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.now and .realestate will be restricted, but Donuts keeps .tires open

Kevin Murphy, October 7, 2014, Domain Registries

It was a battle between open and restricted registration rules this week, as three more new gTLD contention sets were resolved between applicants with opposing policies.

Donuts won .tires (open), Amazon won .now (closed) and the National Association of Realtors won .realestate (restricted).

Donuts beat Goodyear and Bridgestone — two of the biggest tire companies in the world — to .tires. Both withdrew their respective applications over the last week.

If it was an auction it was not conducted via the usual new gTLD auction houses. It seems like Donuts settled the contention privately (or maybe just got lucky).

Both tire companies had proposed single-registrant closed generic spaces. Donuts, of course, has not.

Goodyear has active dot-brand applications for .goodyear and .dunlop remaining. Bridgestone has active applications for .bridgestone and .firestone, also dot-brands.

Amazon, meanwhile, won the .now contention set over five other applicants — Starbucks HK, XYZ.com, One.com, Global Top Level and Donuts, which have all withdrawn their bids.

Amazon’s application for .now envisages a closed registry in which all the second-level domains belong to the company’s intellectual property department.

Also this week, the NAR, which already has the dot-brand .realtor under its belt, beat Donuts, Minds + Machines and Uniregistry to the complementary generic .realestate.

Unfortunately for estate agents worldwide, the NAR plans a tightly restricted .realestate zone, in which only its own members will at first be able to register, according to its application.

The application does seem to envisage a time when others will be permitted to register, however.

The organization said in a press release this week that .realestate will be more open than .realtor, but that full policies will not be released until next year.

Afilias loses Chinese .info as seven more new gTLD auctions conclude

Kevin Murphy, September 24, 2014, Domain Registries

Today news has reached us via various channels that seven new gTLD contention sets have been settled, all is seems via private auction.

Notably, Afilias has lost the opportunity to run the Chinese-script version of its 14-year-old .info TLD to Beijing Tele-info Network Technology Co, the only other applicant.

The Beijing company’s application says the string .信息 means: “knowledge or message in the form suitable for communications, storage, or processing, which is closely related to notions of form, meaning, pattern, perception, representation, and entropy.”

Afilias said it means “info”.

Separately, in a press release today, Minds + Machines said that it has won the auctions for two gTLDs — .law and .vip — and lost the auctions for several more.

In .law it beat NU DOT CO, Donuts, Radix, Merchant Law Group and Famous Four Media. In .vip it beat Google, VIP Registry, Donuts, I-Registry and Vipspace Enterprises.

From the auctions M+M said it lost we can infer that .design and .realestate contention sets are also now settled, but we haven’t seen any withdrawals yet so we don’t know the winners.

M+M said it netted $6.2 million cash by winning .law and .vip and losing .design, .flowers, .group, .realestate and .video.

From today’s new withdrawals we can see that Uniregistry won .auto against Fegistry, Donuts and Dot Auto, while Donuts won .memorial against Afilias and dotCOOL.

UPDATE: Thanks to Jim in the comments for the reminder that the “Chinese .info” auction happened back in June. The TLD fetched $600,000 at an ICANN last-resort auction.

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.

Accent wins .tickets auction after $1.6m CentralNic investment

Kevin Murphy, September 22, 2014, Domain Registries

Accent Media, one of four applicants for .tickets, has won the new gTLD at auction after receiving a $1.62 million investment from CentralNic.

As part of the deal, Accent has dumped Afilias as its back-end provider and will switch to CentralNic instead.

Competing applicants Donuts, Famous Four Media, Shubert Internet and Tickets TLD are now expected to pull their applications, though none appear to have had their withdrawals accepted by ICANN yet.

It’s not clear how much .tickets sold for.

CentralNic acquired a 12% stake in Accent in exchange for its investment. Both companies are based in the UK.

The deal is believed to be unrelated to the $1.5 million investment in a gTLD applicant that CentralNic announced — with the proceeds earmarked for auction — last week.

Accent has applied for a quite restricted TLD, with anti-fraud measures at its heart. Its authenticated registration process is described as being a bit like the process of buying an SSL certificate.

CentralNic CEO Ben Crawford said in a statement:

The “.tickets” Top-Level Domain will be a compelling new tool to assist consumers to easily identify legitimate and trusted ticket sales sites, as well as empowering venues, entertainers and sports organizations to improve their use of the internet for enabling fans to purchase tickets. This investment realizes our strategy of investing in Top-Level Domain applicants as well as operating as a business partner to their operators.

CentralNic invests $1.5m in mystery gTLD applicant

Kevin Murphy, September 18, 2014, Domain Registries

Registry back-end provider CentralNic has stumped up $1.5 million to back a new gTLD applicant in a forthcoming private auction.

CentralNic CEO Ben Crawford declined to identify the beneficiary.

The company has also not disclosed what stake in the target company it will obtain if it wins the auction.

Here’s the entirety of the statement the company released to the market this afternoon:

CentralNic plc (AIM:CNIC), the internet platform business which derives revenues from the global sale of domain names, today announces that the Group intends to invest US$1.5 million in a Company which is in a contention set to acquire a new generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”). The funds will be placed into an escrow account, pending the resolution of the contention set, with the winning applicant expected to be resolved by a private auction within the next two weeks. The investment is contingent upon the Applicant Company successfully obtaining the rights to the gTLD by winning the auction. If the company is unsuccessful, the funds will be returned in full to CentralNic by the escrow agent.

Assuming CentralNic is investing in an existing registry services client, possible beneficiaries include Top Level Design, Fegistry, Merchant Law Group and XYZ.com.

These clients have more than 20 applications in contention right now, but not all of them could plausibly head to private auction soon.

Some have been blocked, some are in contention sets with applicants that do not participate in private auctions, and some strings have been applied for by more than one CentralNic client.

With those criteria in mind, one could possibly narrow down the target string to: .auto, .cafe, .chat, .design, .forum, .gay, .golf, .law, .news, .now, .realty, .school, .style or .sucks.