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.hiv to auction with “no profiting” catch

Kevin Murphy, April 24, 2015, Domain Registries

Don’t all rush to your checkbooks at once.

The live TLD .hiv is going to be among the next batch of new gTLDs auctioned off by Innovative Auctions, but the contract comes with a no-profit clause.

Innovative and dotHIV Registry announced the sale yesterday.

.hiv is an unsuccessful gTLD so far. It had just over 2,000 registered names at the end of 2014, according to registry reports, but never more than 423 the names have been present in the DNS.

Registry CEO Carolin Silbernagl said:

In the eight months since our launch we have gained a lot of insight about what it needs to reach this. The reason why we are offering .hiv for sale is because we see how successful it can be. However, we realized that dotHIV is not the right vehicle for the next phase – the TLD needs a bigger and more international home to truly spread its wings.

It went to general availability last August, with an innovative but risky business model based around charitable micro-donations to HIV/AIDS causes.

Of the $200 annual retail fee, dotHIV put $120 into a pool reserved for charities. Every visit to a .hiv that was participating in a “Click Counter” service would cause a small amount of that money to actually be donated.

Judging by visits to a few .hiv domains this morning, just €862 — less than $1,000 — has been donated so far, based on fewer than 133,000 clicks.

This donation model is “just one of many possible uses” and not a contractual requirement, according to Silbernagl.

There is, however, a binding Public Interest Commitment that obliges the registry to give “all excess profits” to HIV causes. The PIC reads:

Registry Operator commits to implementing and performing the following protections for the TLD: Registry Operator, as a social enterprise, is driven by its sole mission to support the global HIV response. Therefore, Registry Operator will reinvest all excess profits in projects serving this mission.

Not it’s not exactly an attractive investment opportunity, in terms of pure cash ROI.

But Innovative said there’s another reason to buy: “Approaching .hiv as a corporate philanthropic engagement could have positive effects on public image and employee satisfaction for the buyer.”

.hiv is due to be part of the June 3/4 live gTLD auction, which also includes .promo.

Live gTLD .reise sold at auction

Kevin Murphy, March 3, 2015, Domain Sales

The first auction of a live new gTLD resulted in a sale, I can reveal.

Dotreise’s .reise, which is German for “.travel”, changed hands in an auction managed by Applicant Auction last Friday.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to identify the winning bidder or the winning bid, but the winner’s identity will inevitably be revealed sooner or later.

Applicant Auction had said there was to be a $400,000 starting bid on the gTLD.

.reise has been general availability since August but has only about 1,300 names in its zone file. It retails for up to $180 a year.

If the TLD’s new owner is not Donuts, the company will find itself competing with Donuts’ much cheaper and more popular .reisen.

.blog won in eight-figure auction by Primer Nivel

Kevin Murphy, February 16, 2015, Domain Registries

A Colombian registrar has become the unlikely owner of the coveted .blog new gTLD, beating eight other applicants to the string at auction.

Winning bidder Primer Nivel is a Panamanian company affiliated with Bogota-based CCI REG, which runs my.co.

The company was the first to reveal its plans to apply for .blog, telling DI back in April 2012 about its ambitions of the gTLD.

Rival bidders Radix, Minds + Machines, Donuts, Afilias, Merchant Law Group, BET, Google and Top Level Design all withdrew their applications over the weekend.

We’re certainly looking at an eight-figure sale here.

Kieren McCarthy, writing at The Register, reckons it went for $30 million or more, based on the fact that M+M got $3.4 million for withdrawing from .blog and .store auctions, but his back-of-the-envelope calculations are off-target for a few reasons.

Knowledgeable DI sources say the sale price was considerably lower than $30 million.

My envelope puts it at somewhere in the range of $15 million to $18 million.

I’ve always said .blog is among my favorite new gTLD strings. The market opportunity is potentially huge, with hundreds of millions of blogs live on the web today.

Primer Nivel, which to the best of my knowledge is not (unlike some other applicants) affiliated with a particular blogging platform, plans to operate .blog as an open gTLD.

The separate auction for .store, meanwhile, was won by Radix, after withdrawals from M+M, Donuts, Amazon, Google, Dot Store and Uniregistry this weekend.

.reise to start at $400k in no-reserve auction

Kevin Murphy, February 11, 2015, Domain Registries

Applicant Auction has revealed the starting price of the first live new gTLD to be auctioned off.

Dotreise’s .reise will have a minimum starting bid of $400,000 when it hits the block on February 27, the company revealed.

There will be no reserve.

It seems quite possible that the registry is barely covering its costs, assuming the TLD sells. The application fee was $185,000, and no doubt the company has racked up many more expenses over the last three or four years.

The TLD, which is German for “.travel” has been in general availability since August but has fewer than 1,300 registrations, selling at up to $180 a year.

It competes with Donuts’ $25-a-year .reisen, which pretty much means the same thing.

.reise is first live new gTLD to hit the auction block

Kevin Murphy, January 7, 2015, Domain Registries

German domain registry Dotreise has become the first company to reveal that it wants to sell off a new gTLD.

Innovative Auctions is to handle an auction on February 27 at which Dotreise will attempt to unload the unwanted string, it emerged this evening.

The word “reise” is German for “travel”.

The gTLD has failed to capture much interest since it launched. As of today, it has just 1,254 domains in its zone file, about 1,000 of which were registered in its first week of general availability last August.

At launch, it had just a handful of registrars. Only four registrars sold more than 100 names in August.

It’s currently a relatively big-ticket TLD, which may account for the low sales. It retails for about $170 to $180 at United-Domains, the registrar that has shifted the most .reise names to date.

That would put revenue for .reise at under a quarter of a million dollars a year, based on its current volume, I guess.

It competes with Donuts’ .reisen, which has pretty much the same meaning but has been available a month longer and retails for under $25 a year; .reisen has a slightly bigger zone file, at 3,839 domains.

According to Innovative, the company behind Applicant Auction, which helps settle new gTLD contention sets with auctions:

The .REISE TLA will be a simultaneous ascending clock auction, similar to the format of the Applicant Auction. There will be no buyer commission for this auction, so no additional fees – you just pay the winning price if you win.

It’s a one-day auction.

Innovative had planned to auction off multiple live gTLDs in October, but was hit by delays.

Momentous pays over $3 million for .sucks

Kevin Murphy, November 3, 2014, Domain Registries

Momentous Corp, whose .sucks application has been branded “predatory”, has won the three-way contention set for the new gTLD, according to sources with knowledge of the auction.

The company paid over $3 million for the string, one source said.

Momentous affiliate Vox Populi Registry beat Donuts and Top Level Spectrum, the other applicants, at a private auction I gather was managed by Applicant Auction.

It’s likely to be a controversial win.

Vox Populi has said it plans to charge $25,000 per year for a single Sunrise registration, leading some (myself included) to believe its business model is to exploit the fears of brand owners.

(UPDATE: The company has changed its mind about pricing. It says it won’t charge $25,000 after all.)

In March, US Senator Jay Rockefeller branded the plan nothing more than a “predatory shakedown scheme” with “no socially redeeming value”.

But the company’s CEO, John Berard, told DI last year that .sucks will be an “innovative part of customer service, retention and loyalty”.

Vox Populi is positioning .sucks as a customer feedback tool that companies can budget alongside other pricey items such as retaining a PR agency, for example.

The registry plans to have strict rules against cyber-bullying. The proposed $300-a-year general availability price tag is likely to keep it out of the hands of most schoolyard bullies.

There will also be a “zero tolerance” policy toward parked domains and pornography, according to its web site.

That’s unlikely to calm the concerns of trademark owners, however.

.sucks is a gTLD that many advisers have been characterizing as a “must-have” for companies worried about their online image, rather like .xxx was a few years ago.

Vox Populi started accepting Sunrise pre-registrations for $2,500 on its web site last December, but that offer does not appear to be still available.

Multiple live gTLDs will be auctioned in October

Kevin Murphy, September 23, 2014, Domain Registries

Exactly 11 months after the first new gTLDs were delegated to the DNS root, DI has learned that a batch of live gTLDs are heading to auction for the first time.

There’s now officially an aftermarket for top-level domains.

“Multiple” delegated 2012-round new gTLDs will be auctioned off next month, with the exact date yet to be finalized, according to a reliable source.

The venue will be Applicant Auction, which has been helping applicants resolve gTLD contention sets via private auction for the last year.

The auction is understood to be invitation-only and the identities of the gTLDs up for grabs, and their associated registries, are a closely-guarded secret.

What conclusions we can come to will rather depend on which gTLDs are being sold.

If they’re gTLDs that are already in general availability, and perhaps have suffered worse-than-expected sales, it probably wouldn’t look very good for the new gTLD program.

But if they’re pre-launch strings belonging to portfolio applicants that have always looked like obvious investment vehicles, the optics might not be as damaging.

We’ll have to wait and see. If the auctions are successful, at some point over the next couple of months we can expect to see one or more new gTLDs change hands.

It won’t be the first time a gTLD has been bought — successful applicants from earlier rounds have been acquired by larger competitors — but it will be the first time a delegated new gTLD has been auctioned off when it’s still basically an unproven asset rather than a full-blown business.

It could be the first example of “domaining” with TLDs.

In this round, NCC Group bought .trust — an uncontested application with no ICANN contract — from Deutshe Post in February, while Rightside has acquired some TLDs from Donuts under a pre-existing deal.

Are you ready to sell your new gTLD yet?

Applicant Auction wants to know.

The company, which was set up to help resolve new gTLD contention sets, has started pitching its services to the owners of gTLDs that are already delegated.

An email sent out to applicants this week says:

Many people approach us with interest in purchasing strings, so we are offering a new auction where gTLD owners can sell their string in a open auction.

I gather that the company is targeting both live registries and applicants for uncontested strings.

It’s sad to say, but I think there might even be a market for it.

The laid-back “if we build it, they will come” mentality among applicants seems to have been a lot more prevalent than I had anticipated, which has resulted in depressing sales for some new gTLDs.

Will any of them decide to cash out early rather than putting in the time and money to make their businesses work over the long haul? It remains to be seen.

Millions spent on new gTLDs as 11 auctions settled

Kevin Murphy, April 30, 2014, Domain Registries

New gTLD portfolio applicants settled at least 11 new gTLD contention sets last week, sharing the spoils of a private auction that looks to have totaled seven figures in sales.

Applicant Auction carried out auctions for 13 contested strings last week, which I believe lasted at least three days.

I’ve been able to determine that Donuts won six sets, Uniregistry won three and Minds + Machines won two. Radix seems to have lost at least five auctions, walking away with a great big pile of cash instead.

.hosting — Uniregistry won after Radix (which owns .host) withdrew.

.click — Uniregistry beat Radix.

.property — Uniregistry won after withdrawals from M+M and Donuts.

.yoga — M+M won, beating Donuts and Uniregistry.

.garden — M+M beat Donuts and Uniregistry again.

.娱乐 — Donuts won this string (Chinese for “.entertainment”) after Morden Media withdrew.

.deals — Donuts beat M+M and Radix.

.city — Donuts beat TLD Registry and Radix.

.forsale — Donuts beat DERForsale.

.world — Donuts beat Radix.

.band — Donuts beat What Box?

Minds + Machines disclosed this morning that the four auctions in which it was involved cost it $5.97 million.

It’s not possible to work out how much .garden and .yoga cost the company; the $5.97 million figure is net of the money it won by losing .property and .deals, ICANN refunds and auctioneer commissions.

However, it seems reasonable to assume that the average price of a gTLD, even not particularly attractive ones (.garden? Really?), has sharply risen from the $1.33 million I calculated from the first 14 auctions.

In January, M+M raised roughly $33.6 million for auctions with a private share placement. The company is listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market.

The company said it now has an interest in 28 uncontested applications.

Also today, the Canadian Real Estate Association withdrew its Community application for .mls, but this is not believed to be related to the auctions. It has a non-Community application for the same string remaining.

.wedding and .green gTLD auctions raise millions

Kevin Murphy, February 25, 2014, Domain Registries

Two more new gTLDs — .wedding and .green — have been auctioned off, with proceeds amounting to millions of dollars.

Top Level Domain Holdings said in a press release that it won .wedding and lost .green, which cost it a net $2.23 million.

That’s the amount it paid for .wedding, minus its share of the .green winning bid and its ICANN refund for withdrawing its .green application.

I don’t think we can infer the exact sale price of .wedding from that, other than to say that it was definitely over $2.2 million.

TLDH did not say who won the .green auction. The only other remaining applicants, after Dot Green’s withdrawal last year, were Rightside and Afilias. Neither has withdrawn their applications yet.

In the .wedding auction, conducted by Applicant Auction, it beat rival portfolio applicants Donuts and What Box?

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