” of new gTLDs.

According to an email pitch forwarded to DI by a reader today, the company is recommending potential clients apply for new gTLDs defensively, then drop out of the process after May 1 if it turns out their competitors are not aggressively pursuing new gTLDs.

The pitch appears to be tailored to the specific potential client – pimping keyword gTLDs relevant to its industry as well as dot-brands in general. Here are a few extracts (typos in original):

Many majors brands applying for at least one new gTLD – some more than a dozen. They don’t necessarily plan on using them straight away, but it is important for businesses to secure the option to leverage new gTLDs as most major businesses will.

FairWinds (through our non-profit advocacy group CADNA – the Coalition Again Domain Name Abuse) has actually been the strongest opponent of this program for years. That said, given the sheer number of businesses that are participating, it is something that brand owners can’t sit out on and businesses have decided to work with us as FairWinds is known to be the leading voice of the brand owner community on this topic.

So you know, many of our clients are exercising what we are calling the “behind the curtain” strategy. This involves applying for a new gTLD and if it turns out that your competitors don’t apply as aggressively as we think they will, you have the option to pull the application and receive a 70% refund on the application fee. This might be the right strategy for generic extensions like those listed above. That said, I highly recommend you apply for and follow through on .application as several brands in your space will most likely apply for their primary .BRANDS.

There’s nothing positive in the pitch – no praising the speculative SEO or branding/marketing benefits of new gTLDs, for example.

It’s a fully defensive, FUD-based sales call of the kind commonly served up by more established members of the domain name industry.

The fact that CADNA is mentioned – I’ve found that FairWinds is usually keen to draw a bright line between itself and the organization, even though they share management – makes this all the more remarkable.

For the record, I do feel slightly bad for singling out FairWinds here.

It’s not actually bad advice – the strategy it proposes is sound – and I’m certain the same and worse FUD tactics are being used today by other new gTLD consultants and registries.

But it’s interesting because as recently as May 2011 CADNA was calling for the new gTLD program to be scrapped, saying ICANN “has not managed demonstrate a need for new gTLDs, nor that the benefits will outweigh the costs, particularly for brand owners and consumers”.

At least its sales pitches are consistent with that view, I suppose.

FairWinds’ Singaporean conversion may not have been Damascene, but it was certainly opportunistic.

UPDATE: I’ve changed the headline to reflect that it’s FairWinds, not CADNA, that’s doing the selling. While I think the article makes that clear, not everybody reads beyond the headline.

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