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Renewals at 55% as first new gTLD junk drop begins

Kevin Murphy, February 18, 2015, Domain Registries

The first new gTLD to go live is seeing its first-year renewals at 55% one year after hitting general availability.

dotShabaka Registry’s شبكة. (or “.shabaka”, the Arabic for “.web”) has also seen its zone file shrink by about 27% over the last two weeks.

The zone peaked at 2,069 domains on February 1, 2015, but today stands at 1,521. Exactly one year ago, it was at 1,561 names.

The zone is smaller today than it was just two weeks after GA began, in other words.

“We can confirm we’re seeing renewal rates for names due in February at around 55%,” Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, which runs .shabaka’s back-end, told DI in a statement.

The registry added 1,608 domains in February 2014, 1,400 of those in the first half of the month.

The 55% is the number of domains that were renewed before their February expiry date. The full number for February will not be known until the grace period ends in mid-April.

“We have a handful of cancel renews and all other expired domains are in the auto-renew period,” he said. “It’s too early to examine the numbers for renews post-expiry date, but we expect this will increase the overall tally.”

“Given the market conditions we face in the region, the results align with our forecasts and we expect the numbers to improve for renewals due in the coming weeks and months,” he said.

In gTLDs, domains can enter a Auto Renew Grace Period for up to 45 days after expiration, during which they can still be renewed by their registrant and may or may not appear in the zone file.

It wouldn’t be fair on other new gTLD registries to read to much into these numbers, assuming they do not improve, as شبكة. is a bit of an unusual case.

It’s seen low registration volume, despite the apparently attractive string, largely because it’s restricted to Arabic script at the second level and the Arabic-speaking market is in its infancy.

When شبكة. launched there were no registrars offering an end-to-end Arabic shopping cart, Kinderis said. He added:

The most significant problem still remains demand and consumer awareness…

In regards to demand, the lack of awareness is a direct result of little to no marketing in the region. Apart from our own efforts, there has been little marketing or education programs deployed to increase awareness of new Top-Level Domains and Arabic script domain names.

We have even limited our marketing efforts because we identified early that market readiness is inadequate. Any large investment in marketing from dotShabaka Registry at the moment would be premature and wasteful until supply, demand and universal acceptance issues have been addressed.

He called on ICANN and its recently created Middle East Working Group to focus on ways to increase awareness and demand for domain names in the region. To date, it’s focused too much registrars and technical issues, he said.

شبكة. has its own set of issues and is probably not the best test case for new gTLDs in general.

That’s going to come soon. Donuts’ first batch of gTLDs — .guru, .bike, .holdings, .plumbing, .singles, .ventures and .clothing — had their base-price GA anniversary on February 4, and it appears that domains have already started to drop.

There’s little indication of anything amiss in the .guru zone file so far but the other six are down slightly — by maybe 100 or so names apiece, or less than 1% each — over the last two weeks.

Donuts executives have said they expect first-year renewals to be strong, but we’ve got a few weeks left before anyone will be in a position to know for sure.

Google registers its first new gTLD domain

Kevin Murphy, January 4, 2014, Domain Registries

Google took part in dotShabaka Registry’s Sunrise period, according to today’s zone files.

The company registered جوجل.شبكة, in the .شبكة (Arabic “.web”) TLD, via MarkMonitor at some point prior to December 30.

“جوجل” seems to be the Arabic transliteration of “Google”.

The domain is not resolving, but Whois says it belongs to Google and it’s configured to use Google name servers.

It’s only the fifth confirmed Sunrise registration in the .شبكة space — the only new gTLD to so far conclude a Sunrise period.

Rolex registered its trademark and Richemont International registered three of its luxury goods brands. So far, Rolex is the only confirmed new gTLD registrant that is not also an applicant.

None of the registrants to date are from the Arabic-speaking regions.

These may all be defensive registrations, of course, and may never resolve to anything useful.

These are the first four new gTLD domain names

Kevin Murphy, December 31, 2013, Domain Registries

Two luxury goods companies have the honor of being the first to register domain names in a new gTLD.

Today, the first four domain names registered to actual registrants popped up in the zone file for dotShabaka Registry’s Arabic “.web” — شبكة.

شبكة. exited its mandatory Sunrise period on Sunday; the four new names appear to be the first ones to get name servers after their Sunrise applications were approved.

The two registrants, according to Whois records, are Richemont International and Rolex.

Richemont is itself a new gTLD applicant. The company has taken a strong interest in the program, with head of digital IP Richard Graham even moderating a new gTLDs conference in March.

The four names (with my best guesses at a translation) are:

None appear to be resolving on the web yet, not even to placeholder pages, at least from where I’m sitting.

Because they’re Sunrise names, it’s possible that all four are defensive registrations that may never lead anywhere meaningful.

Richemont used Com Laude as its registrar while Rolex used Key-Systems.

The Sunrise was limited to Arabic-script trademarks.

dotShabaka said yesterday that it had “very few” Sunrise applications. Now we know that number was at least four.

First new gTLD Sunrise ends with “very few” registrations

Kevin Murphy, December 30, 2013, Domain Registries

The first new gTLD Sunrise period was not a success, according to dotShabaka Registry.

The 60-day Sunrise for شبكة. (.web in Arabic) ended yesterday with “very few” registrations, the company told us today, due largely to poor promotion of the Trademark Clearinhouse in Arabic-speaking regions.

The gTLD is restricted to Arabic strings, and therefore Sunrise was restricted to Arabic trademarks.

dotShabaka said in a statement:

We always knew – with the convoluted process for registration and lack of information out to the MENA [Middle-East/ North Africa] region on the Trademark Clearinghouse – that this was going to be a quiet time for us. We have seen very few applications through the Sunrise period.

We know that the managers of the TMCH and ICANN are working hard to promote the TMCH. However, as a pioneer we have unfortunately not enjoyed the fruits of this labour. At the same time it should be noted that we have been buoyed by the level of interest from trademark holders and businesses in the region and expect this interest to translate into registrations once we move into Landrush and are free of the TMCH sunrise eligibility requirements.

The company did not provide exact numbers, but my guess is that we might be looking at single figures here.

According to today’s شبكة. zone file, there are no active third-party domains in the شبكة. namespace. Zero. None. The only live sites are “nic.” and its Arabic equivalent, which both belong to the registry.

That may quickly change, of course, as registrations don’t always immediately translate into zone file entries.

First new gTLDs to go live “in the next few hours”

Kevin Murphy, October 23, 2013, Domain Registries

The first four new gTLDs are expected to go live in the next few hours.

That’s according to the registries themselves, and reports out of the Internet Governance Forum in Bali, where ICANN division president Akram Atallah was speaking on a panel earlier today.

The gTLDs are: .сайт (Russian “.site”) and .онлайн (Russian “.online”) from CORE Association, شبكة. (Arabic “.web”) from dotShabaka Registry and .游戏 (Chinese “.games”) from Donuts.

By “go live” I mean of course that the ASCII versions of these strings (for example, .xn--ngbc5azd for شبكة.) will be entered into the DNS root.

It may take a short while for the registries to activate second-level domains (such as nic.) under their new TLDs, and nothing will actually go on sale for weeks.

They’re all of course internationalized domain names, given ICANN’s decision almost a year ago to prioritize IDNs at all stages of the evaluation and delegation process.

All four received their block-lists of “collision risk” second-level domains on Friday and elected to implement the blocks to get to delegation faster.

The three registries signed their contracts on stage at the ICANN meeting in Durban July 15.

This is a pretty big day for ICANN and its community. After many years and countless arguments and delays, new gTLDs are actually about to go live!

Live new gTLDs this month? First four pass to delegation

Kevin Murphy, October 22, 2013, Domain Registries

New gTLDs are on the home stretch, after ICANN sent the first four applications to the final delegation stage of the process.

The four are: .сайт (Russian “.site”) and .онлайн (Russian “.online”) from Core Association, شبكة. (Arabic “.web”) from dotShabaka Registry and .游戏 (Chinese “.games”) from Donuts.

These were also the first four to sign their registry contracts with ICANN — over three months ago — and the first to be given their name collisions mitigation plan, just a few days ago.

Proceeding to delegation means the applications are now in the hands of IANA, the ICANN department with responsibility over changes to the DNS root system.

IANA has its own set of procedures to follow before delegating, which have historically taken a couple of weeks to process. If I recall correctly, .xxx was with IANA for about 10 days before it went live.

It seems possible that the first new gTLDs could be live this month, meaning the first sunrise periods could kick off in early December, with general availability following a month later.

However, the Christmas and New Year holiday period may wind up forcing some registrars to stagger their dates in order to benefit from the best publicity window when they finally go on sale.

dotShabaka Diary — Day 1

Kevin Murphy, August 8, 2013, Domain Registries

Three weeks ago, dotShabaka Registry became the first of the current crop of new gTLD applicants to sign a registry contract with ICANN, but there’s still a way to go before launch.

The company has offered to provide DI readers, in a series of journal entries, with an insight into its operational experiences and concerns as شبكة. progresses on the path to delegation and launch.

With a Prioritization Draw number of 3, dotShabaka will be often be the first to encounter any pitfalls that emerge in the latter stages of the new gTLD evaluation and delegation process.

DI has agreed to carry the journal, unedited, in the belief that a regular focus on operational matters from a high-prioritization applicant will prove an invaluable resource for applicants and program observers alike.

Here’s the first entry:

Welcome to The شبكة. Journal.

In association with Domain Incite, dotShabaka Registry has launched a journal series to provide regular updates on our progress through delegation and then launch.

The aim will be to offer a transparent insight into the operations of شبكة.. As the first new TLD to sign a Registry Agreement and begin the delegation process, we are throwing the door wide open and will report the good, bad and ugly of our experience via this journal.

You can expect to read reports on our interaction with ICANN, how we handle technical issues and our progress with establishing commercial operations.

For example, we can report that:

شبكة. began pre-delegation testing in the first-available slot on Monday 5th August – nearly three weeks after ICANN’s ‘earliest path’ timetable published in Durban. We are confident of a successful outcome after passing beta testing in July.

Updated RPM Requirements were finally published for comment on 6th August. The good news for شبكة. is the welcomed proposed revisions to support anchor tenants. The bad news is that public comment process is open until 18 September. Another delay!

This lack of certainty has made it impossible for us to finalise launch plans and policies, which is frustrating.

The good news is شبكة. is in the low risk category for New gTLD Collision Risk Management and we don’t expect any impact on the timeline for delegation. Who will be left standing with شبكة. after ICANN’s ‘risk mitigation’ actions for name collisions and GAC Advice are accounted for?

We welcome your feedback and encourage readers to comment below in the Domain Incite comment box. We’ll attempt to address questions the community may have.

Please stay tuned for future updates exclusively via Domain Incite.

One-time disclosure: I’d like to state for the benefit of those who are seemingly always ready to pounce on DI for “selling out” that the journal series are not “sponsored” posts.

There’s no financial relationship whatsoever between DI and dotShabaka or any of its affiliated companies. This is just about the info.

dotShabaka wants to be the first new gTLD to launch, but big problems remain

Having been the first to sign a contract with ICANN two weeks ago, new gTLD registry dotShabaka is also desperate to be the first to launch, but faces big obstacles.

The company, International Domain Registry, is a spin-off of AusRegistry, with many of the same directors and staff, but executives insist it is an entirely separate entity and will become more so with time.

It was awarded, uncontested and unobjected, the Arabic TLD شبكة., which means “.web” and transliterates to “.shabaka”. It will do business under the trading name dotShabaka Registry.

According to the Registry Agreement published by ICANN last week, it was signed on July 13, one day before the other three registries to so far get contracts.

“It was a lot of work to make sure we were the first to sign, and we intend to be the first to delegation,” general manager Yasmin Omer told DI last week.

“The best-estimate timeline published by ICANN in Durban is our timeline, that’s our target,” she added.

The timeline she’s referring to (pdf) is the one that says the first new gTLD could hit the root as early as September 5, with the first Sunrise period kicking off a month later.

Omer is slightly less optimistic about the timing, however, saying that “mid-September” is looking more likely, due to the requirements of the Pre-Delegation Testing period that dotShabaka is currently in.

The company is doing preliminary PDT work right now and expects to start testing properly in the first week of August.

But PDT is not the only thing standing in dotShabaka’s — and other new gTLD applicants’ — path to delegation.

Right now, the Trademark Clearinghouse and the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement are the big barriers, Omer said.

TMCH requirements not ready

The TMCH is a problem because ICANN has still not finalized the TMCH’s RPM Requirements document, a set of rules that each new gTLD registry must adhere to in their Sunrise and Trademark Claims phases.

“A group within NTAG and the Registries Stakeholder Group has been negotiating this document with ICANN for some time now, going back and forth,” Omer said. “It’s all fine for those who intend on launching later on, but this document has yet to be finalized and that really harms us.”

A draft of the Requirements document (pdf) was published in April, and Omer said she expects ICANN to take a more up-to-date draft to public comment.

A standard 42-day comment period, starting today, would end mid-September.

As we reported in April, the Requirements raises questions about whether registries would, for example, be able to create lists of reserved premium domains or whether trademark owners would always get priority.

dotShabaka faces an additional problem with the TMCH because its gTLD is an Arabic string and there are been very little buy-in so far from companies in the Arabic-speaking world.

A couple of weeks ago, TMCH execs admitted that of the over 5,000 trademarks currently registered in the TMCH, only 13 are in Arabic.

In Durban, they said that the TMCH guidelines were not yet available in Arabic.

Part of the problem appears to be that a rumor was spread that the TMCH does not support non-Latin scripts, which executives said is not remotely true.

With so little participation from the Arabic trademark community, an early شبكة. launch could mean a woefully under-subscribed Sunrise period — 30 days to protect just a handful of companies.

“There’s no knowledge of the TMCH in the region,” Omer said.

“We’re currently putting our heads together to think of mechanisms to overcome this,” she said. “We don’t just want to be first to delegate and have it sit there idly, we want to be first to market as well.”

dotShabaka has been doing its own press in the region and claims to have taken thousands of expressions of interest in the gTLD, indicating that there is a market if awareness can be raised.

Registrars are a problem

Signing the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement is a requirement for any registrar that want to sell new gTLDs, and that includes IDNs. Only seven registrars have publicly signed it to date.

According to Omer, the 2013 RAA’s stricter requirements are “not helping us in the region”.

Its provisions related to insurance can be “prohibitive to those located to those located in North Africa and the Middle East”, she said by way of an example.

In addition, there are only about seven accredited registrars in the region, all on older RAA versions, she said.

dotShabaka has already signed up Go Daddy and others to carry شبكة., so getting the TLD into the channel is not a problem.

But while Go Daddy will have an Arabic landing page for the TLD it will not have a full Arabic-language registration process and shopping cart ready in time for شبكة.’s planned launch window launch.

This makes me wonder whether there’s a risk that domain savvy Westerners are more likely to get a crack at the best شبكة. names before the Arab world is fully aware of the launch.

But Omer said that dotShabaka is doing its own outreach and that it’s committed to improving the “horrible” online experience for Arabic speakers that exists today.

“It’s not just about the TLD, it’s about the cause, it’s about an Arabic internet,” she said. “Yes there are issues and yes there are barriers, but we want to build more robust Arabic domain name market.”