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.xyz passed two million names, growing like crazy

Kevin Murphy, February 9, 2016, Domain Registries

The .xyz gTLD at the weekend became the first new gTLD to pass the two million domains mark, as it experiences ridiculously fast growth.

Its zone file has grown by 274,315 domains in the last seven days, hitting 2,092,346 yesterday.

It added 130,000 names on Saturday alone.

That’s the kind of growth more usually associated with .com, and pre-2012 new TLD launch periods.

It’s reasonable to assume that the majority of these names are being registered for investment purposes. It seems Chinese registrars processed much of the spike.

But XYZ.com isn’t the only registry that saw a big spike over the weekend.

.CLUB Domains’ .club added almost 44,000 names to its zone between Saturday and Monday. Its usual daily add rate is around the 1,000 mark.

.security names priced at $3,000, .theatre at $750

Kevin Murphy, January 20, 2016, Domain Registries

XYZ.com may be best known for its budget .xyz gTLD, but its portfolio is increasingly leaning toward the super-premium end of the industry price range.

The company entered Early Access Period with its .security, .protection and .theatre gTLDs today, and they ain’t cheap.

.security and .protection are expected to carry retail prices of $3,000 a year, when they hit general availability a week from now.

Today, they’re $65,000 apiece, with the price reducing to $35,000, $15,000, $8,750 and $5,000 over the coming days.

Meanwhile, .theatre starts at $64,000, going down to $32,000, $14,000, $7,000 and $4,000 before finally settling at the GA RRP of $750.

All three gTLDs were acquired by XYZ.com from other applicants.

That was also the case for .cars, .car and .auto, which XYZ runs in a joint venture with Uniregistry, where retail prices are roughly $2,500.

In terms of competition, .security and .protection are probably up against .trust, while .theatre may well find itself in competition with .tickets, which has made inroads in Broadway.

.top gTLD tops a million as China goes domain nuts

Kevin Murphy, January 17, 2016, Domain Registries

China-based new gTLD .top has become only the second new gTLD to pass the one-million-domain milestone.

The gTLD, managed by Jiangsu Bangning Science & Technology Co, had 1,000,469 domains in its zone file on Saturday, an increase of 5,808 on the day.

The zone has grown by 453,833 domains in the last 90 days, according to DI PRO stats.

It’s growing just slightly faster, in percentage terms, than new gTLD volume leader XYZ.com’s .xyz.

The rapid growth can no doubt be attributed largely to price, feeding the current Chinese appetite for domain investment.

Its most successful registrar, West.cn (Chengdu West Dimension Digital Technology Co), is currently selling .top names prominently for CNY 4 for the first year. That’s just $0.60.

The registry says that registrants come from 231 countries and regions. On its web site, it highlights France’s Gandi.net and Gibraltar’s budget registrar AlpNames as key international partners.

However, the latest registry reports show that over 90% of its sales are coming from China-based registrars.

Despite .top being a Latin-script TLD, European and North America registrars seem to account for a very small number of registrations.

It’s not even carried by the likes of GoDaddy and eNom.

The third-place 2012-round new gTLD is currently .wang, another Chinese registry, which yesterday had 628,125 names in its zone file.

Number four is .win, which despite being run by Gilbraltar-based Famous Four Media is utterly dominated by sales via Chinese registrars.

At number five is .club, with 552,065 names and a much more international distribution of registrars.

Rightside to auction “xyz” domains at NamesCon

Kevin Murphy, January 5, 2016, Domain Sales

.xyz made a bit of a splash with domain investors in 2015, but is the meaningless string “xyz” inherently attractive? Even at the second level?

Rightside seems to think so.

The registry, which does not operate .xyz, is planning to auction at least four “xyz” domains during next Monday’s live auction at the NamesCon conference in Las Vegas.

Rightside today disclosed that xyz.sale, xyz.market, xyz.news and xyz.live will be among about a dozen registry-reserved short domain names– such as q.sale and z.pub — it will attempt to sell.

The only meaningful domain on its list is the absolutely fantastic, category-killing viral.video.

It’s difficult to see the “xyz” names as anything other than attempt to cash in on the popularity of .xyz domains among the investors, many of them Chinese, currently pumping money into the domain market.

XYZ.com’s .xyz gTLD has over 1.7 million domains in its zone file today, making it the largest-volume new gTLD by a considerable margin.

I’m not sure there’s any causal connection here, but it should probably be noted that Daniel Negari and Michael Ambrose, XYZ.com’s CEO and COO respectively, recently acquired a substantial chunk of Rightside.

The two men disclosed November 30 that they had paid over $8.5 million to buy almost 10 million shares — or roughly 5.2% of the company — on the open market.

The NamesCon auction kicks off at 1400 Pacific (2200 UTC) on Monday at the Tropicana in Vegas. It’s being managed by RightOfTheDot and Namejet.

Verisign warns about Chinese .com boom

Kevin Murphy, November 24, 2015, Domain Registries

Verisign has warned investors that the current boom in .com sales is largely coming from Chinese domainers and may not be sustainable.

The company has added an unprecedented 4.1 million domain in .com and .net so far during the fourth quarter.

“While there continues to be demand for domain names globally, the recent increased volume for Verisign’s top level domains, as well as top level domains of other registries, during the fourth quarter is coming largely through registrars in China,” the company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

It listed several factors that are likely responsible for the sudden uptick, but warned that renewal rates are typically not great.

In the past, Verisign has discussed many factors that affect the demand for domain names, including, but not limited to economic, social, and regulatory conditions, Internet adoption, Internet penetration, and increasing e-commerce. In addition to these factors affecting demand, Verisign is also evaluating additional potential factors unique to China that may also be responsible for the recent increased volume of new registrations in China.

In no particular order, these potential factors, or combination of factors, could include, but may not be limited to, government initiatives in China to develop their online economy such as ‘Internet Plus;’ registry and registrar regulatory requirements; cultural influences such as the popularity of numeric domain names; increasing competition amongst Chinese registrars; potential increases in domain name investment activity; and recent capital markets volatility and access to capital in China.

Verisign cannot predict if or how long this increased pace of gross additions will continue and we cannot at this time predict what the renewal rate for these domain names will be. Verisign has noted in the past that renewal rates for domain names registered in emerging markets, such as China, have historically been lower than those registered in more developed markets.

It’s difficult to imagine that Chinese investors have managed to find four million unregistered domains worth keeping.

There are currently 123,497,852 domains in the .com zone file, according to Verisign’s web site.

Verisign is not the only registry that appears to be benefiting from a deluge of registrations from China.

XYZ.com has seen over 440,000 domains added to its .xyz zone file in the last three weeks, bringing its total to over 1.5 million, which appear to be largely coming through Chinese registrars.

Verisign v XYZ judge confirms both companies suck

Kevin Murphy, November 21, 2015, Domain Registries

Verisign and XYZ.com have both come out of a US lawsuit looking like scumbags.

Explaining his dismissal of Verisign’s false advertising lawsuit against .xyz registry XYZ.com, Virginia judge Claude Hilton today said that XYZ.com’s statements about its registration numbers were “verifiably true”.

At the same time, he confirmed that they came about as a result of a bullshit deal with Network Solutions to bolster .xyz’s launch numbers.

The judge’s ruling confirms for the first time the financial details of the deal between XYZ and Web.com (Network Solutions) that saw .xyz’s registration volume rocket in its first few weeks of general availability. He wrote:

Web.com purchased 375,000 domain names for a price of $8 each totaling $3 million dollars. In exchange, XYZ purchased advertising from Web.com in the form of 1,000 impressions for $10 each, at a total cost of $3 million dollars. Instead of cash exchanging hands, advertising credit was given to XYZ and the .xyz domain names were given to Web.com, who subsequently gave them away as free trials to their subscribers.

In other words, XYZ bought $10,000 of advertising for $3 million and paid for it with $3 million of free .xyz domains — 375,000 of them.

That bogus deal enabled XYZ to report big reg volume numbers without actually, legally, lying,

“The statements regarding Defendants’ revenue and number of registrations are statements of fact that are verifiably true,” the judge wrote.

When the Defendants [XYZ.com] stated they were a market leader in new TLD’s and that they had the most new registrations than any other TLD, they were basing that information off of an accurate zone file. Further, the zone file confirms that there are over 120 million .com registrations and one {1) million .xyz registrations. These statements are also true.

The judge said he was dismissing the suit not just because XYZ wasn’t lying, but also because Verisign couldn’t show that it had been harmed.

The number of .com registrations has actually been going up, he noted.

Much of Verisign’s complaint centered on this ad:

Verisign said the ad lied about the availability of .com domains, which XYZ denied.

The judge said:

The video posted to YouTube is puffery and opinion. It displays no actual domain names, and communicates a subjective measure of value and superiority, not capable of being proven false.

“Puffery” is a term with legal weight in false advertising cases under US law. It basically means that advertisers are allowed to exaggerate. XYZ had in fact used the “puffery” defense.

The judge seems to have relied heavily on zone file analysis to reach his conclusions. He wrote.

according to Plaintiff’s [Verisign’s] own data, .com names are largely unavailable. In a given month, Plaintiff reports that it receives about two (2) billion requests to register <.com> domain names, yet fewer than three (3) million are actually registered.

I believe that “two billion” number refers to how many “attempted adds” Verisign gets every month for .com domains, as reported in its monthly reports with ICANN.

That number would include every automated attempt to register a dropping domain by every registrar.

It’s not a reflection of how many actual human beings attempt and fail to register .com domains and, in my view, it’s worrying that the judge took it to mean that.

In summary, the lawsuit managed to unearth the dirty reality behind XYZ’s launch “success”, whilst also making Verisign look like a petty, petulant, child.

Everybody loses.

Except the lawyers, obviously, who have been paid millions.

XYZ says it won’t block censored Chinese domains

Kevin Murphy, November 6, 2015, Domain Registries

New gTLD registry XYZ.com has said it will not preemptively censor domain names based on the wishes of the Chinese government.

Over the last couple of days, CEO Daniel Negari has sought to “clarify” its plans to block and suspend domain names based on Chinese government requests.

It follows XYZ’s Registry Services Evaluation Request for a gateway service in the country, first reported by DI and subsequently picked up by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a Wall Street Journal columnist, Fortune magazine and others.

The clarifications offered up by XYZ probably did more to confuse matters.

A blog post on Wednesday said that XYZ will not reserve any .xyz domain names from being registered, except those ICANN makes all new gTLD registries reserve.

Subsequent comments from Negari stated that XYZ will, as the RSEP stated, prevent names that have been banned in China from being registered.

However, there’s one significant difference.

Now, the registry is saying that it will only put those bans in place for domain names that have been specifically banned by the Chinese government when the name had already been registered by a Chinese registrant.

So, if I understand correctly, it would not preemptively ban anyone anywhere from registering [banned term].xyz.

However, if [banned term].xyz was registered to a Chinese resident and the Chinese government told the registry to suspend it, it would be suspended and nobody would be able to re-register it anywhere in the world.

Negari said in a blog comment yesterday:

if we receive a Chinese legal order tomorrow (before the gateway has launched) which requires disabling a domain name registered in China and properly under Chinese jurisdiction, then it will be disabled at the registry level, and not by the gateway. When the gateway launches the name will continue to be unavailable, and the gateway will not implement the action on a localized basis only in China. The normal registry system would continue to be the only system used to resolve the name globally. Again — the specific stability concern ICANN had was that we would use the Chinese gateway to make .xyz names resolve differently, depending on what country you are in. I completely agree that our [RSEP] re-draft to address that concern came out in a way that can be read in a way that we sincerely did not intend.

So there is a list of preemptively banned .xyz, .college, .rent, .security and .protection domains, compiled by XYZ from individual Chinese government requests targeting names registered to Chinese registrants.

Negari said in an email to DI yesterday:

To clarify the statement “XYZ will reserve domains,” we meant that XYZ will takedown domains in order to comply with “applicable law.” Unfortunately, the inaccuracies in your post caused people to believe that we were allowing the Chinese government to control what names could be registered or how they could be used by people outside of China. The idea that XYZ is going to impose Chinese law and prevent people outside of China from registering certain domain names is simply incorrect and not true. To be 100% clear, there is no “banned list.”

That was the first time anyone connected with XYZ had complained about the October 12 post, other than since-deleted tweets that corrected the size of the list from 40,000 domains to 12,000.

The RSEP (pdf) that causes all this kerfuffle has not been amended. It still says:

XYZ will reserve names prohibited for registration by the Chinese government at the registry level internationally, so the Gateway itself will not need to be used to block the registration of of any names. Therefore, a registrant in China will be able to register the same domain names as anyone else in the world.

This fairly unambiguous statement is what XYZ says was “misinterpreted” by DI (and everyone else who read it).

However, it’s not just a couple of sentences taken out of context. The context also suggests preemptive banning of domains.

The very next sentence states:

When the Gateway is initially implemented we will not run into a problem whereby a Chinese registrant has already registered a name prohibited for registration by the Chinese government because Chinese registrars are already enforcing a prohibition on the registration of names that are in violation of Chinese law.

This states that Chinese residents are already being preemptively banned, by Chinese registrars, from registering domains deemed illegal in China.

The next few paragraphs of the RSEP deal with post-registration scenarios of domains being banned, clearly delineated from the paragraph dealing with pre-registration scenarios.

In his blog post, Negari said the RSEP “addressed the proactive abuse mitigation we will take to shut down phishing, pharming, malware, and other abuse in China”.

I can’t believe this is true. The consequence would be that if China sent XYZ a take-down notice about a malware or phishing site registered to a non-Chinese registrant, XYZ would simply ignore it.

Regardless, the takeaway today is that XYZ is now saying that it will not ban a domain before it has been registered, unless that domain has previously been registered by a Chinese resident and subsequently specifically banned by the Chinese government.

The registry says this is no different to how it would treat take-down notices issued by, for example, a US court. It’s part of its contractual obligation to abide by “applicable law”, it says.

Whether this is a policy U-turn or a case of an erroneous RSEP being submitted… frankly I don’t want to get into that debate.

Disclosure: during the course of researching this story, I registered .xyz domains matching (as far as this monoglot can tell) the Chinese words for “democracy”, “human rights”, “porn” and possibly “Tiananmen Square”. I have no idea if they have value and have no plans to develop them into web sites.

Now Uniregistry shifts to Early Access launch model

Kevin Murphy, October 28, 2015, Domain Registries

Uniregistry has become the latest registry to adopt the Early Access Period model for some new gTLD launches.

.cars, .car and .auto will all use the EAP, in place of the more typical landrush period, when they launch in January.

Technically, while Uniregistry is running the back-end, the three gTLDS are all being offered by Cars Registry, a partnership between Uniregistry and .xyz registry XYZ.com.

Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling said it was felt that EAP was needed due to the “stupendous cost” of acquiring the strings.

EAP is a period lasting usually about a week in which the price of registering any domain descends daily from a very high fee on day one — usually above $10,000 at the storefront — to maybe a hundred bucks when the period closes.

The model was pioneered by portfolio registries Donuts and Rightside, but has since been adopted by the likes of Minds + Machines, Radix and XYZ.com.

It’s rapidly becoming the de facto industry standard for new gTLD launches, replacing the auction-based approach to landrush most registries have used in the past.

The driving factor for the industry switch is surely revenue.

Donuts told us late last month that it had sold 48,381 EAP domains across all of its launches to date, where registry prices are believed to start at around the $10,000 mark.

M+M said yesterday that it sold $1.18 million after it chose to use EAP with its recently launched .law gTLD, where registration restrictions suggest many of the sales will have been to legit end users.

Registrars also get a bigger slice of the pie. In an auction model they might wind up with just the regular registration fee, but with EAP they can mark up day one domains by thousands of dollars.

Cars Registry says its EAP is targeted at “OEMs, dealerships, vendors”, but it will almost certainly get a healthy chunk of domainer interest too.

Verisign’s silly .xyz lawsuit thrown out

Kevin Murphy, October 28, 2015, Domain Registries

Verisign has had its false advertising lawsuit against the .xyz gTLD registry thrown out of court.

XYZ.com this week won a summary judgement, ahead of a trial that was due to start next Monday.

“By granting XYZ a victory on summary judgement, the court found that XYZ won the case as a matter of law because there were no triable issues for a jury,” the company said in a statement.

The judge’s ruling does not go into details about the court’s rationale. XYZ’s motion to dismiss has also not been published.

So it’s difficult to know for sure exactly why the case has been thrown out.

Verisign sued in December, claiming XYZ and CEO Daniel Negari had lied in advertising and media interviews by saying there are no good .com domain names left.

Many of its claims centered on this video:

XYZ said its ads were merely hyperbolic “puffery” rather than lies.

Verisign also claimed that XYZ had massively inflated its purported registration numbers by making a shady $3 million reciprocal domains-for-advertising deal with Network Solutions.

XYZ general counsel Grant Carpenter said in a statement: “These tactics appear to be part of a coordinated anti-competitive scheme by Verisign to stunt competition and maintain its competitive advantage in the industry.”

While Verisign has lost the case, it could be seen to have succeeded in some respects.

XYZ had to pay legal fees in “the seven-figure range”, as well as disclose hundreds of internal company documents — including emails between Negari and me — during the discovery phase.

Through discovery, Verisign has obtained unprecedented insight into how its newest large competitor conducts its business.

While I’ve always thought the lawsuit was silly, I’m now a little disappointed that more details about the XYZ-NetSol deal are now unlikely to emerge in court.

XYZ to put global block on domains banned in China

Kevin Murphy, October 12, 2015, Domain Registries

XYZ.com plans to slap a global ban on domain names censored by the Chinese government.

Chinese words meaning things such as “human rights” and “democracy” are believed to be on the block list, which an industry source says could contain as many as 40,000 words, names and phrases.

(UPDATE: Gavin Brown, CTO of XYZ back-end CentralNic, tweeted that the list is nowhere near 40,000 names long.)

The registry seems to be planning to allow the Chinese government to censor its new gTLDs, which include .xyz, .college, .rent, .protection and .security, in every country of the world.

And it might not be the last non-Chinese registry to implement such a ban.

The surprising revelation came in a fresh Registry Services Evaluation Process request (pdf), filed with ICANN on Friday.

The RSEP asks ICANN to approve the use of a gateway service on the Chinese mainland, which the company says it needs in order to comply with Chinese law.

As previously reported, Chinese citizens are allowed to register domains in non-Chinese registries, but they may not activate them unless the registry complies with the law.

That law requires the registry to be located on the Chinese mainland. XYZ plans to comply by hiring local player ZDNS to proxy its EPP systems and mirror its Whois.

But the Chinese government also bans certain strings — which I gather are mostly but not exclusively in Chinese script — from being registered in domain names.

Rather than block them at the ZDNS proxy, where only Chinese users would be affected, XYZ has decided to ban them internationally.

Registrants in North America or Europe, for example, will not be able to register domains that are banned in China. XYZ said in its RSEP:

XYZ will reserve names prohibited for registration by the Chinese government at the registry level internationally, so the Gateway itself will not need to be used to block the registration of of any names. Therefore, a registrant in China will be able to register the same domain names as anyone else in the world.

It seems that XYZ plans to keep its banned domain list updated as China adds more strings to its own list, which I gather it does regularly.

Customers outside of China who have already registered banned domains will not be affected, XYZ says.

If China subsequently bans more strings, international customers who already own matching domains will also not be affected, it says.

CEO Daniel Negari told DI: “To be clear, we will not be taking action against names registered outside of China based on Chinese government requests.”

But Chinese registrants do face the prospect losing their domains, if China subsequently bans the words and XYZ receives a complaint from Chinese authorities.

“We treat requests from the Chinese government just like we treat requests from the US government or any other government,” Negari said.

“When we receive a valid government or court order to take action against a name and the government has jurisdiction over the registration, we will take action the registration,” he said.

Up to a third of the .xyz zone — about three hundred thousand names — is believed to be owned by Chinese registrants who are currently unable to actually use their names.

The company clearly has compelling business reasons to comply with Chinese law.

But is giving the Chinese government the ongoing right to ban tens of thousands of domain names internationally a step too far?

ICANN allows anyone to file public comments on RSEP requests. I expect we’ll see a few this time.