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Second last-resort gTLD auction raises $14.3m

Kevin Murphy, September 18, 2014, Domain Registries

ICANN has raised $14.3 million auctioning off three new gTLDs — .buy, .tech and .vip.

It was the second batch of “last resort” auctions, managed by ICANN and Power Auctions, in which the winning bids are placed in a special ICANN fund.

Notably, while Google participated in all three auctions, it failed to win any, setting a reassuring precedent for any smaller applicants that are set to face the deep-pocketed giant in future auctions.

.tech was the biggest-seller, fetching $6,760,000 after nine rounds of bidding.

The winner was Dot Tech LLC, which beat Google, Minds + Machines, Donuts, NU DOT CO, and Uniregistry.

.buy went to Amazon for $4,588,888, beating Google, Donuts and Famous Four Media. The bidding lasted seven rounds.

Finally, .vip sold to Minds + Machines for $3,000,888 after Google, Donuts, I-Registry and VIP Registry dropped out.

The prices are in the same ball-park as we’ve inferred from previous, private auctions managed by Applicant Auction (a company affiliated with Power Auctions).

That’s notable because the first last resort auction, for .信息, fetched just $600,000 when it sold to Amazon back in June.

As far as we can tell, last-resort auctions do not necessarily keep prices low, even though the losing bidders in this week’s auctions will have walked away empty-handed.

In private auctions, losers leave holding a share of the winner’s bid.

This week, most of the $14.3 million raised will go into a special ICANN fund.

Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s Global Domains Division said in a statement:

The proceeds from these Auctions will be separated and reserved until the Board determines a plan for the appropriate use of the funds through consultation with the community. We continue to encourage parties to reach agreements amongst themselves to resolve contention.

The ICANN community has been chatting about possible uses for auction funds for years.

Ideas such as subsidizing new gTLD applicants from poorer nations in future rounds and investing in internet infrastructure in the developing world have been floated.

After $1bn deal, Amazon registers Twitch domains in three gTLDs. Can you guess which three?

Kevin Murphy, August 27, 2014, Domain Registries

Amazon has paid almost a billion dollars for the gaming community Twitch and immediately set about defensively registering some domain names.

amazontwitch.com, amazontwitch.net, and amazontwitch.org were all registered via MarkMonitor on Monday, coinciding with the announcement of the acquisition.

The company even registered twitchamazon.com, but not the corresponding .net and .org.

But Amazon, a major new gTLD applicant itself, does not appear to have registered the string in any new gTLDs, despite being one of the most prolific defensive registrants.

The company owns the string “fire” in scores of new gTLDs and appears to have blanket-registered “prime” and “kindle” in pretty much every new gTLD sunrise to date.

Twitch, pre-acquisition, doesn’t seem to have involved itself in new gTLDs at all, though the string “twitch” has been registered in several.

Bad news for the owners of these domains?

Amazon and Google deal on .talk, .play, .drive and others

Google and Amazon have started making deals to settle their new gTLD contention sets.

Google won three contention sets against Amazon this week, judging by the latest withdrawals, while Amazon won two.

Amazon won .talk and .you after Google, the only other applicant, withdrew.

Neither company appears to have a “You” brand, unless you count YouTube, but the .talk settlement strongly suggests that Google Talk, the company’s instant messaging client, is on the way out.

When Google applied for .talk in 2012 it intended to give Talk users custom domains to act as a contact point, but in 2013 Google started to indicate that it will be replaced as a brand by Google Hangouts.

The withdrawal seems to suggest that the existence of a gTLD application, a relatively small investment, is not an overwhelming factor when companies consider product rebranding.

I wonder what effect a live, active TLD will have on similar decisions in future.

But Google won the two-horse races for .dev and .drive and after Amazon withdrew its applications.

Google has a product called Google Drive, while Amazon runs Amazon Cloud Drive. Both companies have developer programs, though Google’s is arguably the more substantial of the two.

Google has also won .play — Google Play is its app store — after Amazon, Radix and Star Registry’s withdrawals. Amazon does not have a Play brand.

Google has also withdrawn its application for .book, leaving six remaining applicants, including Amazon, in the contention set.

I don’t currently know whether these contention sets were settled privately or via a third-party auction.

Amazon snubs ICANN auction to win .coupon privately

Amazon has won the new gTLD .coupon, after Minds + Machines withdrew its application this week.

I understand that the two-way contention set was settled privately via a third party intermediary, possibly via some kind of auction, with M+M ultimately being paid off to withdraw its bid.

.coupon was the only ICANN-managed “auction of last resort” scheduled for July, following the $600,000 sale of .信息 last week.

The next batch of ICANN auctions is now not due to happen until August, unless of course ICANN rejigs its schedule in light of the .coupon settlement.

It’s not clear why Amazon has suddenly decided it prefers the idea of a private commercial settlement after all, but it appears to be good news for M+M, which will see the majority of the cash.

However, it could be related to the fact that .coupon, and dozens of other Amazon new gTLD applications, recently made the switch from being “closed generics” to more inclusive proposals.

Amazon had originally intended that itself and its subsidiaries would be the “only eligible registrants” for .coupon, but in March it changed the application, among many others.

Now, Amazon talks in vague terms about .coupon names being available to “eligible trusted third parties”, a term that doesn’t seem ready to define before the TLDs are actually delegated.

It seems to me, from Amazon’s revised applications, that .coupon and its other gTLDs will be locked down tight enough that they could wind up being effectively closed generics after all.

When Amazon publishes its first eligibility requirements document with ICANN, I expect members of the Governmental Advisory Committee will be watching closely.

ICANN snubs Belgium, gives Donuts the all-clear for .spa

ICANN has rejected demands by the Belgian government by giving Donuts the go-ahead to proceed with its application for .spa, which Belgium says infringes on a geographic name.

Noting that the Governmental Advisory Committee had submitted no consensus advice that Donuts .spa bid should be rejected, the ICANN board’s New gTLD Program Committee said last week “the applications will proceed through the normal process.”

That means the two-way contention set is presumably going to auction.

The English dictionary word “spa” derives from Spa, a small Belgian town with some springs.

The other applicant is Asia Spa and Wellness Promotion Council, which has made a deal with Spa to donate some of its profits to local projects and give the city some control over the registry.

Donuts refused to sign a similar deal, leading to Belgium last month asking ICANN to delegate the gTLD to ASWPC and not Donuts.

The GAC’s last word on .spa was this, from the recent Singapore meeting:

Regarding the applications for .spa, the GAC understands that the relevant parties in these discussions are the city of Spa and the applicants. The GAC has finalised its consideration of the .spa string and welcomes the report that an agreement has been reached between the city of Spa and one of the applicants.

There’s no ICANN fudging here; if the GAC wanted to issue a consensus objection it could have.

The question is: why didn’t it?

Why does the string “amazon”, which does not exactly match the name of a place in its local languages, qualify for a GAC objection, while “spa”, which exactly matches the name of a city, does not?