O.co, the company formerly known as Overstock.com, has bought the domain name o.info directly from registry manager Afilias for an undisclosed amount.
It’s the first single-character sale Afilias has announced since ICANN gave it the go-ahead to release one and two-letter names from reserved status in April 2010.
What makes it particularly interesting is that O.co has agreed to build a separate web site at o.info, using the domain for the purpose suggested by the TLD string.
The idea of allocating a valuable name to a big brand in exchange for a use commitment – the “founders program” model – is of course now a standard part of a TLD registry’s marketing toolkit.
It’s more unusual too see the same tactics used to promote a decade-old gTLD.
O.co CEO Patrick Byrne said in a statement:
We will use O.info as a website destination to consolidate useful consumer information. The .info domain is the logical destination for visitors to find product information, user manuals, buying guides, manufacturer and brand reviews, video demonstrations and recall notices.
The price has not been disclosed. It could easily be in the six-figures, extrapolating from the $350,000 the company dropped on o.co last year.
On the other hand, it could be lower.
I feel certain that .CO Internet would have handed over o.co for free if it had known how much great publicity it would bring; it’s possible Afilias may have sacrificed part of its windfall in the hope of reaping some marketing benefits too.
It has 25 more letters to sell, after all.
In yet another shocking example of the unregulated “revolving door” between ICANN and powerful companies in the domain name industry, a blurry lady using an invisible whiteboard appears to be working for ICANN and Afilias at the same time.
The photographs appear to have been digitally altered to disguise the mystery double-agent’s appearance, but it’s clearly the same woman.
Call your lawyers! Write to the Department of Commerce! We have ourselves a scandal!
UPDATE: She works for CentralNic too!!!
Afilias and Right Of The Dot have announced a partnership to jointly assist new top-level domain applicants.
Right Of The Dot is Monte Cahn and Mike Berkens’ latest venture, a consulting firm focused primarily on helping new registries price their “premium” second-level domains.
Afilias runs the .info registry and provides registry services for many other TLDs, including .org.
The Afilias deal is the first major partnership Right Of The Dot has announced.
RegistryPro, the .pro top-level domain manager, has appointed Karim Jiwani as its new CEO.
Jiwani seems to have been headhunted from Afilias, where he was senior director of business development. He has over 12 years experience in the business, according to a press release.
The .pro extension is one of those TLDs it’s easy to forget exists, but its recent press releases make it appear like a bit of a dark horse, on an unprecedented growth spurt.
According to its monthly ICANN registry reports, RegistryPro saw a staggering 142% growth in registrations between January 2010 and January 2011, recently passing through the 100,000 domains mark for the first time in its seven-year history.
However, on closer inspection, this uptick was largely due to a bulk registration of over 43,000 domains made via Hostway, RegistryPro’s parent company, last June.
The growth spurt appears to be a direct result of RegistryPro’s reservation of all remaining one, two and three-letter .pro domains, which it is selling off as premium names.
All possible combinations at three characters and under works out to roughly 43,000 domains.
With the new leadership, Hostway also seems to be positioning RegistryPro as a contender in market for providing back-end registry services for new gTLDs. Its CEO, Lucas Roh, said:
Our registry is poised to grow significantly in the coming years, as the awareness continues to grow for .PRO domains and our backend registry services for other TLD’s. We wanted someone that could expertly grow the registry and take it to the next level. Karim has proven experience in the domain industry and is well respected in the community. With his knowledge and passion, he is well equipped to take the company to the next level in providing registry services to registrars and other TLD’s.”
Afilias seems to be a breeding ground for registry CEOs lately. In February, the Public Interest Registry grabbed vice president Brian Cute to head up its .org business.
ICANN has revealed how it intends to enable incumbent domain name registries to also become registrars, ending a decade of cross-ownership restrictions.
The industry shake-up could allow companies such as VeriSign, Neustar and Afilias to become accredited registrars in their own top-level domains later this year.
Hypothetically, before long you could be able to go directly to VeriSign for your .com domains, to Afilias and Public Interest Registry for .info and .org, or to Neustar for .biz.
The changes could potentially also kick off a wave of consolidation in the industry, with registry operators buying previously independent registrars.
ICANN’s proposed process is straightforward, requiring just a few amendments to the registries’ existing contracts, but it could also call for governmental competition reviews.
Registries will have to agree to abide by a Code of Conduct substantially the same as the one binding on wannabe registries applying later this year under the new gTLD program.
The Code is designed to stop registries giving their affiliated registrars unfair advantages, such as lower prices or preferential access to data, over other ICANN-accredited registrars.
Registries would also have the option to adopt the registry contract from the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook wholesale, although I expect in practice this is unlikely to happen.
ICANN would be able to refer vertical integration requests to national competition authorities if it determined that cross-ownership could cause “significant competition issues”.
VeriSign would be the most likely to be hit by such a review, but it’s also the only registry that does not appear to have been particularly hamstrung over the years by the forced separation rules.