Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

No more acquisitions for Nominet

Nominet isn’t in the market for buying up other companies any more.

The .uk registry said today that its board of directors has dissolved its mergers and acquisitions committee, which means no more deals in the rapidly consolidating domain name space for the foreseeable future.

The company said the board has “agreed to a proposal to dissolve the M&A Committee in recognition that this type of activity is unlikely to form a central component in the corporate strategy moving forward.”

It’s also dissolved its Cyber Advisory Panel, which looked for potential business opportunities in the internet security space.

The moves come a couple of months after member pressure forced the resignation or sacking of five members of Nominet’s board, including its CEO, in part because of a perception that diversification was harming the core .uk domains business.

But a spokesperson confirmed that the M&A ban is “across the board”, including core and non-core sectors. The decision may be revisited in future, but there are no plans to do so right now.

The PublicBenefit.uk campaign that forced the change of strategic direction had also called for lower .uk prices, more profit sent to public benefit causes, and for greater member engagement.

At its May board meeting, Nominet also agreed to an as-yet-unspecified pricing promotion, an emphasis on public benefit contributions in its budget, and the creation of a UK Registry Advisory Council.

A call for applications for seats on this Council will go out next week.

More acquisitions? GoDaddy to raise $800 million

Kevin Murphy, February 22, 2021, Domain Registrars

GoDaddy said today that it plans to raise $800 million, which may be put towards future acquisitions.

The company said it is issuing that amount in senior notes to institutional investors.

The money will be used “for general corporate purposes, which may include working capital, capital expenditures and potential acquisitions and strategic transactions”, GoDaddy said.

Westerdal offloads two more gTLDs to Donuts

Kevin Murphy, December 9, 2020, Domain Registries

Donuts has bulked out its gTLD portfolio yet again, acquiring two more strings from Fegistry and Top Level Spectrum.

ICANN records show that it recently took over the contracts for .observer and .realty.

They’re both launched, active TLDs. Both selling registries are backed by investor Jay Westerdal.

.observer was bought dormant by TLS from the British newspaper of the same name in 2016 and launched the following year with .com-competitive prices.

TLS has been marketing it as a place for news organizations, though it’s unrestricted. Registrations plateaued at about 1,000 a couple of years ago and haven’t seen much movement since.

.realty is a different story.

Fegistry paid ICANN $5,588,888 at a public auction — beating Donuts, in fact — in 2014, and launched it in 2017 with a roughly $300-a-year retail price.

It’s been cruising along with about 2,200 names under management for the last couple of years, until this September and early October, when its zone file shot up to almost 18,000 domains.

This seems to have been the result of a $0.99 promotion at Epik, which has since ended.

One would have to assume that the vast majority of those new domains will be speculative and are unlikely to renew at the full $300 reg fee a year from now.

While the contracts changed hands in late October, it’s inconceivable that Donuts was not aware of the quality of the recent registrations.

It’s not the first time Westerdal’s businesses have sold to Donuts, which took .contact off Top Level Spectrum’s hands in April 2019. That gTLD entered general availability this week.

It’s also handed off responsibility for .forum to MMX, which plans to launch it with a puzzling $1,000 price tag next March, although TLS is still listed as the ICANN contractor.

TLS still runs the controversial gripe site TLD .feedback, along with the unlaunched head-scratcher .pid.

Fegistry is still fighting for .hotel, along with rival applicants, in ICANN’s quasi-judicial Independent Review Process.

You might be surprised how many new gTLDs have changed hands already

At least 86 new gTLD registry contracts have changed hands since the end of 2013, I have discovered.

ICANN calls the transfer of a Registry Agreement from one company to another an “assignment”. Global Domains Division staff said in Buenos Aires last week that it’s one of the more complex and time-consuming tasks they have to perform.

So I thought I’d do a count, and I discovered some interesting stuff.

Donuts/Rightside

The biggest beneficiary of incoming assignments so far is of course Rightside, aka United TLD Holdco, which has so far taken over 23 of the gTLDs applied for by Donuts.

The two companies have had an agreement since the start that allows Rightside to take on as many as 107 of Donuts’ original 307 applications.

Interestingly, Rightside sold .fan to AsiaMix Digital after Donuts had transferred the gTLD to it.

Amazon

We also discover that Amazon is repatriating its gTLD contracts en masse.

So far, 21 gTLDs applied for by Amazon EU Sarl — the Luxembourg-based company Amazon uses to dodge tax in other European countries — have been transferred to US-based Amazon Registry Services Inc.

Amazon EU has made money losing new gTLD auctions.

Given the company’s usual MO, I have to wonder whether Amazon Registry Services, under the US tax regime, plans to make any money at all from its new raft of gTLDs.

Subsidiary changes

Speaking of tax, four gTLDs associated with the Hong Kong-based Zodiac group of applicants have been transferred to new Cayman Islands companies with similar names.

A bunch of the other assignments appear to be registries shifting contracts between various subsidiaries.

IG Group, a large UK derivatives trader, has assigned seven gTLDs (such as .forex, .markets and .spreadbetting) to newly created UK subsidiaries, for example.

Also, Ireland-based Afilias transferred the .green RA to a new Irish subsidiary, while Germany-based .srl applicant mySRL has sent its contract to a Florida-based sister company from the InternetX stable.

There are several other example of this kind of activity.

Actual acquisitions

As best as I can tell, there have been only eight actual post-contracting acquisitions so far: .trust, .fan, .meet, .reise, .xn--ses554g, .rent, .theatre, and .protection.

The only one of those I didn’t know about — and haven’t seen reported anywhere — was .meet, which Afilias seems to have sold to Google back in February.

It should be noted that while I’ve counted 86 assignments, I may have missed some. At least one — XYZ.com’s acquisition of .security from Symantec, does not appear have been completed yet, judging by ICANN’s web site.

Moniker and SnapNames join Key-Systems stable

Kevin Murphy, February 1, 2012, Domain Registrars

KeyDrive has acquired rival registrar Moniker and rival aftermarket player SnapNames from Oversee.net, according to a statement on the company’s web site.

The deal, which closed in January, would make the combined company the sixth-largest ICANN-accredited registrar, with over 5.4 million domains under management, KeyDrive said.

KeyDrive formed with the merger of German registrar Key-Systems and aftermarket services provider NameDrive last July. It’s based in NameDrive’s native Luxembourg.

The deal gives the primarily European company an additional footprint in the US market. Moniker is based in Florida, SnapNames in Oregon.

It’s a not-too-soon exit for Moniker, which had a disappointing 2011 largely defined by the super-fast churning of domains under management and the regular canning of staff.

I’ve been hearing rumors that the two Oversee units were on the auction block for months.

It’s the fifth significant piece of M&A in the registrar market in the last six months, following the sale of Go Daddy and Group NBT to private investors, Tucows’ acquisition of EPAG and NetSol’s move to Web.com

Terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed. Indeed, there does not appear to have been an official announcement yet, beyond the KeyDrive home page.

The deal was first reported by DomainNameNews.

More details as they come in.