ICANN’s fifth set of last-resort new gTLD auctions is set for tomorrow and it’s another small batch.
Just two contention sets — .baby and .mls — are set to be resolved, with ICANN stashing the winning bids into its special fund.
.baby is hotly contested with no fewer than six applicants — five portfolio applicants and one big brand.
Will Johnson & Johnson get what was once a single-registrant “closed generic”, or will Donuts, Google, Radix, Famous Four or Minds & Machines prevail?
Meanwhile, .mls (for “multiple listing service”, a type of real estate listings aggregation service popular in North America) is a two-horse race between Afilias and the Canadian Real Estate Association.
I’m tempted to call this one for CREA. The organization is so desperate for the .mls gTLD that it filed two applications, one “community” and one vanilla.
The community application was withdrawn earlier this year when CREA scored 11 out of 16 points on its Community Priority Evaluation, failing to pass the 14-point threshold.
The organization even filed a Legal Rights Objection against Afilias in attempt to kill off the competition, which also failed.
Having fought off these challenges, Afilias is either going to get the gTLD or walk away empty-handed. The last resort auction does not compensate unsuccessful bidders for their investments.
A private auction has been used to settle a new gTLD contention set containing two different strings for the first time.
Afilias has won the right to run .pet after Google withdrew its application for .pet and Donuts withdrew its bid for .pets.
The two strings, one the plural of the other, had been placed into indirect contention by ICANN after a String Confusion Objection panel controversially ruled in August 2013 that .pet and .pets were too confusingly similar to be allowed to coexist.
This means that Donuts has been forced to withdraw an uncontested application.
Notably, it was Google that filed, fought and won the SCO complaint, and it didn’t even wind up with the TLD it wanted.
The final settlement of the contention set reflects ICANN’s inconsistent policy on plurals. Several plural/singular combinations — such as .career(s) and .photo(s) — already coexist in the DNS.
London’s Alternative Investment Market is fast becoming the stock market of choice for new gTLD registries, with .info mainstay Afilias today announcing an upcoming IPO.
The Ireland-based company hopes to raise $100 million by selling off about 30% of the company, giving it a growth war-chest and giving its investors a shot at getting some of their money back.
Afilias earmarked part of the expected windfall for new gTLD auctions, as well as acquisitions of new gTLD “assets” and operational registries and expansion of its registrar business.
Executive chairman Jonathan Robinson said in a statement:
The Placing will bring significant benefits – by providing further capital to fund our organic and acquisitive growth plans, and raising our corporate profile with existing and new customers.
In addition to .info, .mobi and .pro, Afilias is associated with 254 new gTLD applications either as applicant or back-end provider. As registry, it already has about a dozen 2012-round gTLDs in the root.
The company’s revenue for 2013 was $77.6 million, up from $74.5 million in 2012. Earnings before deductions were $38.6 million in 2013, up from $32.1 million in 2012.
Fellow gTLD registries CentralNic and Minds + Machines are also listed on AIM.
Today news has reached us via various channels that seven new gTLD contention sets have been settled, all is seems via private auction.
Notably, Afilias has lost the opportunity to run the Chinese-script version of its 14-year-old .info TLD to Beijing Tele-info Network Technology Co, the only other applicant.
The Beijing company’s application says the string .信息 means: “knowledge or message in the form suitable for communications, storage, or processing, which is closely related to notions of form, meaning, pattern, perception, representation, and entropy.”
Afilias said it means “info”.
Separately, in a press release today, Minds + Machines said that it has won the auctions for two gTLDs — .law and .vip — and lost the auctions for several more.
In .law it beat NU DOT CO, Donuts, Radix, Merchant Law Group and Famous Four Media. In .vip it beat Google, VIP Registry, Donuts, I-Registry and Vipspace Enterprises.
From the auctions M+M said it lost we can infer that .design and .realestate contention sets are also now settled, but we haven’t seen any withdrawals yet so we don’t know the winners.
M+M said it netted $6.2 million cash by winning .law and .vip and losing .design, .flowers, .group, .realestate and .video.
From today’s new withdrawals we can see that Uniregistry won .auto against Fegistry, Donuts and Dot Auto, while Donuts won .memorial against Afilias and dotCOOL.
UPDATE: Thanks to Jim in the comments for the reminder that the “Chinese .info” auction happened back in June. The TLD fetched $600,000 at an ICANN last-resort auction.
DotGreen Community, a popular but unsuccessful applicant for the .green gTLD, has been resurrected to manage the marketing for the successful applicant, Afilias.
It appears that Afilias, which won .green at auction against two other applicants in late February, is essentially outsourcing the marketing of .green to DotGreen.
DotGreen withdrew its bid last October, citing the high cost of the looming auction.
DotGreen’s plan for the TLD, had it won, was to distribute some of its profits to worthy environmental causes, and that plan seems to have been brought back from the dead too.
According to a press release:
DotGreen brings additional partnerships with EarthShare, a federation comprised of the world’s leading environmental and conservation charities; and The DotGreen Foundation, a California Non-profit, 501 (c)3 Public Charity. These organizations will work together to distribute a percentage of the proceeds collected from the sales of the .green domain names to programs that work towards the advancement of sustainability worldwide.
It appears to be a unique, first-of-its-kind relationship in the new gTLD space.
Afilias remains the contracted party and will continue to run the technical infrastructure of the registry, but the heavy-lifting of actually marketing the names falls on DotGreen.
Given that DotGreen spent quite a lot of time in the run-up to the new gTLD application process building relationships with environmental groups, this could be an incredibly shrewd move by Afilias.
Afilias has not yet revealed its sunrise or general availability launch dates for .green, which was delegated in June.