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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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WIPO releases 2011 cybersquatting stats

Kevin Murphy, March 6, 2012, Domain Policy

WIPO handled more UDRP cases covering more domain names in 2011 than in any other year, but its numbers do not paint a very convincing picture of the cybersquatting landscape.

The organization today announced that it handled 2,764 UDRP cases covering 4,781 domain names last year. The number of cases was up 2.5% over 2010.

The number of domain names covered by these cases was up by 9.4% – an additional 414 domains.

It’s basically meaningless data if you’re looking to make a case that cybersquatting is on the increase.

Obviously, while WIPO is the market-share leader, it is not the only UDRP provider. It sees a representative but non-exhaustive sample of cases.

While UDRP is the standard dispute mechanism for all ICANN-contracted gTLDs, WIPO also has side deals with ccTLD registries to look after cybersquatting cases in their zones.

As WIPO has added more ccTLD deals, it has become harder to make apples-to-apples comparisons year over year.

Based on WIPO’s own records, it received 2,323 UDRP complaints about domains in gTLDs last year, up by 28 cases from 2010, a 1.2% increase.

Given that the number of domains registered in gTLDs increased by at least 8% between January 1 and November 30 2011, cybersquatting seems to be actually on the decrease in relative terms.

And given that the number of UDRP cases filed is so piddlingly small, a single obsessive-compulsive complainant (ie, Lego) can skew the results.

Lego spammed WIPO with more than 160 complaints in 2011. As a result, Denmark is the last year’s fourth-biggest filer after the US, France and UK, according to WIPO, with 202 complaints.

So, if you see any company using these WIPO numbers to rage about cybersquatting in press releases, ICANN comments or Congressional hearings, give them a slap from me. Thanks.

Here’s a table of WIPO’s caseload from 2000 to 2011.

YEARCASESDOMAINS
200018573760
200115572465
200212072042
200311001774
200411762599
200514563312
200618242806
200721563545
200823293958
200921074685
201026964367
201127644781

Sadly, the number of UDRP complaints will never reflect the actual amount of cybersquatting going on, particularly when cybersquatters only need to price their domains more cheaply than the cost of a UDRP complaint in order to stay off the radar.

WIPO’s data does raise some interesting questions about the geographic distribution of complainants and respondents, however.

Unsurprisingly, cybersquatting was found to be big business in China, the second most-common home nation, after the US, for respondents. No UDRPs filed with WIPO originated there, however.

Surprisingly, Australia is ranked fourth on the list of countries most likely to harbor alleged squatters, with 171 respondents. But Australia was 13th in terms of complainant location, with just 39 cases.

Read more WIPO data here.

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IP lobby files last-minute new gTLD demands

Kevin Murphy, March 6, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s ongoing public comment period into the “perceived” need for “defensive” gTLD applications produced a raft of demands from the intellectual property community, not all of which relate to the subject matter at hand.

With less than one month left before ICANN closes its new gTLD application window, many IP stakeholders have suggested ways to reduce the need to file a defensive applications, with many disputing its characterization as “perceived”. As far as many brands are concerned, there’s nothing “perceived” about it.

Give the imminent closure of the window, a large number of commenters have also suggested ways to reduce the need for defensive domain name registrations at the second level. While debates about trademark protection in domain names will never end, this is likely to be the IP community’s last chance to officially comment before April 12.

Some comments expressed a desire for relatively small tweaks to the existing Rights Protection Mechanisms, others said that entirely new RPMs should be created. In most cases, the proposed amendments heavily favor certain trademark owners at the expense of other registrants, including other trademark owners.

Some suggestions from the IP community would, if adopted, directly impact the business models of new gTLD registries and registrars. Others could be expected to significantly increase the risk that the new gTLD application process will be gamed at a large scale.

This DomainIncite PRO analysis is organized by issue, addressing concepts that emerged from multiple comments. In each case, we look at the likely counter-arguments to the proposals, explore the potential impact on applicants and the new gTLD program and assess the likelihood of each proposal becoming reality.

DI PRO subscribers can read the full analysis here.

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