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.vegas beats all six new M+M gTLDs combined

Kevin Murphy, September 16, 2014, Domain Registries

Minds + Machines’ first day of general availability for its first six wholly owned new gTLDs has produced some very disappointing numbers.

The company managed to net just 1,694 new domains across .country, .cooking, .vodka, .rodeo, .horse and .fishing combined yesterday, according to this morning’s zone files.

It has fewer than 2,000 names across all six zones.

Meanwhile, .vegas, which also went to GA yesterday, managed to net 2,933 new domains, ending the day at 3,903.

Here’s a table of M+M’s performance over its first seven or eight hours of GA, which began at 1600 UTC yesterday.

Net GainTotal Domains
.vodka421469
.cooking378439
.fishing350388
.horse287327
.country182220
.rodeo76107
TOTAL16941950

Assuming the zone files are fresh, it’s a poor first day for the company whichever way you look at it, especially given that M+M has been accepting pre-registrations in its TLDs since November 2013.

As well as being vertically integrated, M+M has about 80 third-party registrars on board to sell its names, including the largest.

Afilias’ .organic, which also went to GA yesterday, shows just one new registration today.

However, this can be attributed to the fact that registrants need to submit credentials for manual verification before their new domains are allowed to go live in the zone file.

Yeehaw! Bumper crop of new gTLD launches

Kevin Murphy, September 15, 2014, Domain Registries

There’s a definite wild west flavor to today’s crop of new gTLD launches, in a week which sees no fewer than 16 strings hit general availability.

Kicking off the week, today Minds + Machines brings its first wholly-owned TLDs to market.

Following the successful launch of .london, for which M+M acts as the back-end, last week, today we see the launch of the less exciting .cooking, .country, .fishing, .horse, .rodeo, and .vodka.

Afilias’ rural-themed .organic also goes to GA today.

As does .vegas, an oddity in the geo-gTLD space as it’s a city pretty much synonymous with one vertical market, gambling. Or three vertical markets, if you include booze and prostitution.

.vegas names do not require a local presence, so I’m expecting to see gambling businesses the world over attempt to capitalize on the Vegas brand regardless of their location.

A second batch of launches is due on Wednesday September 17.

Sticking with the wild west theme, RightSide’s .republican is due to go first-come, first-served.

With a somewhat more eastern flavor, Radix Registry’s first new gTLDs — .website, .press and .host — all hit GA on the same day.

Donuts’ .loans, .life, .guide and .church all enter their standard-pricing phases, while .place and .direct enter their premium-priced Early Access Period on Wednesday too.

Community panel hands .radio to EBU because nobody objected

Kevin Murphy, September 11, 2014, Domain Registries

The European Broadcasting Union is likely to win the right to the .radio new gTLD, beating three portfolio applicants, after a favorable Community Priority Evaluation.

The main reason the EBU managed to score a passing 14 out of 16 points in the CPE is that there was no significant objection to the EBU’s bid on the public record.

The EBU managed to win, under ICANN’s complex scoring system, despite the fact that the CPE panel ruled that no one entity, not even the EBU, can claim to represent the “radio” community.

The win means that Donuts, Afilias and BRS Media, which all applied for open .radio gTLDs, will likely have to withdraw their bids and leave .radio in the hands of the EBU’s more restrictive policies.

The EBU’s bid envisages a post-registration enforcement regime, in which registrants’ web sites and Whois records are vetted to ensure they have a community “nexus” and are using their domains in the spirit of the community.

Registrants would have to provide a statement of their usage intent at the point of registration.

Domain investors are explicitly not welcome in the TLD, judging by the EBU’s application.

The EBU, as mentioned, scored 14 out of 16 points in the CPE. The threshold to pass is 14.

As I’ve been saying for years, passing a CPE should be very difficult because applicants can immediately lose two points if there’s any decent opposition to their applications.

The other three applicants for .radio could have easily beaten back the EBU had they managed to effectively organize just a single significant member of the radio community against the EBU’s bid.

However, they failed to do so.

The EBU scored the maximum of two points under the “Opposition” part of the CPE, because, in the words of the panel:

To receive the maximum score for Opposition, the application must not have received any opposition of relevance. To receive a partial score for Opposition, the application must have received opposition from, at most, one group of non-negligible size.

The application received letters of opposition, which were determined not to be relevant, as they were (1) from individuals or groups of negligible size, or (2) were not from communities either explicitly mentioned in the application nor from those with an implicit association to such communities.

Donuts, Afilias and BRS Media all submitted comments in opposition to the EBU application. As competing applicants, these submissions were (probably correctly) disregarded by the panel.

There were a small number of other objecting comments on the record that the CPE panel (again probably correctly) chose to disregard as coming from organizations of negligible size.

The was one comment, in Polish, from a Polish law firm. Another comment came from a something dodgy-looking calling itself the International Radio Emergency Support Coalition.

A third comment came from the Webcaster Alliance, a group that made a bit of a name for itself a decade ago but which today has a one-page web site that doesn’t even list its members (assuming it has any).

Attempts by BRS Media, which already runs .am and .fm, to orchestrate a campaign of opposition seem to have failed miserably.

In short, the panel’s decision that there was no relevant, on-the-record opposition seems to be on pretty safe ground.

What’s slightly disturbing about the CPE is that the panel seems to have decided that the EBU does not actually represent the radio community as described in its application.

It dropped one point on the “Community Establishment” criteria, and another on the “Nexus between Proposed String and Community” criteria.

Specifically, it lost a point because, as the panel stated:

Based on information provided in the application materials and the Panel’s research, there is no such entity that organizes the community defined in the application. Therefore, as there is no entity that is mainly dedicated to the community as defined in the .RADIO application, as the Panel has determined, there cannot be documented evidence of community activities.

In other words, there may be a “radio community”, but nobody, not even the EBU, is responsible for organizing it.

It also lost a point because while the string “radio” does “identify” the community, it does not “match” it.

The panel explained:

To receive the maximum score for Nexus, the applied-for string must “match” the name of the community or be a well-known short-form or abbreviation of the community name. To receive a partial score for Nexus, the applied-for string must “identify” the community. “Identify” means that the applied-for string should closely describe the community or the community members, without over-reaching substantially beyond the community.

Failing to get full marks on community and nexus would usually, in my view, indicate that an application would not succeed in its CPE bid.

However, the lack of any outcry from significant members of the community (either because there was no such opposition or the three rival applicants failed to muster it) seems set to allow .radio to be managed by the applicant with the most restrictive policies.

Straat-backed bidder beats Donuts and Afilias to .health

Kevin Murphy, August 21, 2014, Domain Registries

DotHealth has won the four-way contention set for the controversial new gTLD .health.

Afilias and Donuts both withdrew their competing applications this week. Famous Four withdrew its application over a month ago.

DotHealth is backed by Straat Investments, the investment vehicle chaired by .CO Internet’s Juan Calle.

The new gTLD will run on a Neustar (which now owns .CO) back-end.

.health is likely to be restricted, or at least policed, to ensure fake pharmacies are scrubbed from the zone.

DotHealth is supported by, among other health groups, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) which often targets registries and registrars in its campaigns against bogus online pharmacies in the US.

The company plans to use LegitScript to monitor its namespace.

.health will compete against the unrestricted .healthcare, which has been delegated to Donuts.

All four applicants for .health faced adverse Governmental Advisory Committee advice and unsuccessful public interest objections from the Independent Objector.

Afilias loses $600,000 auction for Chinese “.info”

The results of the first “auction of last resort” in the new gTLD program are in, and it’s a bit of a head-scratcher.

Afilias lost out to rival applicant Beijing Tele-info Network Technology in the ICANN-backed auction for .信息 which means “info” or “information” in Chinese.

The winning bid was $600,000, ICANN said.

That money goes into a special ICANN fund, which will be put to some kind of unspecified purpose (to be determined by the ICANN community) at a later date.

It seems like quite a low price. Given what little we know about new gTLD auctions conducted privately, over a million dollars seems to be pretty standard for a gTLD.

It also strikes me as odd that Afilias wasn’t willing to shell out over $600,000 for a gTLD that could take a localized version of its existing .info brand into the world’s largest market.

It’s the only contention set to be settled by ICANN auction so far. The next will take place July 9, and will see Minds + Machines take on Amazon for .coupon.

The third, which will see 22 strings hit the block, will take place August 6.

Afilias wins .poker gTLD

The .poker contention set has been settled, apparently at last week’s Applicant Auction auction, leaving Afilias the winner.

Rival applicants Donuts, Famous Four Media and Dot Poker have all withdrawn their applications.

The winning bid was, per usual, not disclosed. I’d be interested to know how much it went for, as I have a feeling there might be some pretty sweet premium sales to be had.

It also emerged today that Rightside won the auction for the altogether less exciting .rip — a gTLD for memorials — after withdrawals from Momentous and DotRIP.

The .restaurant gTLD appears to one of the two remaining auctions from last week’s batch for which we don’t yet know the result. Uniregistry and Famous Four have withdrawn, leaving Donuts and Minds + Machines with active applications.

Afilias wins .green auction

Afilias won the auction for the .green new gTLD, it emerged today.

Rightside withdrew its application for the string in the last few days, according to the ICANN web site, leaving Afilias the only remaining applicant in the four-way contention set.

Top Level Domain Holdings said last week that it had lost a private auction with Afilias and Rightside. The fourth applicant, Dot Green, withdrew last year citing the likely cost of an auction.

It’s not known how much Afilias paid in the auction, but it’s likely to have been in the millions.

Ten more new gTLDs go live

Kevin Murphy, January 24, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts, Afilias and Atgron were the beneficiaries of 10 new gTLD delegations yesterday.

Various Donuts subsidiaries had .boutique, .bargains, .cool, .expert, .tienda (“shop” in Spanish), .tools, .watch, .works delegated, bringing the company’s total portfolio to 70 gTLDs.

Afilias had its fourth new gTLD of this round go live in the DNS root: .kim, which is expected to serve people who have the first or last name Kim.

I think it’s the first personal-name gTLD to hit the internet.

Finally, Atgron had .wed delegated. It’s going to be an unrestricted gTLD aimed at marrying couples. It will eventually compete with the currently contested string .wedding.

I have to ponder what the renewal rates are going to be like for what seems to be the first event-focused TLD.

How long before their big day will registrants register their names, and for how long afterwards will they keep the registration alive for sentimental reasons? Atgron reckons such sites stay live for about 18 months.

There are also reportedly twice half as many divorces as marriages in the US at the moment. One wonders why nobody applied for .divorce.

.pink and two other gTLDs get contracts

Kevin Murphy, October 3, 2013, Domain Registries

ICANN has signed Registry Agreements this week with three new gTLD applicants, covering the strings .wed, .ruhr and .pink.

I would characterize these strings as a generic, a geographic and a post-generic.

regiodot GmbH wants to use .ruhr as a geographic for the Ruhr region of western Germany while Atgron wants to providing marrying couples with .wed for their wedding-related web sites.

Afilias’ .pink belongs to that unusual category of applied-for gTLDs that I’m becoming increasingly interested in: the non-SEO generic.

The vast majority of generic, open gTLDs that have been applied for (mostly by domainer-driven portfolio applicants) in the current round are essentially “keyword” strings — stuff that’s very likely going to prove useful in search engine optimization.

I’m talking here about stuff like .music, .video, .football and .porn. These may prove popular with small business web site owners and domainers.

But there’s another category of generic gTLDs I believe have little SEO value but offer a certain quirky-cool branding opportunity that may prove attractive to regular, non-commercial registrants.

I’d put strings such as .ninja, .bom, .wow, .hot, .love and .pink into this category.

I’m very curious to see how these kinds of strings fare over the next few years, as I suspect we may see many more such applications in future gTLD rounds.

Google beats Donuts in objection — .pet and .pets ARE confusingly similar

Kevin Murphy, August 16, 2013, Domain Policy

Google has won a String Confusion Objection against rival new gTLD applicant Donuts, potentially forcing .pet and .pets into the same contention set.

The shock ruling by International Centre for Dispute Resolution panelist Richard Page goes against previous decisions finding singulars and plurals not confusingly similar.

In the 11-page decision, Page said he decided to not consider the reams of UDRP precedent or US trademark law submitted by the two companies, and seems to have come to his opinion based on a few simple facts:

Objector has come forward with the following evidence for visual, aural and meaning similarity. Visually, the words are identical but for the mere addition of the letter “s”. Aurally, the word “pets” is essentially phonetically equivalent to the word “pet”. The term “pet” is pronounced as it is spelled, “pet”. The term “pets” is likewise pronounced as “pets” in essentially a phonetically equivalent fashion. The terms each have only one syllable, and they have the same stress pattern, with primary accent on the initial “pe” portion of the words. In commercial meaning, the terms show no material difference. As English nouns, “pets” is the pluralization of “pet”.

The visual similarity and algorithmic score are high, the aural similarity is high, the meaning similarity is high. Objector has met its burden of proof. The cumulative impact of these factors is such that the Expert determines that the delegation of <.pet> gTLD and the <.pets> gTLD into the root zone will cause a probability of confusion.

Page did take into account the similarity score provided by the Sword algorithm — for .pet and .pets it’s actually a fairly weak 72% — in his thinking on visual similarity.

But he specifically rejected Donuts’ defense that co-existence of plurals at the second level was proof that plural/singular gTLDs could also co-exist at the top-level, saying:

The rapid historical development of the Internet and the proliferation of domain names over the past two decades has taken place without the application of the string confusion standard now established for gTLDs. Therefore, the Expert has not considered the current coexistence of pluralized second-level TLDs or similarities between country code TLDs and existing gTLDs in the application of the string confusion standard in this proceeding.

Can: open. Worms: everywhere.

The decision stands in stark contrast to the decision (pdf) of Bruce Belding in the .hotel v .hotels case, in which it was found that the two strings were “sufficiently visually and audibly different”.

Likewise, the panelist in .car v .cars (pdf) found that Google had not met the high evidential bar to proving the “probability” rather than mere “possibility” of confusion.

One has to assume that the evidence Google submitted in .car is fairly similar to the evidence it submitted in .pets.

Are String Confusion Objections just a crap shoot, the outcome depending on which panelist you get? It’s probably too early to say for sure, but it’s looking like a possibility.

The big test will come with the next .pets decision. Afilias, the other .pet applicant, has also filed an SCO against Donuts over its .pets bid.

What if the panel in the Afilias case goes the other way? Will Donuts be in a contention set with Google and Afilias or won’t it?

I asked Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s Generic Domains Division, about this yesterday and he said that ICANN basically doesn’t know, and that it might have to refer back to the community for advice.

Read the Atallah interview here and the .pets decision (pdf) here.