NCC Group has followed through on its promise to divest parts of its domain business, selling the Open Registry collection of companies at a huge discount to the original purchase price.
KeyDrive and a mysterious entity called Terrain.com SA have together acquired the companies for €3.75 million ($3.97 million).
That’s compared to the minimum of £7.9 million ($12 million) NCC originally paid just two years ago.
NCC said in a statement that the sold companies are:
- Open Registry SA, a registry back-end provider with a handful of new gTLD clients.
- ClearingHouse for Intellectual Property SA, aka CHIP, which provides software and billing support for the Trademark Clearinghouse.
- Nexperteam CVBA, a tiny registrar.
- Sensirius CVBA, the original Open Registry company, a new gTLD consultancy.
Missing from that list is Artemis, the new gTLD registry for .trust, which NCC separately acquired from Deutsche Post for an undisclosed sum in February 2014.
NCC is also keeping hold of its data escrow business, which is widely used by gTLD registries to comply with ICANN rules.
It’s not clear how the sold companies are being divided up between the two buyers.
KeyDrive is the Luxembourg-based holding company for the registrars Key-Systems and Moniker and other domain firms.
Terrain.com appears to belong to EuroDNS chair Xavier Buck, who was chair of Open Registry until NCC bought it, but the domain itself doesn’t seem to resolve right now.
NCC said that €2 million will be paid up front and €1.75 million will be deferred for 18 months.
Amazon is now the proud owner of the .secure new gTLD, after much smaller competing applicant Artemis Internet withdrew its bid.
Coincidentally, the settlement of the contention set came just yesterday, the day before Artemis took its .trust — which I’ve described as a “backup plan” — to sunrise.
I assume .secure was settled with a private deal. I’ve long suspected Artemis — affiliated with data escrow provider NCC Group — had its work cut out to win an auction against Amazon.
It’s a shame, in a way. Artemis was one of the few new gTLD applicants that had actually sketched out plans for something quite technologically innovative.
Artemis’ .secure was to be a “trust mark” for a high-priced managed security service. It wasn’t really about selling domain names in volume at all.
The company had done a fair bit of outreach work, too. As long ago as July 2013, around 30 companies had expressed their interest in signing up as anchor tenants.
But, after ICANN gave Amazon a get-out-of-jail-free card by allowing it to amend its “closed generic” gTLD applications, it looked increasingly unlikely Artemis would wind up owning the gTLD it was essentially already pre-selling.
In February this year, it emerged that it had acquired the rights to .trust from Deutsche Post, which had applied for the gTLD unopposed.
This Plan B was realized today when .trust began its contractually mandated sunrise period.
Don’t expect many brands to apply for their names during sunrise, however — .trust’s standard registration policies are going to make cybersquatting non-existent.
Not only will .trust registrants have their identities manually vetted, but there’s also a hefty set of security standards — 123 pages (pdf) of them at the current count — that registrants will have to abide by on an ongoing basis in order to keep their names.
As for Amazon, its .secure application, as amended, is just as vague as all of its other former bids for closed, single-registrant generic strings (to the point where I often wonder if they’re basically still just closed generics).
It’s planning to deploy a small number of names to start with, managed by its own intellectually property department. After that, its application all gets a bit hand-wavey.
Yahoo has reportedly hired a new chief information security officer in the form of Alex Stamos, outspoken CTO of .secure new gTLD applicant Artemis Internet.
The news of Stamos’ departure was first reported by Re/code, citing unnamed sources, a week ago.
Stamos did not respond to a DI request for comment but I gather he’s been flagging up his departure from Artemis on ICANN mailing lists.
According to Re/code, he’s going to be Yahoo’s first CISO for a year.
Stamos’ departure will be a blow for Artemis, which is owned by escrow provide NCC Group. He has been, I think, I pretty good front man for the company over the last couple of years.
I also wonder whether he sensed which way the wind is blowing in the .secure contention set, in which Artemis is in a two-horse race with the much wealthier Amazon.
NCC also recently bought the .trust application from Deutsche Post, which looked a bit to me like a backup plan.
NCC Group, owner of .secure applicant Artemis, has bought the rights to .trust from Deutsche Post, which has an uncontested bid for the new gTLD but decided it doesn’t want it.
The price tag of the deal was not disclosed.
NCC, which is also one of the two major data escrow providers supporting new gTLD applicants, said in a statement:
Deutsche Post originally obtained the gTLD through ICANN’s new gTLD allocation process during 2013 but has now chosen not to utilise it.
NCC Group will use .trust as the primary vehicle for launching its Artemis internet security service, which aims to create global internet safety through a secure and trusted environment for selected customers.
The Group remains in the contention stage with its application to ICANN for the .secure gTLD. It believes that there will be a benefit in having a number of complementary named gTLDs, all of which offer the same high levels of internet security.
While Artemis has applied for .secure, it’s facing competition from the much richer Amazon.
Its initial hope that Amazon’s bid would be rejected due to the controversy over “closed generics” seems to have been dashed after Amazon was allowed to change its application.
NCC may be characterizing .trust as an “additional” security TLD, but it’s quite possible it will be its “only” one.
Deutsche Post, which as owner of DHL is the world’s largest courier service, has passed Initial Evaluation on .trust but has not yet signed its ICANN contract.
ICANN’s web site still shows Deutsche Post as the applicant for .trust and it’s not clear from NCC’s statement how the transfer would be handled.
ICANN chair Steve Crocker is among a packed line-up of speakers for an event on Tuesday that will address the potential security risks of name collisions in the new gTLD program.
It’s the second TLD Security Forum, which are organized by new gTLD applicants unhappy with ICANN’s proposal to delay hundreds of “uncalculated risk” applied-for gTLDs.
The first event, held in August, was notable for statements playing down the risk from the likes of Google and Digicert.
While Crocker is scheduled to speak on Tuesday, anyone expecting insight into the ICANN board’s thinking on name collisions is likely to be disappointed.
The title of his talk is “The Current State of DNSSEC Deployment”, which isn’t directly relevant to the issue.
Crocker, due to conflicts of interest protections, is also not a member of ICANN’s New gTLD Program Committee, which is tasked with making decisions about the collision problem.
While Crocker’s views may wind up remaining private, we can’t say the same for Amy Mushahwar and Dan Jaffe, representing the Association of National Advertisers, both of whom are also speaking.
The ANA is firmly in the Verisign camp on this issue, claiming that gTLD name collisions create unacceptable security risks for organizations on the internet.
Also on the line-up for Tuesday are Laureen Kapin of the US Federal Trade Commission and Gabriel Rottman of the American Civil Liberties Union, both of whom could bring new perspectives to the debate.
The TLD Security Forum begins at 9am at the Washington Hilton and Heights Meeting Center in Washington, DC. It’s free to attend and will be webcast for those unable to show up in person.