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Iraq to get IDN ccTLD

Kevin Murphy, September 26, 2014, Domain Registries

Iraq was this week granted the right to use a new Arabic-script country-code top-level domain.

ICANN said the war-torn nation’s request for عراق., which is Arabic for “Iraq”, has passed the String Evaluation phase of the IDN ccTLD Fast Track program.

Like .iq, the registry will be the government’s Communications and Media Commission.

Once delegated, the Punycode inserted into the root will be .xn--mgbtx2b.

ICANN said Iraq is the 33rd nation to have an IDN ccTLD request approved. There are currently 26 IDN ccTLDs in the root. Most of them aren’t doing very well.

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Brewers Association backs .beer

Kevin Murphy, September 26, 2014, Domain Registries

Continuing its strategy of getting well-known anchor tenants involved in its new gTLD launches, Minds + Machines has recruited the Brewers Association to back its just-launched .beer.

The BA represents over 2,300 independent breweries in the US, according to its web site.

.beer hit general availability yesterday. Due to delays with ICANN’s zone file publishing system this morning I can’t yet bring you the first-day figures for the TLD.

The launch was timed to coincide with the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado.

Two weeks ago, M+M launched .country with backing from music legend Dolly Parton, who claimed dolly.country, dollyparton.country, queenof.country, dollywood.country and 9to5.country.

If nothing else, the endorsement reminded non-Americans that .country is supposed to relate to music, not geography.

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Second new gTLD round “possible” but not “probable” in 2016

Kevin Murphy, September 26, 2014, Domain Policy

If there are any companies clamoring to get on the new gTLD bandwagon, they’ve got some waiting to do.

Based on a sketchy timetable published by ICANN this week, it seems unlikely that a second application round will open before 2017, and even that might be optimistic.

While ICANN said that “based on current estimates, a subsequent application round is not expected to launch until 2016 at the earliest”, that date seems unlikely even to senior ICANN staffers.

“The possibility exists,” ICANN vice president Cyrus Namazi told DI, “but the probability, from my perspective, is not that high when you think about all the pieces that have to come together.”

Here’s an ICANN graphic illustrating these pieces:

As you can see, the two biggest time-eaters on the road-map, pushing it into 2017, are a GNSO Policy Development Process (green) and the Affirmation of Commitments Review (yellow).

The timetable envisages the PDP, which will focus on what changes need to be made to the program, lasting two and a half years, starting in the first quarter 2015 and running until mid-2017.

That could be a realistic time-frame, but the GNSO has been known to work quicker.

An ICANN study in 2012 found that 263 days is the absolute minimum amount of time a PDP has to last from start to finish, but 620 days — one year and nine months — is the average.

So the GNSO could, conceivably, wrap up in late 2016 rather than mid-2017. It will depend on how cooperative everybody is feeling and how tricky it is to find consensus on the issues.

The AoC review, which will focus on “competition, consumer trust and consumer choice” is a bit harder to gauge.

The 2009 Affirmation of Commitments is ICANN’s deal with the US government that gives it some of its authority over the DNS. On the review, it states:

If and when new gTLDs (whether in ASCII or other language character sets) have been in operation for one year, ICANN will organize a review that will examine the extent to which the introduction or expansion of gTLDs has promoted competition, consumer trust and consumer choice, as well as effectiveness of (a) the application and evaluation process, and (b) safeguards put in place to mitigate issues involved in the introduction or expansion.

The AoC does not specify how long the review must last, just when it must begin, though it does say the ICANN board must react to it within six months.

That six-month window is a maximum, however, not a minimum. The board could easily take action on the review’s findings in a month or less.

ICANN’s timeline anticipates the review itself taking a year, starting in Q3 2015 and broken down like this:

Based on the timelines of previous Review Team processes, a rough estimate for this process is that the convening of the team occurs across 3-5 months, a draft report is issued within 6-9 months, and a final report is issued within 3-6 months from the draft.

Working from these estimates, it seems that the review could in fact take anywhere from 12 to 20 months. That would mean a final report would be delivered between September 2016 and July 2017.

If the review and board consideration of its report take the longest amount of time permitted or envisaged, the AoC process might not complete until early 2018, a little over three years from now.

Clearly there are a lot of variables to consider here.

Namazi is probably on safe ground by urging caution over the hypothetical launch of a second round in 2016.

Given than new gTLD evaluations were always seen as a “rolling” process, one of the things that the GNSO surely needs to look into is a mechanism to reduce the delay between rounds.

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Is Verisign’s .net in trouble?

Kevin Murphy, September 24, 2014, Domain Registries

The zone file for Verisign’s .net gTLD has shrunk by almost 100,000 domains in the last few months.

I’ve been tracking .com and .net’s zone numbers since mid-March, shortly after the current wave of new gTLDs started going live, and while .com seems to be still growing strong, .net is definitely trending down.

The bulk of .net’s decline seems to have happened of the last three months. Its zone file count has decreased by 95,590 domains in the last 90 days, according to my numbers.

Here’s a chart, which you can click to enlarge, to illustrate what I’m talking about:

.net

I don’t have comparable figures from previous years, so I can’t be certain that the downturn is not related to summer seasonality.

But if there is seasonality, it doesn’t appear to have affected .com, which has added over a million names to its zone over the last 90 days.

.net

The last formal registry transactions report we have from Verisign for .net shows a decline of a little over 7,000 names under management in May.

Are these the early signs of trouble ahead for .net?

The TLD has always been a bit of an oddity. Originally designed for network operators, it was opened up and pitched in the 1990s by Network Solutions as a catch-all that should be acquired alongside .com.

That “Oh, I may as well buy the .net while I’m here” mentality stuck in the primary market, and I’ve often encountered the “I’ll throw in the .net for free” mentality in the secondary market.

But in a world of hundreds of new gTLDs I wonder whether .net’s brand caché will shrink.

If a registrant decides they can clearly do without defensively registering the .guru, the .pics, the .horse and the .wtf, perhaps they’ll start wondering why they bother to register the .net too.

Is .net on the verge of an unprecedented drop-off in registrations?

I’ll have to reserve judgement — that last 90 days might be a blip, and it only represents 0.63% of the .net business — but it’s going to be worth keeping an eye on, I think.

With 15 million names, the .net business is worth about $93 million a year in registry fees to Verisign.

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Afilias loses Chinese .info as seven more new gTLD auctions conclude

Kevin Murphy, September 24, 2014, Domain Registries

Today news has reached us via various channels that seven new gTLD contention sets have been settled, all is seems via private auction.

Notably, Afilias has lost the opportunity to run the Chinese-script version of its 14-year-old .info TLD to Beijing Tele-info Network Technology Co, the only other applicant.

The Beijing company’s application says the string .信息 means: “knowledge or message in the form suitable for communications, storage, or processing, which is closely related to notions of form, meaning, pattern, perception, representation, and entropy.”

Afilias said it means “info”.

Separately, in a press release today, Minds + Machines said that it has won the auctions for two gTLDs — .law and .vip — and lost the auctions for several more.

In .law it beat NU DOT CO, Donuts, Radix, Merchant Law Group and Famous Four Media. In .vip it beat Google, VIP Registry, Donuts, I-Registry and Vipspace Enterprises.

From the auctions M+M said it lost we can infer that .design and .realestate contention sets are also now settled, but we haven’t seen any withdrawals yet so we don’t know the winners.

M+M said it netted $6.2 million cash by winning .law and .vip and losing .design, .flowers, .group, .realestate and .video.

From today’s new withdrawals we can see that Uniregistry won .auto against Fegistry, Donuts and Dot Auto, while Donuts won .memorial against Afilias and dotCOOL.

UPDATE: Thanks to Jim in the comments for the reminder that the “Chinese .info” auction happened back in June. The TLD fetched $600,000 at an ICANN last-resort auction.

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