Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

First dot-brand gTLD to go generic after TLS deal

Kevin Murphy, September 5, 2016, Domain Registries

The would-be dot-brand gTLD .observer will actually open as an unrestricted generic after the contract was bought out by Top Level Spectrum.

TLS, which has a small portfolio of gTLDs already, bought out the ICANN contract from UK newspaper publisher Guardian News and Media a couple of months ago, it emerged today.

The Observer is the title of the Guardian’s sister paper, published on Sundays.

But TLS CEO Jay Westerdal said it will be sold as a generic with pricing under $10 per name, as a thematic stable-mate for its gripe-oriented gTLD .feedback.

The price of the TLD has not been revealed, but Westerdal characterized it as a sub-$1 million deal.

It’s the first instance of a dot-brand, albeit one that that not yet gone live, being taken over by a portfolio gTLD player.

Westerdal said he’s looking for more, similar acquisition opportunities.

The gTLD is currently in pre-delegation testing, with no published go-live date.

The Guardian had signed a Registry Agreement containing Specification 9. That allows registries to disregard the Code of Conduct — which obliges them to treat registrars equally.

It seems likely this will have to be removed from the RA before .observer can go to the masses as a proper generic.

Comment Tagged: , , , , , ,

Correction: what NTIA said about .com pricing

Kevin Murphy, September 5, 2016, Domain Registries

The US government has not confirmed that it expects to keep Verisign’s .com registry fee capped at the current level until at least 2024, despite what DI reported on Monday.

At this URL we published an article reporting that the US government had confirmed that it was going to keep .com prices frozen at $7.85 for the next eight years.

That was based on a misreading of a letter from the Department of Commerce to Senator Ted Cruz and others, which merely explained how the price cap could be maintained without expressing a commitment to do so.

The letter actually said very little, and nothing of news value, so I thought it best to simply delete the original piece and replace it with this correction.

I regret the error.

Thanks to those readers who got in touch to point out the mistake.

Comment Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Relaunch and slashed prices for .whoswho after terrible sales

Kevin Murphy, September 1, 2016, Domain Registries

New gTLD registry Who’s Who is to slash prices, lift restrictions and drop thousands of reserved names in an attempt to relaunch the struggling business.

From today, its registry fee has been dropped from $75 to $20 a year, and registrants no longer need to prove they’re a big shot in order to buy a name.

Despite the name, Who’s Who Registry is not affiliated with any of the various “Who’s Who” books you may have seen published. It’s run by the same company that owns

According to CEO John McCabe, it’s only managed to move 88 names since it started selling domains almost two years ago. Judging by registry reports, most of those have been defensive registrations made via corporate registrars.

The lack of sales can be partly blamed on the restrictions that were in place. Would-be registrants had to show that they had featured in a print Who’s Who book in order to be considered for a domain.

Naturally, that’s the kind of preregistration hassle that makes most registrars balk, so eligibility rules are being scrapped altogether, McCabe said.

The company is also releasing some 750,000 domains — most are one, two, three and four-character strings — from registry-reserved status, he said.

About 150,000 of those will be available will be available at the new $20 reg fee, while the rest will fit into tiers ranging from $120 to $39,000.

The pricing for the more expensive domains will revert to $20 upon renewal, which also marks a change from the old business model.

There will also be a three-month 50% promotional discount period, which will apply to all tiers, starting October 15.

The changes bring .whoswho into conformity with tried and tested mechanisms that run in other TLDs using the same back-end, in order to reduce friction for registrars already plugged in to Neustar, McCabe said.

The company hopes to have a couple of thousand names under management by early next year.

6 Comments Tagged: ,

US claims option to delay IANA transition as Cruz launches free speech doomsday clock

Kevin Murphy, September 1, 2016, Domain Policy

The US government has told ICANN that it may extend the current IANA functions contract for a year, should something unexpected happen this month.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration wrote to ICANN (pdf) yesterday, to provide “preliminary notice” that it could extent the contract until September 30, 2017, if a “significant impediment” should occur before October 1, 2016.

It appears to be a formality. NTIA said:

the department intends to allow the IANA functions contract to expire as of October 1, 2016, barring any significant impediment. This notice preserves the Government’s rights under the contract during this interim period should there be a change in circumstance.

Under the contract, NTIA is allowed to extend the term for another year in the last 15 days of the current term, but it has to give 30 days notice to ICANN if it wants to do so.

NTIA assistant secretary Larry Strickling told ICANN (pdf) a couple weeks ago that it plans to allow the IANA contract to expire — thereby removing NTIA’s piddling influence in root zone management — October 1.

But the move is facing continued criticism from increasingly unhinged elements of the American political right, who have got it into their heads that the transition means Russia and China will be able to take over ICANN and crush free speech online.

The campaign has been spearheaded by Senator Ted Cruz and whoever pulls the strings of Wall Street Journal columnist L Gordon Crovitz, and has roped in a multitude of hard-right think-tanks.

The latest publicity push for the campaign saw Cruz yesterday launch a countdown clock on its Senate web page.


Cruz’s site states:

If that proposal goes through, countries like Russia, China, and Iran could be able to censor speech on the Internet, including here in the U.S. by blocking access to sites they don’t like.

None of that is true, needless to say.

But the anti-transition sentiment is strong enough that it’s not impossible that there will be a “significant impediment” to the transition before October 1 — a legal injunction against the Federal government, perhaps — and the extension will enable ICANN to run IANA under the current regime for another year.

3 Comments Tagged: , , , ,

.trust gTLD might be for sale as NCC closes domain business

Kevin Murphy, September 1, 2016, Domain Registries

NCC Group has stroppily departed from the domain name business but is evading questions about whether its .trust gTLD is for sale.

The company last month told the markets that it is to “cut its losses” and get rid of its Open Registry registry/registrar business, which it acquired for up to £14.9 million ($22.6 million) just 19 months ago.

But it left open the question of whether it would also divest .trust, the gTLD it acquired from Deutsche Post for an undisclosed sum a year earlier.

Talking to The Telegraph earlier this week, NCC CEO Rob Cotton had some harsh words for the new gTLD industry:

People thought there’d be a need for lots of generic domains, but there’s no need for them at all, it’s only good news for bad guys who can get them for free and pretend to be anyone.

It’s not exactly a volte face from NCC, which has repeatedly published research showing consumers don’t trust new gTLDs.

The company had been banking on .trust (a back-up plan after it failed to obtain .secure, which it had originally applied for) to showcase its potentially higher-margin domain security services.

In its full-year 2016 financial results last month, the company said it was closing down its domain services division, taking a charge of over £13 million as result.

Forty-five people lost their jobs as a result of change in strategy.

The closure does not appear to apply to its data escrow business, which has proven popular among new gTLD registries. That business sits within a separate Escrow Division.

The company said:

It is clear that the open generic domains and city codes have not been taken up by businesses and consumers as well as expected with all of these falling well short of their initial registration targets. Coupled with the fact that the branded domains are still either undelegated or those that are, are unused, it is clear that the market is not ready for the very necessary changes that need to happen to strengthen security on the Internet.

The domains division brought in just shy of £5 million ($6.6 million) in the year to May 31, but most of that was due to its withdrawal of its application for .secure. The division was making a loss.

On .trust, which the company reckons is worth £4.2 million, NCC was less than clear about its plans.

It said in its results that it “will continue to use .trust as the Group’s domain”, but that could merely mean it will continue to use as its primary web site.

I asked the company whether .trust was for sale this week and received the following PR statement:

NCC Group said in their FY results statement that certain parts of the Domain Services Division will be divested in due course, although the capability to provide a secure domain environment will be retained. They also stated that this will involve the diminution and realisation of assets. They said that Open Registry is to be realised and other assets written down.

They also made the point that they are still committed to the concept behind domain services and have retained the ability to provide a secure, managed environment when the marketplace changes.

Given the language, I would err towards .trust not being for sale, but the fact that the firm declined to give a straight answer it seems possible that it actually is.

3 Comments Tagged: , , ,