With dozens of new gTLDs currently live and on sale, it’s easy to forget that many applicants are still in ICANN limbo due to several still-unresolved issues with the evaluation process.
The New gTLD Applicant Group wrote to ICANN on Friday to express many of these concerns.
First, NTAG is upset that resolution of the name collisions issue is not moving as fast as hoped.
JAS Advisors published its report into collisions, which recommends “controlled interruption” as a solution, last Thursday. But it’s currently open for public comment until April 21.
That would push approval of the plan by ICANN’s board beyond the Singapore meeting taking place at the end of March, at least a month later than originally expected.
NTAG secretary Andrew Merriam argues that the 42-day comment period should be reduced to 21 days, with ICANN and JAS conducting webinars this week to discuss the proposal with applicants.
Second, NTAG is upset that ICANN has pushed out the start date for the first contention set auctions from March to June. It’s asking ICANN to promise that there will be no further delays.
Third, NTAG says that many dot-brands are unable to enter into contracting talks with ICANN until Specification 13 of the Registry Agreement, which contains opt-outs for single-registrant zones, is finalized.
That’s not currently expected to happen until Singapore, apparently because there were no scheduled meetings of the ICANN board’s New gTLD Program Committee until then.
NTAG also complains about the length of time it’s taking to decide the first Community Priority Evaluations, which is apparently due to quality assurance measures (very wise given the controversy caused by the lack of oversight on new gTLD objections, if you ask me).
The NGPC has a newly scheduled meeting this Wednesday, with new gTLDs on the agenda, but it’s not yet clear whether any of NTAG’s issues are going to be addressed.
.sexy not so sexy after all?
Uniregistry’s first new gTLDs to launch, .sexy and .tattoo, have showed a poor first-day performance after the company failed to secure Go Daddy as a registrar partner.
During the 60-day sunrise period and the first 30 hours of general availability, .sexy sold just shy of 2,700 domains, judging by zone files, while .tattoo racked up a pitiful 700 registrations.
This makes .sexy the 19th most popular new gTLD. On the DI PRO league table it’s sandwiched between .holdings and .camera, and .tattoo the 28th, between .voyage and .careers.
It’s not a completely terrible performance for .sexy — .camera and .holdings have been on the market for three and four weeks respectively — but one might have expected better sales for a string that isn’t tied to a particular vertical niche and is, arguably, just intrinsically attractive.
.sexy’s first-day performance is in the same ball park as Donuts’ .gallery and .estate, hardly strings to get excited about.
For .tattoo, the story is less gray — under 1,000 domains sold is not a success in anyone’s book.
I think there are a couple reasons for the poor showing.
First, the strings themselves. While I can see .sexy proving popular with regular buyers, it doesn’t easily lend itself to domain names that are instinctively attractive to domainers.
You can put pretty much any profession or product name in front of a .guru and it is meaningful as a brand or a rather grandiose self-appointed title. Not so with .sexy.
Ironically, this appears to be Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling’s “Toilet Paper Test” in action.
Schilling argues that the test of how generic, and by extension popular, a gTLD is should be whether toiletpaper.[tld] works. I think toiletpaper.guru works, but toiletpaper.sexy does not.
Second, Uniregistry lacked distribution.
While it had big registrars such as eNom and NameCheap (almost 50 in total) on its books, it lacked Go Daddy and 1&1 — the two companies that have been pushing pre-registrations more heavily than any other.
The reason Donuts’ gTLDs performed better in their first hours is that these companies, mainly Go Daddy, had been collecting pre-regs for weeks and spammed the registry with registration requests at the first second they were able. Day one registrations actually represent weeks of marketing and leads.
Uniregistry took an awfully big risk by demanding registrars hand over part of the customer relationship to the registry, and it seems to have impacted its sales.
The company plans to shortly launch its own registrar, and is betting hard of this being a successful sales channel.
I’m somewhat skeptical about this strategy, at least in the short term.
Go Daddy has spent tens (hundreds?) of millions of dollars on marketing over the last decade or so. It has a lot of eyeballs already and it’s going to be nigh-on impossible to replicate that degree of success.
Uniregistry is not the only new gTLD portfolio registry enthusiastically embracing vertical integration.
The trail was blazed by Minds + Machines, which launched its own registrar last November. Today, it’s difficult to tell on the company’s web site where the registrar ends and the registry begins.
What’s M+M’s launch channel going to look like? We’re not going to know for sure until its first TLDs hit the market.
Are the big registrars going to make the vertically integrated business model difficult to carry off successfully? While registries are obliged to give access to any registrar that wants to sell their names, registrars have no obligations to carry any TLD they don’t want to.
Up to 9.8 million new gTLD domain names are to get a get-out-of-jail card, with the publication yesterday of ICANN’s plan to mitigate the risk of damaging name collisions.
As a loyal DI reader, the details of the plan will not come as a great surprise. It was developed by JAS Global Advisors and previewed in a guest post by CEO Jeff Schmidt in January
Name collisions are scenarios where a TLD delegated by ICANN to the public DNS matches a TLD that one or more organizations already uses on their internal networks.
Verisign, in what many view as protectionist propaganda, has been arguing that name collisions could cause widespread technical and economic damage and even a risk to life.
Things might stop working and secret data might leak out of corporate networks, Verisign warns.
JAS’ proposed solution, which ICANN has opened for public comment, is quite clever, I think.
Called “controlled interruption”, it will see new gTLD registries being asked to wildcard their entire second level of their TLDs to point to the IP address 127.0.53.53.
If there’s a name collision on example.corp the company using that TLD on its network will notice unusual behavior and will have an opportunity to fix the problem.
Importantly, no data apart from the DNS look-up will leak out of their networks — the 127/8 IP address block is reserved by various standards for local uses only.
The registry will essentially bounce the DNS request back to the network making the request. If that behavior causes problems, the network administrator will presumably check her logs, notice the odd IP address, and Google it for further information.
Today, she’ll find a Slashdot article about the name collisions plan, which should put the admin on the road to figuring out the problem and fixing her network. In future, maybe ICANN will rank for the term.
Registries would be able to choose whether to wildcard their whole TLD or to only point to 127.0.53.53 those second-level names currently on their collisions block lists.
In either case, the redirection would only last for the first 120 days after delegation.
That’s the same duration as the quiet period ICANN already imposes on new delegations, during which only “nic.” may resolve.
After the 120 days are up, the name collisions issue would be considered permanently closed for that TLD.
If this goes ahead, the plan will allow registries to unblock as many as 9.8 million domain names representing 6.8 million unique second-level labels, according to DI PRO collisions database.
It could also put an end to the argument about whether name collisions really were a significant problem (160,000 new gTLD names are already live and we haven’t heard any reports of collisions yet).
Pointing to the fact that new TLDs, some of which showed evidence of collisions, were getting delegated rather regularly before the current new gTLD round, JAS said in its report:
We do not find that the addition of new Top Level Domains (TLDs) fundamentally or significantly increases or changes the risks associated with DNS namespace collisions. The modalities, risks, and etiologies of the inevitable DNS namespace collisions in new TLD namespaces will resemble the collisions that already occur routinely in the other parts of the DNS.
Collisions in all TLDs and at all levels within the global Internet DNS namespace have the ability to expose potentially serious security and availability problems and deserve serious attention.
JAS calls its plan “a conservative buffer between potential legacy usage of a TLD and the new usage”.
As wildcarding is currently prohibited by ICANN’s standard Registry Agreement (ironically, to prevent a repeat of Verisign’s Site Finder) an amendment is going to be needed, as the JAS plan acknowledges.
The drawback of the plan is that if an organization is relying on a colliding internal TLD, whatever systems use that TLD could break under the plan. The 127/8 redirection is a way to help them resolve the breakage, not always to prevent it happening at all.
For new gTLD registries it’s pretty good news, however. There are many thousands of potentially valuable premium names blocked under the current regime that would be made available for sale.
If you’re an applicant for .mail, however, it’s a different story. The JAS report says .mail should be reserved forever, putting it in the same category as .home and .corp:
the use of .corp and .home for internal namespaces/networks is so overwhelming that the inertia created by such a large “installed base” and prevalent use is not likely reversible. We also note that RFC 6762 suggests that .corp and .home are safe for use on internal networks.
Like .corp and .home, the TLD .mail also exhibits prevalent, widespread use at a level materially greater than all other applied-for TLDs. Our research found that .mail has been hardcoded into a number of installations, provided in a number of example configuration scripts/defaults, and has a large global “installed base” that is likely to have significant inertia comparable to .corp and .home. As such, we believe .mail’s prevalent internal use is also likely irreversible and recommend reservation similar to .corp and .home.
In other words, .mail is dead and the five remaining applicants for the string are probably going to be forced to withdraw through no fault of their own. Should these companies get a full refund from ICANN?
Will .sexy and .tattoo trip on the starting blocks today due to registrars’ fears about competition and Whois privacy?
Uniregistry went into general availability at 1600 UTC today with the two new gTLDs — its first to market — but it did so without the support of some of the biggest registrars.
Go Daddy — alone responsible for almost half of all new domain registrations — Network Solutions, Register.com and 1&1 are among those that are refusing to carry the new TLDs.
The reason, according to multiple sources, is that Uniregistry’s Registry-Registrar Agreement contains two major provisions that would dilute registrars’ “ownership” of their customer base.
First, Uniregistry wants to know the real identities of all of the registrants in its TLDs, even those who register names using Whois privacy services.
That’s not completely unprecedented; ICM Registry asks the same of .xxx registrars in order to authenticate registrants’ identities.
Second, Uniregistry wants to be able to email or otherwise contact those registrants to tell them about registry services it plans to launch in future. The Uniregistry RRA says:
Uniregistry may from time to time contact the Registered Name Holder directly with information about the Registered Name and related or future registry services.
We gather that registrars are worried that Uniregistry — which will shortly launch its own in-house registrar under ICANN’s new liberal rules on vertical integration — may try to poach their customers.
The difference between ICM and Uniregistry is that ICM does not own its own registrar.
The Uniregistry RRA seems to take account of this worry, however, saying:
Except for circumstances related to a termination under Section 6.7 below, Uniregistry shall never use Personal Data of a Registered Name Holder, acquired under this Agreement, (a) to contact the Registered Name Holder with a communication intended or designed to induce the Registered Name Holder to change Registrars or (b) for the purpose of offering or selling non-registry services to the Registered Name Holder.
Some registrars evidently do not trust this promise, or are concerned that Uniregistry may figure out a way around it, and have voted with their storefronts by refusing to carry these first two gTLDs.
Ownership of the customer relationship is a pretty big deal for registrars, especially when domain names are often a low-margin entry product used to up-sell more lucrative services.
What if a future Uniregistry “registry service” competes with something these registrars already offer? You can see why they’re worried.
A lot of registrars have asserted that with the new influx of TLDs, registrars have more negotiating power over registries than they ever did in a world of 18 gTLDs.
Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling is basically testing out this proposition on his own multi-million-dollar investment.
But will the absence of these registrars — Go Daddy in particular — hurt the launch numbers for .sexy and .tattoo?
I think there could be some impact, but it might be tempered by the fact that a large number of early registrations are likely to come from domainers, and domainers know that Go Daddy is not the only place to buy domains.
Schilling tweeted at about 1605 UTC today that .sexy was over 1,800 registrations.
Longer term, who knows? This is uncharted territory. Right now Uniregistry seems to be banking on the 40-odd registrars — some of them quite large — that have signed up, along with its own marketing efforts, to make up any shortfall an absence of Go Daddy may cause.
Tomorrow, I’d be surprised if NameCheap, which is the distant number two registrar in new gTLDs right now (judging by name server counts) is not the leader in .sexy and .tattoo names.
It seems the new gTLD .voting will not be restricted to Germans after all.
We reported earlier today that .voting registry Valuetainment had submitted a registration policy that required all registrants to have a presence in Germany.
The language used in the policy was identical, we later discovered, to that found in the equivalent policy for .ruhr, a German geographic gTLD operated by a different registry.
But Thomas Rickert of the German law firm Schollmeyer & Rickert, which has both .voting and .ruhr registries as clients, just called to let us know that the policy as submitted to ICANN was a mistake.
It seems there will be no local presence requirement for .voting after all.
Valuetainment will be submitting a revised policy to ICANN without the error. The German-language version of the policy does not contain the error, Rickert said.
Rickert said he’d like it to be known that the registry was blameless in this instance.