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NCC buys Open Registry for up to $22.6m — a gTLD registry now owns part of the TMCH

Kevin Murphy, January 20, 2015, Domain Registries

NCC Group has acquired registry back-end provider Open Registry in a deal that could be worth as much as £14.9 million ($22.6 million).

The deal means that NCC, which runs the new gTLD .trust via subsidiary Artemis Internet, now owns a back-end, a registrar and a piece of the Trademark Clearinghouse, in addition to its original core domain business of providing data escrow services to registries.

According to NCC, the acquisition is for a minimum of £7.9 million ($12 million), with the rest to be paid over three years if Open Registry meets performance targets.

Open Registry had revenue of €3.7 million ($4.3 million) in 2014, turning a profit of €15,000 ($17,300).

Its core business is as a back-end provider for new gTLD applicants. It has about 20 on its books, mostly European dot-brands and cities.

Part of the company’s business is CHIP, the Clearinghouse of Intellectual Property, which along with IBM and Deloitte runs the ICANN-sanctioned TMCH, which all new gTLD registries must use in their Sunrise and Trademark Claims launch periods.

It also owns a small registrar, Nexperteam, which has about 8,000 domains under management.

The Benelux company employs eight people.

Open Registry’s founding CEO Jean-Christophe Vignes joined Artemis as head of domain operations in 2013.

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ICANN audit claims two more registrar scalps

Kevin Murphy, January 20, 2015, Domain Registrars

Two tiny registrars — WebZero and Black Ice Domains — have had their registrar accreditations terminated for a failure to respond to a routine ICANN audit.

Israel-based Black Ice had just a couple thousands gTLD domains under management; US-based WebZero had fewer than 100.

Both registrars stood accused of not providing documents to ICANN in response to an audit, per their Registrar Accreditation Agreements.

ICANN will now look for a registrar or registrars to take over these registrars’ domains.

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A quarter of registrar’s names are “illicit pharmacies”

Kevin Murphy, January 16, 2015, Domain Services

One in four of the domain names registered with the registrar NetLynx are linked to current, past or potential future rogue drug sites, according to online pharmacy monitor LegitScript.

The Mumbai-based registrar was hit with a breach notice by ICANN Compliance last week, over an alleged failure to investigate an abuse complaint about a single customer domain, tnawsol24h.com.

NetLynx did not adequately respond to ICANN’s calls from November 26 to January 5, according to the notice (pdf).

While ICANN did not identify the source or nature of the complaint, according to LegitScript it was filed by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and it claimed that the domain was being used as a “rogue internet pharmacy”.

LegitScript did some research into NetLynx’s domains under management and now claims that it is not an isolated case.

Company president John Horton blogged:

at least a quarter of the registrar’s business is dependent on rogue Internet pharmacy registrations, with roughly 3,000 of the 12,000 domain names under the registrar’s portfolio taggable as current, past or “holding sites” for illicit online pharmacies.

Horton clarified for DI that the 3,000 number is extrapolated from the fact that LegitScript managed to categorize 1,820 out of the 7,000 NetLynx domains it could find as problematic.

Of those, 820 were “online and active” rogue pharmacies, he said. He gave canadian-drug-pharmacy.com, pills-delivery.net and pillsforlife.net as examples.

Another 780 were hosting rogue pharmacies in the past but have since been shut down, he said.

Finally, LegitScript categorized 220 as “meeting known patterns” for “holding sites” where illicit pharmacies may be launched in future. Horton said:

many of the spam pharma organizations use “holding domain names” (not all are online at any one time), so if the website was NOT currently online, we looked to a variety of data — known domain name patterns, screenshots, known rogue name servers, known rogue IP addresses, etc. — to determine the likelihood that a domain name is likely to be a rogue Internet pharmacy, and gave NetLynx the benefit of the doubt if there was any lack of certainty

LegitScript classifies online pharmacies as “rogue” if they offer to ship medicines without a prescription to people in jurisdictions where prescriptions are required.

Horton is now calling for ICANN to look into terminating NetLynx’s accreditation.

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.top says Facebook shakedown was just a typo

Kevin Murphy, January 16, 2015, Domain Registries

Jiangsu Bangning Science & Technology, the .top registry, is blaming a typo for a Facebook executive’s claim that it wanted $30,000 or more for facebook.top.

Information provided to the ICANN GNSO Council by Facebook domain manager Susan Kawaguchi yesterday showed that .top wanted RMB 180,000 (currently $29,000) for a trademarked name that previously had been blocked due to ICANN’s name collisions policy.

But Mason Zhang, manager of the registry’s overseas channel division, told DI today that the price is actually RMB 18,000 ($2,900):

We were shocked when seeing that our register price for TMCH protected names like Facebook during Exclusive Registration Period is changed from “eighteen thousand” into what is written, the “one hundred and eighty thousand”.

I think that might be a type mistake from our side, and we checked and we are certain that the price is CNY EIGHTEEN THOUSAND.

The 18,000-yuan sunrise fee is published on the registry’s official web site, as I noted yesterday.

The registry email sent to Facebook is reproduced in this PDF.

I wondered yesterday whether a breakdown in communication may to be blame. Perhaps I was correct.

While $3,000 is still rather high for a defensive registration, it doesn’t stink of extortion quite as badly as $30,000.

Still, it’s moderately good news for Facebook and any other company worried they were going to have to shell out record-breaking prices to defensively register their brands.

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New gTLD extortion? Registry asks Facebook for $35,000 to register its brand

Kevin Murphy, January 16, 2015, Domain Registries

More Chinese weirdness, or just plain old trademark owner extortion?

The registry for the new gTLD .top is asking Facebook to cough up $35,000 in order to defensively register one of its trademarks as a .top domain — probably facebook.top — according to a Facebook executive.

The registry’s demand — which some are cautiously likening to “extortion” — is linked to the release of name collision domains in .top, which is due to start happening today.

Nanjing, China-based registry Jiangsu Bangning Science & Technology runs the .top gTLD.

It has been in general availability since November 18 and currently has just shy of 40,000 names in its zone file, making it the 16th-largest new gTLD.

I haven’t checked whether they’re all legitimate buyer registrations, but given the shape the new gTLD industry is in right now I have my doubts.

From today, Jiangsu Bangning is running a month-long “Exclusive Registration Period”, according to ICANN records.

But Facebook domain manager Susan Kawaguchi today complained on an ICANN GNSO Council call that the registry had asked for $4,500 for a Sunrise period registration and now wants an extra RMB 180,000 ($30,000) because the desired domain is on its collisions block-list.

UPDATE: The registry says the price is just RMB 18,000. It blames a typo for the error.

I don’t know for sure what domain Facebook wants — I’ve reached out to Kawaguchi for clarification — but I rather suspect it’s facebook.top, which appeared on the list of 30,205 name collisions that Jiangsu Bangning was obliged by ICANN to block.

Name collisions are domains that were already receiving traffic prior to the launch of the new gTLD program. ICANN forces registries to block them for a minimum of 90 days in order to mitigate potential security risks.

According to the registry’s web site, Sunrise registrations cost RMB 18,000 per name per year. That’s about $3,000 a year for a defensive registration, a ridiculously high sum when compared to most new gTLDs.

There’s no mention on its site that I can find of the additional RMB 180,000 collision release fee, but Kawaguchi forwarded an email to the GNSO Council that strongly suggests that trademark owners with brands on the .top collisions list face the inexplicable extra $30,000.

Sunrise prices, just like regular general availability prices, are not controlled by ICANN in new gTLDs.

There are no rules I’m aware of governing pricing for collision names, nor am I aware of any registry costs that could justify a $30,000 fee to register one. A premium generic string may be worth that much, but asking that amount for a trademark smacks of extortion.

So, assuming this isn’t just a breakdown of communication, is the registry trying to screw Facebook in a targeted fashion, knowing it has deep pockets and a cybersquatting target painted on its back, or is it applying a $30,000 fee to every domain coming off its collisions list this week?

Facebook isn’t the only big tech company with its primary trademark on the list — Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Amazon also appear on it, along with many other famous brands.

Kawaguchi said she’s taken her complaint to ICANN Compliance.

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