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Rook Media acquires DomainSponsor

Kevin Murphy, April 22, 2014, Domain Services

Oversee.net surprised many in the domainer community yesterday when it announced the sale of its flagship parking service, DomainSponsor, to upstart rival Rook Media.

The deal, for an undisclosed sum, means Oversee, once the parent to brands such as Moniker and SnapNames, now barely has a presence in the domain name industry at all.

Switzerland-based Rook Media, describing itself as “Europe’s largest domain monetization platform”, was formed three years ago by former NameDrive and Sedo executives.

US-based DomainSponsor, on the other hand, has been around since 2002.

Rook CEO Ash Rahimi told Domain Name Wire yesterday that both platforms will operate independently for the foreseeable future.

Oversee said in a press release that it will “now focus on more aggressively developing its growth businesses” which comprise web sites in travel, consumer finance and retail.

The company sold off Moniker and SnapNames to KeyDrive in 2012. KeyDrive has since sold on SnapNames to Web.com.

Oversee still has the DomainFest conference listed as one of its brands on its web site. Other than that, there seems to be little left of its presence in the domain industry.

Neustar pays $109 million for .CO Internet

Kevin Murphy, March 20, 2014, Domain Registries

Four years after relaunching the Colombian ccTLD .co as a global top-level domain, .CO Internet has been acquired by its long-time partner Neustar for $109 million.

The .co registry will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Neustrar, which already runs .biz and .us, following the close of the deal.

.CO recorded revenue of $21 million in 2013, of which Neustar took $4 million as its back-end registry provider, according to Neustar.

The .co zone currently stands at about 1.6 million names, according to the companies. That seems to mean it added roughly 200,000 net new names in 2013, judging by its 2012 numbers.

The company relaunched .co in 2010, having jointly bid with Neustar for a Colombian government contract.

It was the last truly impressive TLD launch, with 200,000 registrations on day one and over 1 million in its first year.

While the space is still stuffed with speculators, unlike some other TLDs .co is also widely, visibly used by its intended audience — start-ups and entrepreneurs.

.CO is known primarily for its marketing acumen — some new gTLD registries could learn a thing or two — which Neustar CEO Lisa Hook raised as a selling point in today’s press release:

By combining .CO Internet’s innovative domain marketing capabilities with Neustar’s distribution network and technical resources, we will be able to broaden our registry services and the .co brand worldwide, while creating shareholder value.

Neustar expects the deal to close within a month.

Directi joins Domain.com family in $100m deal

Kevin Murphy, January 29, 2014, Domain Registrars

Endurance International, the holding company behind brands such as Domain.com and HostGator has closed the acquisition of top ten registrar Directi and some related companies.

The acquisition, which was announced last September is worth between $100 million and $110 million — $25.5 million in cash and the rest in shares and a promissory note.

The deal includes Directi properties BigRock (a registrar), ResellerClub (the reseller-focused registrar), LogicBoxes (the registrar management service) and webhosting.info.

It does not include Radix Registry, the company that applied for 31 new gTLDs, 28 of which applications are still active.

Directi CEO Bhavin Turakhia “has agreed to be closely involved in the integration of the two companies”, but it doesn’t sound like he’s taking on a permanent role at Endurance.

Endurance may not be a familiar brand in and of itself, but its businesses include Bluehost, HostGator, Domain.com, FatCow, iPage and Mojo Marketplace.

Afilias acquires .pro operator RegistryPro

Kevin Murphy, January 17, 2012, Domain Registries

Afilias has acquired .pro registry manager Registry Services Corporation, which does business as RegistryPro, for an undisclosed sum.

The deal will see .pro domain names migrate to Afilias’s back-end, bringing the number of TLDs the company supplies registry services for to 17, the largest of which is .info .org.

It’s not yet clear whether the deal includes Zip.pro, a “local search” service operated by RegistryPro’s former parent Hostway using tens of thousands of self-owned zip code .pro domains.

(UPDATE: Afilias has confirmed that Zip.pro is staying with Hostway. The former owner of .pro is essentially now its biggest customer.)

Hostway bought RegistryPro in early 2004 shortly before .pro went live. The deal was somewhat controversial at the time.

Since May last year the company has been headed by CEO Karim Jiwani, a former Afilias executive. Jiwani will stay in place as president of RegistryPro, Afilias said.

While RegistryPro has been offering new gTLD back-end registry services since last June, the acquisition “is specifically in support of the .pro domain,” the Afilias spokesperson said.

The gTLD will be migrated to Afilias’ back-end infrastructure, he confirmed.

“A migration plan is being put into place,” the spokesperson said. “Current .pro customers will see no issues; the platform change will be invisible to them (and as easy as possible for registrars.)”

ICANN was told about the deal, but did not need to approve it because the corporate structure of RegistryPro has not changed, he said.

The .pro gTLD has about 45 registrars, though only four of them have taken more than 10,000 registrations. EnCirca, which signed up on day one, leads the pack with 13,000 domains.

However, Network Solutions and RU-Center came on board in 2008 and have been responsible for contributing most of the gTLD’s organic growth in the last few years.

Despite these modest improvements, .pro is still broadly considered very much an also-ran gTLD.

It had roughly 117,000 registered .pro domains at the last official count, but 43,000 of those are US zip codes registered by a shell company belonging to Hostway back in 2008.

It appears that this Zip.pro service is a similar concept to the Employ Media-backed Universe.jobs services – an exercise in mass domain development backed by the (former) registry itself.

At some point quite recently, some of these zip code domains have started going live with what could be loosely be described as “content”.

If you visit 94110.pro, for example, you’ll see a bunch of stuff about the Mission district in San Francisco, an old haunt of mine.

Tucows expands into 200 TLDs with $2.5m deal

Kevin Murphy, August 2, 2011, Domain Registrars

Tucows has acquired EPAG Domainservices, a Bonn, Germany-based domain name registrar, for $2.5 million.

The deal is notable for the size of EPAG’s top-level domain catalog – it offers registrations in 200 TLDs compared to Tucows’ current 33.

Tucows hopes to offer all 200 to its 12,000-strong reseller channel before the end of the year, according to a press release.

CEO Elliot Noss said: “We expect that the deep expertise in registry integration we gain from EPAG will add invaluable bench-strength to our team as we prepare for ICANN’s roll-out of new TLDs.”

EPAG was previously owned by QSC, one of Germany’s largest ISPs.

The registrar has a portfolio of 400,000 customer domains under management, which Tucows is getting its hands on for an average of $6.25 per domain.

Tucows’ OpenSRS channel currently accounts for about 11 million domains, making it the third-largest registrar after Go Daddy and eNom.

More than half of EPAG’s registrations appear to be in ccTLDs. Webhosting.info puts its share of the ICANN gTLD market at 160,623 domains.