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M+M adds $14m to new gTLDs war chest

Kevin Murphy, February 10, 2012, Domain Registries

Top Level Domain Holdings has raised £9 million ($14.2 million) with a share sale, boosting its ability to apply for new generic top-level domains.

TLDH, which is listed on the Alternative Investment Market in London, owns registry provider Minds + Machines and has interests in a number of new gTLD joint ventures.

The shares were sold to “institutional and other investors” for 8.25p each, the company said.

TLDH now has a cash pile of about $25 million, CEO Antony Van Couvering said in a press release. Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush added:

TLDH management believes that the increased capital will allow it to increase significantly the number of applications it is able to make, allowing it to develop a wider, more diversified portfolio of names in multiple languages and scripts

The current cash balance would allow it to apply for 135 gTLDs, if it blew the whole lot on application fees.

I expect its actual number of applications to be more like 30, which would leave TLDH with about $20 million in reserve for fighting contested applications and start-up costs.

It could also try to raise some more money from the markets when some of its gTLD applications start being approved, of course.

Being the only public company entirely devoted to new gTLDs may leave TLDH in an interesting tactical position a few months from now — competing applicants are going to have a relatively good insight into the strength of its hand if any of its applications go to auction.

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ICANN promises a second new gTLD round

Kevin Murphy, February 10, 2012, Domain Policy

Seeking to reduce the perceived need for defensive new gTLD applications, ICANN has repeated its promise to accept a second round of applications after the first is over.

“ICANN is committed to opening a second application window for the New gTLD Program as expeditiously as possible,” its board of directors resolved earlier this week.

No date has been revealed, but the resolution calls on ICANN staff to draft a “work plan” describing the things that need to happen before the second round begins.

Those include two or three reviews of the impact of the first round that ICANN has promised to its Governmental Advisory Committee and the US Department of Commerce.

It also depends to great extent on how many applications are submitted in the first round – which ICANN won’t know until April 12 – and how long they take to process.

The lack of a second round date is one of the big uncertainties hanging over the program, blamed in part for an expected influx of “defensive” dot-brand gTLD applications from companies with no interest in running a domain name registry.

ICANN’s commitment to a second round has never been in question – running the new gTLD program in rounds has been part of the policy from the outset, as the Applicant Guidebook explains. The only question is when it happens.

This week’s board resolution does not change that position, nor has it yet added clarity to the timing question.

But with ICANN increasingly worried about defensive dot-brands – which I think are one of the biggest PR risks to the program – some kind of statement was needed.

ICANN chair Steve Crocker said in a press release:

The important thing here is that the Board has erased any doubt that there will be a second application window for new generic Top-Level Domains. It’s not yet possible to set a definitive date for the next application period, but that will be determined after the current window closes.

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A dozen .xxx sites hit by rapid takedown

Kevin Murphy, February 9, 2012, Domain Policy

The National Arbitration Forum has ordered the secret takedown of 12 .xxx domains since the adults-only gTLD launched in December.

NAF yesterday published statistics about the .xxx Rapid Evaluation Service, which ICM Registry created and NAF exclusively administers.

Fifteen RES complaints have been filed since December 6, 12 of which have been resolved so far. All of the cases were won by the complainant — a trademark holder in 11 of the cases.

The RES was designed to handle clear-cut cases of cybersquatting and impersonation. It costs $1,300 to file a complaint and offers a super-fast alternative to the UDRP.

The domains are suspended forever if the complainant is successful.

According to NAF, it’s currently taking on average two business days between the complaint being filed and the domain being suspended.

Because registrants have 10 days to respond – and half of them did – the final decision took an average of 12 business days.

Unlike UDRP, RES decisions are not published, so there’s no way of knowing whether they were fair.

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Copenhagen gTLD scuppered by government

Kevin Murphy, February 8, 2012, Domain Registries

Plans afoot to apply for a city top-level domain for Copenhagen have been killed off after the Danish government saw little public support for the initiative.

Peter Larsen, CEO of the would-be applicant and local registrar Larsen Data (GratisDNS), said that the application is effectively over.

In order to get a city gTLD, applicants need a letter of support or non-objection from the relevant government(s). But for Copenhagen, that letter will now not be forthcoming.

The Danish Ministry of Business and Growth proposed an amendment to the country’s domain name law in November that would have enabled it to give consent to the .cph bid, Larsen said.

But due to a “lack of interest” from the public, the amendment has been shelved.

“We have nowhere to ask for the letter of non-objection, and that is killing the .cph project very effective,” Larsen said in an email.

The governments of other European capitals, including Paris, London and Berlin, are in favor of city gTLDs and are backing applications.

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First ICANN CEO candidate revealed

Kevin Murphy, February 8, 2012, Domain Policy

Former ICANN director Njeri Rionge has emerged as a possible candidate for the soon-to-be-vacated CEO’s job.

Rionge is a Kenyan national, described last year by Forbes.com as “one of Kenya’s most successful and revered serial entrepreneurs”.

She founded Wananchi Online, a successful ISP in East Africa, and the business consultancy Ignite Consulting.

Her candidature was revealed in an open letter posted today by Sophia Bekele, CEO of DotConnectAfrica, a likely applicant for the .africa generic top-level domain.

DCA and Rionge have severed ties due to her new CEO aspirations, according to Bekele:

At the end of 2011, Ms. Njeri Rionge had expressed to DCA Executive Director, a direct interest in competing for the soon to be vacant ICANN CEO position, and for this reason, was kindly requested by DCA to submit her resignation from the DCA Strategic Advisory Board for ethical/conflict of interest reasons.

This was done after due internal consultations with concerned parties. Accordingly, Njeri Rionge is no longer involved in DCA and DCA Registry Ltd either as a Board Member or shareholder and will not represent neither would she be affiliated with DCA in any capacity, now or in the near future.

Rionge served on the ICANN board of directors as a Nominating Committee appointee for two terms between 2003 and 2008.

While there’s a ban on current directors applying for the CEO position, I don’t believe there’s any such prohibition on former directors.

ICANN is currently interviewing would-be replacements for Rod Beckstrom, who intends to leave the organization in July after a three-year term.

No other candidates have been revealed to date.

The only other name being circulated in the rumor mill is Lesley Cowley, CEO of .uk registry Nominet and current chair of ICANN’s ccNSO, but I’ve no idea if she’s even interested.

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