.sucks may be all about freedom of speech, but some registrars reckon the registry is trying to ban them from criticizing the new gTLD in public.
Vox Populi is proposing a change to its standard registrar contract that some say is an attempt to gag them.
A version of the Registry-Registrar Agreement dated December 18, seen by DI, contains the new section 2.1:
The purpose of this Agreement is to permit and promote the registration of domain names in the Vox Populi TLDs and to allow Registrar to offer the registration of the Vox Populi TLDs in partnership with Vox Populi. Neither party shall take action to frustrate or impair the purpose of this Agreement.
It’s broad and somewhat vague, but some registrars are reading it like a gagging order.
While many retail registrars are no doubt happy to sell .sucks domains as part of their catalogs, there is of course a subset of the registrar market that focuses on brand protection.
Brand protection registrars have been quite vocal in their criticism of .sucks.
MarkMonitor, for example, last year wrote about how it would refuse to make a profit on .sucks names, and was not keen on promoting the TLD to its clients.
Asked about the new RRA language, Vox Pop CEO John Berard told DI that it was merely an attempt to clarify the agreement but provided no additional detail.
Registrars are also angry about a second substantial change to the contract, which would allow the registry to unilaterally make binding changes to the deal at will.
The new text in section 8.4 reads:
Vox Populi shall have the right, at any time and from time to time, to amend any or all terms and conditions of this Agreement. Any such amendment shall be binding and effective 15 days after Vox Populi gives notice of such amendment to the Registrar by email.
That’s the kind of thing that ICANN sometimes gets away with, but some registrars are saying that such a change would let Vox Pop do whatever the hell it likes and would therefore be legally unenforceable.
One of the top secondary market domain sales of 2015, as reported by Sedo, appears to be a case of somebody selling a domain matching a trademark to the trademark’s owner.
According to a press release yesterday, the domain basic-fit.fitness was the third-priciest reportable new gTLD domain sale handled by Sedo last year.
It went for €7,949 ($8,634).
Given that it’s not intrinsically an attractive-looking domain, I tried to figure out why it sold.
Judging by Whois records, the buyer is the corporate owner of Basic-Fit, a chain of over 300 gyms in four European countries.
It has at least one trademark on “Basic-Fit”.
The original registrant, according to records cached by DomainTools, was a Belgian web designer.
The domain seems to have changed hands around May last year. In April, it spent a couple of weeks under Whois privacy.
The domain was registered August 27, 2014, the day .fitness exited its Early Access Period and domains were available at regular prices.
It seems the same Belgian web designer owns several more new gTLD domain names matching brands that are parked with Sedo and available to buy instantly.
Many are .immo (“.realestate”) domains matching the brands of Belgian real estate firms. There are also a few .beer domains under his name matching the brands of breweries and beers in the UK, US and Czech Republic.
It’s not unheard of for web developers to register domains on behalf of clients. It’s rather less common for them to then list them for sale, with buy-now prices, on domain marketplaces.
Looks dodgy to me.
Uniregistry today launched an app for customers of its registrar.
The Uniregistry App became available on Apple’s App Store today, for iOS-based devices.
A company spokesperson said that an Android version is in the works and will become available later this year.
According to the company, the app allows users to manage or buy domains as usual.
“Update it all, nameservers, DNS records, forwarding, auto-renewals, AUTH codes, even your domain lock,” the app’s description says.
For those worried about carrying the keys to the kingdom around in their pockets, authentication is handled by Touch ID (Apple’s fingerprint technology) and/or Google Authenticator, a one-time password app.
ICM Registry has added over 1,200 two-character .xxx names to its catalog of priced premiums.
With prices ranging from $100,000 to $37,500, the newly offered domains carry a total ticket price of over $46 million.
The only six-figure name on the list is vr.xxx. ICM said in a press release today it has already sold vr.porn and vr.sex for $100,000 apiece.
There are seven names with adult connotations (such as 69.xxx and bj.xxx) priced at $75,000, eight more at $50,000 and two at $40,000.
The rest of the list of 1,227 names are being offered at $37,500, which is roughly 10 times the prices on the equivalent .porn, .sex and .adult domains.
While ICM noted the interest in domain investing from China recently, it does not appear to have valued its numeric-only domains (such as 88.xxx) any more highly than less attractive-looking combinations (such as 0o.xxx).
Judging by the list published on ICM’s web site, it has already sold well over 300 two-character domains in its newest three gTLDs.
Had those sold at the buy-now prices it would have raised over $1.1 million in revenue.
But ICM since September has been offering an option to register premium names for premium annual fees that are lower than the one-off price. A $37,500 domain costs $3,000 a year to register, under this model.
The total value of ICM’s premium list, including all the longer domains, is roughly $115 million.
Chinese web giant Baidu had its dot-brand gTLD, .baidu, go live in the DNS root zone today.
With the extraordinary amount of focus on China in the domain industry currently, this could be one of the dot-brands to watch in 2016.
There are no active domain names in .baidu just yet, but we will likely see nic.baidu put to some use or another over the coming days.
Unusually for a dot-brand gTLD, Baidu’s contract with ICANN does not contain specifications 9 or 13, which allow dot-brands to operate differently to regular gTLDs.
This suggests an open registration policy under which any registrar can sell .baidu domains to any registrant.
However, Baidu’s original gTLD application spells out quite a different plan, focused primarily on trademark protection. It says:
All available second-level strings of .BAIDU (e.g. example .BAIDU) will be initially allocated only to limited number of eligible registrants and for internal corporate business purposes. BAIDU plans to adopt this approach and expects to maintain it for 3 years from the launch of the “.BAIDU” registry service. Such approach will be regularly evaluated and adjusted if appropriate and necessary. Depending a various internal and external factors, including market demand and user expectation, BAIDU may consider a phased roll-out approach for a broader commercial marketplace but will do so after the conclusion of the initial 3-year period.
I wouldn’t expect .baidu to launch properly any time soon.
Not only is the company probably going to want to get its dot-brand contractual protections in place, it’s also showed no huge enthusiasm for making its way through the new gTLD delegation process so far.
It signed its ICANN contract January 8 last year, meaning this week was pretty much the latest date it could permissibly go into the root.
Like most dot-brands, it’s been dragging its feet, in other words.
Baidu is the leading web property in China, dwarfing even Google in terms of search market share locally.