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English beats Portuguese in $2.2m .hotels auction

Kevin Murphy, November 19, 2015, Domain Registries has won the right to operate .hotels after an auction concluded a protracted fight over the gTLD.

In an ICANN-run auction yesterday, prevailed with a winning bid of $2.2 million.

Its sole competitors was Travel Reservations (formerly Despegar Online), which had applied for the Portuguese word .hoteis.

In 2012, a String Similarity Review panel concluded that .hotels and .hoteis look too similar to coexist, due to the likelihood of confusion between I and l in sans-serif fonts.

Neither applicant agreed with that decision, knowing that it would result in a expensive auction, and filed a Request for Reconsideration and then, in March 2013, an Independent Review Process complaint.

After two years, it lost the IRP. But the panel said it had “legitimate concerns” about the fairness of the SSR process and ordered ICANN to pay half of its costs.

Now, has had to fork out another $2.2 million for the string.

That’s not particularly expensive as ICANN-auctioned gTLDs go. Eight of the 13 other strings ICANN has auctioned have sold for more.

ICANN’s auction proceeds to date now stands at $63,489,127, which is being held in a separate bank account for purposes yet to be determined. just gave itself another reason to bid high for .web gTLD

Kevin Murphy, November 9, 2015, Domain Registrars

Registrar group is changing its stock market ticker symbol to WEB tomorrow, in another sign that it really, really wants to be identified with the string.

The switch from WWWW may indicate that the NASDAQ-listed company’s six rivals for the new gTLD .web have a fight — and a possible big payday — on their hands when .web finally goes to auction. is competing with Nu Dot Co, Radix, Google, Donuts, Afilias and Schlund for the gTLD.

The company has already fiercely defended its “right” to .web, filing successful String Confusion Objections against .webs applicant Vistaprint.

Vistaprint subsequently filed an ICANN Independent Review Process complaint to appeal its SCO loss.

Last month, the IRP was won by ICANN, but the panel left the door open for ICANN to reconsider its decision.

The .web auction is not likely to go ahead until the Vistaprint issue is resolved.

If ICANN decides the two strings can be delegated separately, what I think is the last barrier to the .web auction going ahead disappears.

If not, then Vistaprint finds itself as the seventh contender in the auction, which may give it the impetus to carry on challenging the ruling.

ICANN’s board plans to discuss the issue at its next meeting, December 10.

Which way it leans will give an indication of how long it will be before .web goes to auction.

Correction: .shop auction weirder than I thought

Kevin Murphy, November 2, 2015, Domain Registries

The upcoming auction for .shop and .shopping new gTLDs is weird, but in a different way to which I reported on Friday.

The actual rules, which are pretty complicated, mean that one applicant could win a gTLD auction without spending a single penny.

The nine applicants for .shop and the two applicants for .shopping are not necessarily all fighting it out to be a single victor, which is what I originally reported.

Rather, it seems to be certain that both .shop and .shopping will wind up being delegated.

The ICANN rules about indirect contention are not well-documented, as far as I can tell.

When I originally reported on the rules exactly two years ago today, I thought an animated GIF of a man’s head exploding was an appropriate way to end the story.

In the .shop/.shopping case, it seems that all 11 applications — nine for .shop and two for .shopping — will be lumped into the same auction.

Which applicant drops out first will determine whether both strings get delegated or only one.

Uniregistry and Donuts have applied for .shopping, but only Donuts’ application is in contention with Commercial Connect’s .shop application (due to a String Confusion Objection).

As Donuts has applied for both .shop and .shopping, it will be submitting separate bids for each application during the auction.

The auction could play out in one of three general ways.

Commercial Connect drops out. If Commercial Connect finds the .shop auction getting too rich for it and drops out, the .shopping contention set will immediately become an entirely separate auction between Uniregistry and Donuts. In this scenario, both .shop and .shopping get to become real gTLDs.

Donuts drops its .shopping bid. If Donuts drops its bid for .shopping, Uniregistry is no longer in indirect contention with Commercial Connect’s .shop application, so it gets .shopping for free.

Commercial Connect wins .shop. If Commercial Connect prevails in .shop, that means Donuts has withdrawn from the .shopping auction and Uniregistry wins.

It’s complicated, and doesn’t make a lot of logical sense, but it seems them’s the rules.

It could have been even more complex. Until recently, Amazon’s application for .通販 was also in indirect contention with .shop.

Thanks to Rubens Kuhl of for pointing out the error.

Who wants ICANN’s $60m gTLD windfall?

Kevin Murphy, September 9, 2015, Domain Policy

ICANN has opened a formal public comment period to move forward discussions on how it should spend the almost $60 million it has so far received in new gTLD auction proceeds.

It’s not yet looking for concrete suggestions on how to spend the money — this is a pre-consultation consultation — it’s only looking for comments on the principles that should be considered when discussions take place.

ICANN has so far raised $58.8 million from “last resort” new gTLD auctions. With 27 contention sets remaining, that number could go up if one or more applicants refuse to participate in private auctions.

The GNSO Council has been moving to create a Cross-Community Working Group to discuss how the money should be spent, but clashed briefly with the ICANN board, which has said it will make the ultimate decision, earlier this year.

The new paper (get it here) basically asks questions along the lines of: who should decide where the money goes? How should conflicts of interest be handled? How much third-party expert opinion should be solicited? How much say should the board have? How much outreach should there be?

Underpinning it all is the implicit problem that the longer, more detailed and more convoluted the process, the less money there will be to actually distribute at the end.

Knowing the ICANN community’s propensity for convolution, I wouldn’t be surprised if it managed to spunk the whole lot on expert advice, working group travel, lawsuits and coffee.

(Okay, I would actually be surprised, but you get my point).

The paper also includes links to about 20 spending suggestions that have been made in various public fora over the last couple of years.

Some ideas include: giving it back to the applicants, funding open source DNS software, reducing the new gTLD application fee, marketing new gTLDs to registrants, and donating it to charity.

It does not appear to be true that ICANN slipped in one of its own management’s suggestions in an attempt to funnel off new gTLD money into the unpopular NetMundial initiative, as has been alleged elsewhere today. The NetMundial suggestion referred to in the paper actually came from Danny Aerts of Swedish ccTLD manager IIS.

M+M gets $3.5m from two gTLD auctions

Kevin Murphy, August 27, 2015, Domain Sales

Minds + Machines secured loser fees totaling $3.5 million from its participation in .art and .data new gTLD auctions, the company disclosed today.

It seems .data was auctioned recently. It was a three-applicant string and none of the applicants have yet withdrawn their applications.

It seems either Donuts or brand applicant Dish DBS won the string.

The .art auction happened well over a month ago, with the final losing applicant withdrawing on July 23.

UK Creative Ideas won .art. Whatever it paid for the string would have been shared between nine competing applicants.

M+M also said that “strong interest” (presumably no sales yet) has been expressed in its $15,000+ “super premium” registry-reserved names, and that it has sold 20 premium names in its .london auction last month.