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Buy it or lose it? Governments could get first dibs on two-letter domains

Governments and ccTLD registries would get new rights to own two-letter domains in new gTLDs under a proposed ICANN policy.

These highly-prized domains, many of which are likely worth thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, would be subject to a mini sunrise period, under the proposal.

The so-called Exclusive Availability Pre-registration Period would be limited to those companies or government entities in charge of matching ccTLDs.

The measures are outlined in “Proposed Measures for Letter/Letter Two-Character ASCII Labels to Avoid Confusion with Corresponding Country Codes” (pdf), published by ICANN late last week.

The surprisingly succinct document outlines three things new gTLD registries must do if they want to start selling two-letter domains matching ccTLDs, which are currently restricted.

The key measure is:

Registry Operator must implement a 30-day period in which registration of letter/letter two-character ASCII labels that are country codes, as specified in the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 standard, will be made exclusively available to the applicable country-code manager or government.

In other words, if you’re a government or company listed as the ccTLD manager here, you get 30 days of exclusive opportunity to buy the LL.example matching your ccTLD.

Until now, governments have been able to block the release of LL new gTLD domains matching their ccTLDs.

The new proposal, introduced in an attempt to settle a long-running debate about the most appropriate way to enable the release of two-character strings, appears to add a “buy it or lose it” component to existing policy.

Under the base New gTLD Registry Agreement, all two-character domains were initially reserved.

Then, in late 2014, ICANN said registries could release all letter-number, number-letter and number-number combinations.

Many registries have already released such names, some selling for thousands at auction. When Rightside released its LN/NL/NN names, some carried price tags as high as $50,000.

Letter-letter domains could also be released following a formal registry request to ICANN, but were subject to a 60-day period during which governments could object.

Almost 1,000 new gTLDs have submitted such requests, and almost all have been “partially approved”.

That means some governments objected to the release of ccTLD-matching domains. Over 16,000 unique domain names have been objected to and therefore blocked over the last year or so.

The new proposal would add an extra process under which these blocked domains could be released, with ccTLD concerns getting first rights.

Interestingly, it appears to bring ccTLD managers into the mix, rather than restricting the names simply to governments.

The Governmental Advisory Committee has been the main driving force behind demands for restrictions on LL domains, but the proposed policy appears to also extend rights to private entities.

Remember, many ccTLDs are operated independently by private companies, without local government oversight.

For example, .uk is managed by Nominet, a non-governmental entity. The UK government has blocked many uk.example domains from being registered. The new policy appears to allow either Nominet or the government to register these names.

The one-page proposal is light on some details. It does not say, for example, what happens when the government and the ccTLD manager both want the name.

In keeping with ICANN’s habit of staying out of pricing, it does not specify price caps either.

It does, however, oblige registries to ban registrants from pretending to be affiliated with the relevant government when they are not.

Governments also get to complain, and registries have to investigate, if the relevant domains are causing “confusion”, though registries do not appear to be under a strict obligation to delete or suspend domains.

The policy is open for public comment until August here.

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Chinese gTLD cranks up renewal prices from $18 to $100

Chinese new gTLD registry Beijing RITT-Net has said it intends to more than quintuple its registration and renewal prices.

From January 1, 2017, prices for .手机 will go up from $18 a year to $100 a year, the company said in a notice to ICANN late last month.

.手机 (.xn--kput3i) is a Chinese internationalized domain name meaning “.cell” or “.cellphone”.

The registry told ICANN:

it is our sincere hope to adjust the initial registration and renewal fees from 18 dollars to 100 dollars with the aim to keep up with the status quo of China’s domain name market and to provide registrants with better services. We wish the new price will be effective from Jan 1st, 2017.

I believe this is the biggest renewal price hike for a new gTLD registry to date.

Around 25,000 existing registrations appear to be affected, but very few registrars will have to deal with the ramifications.

According to registry reports, over 99% of its registrations were made via Beijing Innovative Linkage Technology, which does business at dns.com.cn.

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MarkMonitor to change hands in $3.55 billion deal

MarkMonitor owner Thomson Reuters is to sell of its IP division, which includes the brand-protection registrar, to private equity in a $3.55 billion all-cash deal.

The company said it will sell its Intellectual Property & Science business Onex Corporation and Baring Private Equity Asia.

MarkMonitor is of course a small part of that division. It also includes its Web of Science, Thomson CompuMark, Thomson Innovation, MarkMonitor, Thomson Reuters Cortellis and Thomson IP Manager services.

The unit reportedly has 4,000 employees and $1 billion in annual revenue.

Thomson Reuters said it will use $1 billion of the sale price to buy back shares and the rest to pay off debts.

The company revealed plans to get rid of the unit last November. Analysts said it was not core to its growth strategy.

Thomson Reuters acquired then privately held MarkMonitor for an undisclosed sum in 2012.

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.blog launch date and pricing revealed

The new gTLD .blog will go to general availability in November with a wholesale price tag of $20, it was revealed today.

The registry, Knock Knock Whois There, told registrars that sunrise will kick off August 18 and run for 60 days with a $130 price tag. Disputed sunrise domains will go to auction.

Landrush will follow for a week from November 2 with a $130 application fee and auctions for contested domains a week later.

General availability is then due to begin November 21, with a registry fee of $20.

There will be tiered pricing on reserved “premium” names.

The registry does not seem to have ruled out an Early Access Period either.

This is all fairly consistent with KKWT’s previous statements that its pricing and launch structure will be in line with current industry norms.

The registry is owned by Automattic, the company behind the WordPress blogging software and service.

It emerged as the surprise secret backer of original applicant Primer Nivel earlier this year, following a $19 million auction win.

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GoDaddy gets its dot-brand

GoDaddy has become a new gTLD registry with the delegation yesterday of .godaddy.

It’s a dot-brand, so domain name registrations will not be made available to the general public.

In one of the shortest mission statements found in new gTLD applications, the company describes .godaddy like this:

The mission or purpose of the .GODADDY gTLD is strictly for branding protection and internal use. The gTLD .GODADDY will give visitors to any .GODADDY site the assurance that they are truly dealing with Go Daddy and not an imposter or cybersquatter.

GoDaddy has not yet gone live with its nic.godaddy site.

It’s not the first domain name firm to get its own dot-brand. Notably, Neustar and Verisign own .neustar and .verisign.

It’s not the only registrar with a dot-brand, either. France’s OVH got there first with .ovh.

GoDaddy originally applied for two other gTLDs — .home and .casa — but withdrew their applications almost immediately after a shift of company strategy.

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