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Donuts puts 63 new gTLDs to private auction, but at least 17 are dead on arrival

Donuts has committed 63 of its 307 new gTLD applications to a private auction next month, but at least 17 of them are doomed already because rival Uniregistry won’t take part.

Donuts, which does not want to enter into joint ventures with competing gTLD applicants, has decided to use a private auction managed by Cramton Associates instead of an ICANN auction.

The first round of auctions are due to kick off June 3, but Cramton has set a deadline of next week for applicants to commit the strings they want to bid on.

Donuts has put forward these ones (note that they’re different to those reported elsewhere earlier due to a couple of typos in the original press release):

.apartments, .auction, .audio, .baseball, .boats, .cafe, .church, .college, .construction, .direct, .discount, .fish, .football, .forsale, .furniture, .fyi, .global, .gratis, .guide, .juegos, .jewelry, .legal, .living, .luxury, .phone, .photography, .plus, .red, .run, .storage, .theater, .trading, .vote, .beauty, .broadway, .city, .club, .forum, .garden, .help, .hosting, .hot, .marketing, .media, .memorial, .wedding, .chat, .online, .pizza, .sale, .salon, .school, .search, .show, .soccer, .team, .group, .site, .style, .law, .store, .blog, and .art.

Running the list through the DI PRO database, we quickly discover that 33 of these strings are in two-horse races, 13 have three applicants, nine have four and three have five.

The remaining four contention sets have six, seven, nine and 10 applicants respectively.

Uniregistry, the portfolio applicant run by domainer Frank Schilling, is involved in 17 of the contention sets, and Schilling confirmed to DI today that the company does not intend to participate.

As we’ve previously reported, Uniregistry says it has concerns that private auctions may be illegal under US antitrust law, though substantial doubt has been cast over that assertion since.

Because all applicants in a contention set need to commit for the auction to be meaningful, we can assume that at least 17 of Donuts’ proposed auctions will not go ahead, unless Uniregistry changes its mind.

Top Level Domain Holdings has applied for 13 of the strings Donuts wants to take to auction. TLDH has also expressed concern in the past about the private auction concept.

Directi, Famous Four Media and Google are each involved in eight of the contention sets, while Amazon is involved in five.

According to Cramton, each auction will take place in bidding rounds, with the first round having a maximum bid of $50,000 multiplied by the number of applicants and subsequent rounds increasing that by 10% multiplied by the number of bidders.

If any applicant in a given auction requests privacy, then the winning amount will not be disclosed.

Afilias dumps .mail bid, and three other new gTLD withdrawals

Four new gTLD applications have been withdrawn so far this week, including the first to come from .info operator Afilias.

Afilias has pulled its bid for .mail — the second applicant to do so — due to the number of competitors for the string.

A spokesperson said in an email:

The company felt there were simply too many groups in contention for this domain and we’d rather focus our energy supporting and helping to grow the .POST domain, for which we are the [technical services provider].

There are now five applicants competing for the string, including Google, Amazon and Donuts, but they’re all facing objections from the United States Postal Service and the Universal Postal Union, which runs .post.

Elsewhere this week, Directi has ended its bid for .movie, a contention set with seven other bidders.

The company declined to comment on the reasons for the withdrawal, so we probably can’t entirely rule out some kind of partnership with one or more other applicants.

Today we’ve also seen the withdrawal of applications for .ltd and .inc, both belonging to a Dutch company called C.V. TLDcare. I don’t know much about these guys, other than it used OpenRegistry as its technical partner and that .inc and .ltd were its only two applications.

Interesting fact: not a single “corporate identifier” application (.llp, .corp, .ltd, .inc, .llc) has passed Initial Evaluation yet, but seven applications have been withdrawn.

It’s a controversial category, with many US state attorneys general very unhappy about any of these strings being delegated without safeguards.

The latest four withdrawals bring the total to 63.

Second .online gTLD bid and third ‘guardian’ dot-brand withdrawn

Directi appears to be the last man standing in the three-way tie-up for .online, following the latest new gTLD withdrawals.

Namecheap has dropped its .online application, closely following Tucows, which dropped its bid a couple of weeks ago.

The three companies announced a deal in March to see them cooperate to win the contested TLD, but at the time it wasn’t clear which applicants would pull out.

Directi’s bid (filed by DotOnline Inc under the Radix brand) remains. It has already passed Initial Evaluation, which may be part of the reason its application was chosen as the “winner”.

The gTLD is still contested, however. Directi is competing with Donuts, I-Registry and Dot Online LLC.

Separately today, a curious two-way dot-brand battle seems to have had its final twist, with Guardian Life Insurance’s withdrawal of its application for .guardianlife.

The insurance company and newspaper publisher Guardian News and Media had both applied for gTLDs containing the string “guardian”. There were originally five, but only two remain.

It now looks like Guardian News will get .theguardian, having previously conceded .guardian to its brand rival and dropping its bid for .guardianmedia.

It appears that there’s been more than a bit of strategic applying, and maybe some deal-making, here.

Neither remaining application is contested, and neither have objections. It’s likely that .guardian is captured by the Governmental Advisory Committee’s advice against “closed generics”, however.

.pw sees strongest growth in China

The recently launched .pw domain, managed by Directi, is doing particularly well in China, according to an early analysis from DomainTools.

The survey of data from name servers supporting 63,736 .pw domains found that well over half — 38,356 — were on Chinese IP addresses.

The Chinese registrar XinNet, which promotes low-cost .pw heavily on its home page, runs the second-largest number of name servers for the ccTLD’s registrants, DomainTools said.

According to the data, Directi’s own PrivacyProtect.org service is the third-largest name server host for .pw, followed by NameCheap and Sedo.

While Directi said from the outset that it expected to see growth from less-developed regions of the world, it has also come under fire recently for a massive spam outbreak from .pw addresses.

The ccTLD already has over 100,000 domains, according to the company.

Directi fighting “massive” .pw spam outbreak

Recently relaunched budget TLD .pw is being widely abused by spammers already, but registry manager Directi said it’s enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy.

Anti-spam software makers and users have over the last week reported a “massive” increase in email spam from .pw domain names.

Security giant Symantec reports that .pw jumped to #4 in its rankings of TLDs used in spammed URLs in the week ending April 26.

Anti-spam vendor Fort even recommended its customers block the entire TLD at their mail gateways, blogging:

Since we have yet to see a legitimate piece of mail for the .pw domain but have recently seen massive amounts of spam from this domain, we are recommending that you block mail form this domain as soon as practical.

Anti-spam mailing lists have been full of people complaining about .pw spam, according to spam expert John Levine.

Our own TLD Health Check ranks .pw at #19 in abusive domains (which tracks phishing and malware domains rather than spam) for May, having not ranked it at all before April.

But Sandeep Ramchandani, head of Directi’s .PW Registry unit, told DI that the company has deactivated 4,000 too 5,000 .pw domains for breaching its anti-abuse policy.

He said that a single registrar was responsible for the majority of the abusive names, and that the registrar in question has had its discount revoked, resulting in newly registered domains from it going down to “almost nothing”.

“If you remove that registrar, the percentage of abusive names to non-abusive names is not alarming at all,” Ramchandani said.

He said the company has a “zero tolerance” approach to spam. It’s been communicating with many of its critics to let them know it’s on the case.

He noted that it’s not surprising that people are seeing more bad traffic from .pw than good — spammers tend to start using their domains immediately, whereas legitimate registrants take a bit longer.

Directi, which reported 50,000 names registered in the first three weeks of general availability last week, is now up to 100,000 names.

Many of the names were registered via the same aforementioned registrar, so more are likely to be turned off, Ramchandani said.

.pw is the ccTLD for Palau, but Directi brands it as “Professional Web”. It’s going for the budget end of the market, selling domains for less than .com prices even if you exclude discounts.

.pw claims 50,000 domains registered in three weeks

Kevin Murphy, April 23, 2013, Domain Registries

Directi’s recently relaunched .pw top-level domain has racked up 50,000 domain name registrations after just three weeks of general availability, according to the company.

The number, which will put a smile on the faces of many new gTLD applicants, relates to GA only and does not include defensive registrations made during the ccTLD’s sunrise period, Directi confirmed to DI.

“Our goal was 100,000 names for the first year,” Directi CEO Bhavin Turakhia said in a press release. “The feeling of achieving 50% of the goal within the first three weeks is surreal.”

As previously reported, there were 4,000 .pw domains registered during the first half hour of GA.

Directi (running .pw as .PW Registry and/or Radix Registry) signed up 120 registrars to sell .pw names, which it brands as “Professional Web”.

It’s really the ccTLD for Palau, a small nation in the Pacific.

The registry is going for budget buyers, with registry fees and retail prices coming in a little lower than .com.

NameJet and Afternic sign another gTLD launch

Kevin Murphy, April 3, 2013, Domain Services

NameJet and Afternic will provide launch auctions and premium name distribution for the .build gTLD, should it be approved, the two companies have announced.

The deal was inked with applicant Plan Bee LLC, which is affiliated with Minardos Group, a construction company.

The two companies will handle auctions under the sunrise and landrush phases, according to a press release.

It’s the second such deal to be announced by the Afternic/Namejet partnership to date, after WhatBox’s .menu. The companies are also working with Directi’s .pw registry.

Plan Bee has also applied for .expert and .construction, but these are both contested so there’s less certainty that they’ll end up approved.

The applicant reckons it will be able to bring .build to market in the fourth quarter of this year.

With a prioritization number of 1,049 in ICANN’s queue, this may prove optimistic, depending on how the remaining portions of the program — such as predelegation testing and contracting — pan out.

Tucows, Directi and Namecheap to combine .online gTLD bids

Kevin Murphy, March 27, 2013, Domain Registries

Three applicants for the .online gTLD appear to have settled their differences in what I believe is the first public example of new gTLD contention set consolidation.

Tucows, Directi and Namecheap said today that that they plan to “work together to manage the .online registry.” From the press release:

applicants for the same TLDs have begun to compete, negotiate, and, in some cases, join forces to ultimately produce one winning bid.

The first such alliance was revealed today, when domain industry veterans Directi, Tucows and Namecheap announced that they would work together to manage the .online registry.

The companies are of course three of the most successful domain name registrars out there.

The press release does not specify how the combination will be carried out. Under ICANN rules, two of the applicants would have to drop their applications. It’s not possible to resubmit as a joint venture.

It also does not acknowledge that there are three other applicants for .online — Donuts and smaller portfolio applicants Dot Online LLC and I-REGISTRY Ltd — which are not party to the agreement.

Directi sells 4,000 .pw domains in first half hour

Kevin Murphy, March 25, 2013, Domain Registries

PW Registry, the Direci unit looking after the .pw registry, said it received orders for 4,000 domain names in its first 30 minutes of general availability today.

Disappointing? It’s certainly not up to the standard of, say, .co, which was well into six figures in the same period when it launched a few years ago.

But .pw’s ambitions weren’t quite as lofty as .co’s. It’s the ccTLD for Palau, and its chosen meaning of “professional web” isn’t nearly as intuitive or valuable as .co’s “company”.

Still, it’s early days, and Directi says it saw a reasonable amount of domainer action during its landrush phase.

Landrush and sunrise period numbers have not been disclosed, but the company said that Apple, Pfizer, Volkswagen and Nokia obtained their trademarks during sunrise.

PW Registry has 110 registrars, including many of the big ones, selling its names.

Go Daddy cozies up new gTLD players, drops its own .home and .casa bids

Go Daddy has changed tack in its new gTLD strategy, dropping its own applications and positioning itself strongly as a registry-neutral channel to market.

The company spent yesterday wooing new gTLD applicants at a specially convened meeting in its native Arizona; there were representatives from about half of the applied-for gTLDs in attendance.

But apart from the fact that Go Daddy has withdrawn its applications for .home and .casa — and symbolically dropped the “.com” from its logo — the company is playing its strategy pretty close to its chest.

Director of policy planning James Bladel told DI that the meeting was more about “starting a conversation” with registries, rather than laying out Go Daddy’s specific plans for new gTLDs.

The company will be a hugely important channel to market for many gTLDs, and competition for store-front space on the Go Daddy home page is expected to be fierce.

Existing big-volume “new” TLDs, such as .info and .co, can attribute much of their success to Go Daddy.

It’s responsible for well over half of all .info domains registered today and .CO Internet’s success to date can no doubt be attributed in no small part to its strong relationship with the company.

But Bladel would not be drawn on Go Daddy’s specific plans for the next wave of gTLDs.

While the company has a patent on a method of allocating shelf space via an Adsense-style bidding technology, Bladel said Go Daddy has not yet decided whether to use that system.

The company could also use other methods, algorithmic rather than commercial, for selecting which TLDs to display to users, such as geographic location, he said.

Another conversation that needs to happen relates to launch timing.

Ideas may include staggering launches to benefit from joint marketing efforts, or pooling launches into big-draw “launch day” events, Bladel speculated, noting that the company is more interested in hearing ideas from gTLD applicants right now.

While Go Daddy will continue to push its application for .godaddy dot-brand, with the loss of .home and .casa it will no longer be in the mass-market gTLD registry game.

Registry-neutral registrars may actually be a rarity in the new gTLD era.

eNom will certainly walk away with interests in more than a few gTLDs, directly and via its deal with Donuts. Tucows, Web.com and Directi will also have some, depending on contention set results.

Apart from Go Daddy, the only other top-ten registrars without their own gTLDs could be United and FastDomains.