Afilias says a new anti-abuse policy is responsible for .info losing almost a million domains in 2012.
The .info space ended the year down 914,310 domains, an 11% decline on 2011, the biggest gTLD shrinkage in actual domain terms and second only to .tel in percentage terms, according to DI’s TLD Health Check.
The TLD ended the year with 7,402,557 domains under management, still the runaway leader of “new” gTLDs in terms of total domains.
An Afilias spokesperson blamed the DUM decline on a crackdown on abusive domain use, which impacted sales. He said in a statement:
To fight the growing scourges of spam, phishing and other Internet problems, .INFO established an industry-leading anti-abuse policy and began aggressively working with its registrar partners to take down any and all sites that violated the policy, regardless of the sales impact. This approach reinforces .INFOs strong foundation of great sites and enhances the reputation of .INFO as the ‘home of information on the Web’.
Historically, .info was favored by bad actors due to the low cost of registrations. At some points over the last ten years, it’s even been possible to register a .info domain for free.
Afilias’ crackdown affected .pro too, as then-president Karim Jiwani told us in January, but .pro managed to double in size anyway, due to new registrar partners and lower prices.
Of the 18 gTLDs tracked by TLD Health Check, only .name, .tel and .travel also suffered significant declines in domains under management in 2012.
Afilias and Neustar have separately announced increased to the registry fees for .info and .biz domain names.
Afilias yesterday said the maximum wholesale price for a .info domain would increase to $8.16 effective September 1, a 10% increase on the current rate of $7.42 per year.
The last 10% hike, which the company is allowed to take under its ICANN registry agreement, came in July 2011.
Neustar last week also said it was taking its permitted 10% increase.
The maximum registry fee for .biz will go up to $8.63, also starting September 1. It last increased its prices in February 2012.
Karim Jiwani, president of Afilias unit RegistryPro, has quit to explore new opportunities in the domain name business.
Jiwani, whom we profiled in depth recently, joined Afilias when it acquired RegistryPro, the .pro registry, a year ago, so the move is not entirely surprising.
Prior to RegistryPro, he headed up Afilias’ business in Europe.
“Mr. Jiwani plans to pursue other opportunities in the expanding domain industry,” Afilias said.
Afilias says it has managed to grow .pro by 100% just one year after acquiring RegistryPro, despite an abuse crackdown and a tightening of registration policies.
RegistryPro president Karim Jiwani, speaking to DI earlier this month, said that .pro currently has roughly 160,000 domain names under management, compared to 120,000 at the time of the deal.
However, .pro lost about 40,000 domains — all Zip codes registered to former registry owner Hostway — six months ago. Excluding these names, domains leaped from 80,000 to 160,000.
Jiwani said that steep discounting and the on-boarding of a few big new registrars — notably Directi — are mostly responsible for the growth.
It’s all organic growth — regular registrations — he said, with none of the dubious type of big one-off deals that gTLD registries often rely on to show adoption.
The growth has come despite the fact that Afilias is cracking down on loopholes that have previously enabled registrars to sell .pro names to people without professional credentials.
At the time of the acquisition, registrars were accepting business licenses as credentials, but Jiwani said that this should no longer be possible.
“We’ve been trying to get to the registrars and let them now that a business license is not acceptable as a verification tool,” he said, “and we will continue to reach out to registrars and let them know.”
With some profession-specific new gTLDs (such as .doctor and .lawyer) likely to be approved by ICANN over the next year or two, Afilias wants it to be known that .pro has a broader customer base.
“What we did was try to get out to registrars and explain to them that you don’t just have to be a doctor or a lawyer to get a .pro domain,” Jiwani said.
“We explained to them that there are many, many professions in the world — from massage therapists to radiologists to tour guides,” he said. “It opened up the mindset of the registrars a little bit and they were promoting it to a wider array of professionals.”
Our full interview with Jiwani, in which he discusses the challenges of growing a restricted registry, fighting abuse, and how legacy gTLDs can compete with new gTLDs can be read on DI PRO:
Afilias and Neustar have had their key gTLD registry contracts temporarily extended after they expired on New Year’s Eve.
The .info and .biz agreements, which were both signed with ICANN in 2006, both ended on December 31 2012.
Both deals, of course, have a presumption of renewal. They’ve been extended for six months while renewal terms are finalized.
I understand that the delay in getting new contracts negotiated and approved is due largely to all the other stuff going on at ICANN right now.
(New gTLD applicants planning to negotiate a non-standard contract with ICANN, take note.)
According to ICANN, drafts of the the next versions of the .info and .biz contracts will be posted for public comment this month.
I’d expect to see some of the same minor technical and legal changes made as those that were made to Verisign’s .net contract, which was renegotiated in 2011.
It’s going to be interesting to see whether .info and .biz will keep the same rights to increase registry fees, in light of the US Department of Commerce’s move to freeze .com prices.
However, .com is a special case and Commerce does not have a built-in right to examine .biz and .info contracts.