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Second-level .ke domains go on sale this month

Kenya has become the latest ccTLD to jump on the second-level domain bandwagon.

From this month, registrants will be able to purchase example.ke, rather than having to select from third-level domains such as example.co.ke or example.or.ke, according to the registry.

KeNIC becomes the latest ccTLD registry to give customers the SLD option after the UK, New Zealand and Australia, which all backpedaled historic 3LD-only policies in order to remain relevant in an increasingly crowded TLD market.

Unlike previous launches, existing 3LD .ke registrants do not appear to have first right of refusal for the matching SLD, judging by the new policy (pdf).

The launch will begin July 23 with a 30-day sunrise period for trademark owners. This will be followed by a landrush period of 30 days.

Currently, pricing for co.ke domains in Kenyan shillings is in the same ballpark as the US dollar cost of a .com domain.

There are reportedly around 62,000 .ke domains currently registered.

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Billionaire Elon Musk reacquired x.com

Kevin Murphy, July 11, 2017, Domain Sales

Billionaire entrepreneur and PayPal founder Elon Musk has reacquired the domain name x.com for an undisclosed sum.

X.com was the domain he acquired in 1999 and originally used for PayPal, before its 2001 rebrand.

Musk, who currently runs private space travel trailblazer SpaceX, confirmed the purchase in a tweet today:

The deal was first spotted by domainer/blogger Elliot Silver, who noticed the Whois change.

Musk also seemed to say in a subsequent tweet that he had originally bought x.com back from its original owner in 1999 for stock in the nascent company, which 18 years later would presumably be worth an absolute fortune.

While the price of the 2017 purchase was not disclosed, one has to assume it would be worth millions; pocket change to a man reportedly worth over $15 billion today.

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Domainers want the head of auDA’s chair

Disgruntled domainers have managed to arrange for a vote on whether auDA chair Stuart Benjamin should be fired.

auDA, the .au ccTLD administrator, has been under fire for many months from registrants who believe the organization is being managed in an increasingly erratic and secretive manner.

Now, a campaign and petition at Grumpy.com.au, run by Domainer.com.au publisher Ned O’Meara, has led to auDA calling a special meeting July 31 with a single resolution on the agenda:

That Stuart Benjamin be removed as a director of the Company with immediate effect.

Benjamin will therefore lose his job with simple majority votes of both classes of auDA members — “supply” class, meaning registrars, and “demand” class, meaning registrants.

O’Meara blogged yesterday that he believes there is “a slightly less than even chance” of the resolution being carried due to the possible lack of votes from supply class members.

But auDA rejected as legally “invalid” three additional resolutions that had been proposed.

Grumpy members had also wanted auDA to restore all of its board’s meeting minutes that were inexplicably deleted from the organization’s web site.

They’d wanted a recently instituted member code of conduct to be scrapped, rewritten, and then put to members for a vote.

The code of conduct bans “harassment” and “bullying” of auDA staff, but it also prevents members from talking to the media about auDA in disparaging terms.

Finally, they’d also wanted auDA to abandon its plan to build an in-house registry infrastructure (replacing current provider Neustar) without first putting the plan to a member vote.

But all of these resolutions have been taken off the table on the basis of unspecified “legal advice” provided to auDA.

According to O’Meara and others, dissatisfaction with the organization has been brewing for some time, ever since late 2015 when Benjamin was brought in as a “demand” class director and appointed chair, only to be quickly dismissed and immediately reinstated as an “independent” director and reappointed chair.

In March 2016, 16-year CEO Chris Disspain was fired and replaced by Cameron Boardman.

I’m told auDa has been hemorrhaging staff for months — 10 of its 13 employees have apparently left the organization this year.

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ICANN expects to lose 750 registrars in the next year

ICANN is predicting that about 750 accredited registrars will close over the next 12 months due to the over-saturation of the drop-catching market.

ICANN VP Cyrus Namazi made the estimate while explaining ICANN’s fiscal 2018 budget, which is where the projection originated, at the organization’s public meeting in South Africa last week.

He said that ICANN ended its fiscal 2017 last week with 2,989 accredited registrars, but that ICANN expects to lose about 250 per quarter starting from October until this time next year.

These almost 3,000 registrars belong to about 400 registrar families, he said.

By my estimate, roughly two thirds of the registrars are shell accreditations under the ownership of just three companies — Web.com (Namejet and SnapNames), Pheenix, and TurnCommerce (DropCatch.com).

These companies lay out millions of dollars on accreditation fees in order to game ICANN rules and get more connections to registries — mainly Verisign’s .com.

More connections gives them a greater chance of quickly registering potentially valuable domains milliseconds after they are deleted. Drop-catching, in other words.

But Namazi indicated that ICANN’s cautious “best estimate” is that there’s not enough good stuff dropping to justify the number of accreditations these three companies own.

“With the model we have, I believe at the moment the total available market for these sought-after domains that these multifamily registrars are after is not able to withstand the thousands of accreditations that are there,” he said. “Each accreditation costs quite a bit of money.”

Having a registrar accreditation costs $4,000 a year, not including ICANN’s variable and transaction fees.

“We think the market has probably gone beyond what the available market is,” he said.

He cautioned that the situation was “fluid” and that ICANN was keeping an eye on it because these accreditations fees have become material to its budget in the last few years.

If the three drop-catchers do start dumping registrars, it would reveal an extremely short shelf life for their accreditations.

Pheenix upped its registrar count by 300 and DropCatch added 500 to its already huge stable as recently as December 2016.

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.blog renewal prices will not go up, registry promises

Knock Knock Whois There, the .blog registry, has promised not to raise its wholesale fees on existing registrations.

The company, which is affiliated with WordPress, seems to have made the move in response to ongoing registrar discomfort following Uniregistry’s plan to significant raise the price of several of its new gTLDs (which has since been backpedaled).

The promise has been baked into the Registry-Registrar Agreement under which all of its registrars can sell .blog names.

The new RRA reads (with the new text in italics):

5.1.1. Registrar agrees to pay Registry Operator or its designee in accordance with the fee schedule set forth in Exhibit A for initial and renewal registrations and other services provided by Registry Operator to Registrar (collectively, “Fees”). Registry Operator reserves the right, from time to time, to modify the Fees in a manner consistent with ICANN policies and Registry Policies. However, once a domain is registered, Registry Operator will not modify the Renewal Fee of that domain.

This of course leaves the door open for KKWT to increase the price of a new registration, but it seems renewal prices are frozen.

I believe the current wholesale .blog fee starts at $16 per year.

The new RRA also adds ICANN-mandated language concerning the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy and a clarification about registrar legal indemnifications, KKWT said.

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