A triumvirate of domain name companies led by Radix paid well over $7 million for the .online new gTLD, judging by comments made by Tucows CEO in an analysts call yesterday.
As the company reported its third-quarter financial numbers, Noss said of .online, which was recently auctioned:
While we are bound by confidentiality with respect to the value of the transaction, we can point to amounts paid in other gTLDs’ auctions in the public domain — like $6.8 million for .tech, $5.6 million for .realty, or the $4.6 million that Amazon paid for .buy — and let you decide what you think .online should be valued, relative to those more narrowly targeted extensions.
Radix won the private auction with financial backing from Tucows and NameCheap.
The three companies intend to set up a new joint venture to manage the .online registry, as we reported yesterday, with each company contributing between $4 million and $5 million.
Assuming at least one company is contributing $4 million and at least one is contributing $5 million, that works out to a total of $13 million to $14 million, earmarked for the auction and seed funding for the new venture.
Based on that knowledge, an assumption that the new company will want a couple of million to launch, and Noss’s comments yesterday, I’d peg the .online sale price in the $10-12 million range.
Radix business head Sandeep Ramchamdani told us yesterday that the company plans to market .online with some “hi-decibel advertising” and participation in events such as Disrupt and South by Southwest.
ICANN has won a court battle, and avoided a major political incident, over an attempt by terrorism victims to seize ccTLDs belonging to Iran, Korea and Syria.
A District of Columbia judge ruled this week that while ccTLDs may be a form of “property” under the law, they’re not “attachable” property.
Attachment is a legal concept used when creditors attempt to seize assets belonging to debtors.
The ruling overturns a request by a group of terrorism survivors, led by attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, to have .ir, .sy, .kp, سور, and ايران. transferred to them in lieu of payment of previous court rulings.
Darshan-Leitner has previously secured US court judgments amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars against the three nations. Because the nations have not paid these penalties, she’s been using the courts to seize state-owned assets in the US instead.
But US District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled (pdf) earlier this week:
the country code Top Level Domain names at issue may not be attached in satisfaction of plaintiffs’ judgments because they are not property subject to attachment under District of Columbia law.
However, he added in a footnote:
But the conclusion that ccTLDs may not be attached in satisfaction of a judgment under District of Columbia law does not mean that they cannot be property. It simply means that they are not attachable property within this statutory scheme.
Drawing on “sparse” case law, Lamberth’s rationale appears to be that domain names are not a product, they’re a service. He wrote:
The ccTLDs exist only as they are made operational by the ccTLD managers that administer the registries of second level domains within them and by the parties that cause the ccTLDs to be listed on the root zone file. A ccTLD, like a domain name, cannot be conceptualized apart from the services provided by these parties. The Court cannot order plaintiffs’ insertion into this arrangement.
The ruling, which may of course be challenged by the plaintiffs, helps ICANN and the US government avoid a huge political embarrassment at a time when the links between the two are being dissolved and relations with Iran are defrosting.
It’s been a busy week for new gTLD application withdrawals, with no fewer than 11 contention sets getting settled over the last few days.
First, as predicted, Radix won .online, after I-Registry withdrew the last remaining competing application, but only with a little help from its friends.
Radix is to form a new joint venture with Tucows and NameCheap to run .online. Each company threw in $4 million to $5 million to cover the cost of the auction and seed funding for the yet-to-be-formed new registry entity.
Another auction saw .site also won by Radix, as a standalone applicant, after withdrawals from Interlink, M+M, Google and Donuts.
.dog went to Donuts after withdrawals from Minds + Machines and Google. Donuts also won .live, after an earlier withdrawal from Microsoft and one this week from Google.
The hotly contested .cloud went to Aruba after withdrawals from M+M, Symantec, Amazon, Google, CloudNames and Donuts.
.boats was won by DERboats after Donuts withdrew.
.book has gone to Amazon, after withdrawals from R.R. Bowker, Famous Four Media, Donuts, DotBook, M+M, Global Domain Registry, Google and NU DOT CO.
Amazon also won .hot, after Donuts and dotHot (affiliated with .jobs) withdrew.
Dish DBS, a Spanish-language US TV company, will operate .latino as a closed dot-brand for its Dish Latino service, after M+M withdrew its competing application.
Japanese domain registrar Interlink won .earth, beating Google.
Motion Picture Domain Registry beat Donuts and Google to .film, meaning the gTLD will “will only be available to film producers and major film studios” under the applicant’s plan to require a Motion Picture Association of America registration number in order to register a name.
ICM Registry has reneged on its promise to “grandfather” trademark owners and other .xxx registrants in its forthcoming .sex, .porn and .adult new gTLDs.
While the changes are sure to infuriate trademark owners and .xxx registrants, the company insists that ICANN is to blame for blocking its original plans.
Originally, ICM had promised to reserve every .sex, .porn and .adult domain that matched an existing .xxx domain — if you owned or had blocked example.xxx then example.porn and so on would be reserved.
There was not to be a charge for any of these reservations.
The current versions of ICM’s new gTLD applications are unequivocal — nobody who owns a .xxx name or bought a block will be charged for the equivalent .sex, .porn or .adult names or blocks.
On names “blocked” by trademark owners during the .xxx Sunrise B period, the applications state:
All existing blocked names under the .XXX Sunrise B program… will not need to take any action to have those same names blocked in the new gTLD. All of these matching names will be automatically reserved from registration in the new TLD, free of charge.
On names registered in general availability, the applications state:
all existing .XXX names will be reserved from registration in the new gTLD and only registrants of that .XXX name will be given the opportunity to initially register that corresponding .XXX name in the new gTLD. If the .XXX registrant elects to register the name in the new gTLD, this can be done for a low annual fee. If the .XXX registrant does not elect to register the name in the new gTLD, then the new, matching, gTLD name will be reserved on [ICM’s] registry-reserved list at NO cost.
While neither application has been amended yet, neither of these statements are any longer true, ICM has confirmed.
Instead, the company’s new Domain Matching Program anticipates an extra launch phase between Sunrise and general availability. Under ICANN rules, it’s a Limited Registration Period.
During this month-long phase, anyone who owns a .xxx domain or block will be able to purchase the matching new gTLD names, unless it has already been registered in the Sunrise period.
What does this all mean…
For regular .xxx registrants?
If you own a .xxx domain, you no longer get a free permanent reservation on the matching .porn, .sex and .adult names while you make up your mind whether to buy them.
Instead, you’ll have to buy it during the 30-day DMP window.
ICM’s fee for DMP and Sunrise will be the same as for general availability, ICM CEO Stuart Lawley told DI.
Also, if there’s a trademark in the Trademark Clearinghouse that matches your second-level string, that trademark’s owner will be able to register the matching names before you get a chance.
Remember, not all TMCH users are legitimate brands. Some are domain investors gaming the system.
For premium .xxx buyers?
The changes may also concern registrants of “premium” .xxx names, many of which may have assumed they’d get the matching .porn, .sex and .adult reservations free of charge.
Porn site operators Really Useful and Barron Innovations, which have spent millions apiece on premium .xxx names such as teen.xxx and sex.xxx, have both said in ICM press releases that the grandfathering program formed an important part of their decision-making.
“We look forward to enjoying the benefits of ICM’s unique Domain Matching Program, which gives .XXX holders an opportunity to secure matching .XXX domain names in .PORN, .ADULT and .SEX,” Barron spokesperson Shay Efron said when the $3 million sale of sex.xxx was announced.
“We will be speaking individually to each premium name holder who purchased premium names after we had announced the original grandfathering plan,” Lawley told us.
It seems that the premium string will be registry-reserved, however, so there’s no chance of them being snapped up during Sunrise.
If you’re a brand who bought a .xxx block during the Sunrise B period back in 2011, you no longer get grandfathered into a free permanent reservation in .sex, .adult and .porn.
Instead, you’ll have to buy your names as usual either during Sunrise, DMP or — if you feel like taking a risk — general availability.
The problem is: you only qualify for Sunrise if you’re registered in the TMCH, and most Sunrise B buyers are not.
Something like 70,000 names were registered during the .xxx Sunrise B period three years ago, but there are only 33,000 marks registered in the TMCH today.
The owners of more than half of the Sunrise B blocks, who may have thought their blocks would carry over to ICM’s three new gTLDs free of charge, currently do not even have the right to buy their names in Sunrise.
If you have a .xxx Sunrise B block AND are in the TMCH, you may find yourself competing with other trademark owners with matching marks during the .porn, .adult and .sex Sunrise periods.
Any Sunrise B match not registered during the Sunrise and DMP phases will be up for grabs during GA, just the same as any other domain.
Lawley reminds us that the .xxx Sunrise B predated ICM’s new gTLD applications by many months — nobody bought a block in 2011 thinking it would be enforced in all four gTLDs.
He added that ICM has “recently secured a unique offer through the TMCH that will enable trademark owners to register with the TMCH for one year, at a reduced fee.”
Why did ICM make the changes?
The changes put the registry on a collision course with the Intellectual Property Constituency of ICANN, which looks out for the interests of trademark owners and is not a fan of porn-themed TLDs.
“The IPC is going to collectively shit a brick,” one IPC member told us.
But the IPC, which has been unshakable when it comes to the strict enforcement of ICANN’s mandatory new gTLD rights protection mechanisms, may have shot itself in the foot to an extent.
According to ICM, it’s ICANN’s fault, and indirectly the IPC’s, that it’s had to abandon free grandfathering.
In a statement sent to DI, the company said:
Throughout the ICANN approval process, ICM pursued multiple pathways to try and ensure its original “grandfathering plan”. However, due to technological concerns and strong trademark protection policies that ICANN’s intellectual property community requires in all new gTLDs, ICANN flatly rejected ICM’s grandfathering plan.
The mandatory new gTLD rights protection mechanisms enforced by ICANN means that no domain names may be set aside before trademark owners have had a crack at the Sunrise period, ICM said:
Those rights protections require that TMCH-validated Sunrise Holders get the first priority for names in any new gTLD and also contain certain prohibitions on all registries from earmarking domain names for third parties.
However, ICM has still managed to set aside an unknown number of names as part of its Premium Domains Program — those names will be immune from registration during both Sunrise and the DMP.
It’s also going to reserve, free of charge, a bunch of “culturally sensitive” names — these are strings that members of the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee asked to be reserved in .xxx.
Names related to child abuse material will also be registry-reserved at no cost to the child protection agencies that requested the blocks when .xxx launched.
Plenty of stuff is getting reserved, just not Sunrise B blocks.
ICANN’s rules against “earmarking” domains may have prevented ICM offering matching domains to regular .xxx registrants, but it’s hard to see how that would prevent a .xxx block carrying over to .porn. Blocks are not assigned to a specific registrant; they belong to the registry.
The .adult and .porn gTLDs are set to start their 30-day Sunrise periods March 1, 2015. The 30-day DMP for both will begin April 15.
The .sex gTLD was contested, so it’s running a little behind. ICM expects to launch it later in 2015.
A cybersquatted domain in a new gTLD was deployed to perpetrate a hoax about the death Macaulay Culkin at the weekend, but reports insisted on adding a “.com” to the name.
A prankster set up a fake news report at msnbc.website, which was registered via Domains By Proxy on November 5, reporting the former child actor had been found dead at 34 in his apartment.
MSNBC is of course an American TV news network which usually operates at msnbc.com.
While unconvincing, the hoax nevertheless reportedly managed to string along a fair few Twitter users before the news media got around to debunking it. Culkin is, at time of publication, alive.
What’s interesting, and no doubt frustrating if you’re in the new gTLD industry, is the number of media outlets — both mainstream and tech-oriented — that got the domain name wrong.
According to Google News, at least 10 publications, including the International Business Times and The Inquisitr, have reported the domain in question was “msnbc.website.com”.
Even publications that correctly linked to msnbc.website still reported the incorrect .com domain in the anchor text, perhaps displaying the level of ignorance about new gTLDs out there today.