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WordPress.com’s registrar service: Slow cookin’ makes good eatin’

Kevin Murphy, September 26, 2011, Domain Registrars

WordPress.com provider Automattic has not abandoned its plans to start offering domain names directly to its users, according to its lead developer.

It’s been about 11 months since the company received its ICANN accreditation, but it is currently still acting as a Go Daddy reseller.

“Our registry product is still under development,” Automattic founder and chief barbecue taste tester (really) Matt Mullenweg said in an email. “Slow cookin’ makes good eatin’.”

WordPress.com announced last week that it would start offering .me domains, alongside .com, .org, and .net, saying it would give users a better chance to get a domain they liked.

The .me registry, Domen, is a joint venture whose partners include Go Daddy and Afilias.

“GoDaddy is a valued partner and we continue to use many of their services as part of our business,” Mullenweg added.

Domain names are WordPress.com’s best-selling add-on product. According to DomainTools, over 226,000 domains are hosted on the same servers as WordPress.com.

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Telepathy sells Republic.com for $200,000

Kevin Murphy, September 23, 2011, Domain Sales

Sedo has brokered the sale of the domain name republic.com for $200,000.

It appears to be an end-user sale – Whois reveals the buyer is the UK clothing retailer Republic, which already owns republic.co.uk.

Republic.com already redirects surfers to the .co.uk site.

The seller appears to be Telepathy Inc, the company owned by well-known domainer Nat Cohen.

It’s the third six-figure deal Sedo has announced this week, following the $100,000 sales of silvercoins.com and siteweb.com.

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Should .com get a thick Whois?

Kevin Murphy, September 23, 2011, Domain Registries

The ICANN community has taken another baby step towards pushing VeriSign into implementing a “thick” Whois database for .com and .net domain names.

The GNSO Council yesterday voted to ask ICANN to prepare an Issue Report exploring whether to require “all incumbent gTLDs” to operate a thick Whois. Basically, that means VeriSign.

The .com and .net registries currently run on a “thin” model, whereby each accredited registrar manages their own Whois databases.

Most other gTLDs today run thick registries, as will all registries approved by ICANN under its forthcoming new gTLDs program.

The thinness of .com can cause problems during inter-registrar transfers, when gaining and losing registrars have no central authoritative database of registrant contact details to rely upon.

In fact, yesterday’s GNSO vote followed the recommendations of a working group that decided after much deliberation that a thick .com registry may help reduce bogus or contested transfers.

Trusting registrars to manage their own Whois is also a frequent source of frustration for law enforcement, trademark interests and anti-spam firms.

Failure to maintain a functional web-based or port 43 Whois interface is an often-cited problem when ICANN’s compliance department terminates rogue registrars.

Now that an Issue Report has been requested by the GNSO, the idea of a thick .com moves closer to a possible Policy Development Process, which in turn can create binding ICANN consensus policies.

There’s already a clause in VeriSign’s .com registry agreement that gives ICANN the right to demand that it creates a centralized Whois database.

Switching to a thick model would presumably not only transfer responsibility to VeriSign, but also cost and liability, which is presumably why the company seems to be resisting the move.

Don’t expect the changes to come any time soon.

Writing the Issue Report is not expected to be a priority for ICANN staff, due to their ongoing chronic resource problems, and any subsequent PDP could take years.

The alternative – for ICANN and VeriSign to come to a bilateral agreement when the .com contract comes up for renewal next year – seems unlikely given that ICANN did not make a similar requirement when .net was renegotiated earlier this year.

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NBT agrees to $236m buy-out

Kevin Murphy, September 23, 2011, Domain Registrars

Following in the footsteps of larger rival Go Daddy, the UK-based registrar Group NBT has agreed to be bought out by private investors for £153 million ($236m).

NBT owns registrars including NetNames, Ascio and Indom.

The all-cash offer comes from investors led by HgCapital and represents a 22.5% premium on the company’s closing share price yesterday.

At 550p a share, the offer stands to make a profit for anybody who has bought NBT shares in the last ten years, according to the company.

The news came as NBT reported an annual profit, excluding certain items, up organically 9% at £8.9 million ($13.8m) on revenue that was up 4% at £45.7 million ($70.6m).

Including the results from French registrar Indom, which the company acquired last December, profit was up 18% at £9.6 million ($14.8m) on revenue up 13% to £49.5 million ($76.5m)

The NBT deal is merely the latest in a series of buyouts and mergers to hit the registrar market this year.

As well as Go Daddy’s $2 billion+ change of control, Network Solutions recently sold out to Web.com for $561 million in cash and stock, and Tucows acquired EPAG Domainservices for $2.5 million.

At least one city analyst thinks the buyout timing relates to ICANN’s forthcoming new generic top-level domains program, and is bullish on Top Level Domain Holdings shares as a result.

Will the wave of consolidation continue? Who’s next?

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It’s official: London to seek .london gTLD

Kevin Murphy, September 22, 2011, Domain Registries

The official promotional agency for the city of London has formally declared its interest in applying to ICANN for a .london generic top-level domain.

I reported the story for The Register yesterday, and the official press release was sent out this afternoon, but it appears that I was misinformed about the issuance of a Request for Proposals.

According to London & Partners, at the moment it is only analyzing the potential costs and benefits, as well as consulting with local stakeholders.

The agency said in its press release:

In addition to enhancing the promotion of the capital, London & Partners is investigating what opportunities the ownership of the gTLD licence could bring in terms of harnessing commercial revenue streams and new job creation, whilst ensuring value for money.

It’s been backed by the office of Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.

Two UK registries, Nominet and CentralNic, have already thrown their hats in the ring as likely bidders if and when an RFP is released.

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