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.xyz adds 788,000 domains in a day

Blimey.

XYZ.com managed to “sell” at least 788,167 .xyz domain names yesterday, as registrars gave them away for peanuts.

According to this morning’s zone file count, the gTLD has 3,644,826 domains, compared to 2,856,659 yesterday.

And its sale is not even over until midnight tonight.

The company has pumped millions into marketing .xyz for the second anniversary of its general availability launch, and many registrars dropped their prices accordingly.

Registrars are currently selling the names for $0.02, $0.01 or, apparently in the case of at least one Chinese registrar, nothing.

It goes without saying that this is the biggest one-day spike for a 2012 new gTLD, blowing the previous record of 238,616 out of the water.

While XYZ.com no doubt gets bragging rights, one has to wonder how much value has actually been created here.

The vast majority of these names will have been acquired by investors and will sit idle before eventually dropping. It’s possible that some have also been registered for nefarious purposes.

Some number will no doubt renew, otherwise the promotion will have been a wasted enterprise.

If you look at XYZ’s first big giveaway — the controversial free push into Network Solutions customer accounts — you’ll see very low retention.

NetSol had 360,683 .xyz names under management after the promotion finished in July 2014, but that was down to 18,919 by October 2015, when most had deleted.

That’s a drop of 95%.

The difference here is of course that registrants this week have had to pick their domains and hand over nominal payment.

Investors have been known to form emotional attachments to their portfolios, which could increase renewals this time around.

XYZ.com will have to pay around $200,000 in ICANN fees for yesterday’s added domains.

These might be the top 10 biggest new gTLD daily growth spikes

With news seeping out this evening that XYZ.com’s latest marketing blitz has very possibly added half a million domains to its .xyz gTLD today, I thought I’d knock out some data on the previous largest one-day growth spikes in new gTLDs.

With some caveats, which I’ll get to, I think these might be the top 10 growth days for new gTLDs.

TLDDateGrowth (domains)
top2016-02-16238,616
wang2016-03-02175,900
bid2016-02-18145,330
wang2016-03-03137,313
xyz2016-02-07131,375
site2016-02-24120,275
xyz2015-11-01111,160
xn--ses554g (.网址)2015-01-07109,763
wang2016-03-01107,599
xn--ses554g (.网址)2015-01-06104,548

They’re the only 10 spikes of over 100,000 domains I could confirm in the DI PRO database, at least in 2012-round gTLDs.

With .xyz reportedly adding at least 400,000 domains today, due to several registrars basically giving them away, it’s certainly going to be at the top of this table tomorrow.

XYZ is celebrating its second anniversary of general availability tomorrow, and has invested several million bucks in promotions on registrars which are in turn selling .xyz names for as little as a penny apiece.

As mentioned, there are some caveats to the data in the table above.

It’s based on the zone files published daily by ICANN’s Centralized Zone Data Service, which can be patchy.

CZDS is set up in such a way that each user has missing days here and there, and it has in the not too distant past had a tendency to balk when it receives an unexpectedly large zone file.

In other words, there’s a pretty good chance I’ve missed some spikes, but I’m confident there’s nothing else approaching 400,000 in a day.

UPDATE: .vip should be on the table, with a one-day spike of 115,245 on May 18 2016.

Registrars selling .xyz names for pennies

XYZ.com’s campaign to keep its volumes high as .xyz approaches its second anniversary seem to have resulted in basically free registrations.

Uniregistry said yesterday that it has started selling .xyz domains for just $0.01, and NameCheap is offering them for $0.02.

The prices, which apply to first-year registrations, kicked in yesterday and expire at midnight June 3.

Over in China, Xin Net and West.cn are both pricing the domains at a relatively huge CNY 2 ($0.30).

I expect there are similar offers at other registrars too.

West.cn. the largest .xyz registrar, said last week that it is also subsidizing renewals for the month of June, bringing the cost down to $2.73.

The aforementioned registrars have big splashes announcing the offers on their home pages.

XYZ said Friday that it has put aside “several million dollars” to advertise its birthday on registrar storefronts and elsewhere.

Uniregistry said that from June 3 to June 30 the price will be just $0.18.

Uniregistry’s current .xyz volume is measured in the tens of thousands. It’s ranked just behind Go Daddy, which does not appear to be participating in this promotion, by .xyz domains under management.

.xyz went into general availability June 2, 2014.

Since August 2015, not long after its anniversary deletes have been substantially outstripping renewals, but adds have been going nuts.

It has about 2.8 million domains in its zone file right now, two million of which have been added in the last 12 months.

Despite the anniversary hoopla this time around, there was not a big spike in .xyz registrations around its first birthday last year, when it added a fairly normal 50,000 or so domains.

West.cn to prop up .xyz renewals with $1.5 million subsidy

Leading Chinese registrar West.cn has said it will subsidize .xyz renewals to the tune of $1.5 million.

According to a West.cn press release, CEO He Xiaojiang made the announcement alongside XYZ.com counterpart Daniel Negari at meeting in Beijing on Friday.

The registrar’s .xyz customers “are going to get high rebate back from West.cn so that they can get very low renewal fees”, according to a translation of the original Chinese.

The subsidized renewal price, which starts in June, will be RMB 18 ($2.73), according to the company.

That’s about a $7 discount on West.cn’s usual renewal price of RMB 64.

First-year .xyz prices at the registrar are currently RMB 8 ($1.22).

West.cn is believed to have well over a million .xyz domains on its books. With over a third market share, it’s XYZ.com’s biggest registrar.

The press release points out that West.cn is not getting a special rate from XYZ (which would be against ICANN rules).

Negari declined to elaborate on the specifics of the subsidy.

But in what is no doubt a related move, he told DomainInvesting.com yesterday that XYZ has “reserved several million dollars to be spent with registrars and on advertising platforms for our 2 year anniversary”.

This ad spend will be made over the month of June, he said, to coincide with the June 2, 2014 general availability launch of .xyz.

Fifty registrars are participating, he said, calling it the “biggest sale” the industry has seen.

Whether through heavily discounted renewals or bargain first-year regs, it seems the company is set on making sure its DUM volume does not dip as its anniversary approaches.

It’s not unusual for registries to do special offers to coincide with launch birthdays.

.xyz currently has about 2.8 million registered domains, but about 1.8 million of those were registered after June 2015 and are not in need of renewal before the promotion period expires (though registrants can of course renew whenever they like).

CentralNic doing okay out of new gTLDs

Local former rival Minds + Machines may be struggling to turn a profit, but CentralNic seems to be doing quite well out of this new gTLD malarkey.

But not as well as you might expect. Large growth at its clients does not appear to have translated to a whole lot more revenue for CentralNic itself.

The company yesterday reported 2015 profit before tax of £1.45 million ($2.13 million), compared to £520,000 in 2014, on revenue up 71% at £10.39 million ($15.28 million).

While it may be best known nowadays as a back-end registry provider, its revenue is now fairly evenly split over its three reporting segments.

CentralNic runs the back-end registry for volume gTLDs including .xyz and Radix’s .site, .online, .website, and .space.

The company calls this “wholesale domain sales”, and it brought in £3.12 million last year, compared to £2.82 million in 2014.

You might think that the volume success of .xyz, which added about a million names in 2015, might have translated into a bigger boost, but it didn’t.

Its registrar business, which it got into through the acquisitions of Internet.bs and Instra, brought in £3.4 million, compared to £1.55 million in 2014.

Its third segment, “Enterprise including Premium Domain Name Sales” saw revenue of £3.85 million, compared to $1.69 million.

The enterprise business, which also included two software licenses and revenue from dot-brand clients, is easily the most profitable segment, with a 67% EBITDA margin. For wholesale, it’s 44%.

The £3.8 million of enterprise revenue included £3.22 million premium name sales, of which over £3 million came from a single buyer.

It’s not clear whether this was a single domain deal or a package of premiums, but it represents the most volatile element of CentralNic’s revenue.

Update (May 30) — This article originally misidentified “Company A” and “Company B” in CentralNic’s accounts as registry clients. In fact, according to CEO Ben Crawford, they’re registrar channel partners.

XYZ settles Verisign’s back-end switcheroo lawsuit

XYZ.com has settled a lawsuit filed against it against Verisign stemming from XYZ’s acquisition of .theatre, .security and .protection.

Verisign sued the new gTLD registry operator for “interfering” with its back-end contracts with the previous owners last August, as part of its campaign to compete against new gTLDs in the courtroom.

XYZ had acquired the .security and .protection ICANN contracts from security Symantec, and .theatre from a company called KBE Holdings.

As part of the transitions, all three applications were modified with ICANN to name CentralNic as the back-end registry services provider, replacing Verisign.

Verisign sued on the basis of tortious interference and business conspiracy. It was thrown out of court in November then amended and re-filed.

But the case appears to have now been settled.

Negari issued a grovelling not-quite-apology statement on his blog:

I am pleased to report that the recent case filed by Verisign against CentralNic, Ltd., XYZ and myself has been settled. After looking at the claims in dispute, we regret that as a result of our acquisition of the .theatre, .security and .protection extensions and our arrangement for CentralNic to serve as the backend service provider for these extensions, that Verisign was prevented from the opportunity to pursue monetization of those relationships. As ICANN’s new gTLD program continues to evolve, we would caution others who find themselves in similar situations to be mindful of the existing contracts extension owners may have with third parties.

Registries changing their minds about their back-end provider is not unheard of.

In this case, large portions of Verisign’s final amended complaint were redacted, suggesting some peculiarities to this particular switch.

If there was a monetary component to the settlement, it was not disclosed. The original Verisign complaint had demanded damages of over $2 million.

Rightside rejects Negari’s $5m new gTLD offer

Rightside has turned down Daniel Negari’s $5 million offer to acquire four of its new gTLDs, according to Negari.

The XYZ.com CEO told DI via email tonight:

I was looking forward to operating .Army, .Dance, .Dentist, and .Vet under the XYZ umbrella. I’m disappointed that Rightside didn’t entertain my offer, especially since I believe $5MM was more than fair. I believe these and other new TLDs are worth more to me than any other registry operator due to my growing enterprise. However, it’s understandable for Rightside to want to monetize on these assets.

Rightside has told him it had reviewed the offer and was not interested, he said.

The offer was made in a March 30 open letter to the company and Securities and Exchange Commission filing and expired last night, April 7.

There was some speculation about whether it was a genuine offer, just an attempt to boost Rightside’s share price, or both.

Negari and his COO, Mike Ambrose, own about 5% of Rightside between them, following an $8.5 million investment.

Rightside’s ability to grow revenue from its new gTLD portfolio has become the focus of attention due to the intervention of activist investor J Carlo Cannell of Cannell Capital, who reckons the company is paying too much attention to rubbish TLDs at the expense of its profitable registrar businesses.

Negari thinks he would be able to grow .army, .dance, .dentist, and .vet.

The largest of those gTLDs is .vet, with about 5,200 names in its zone file. It grew by 794 names in the last 90 days.

The other three are below 3,000 names, and are either shrinking or adding fewer than 10 names per day.

XYZ.com’s second-tier portfolio strings, such as .college, .rent and .theatre, are faring a little better, at least in terms of growth. But they are a little younger, and none are over 10,000 names.

ICANN refuses to play Ted Cruz’s game

Kevin Murphy, April 8, 2016, Domain Policy

ICANN has blown off US senator Ted Cruz by declining to answer a bunch of framed questions about its engagement with China.

In a letter (pdf) to Cruz and fellow senators Michael Lee and James Lankford, ICANN chair Steve Crocker testily explains that ICANN has offices and relationships all over the world, given the nature of its mandate.

There’s a suggestion that ICANN’s board resents the “insinuation” that talking to China means it’s ready to be captured by it or implement its censorship policies.

Crocker wrote:

ICANN does not endorse the views of any particular stakeholder, regardless of the organization’s engagement efforts, the composition of its advisory committees, and where it holds its meetings. In this sense, ICANN’s engagement with China as a global Internet stakeholder does not suggest any level of support for the nation’s government or its policies. Similarly, no endorsement of such matters could reasonably be inferred from the operations of the United States’ largest technology firms operating in China, including Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Qualcomm and Uber. These firms, like ICANN, do not endorse the policies, laws, and regulations of China simply by operating there. As long as the U.S. Government has a policy of engagement with China, U.S. firms operate there without the insinuation that doing so makes them complicit in China’s censorship.

The letter was written in response to a bullet-pointed list of a few dozen question Cruz has posed in letters over the last couple of months.

The Cruz missives were a fairly obvious fishing expedition, with the senators apparently looking for sticks to beat ICANN with in the form of evidence that the organization is too friendly with the dreaded Chinese.

Some on the right wing of American politics seem to see the transition of ICANN/IANA partially away from US government oversight as a wedge issue they can use to show Obama is happily selling the ‘Murican constitution to China.

But Crocker ducks most of Cruz’s questions, preferring instead to present an alternative narrative.

He does not, for example, give answers to simple factual questions related to former CEO Fadi Chehade’s joining as co-chair of a committee of the China-led World Internet Conference.

Instead, he refers Cruz to a previous letter from Chehade, and notes that Chehade is no longer with ICANN.

He does not answer anything related to XYZ.com’s proposals related to selling .xyz domain names in China, which Cruz reckons could be used to censor the people of Hong Kong.

Neither does he confirm that ICANN pays government-affiliated CNNIC for collocated office space in Beijing, which wasn’t disclosed until it came out at a press conference last month.

I imagine Cruz, in receipt of Crocker’s letter, is feeling much the same as I do when an interviewee waffles in response to simple questions.

Pissed off.

I doubt this exchange is over.

.top adds a quarter million names in a day

Kevin Murphy, February 17, 2016, Domain Registries

The new gTLD .top set a new record for one-day growth, adding almost a quarter million domains on Monday.

The February 16 .top zone file shows 1,343,665 domains, up 238,616 on the day, according to DI stats.

That’s the majority of the 287,950-name growth the whole new gTLD universe experienced that day.

It’s the second example of a single TLD growing by six figures in a day, following .xyz’s 131,000-name growth on February 6.

It seems that the majority of the names were registered via West.cn, a Chinese registrar that sells the names for CNY 4 ($0.60).

It seems we’re looking at a buying spree by a limited number of Chinese investors.

.top is run by Jiangsu Bangning Science & Technology and marketed primarily in Chinese.

It’s currently the second largest new gTLD by zone size, after .xyz.

New gTLDs top 12 million domains

Kevin Murphy, February 9, 2016, Domain Registries

The new gTLD universe passed 12 million domains for the first time today, according to zone files.

Today, we counted 12,001,346 domains across all the 2012-round gTLD zones, up by just under 60,000 names on the day.

Over 50,000 of the new names were split fairly evenly between .xyz and .club, which seem to be the beneficiaries of a domainer surge that’s been going on for the last four days.

As of today, .club has overtaken .wang to be the third-largest zone, with 638,565 names.

It’s taken less than one month for the new gTLDs to add their latest million names.

Our total zone file count topped 11 million on January 12.

.xyz alone has added over 380,000 names since then; .club another 90,000. Most of that growth has come in the last seven days.

Second-placed budget Chinese-run gTLD .top has added over 95,000 names in the last 30 days.

Zone files don’t take account of domains that are registered but don’t have name servers, so the actual number of registered names will be slightly higher.