Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

.blog tops 200,000 regs due to WordPress partnership

Knock Knock Whois There, the WordPress-affiliated .blog registry, said today that it has topped 200,000 names for the first time.

The milestone comes after about 28 months of general availability, during which growth has been slow but stable.

The company said it has a respectable renewal rate of 72.74%, which is only a couple of points behind .com.

KKWT’s relationship with its parent company, Automattic, owner of WordPress.com and an accredited registrar in its own right, has been crucial to .blog’s growth.

According to registry transaction reports, two-thirds of all .blog domains are sold via Automattic, which had over 128,000 .blog domains under management at the end of 2018.

Tucows is a distant second, with about 10,000 names.

Automattic promotes .blog prominently on its registrar site, selling for $18.95 a year.

But it’s still sold more .com domains, over half a million so far, at the slightly cheaper price of $15 per year.

.blog tops 100,000 names, 66,500 blogs

The new gTLD .blog has gone through the 100,000 registered domain mark, according to its registry.

Knock Knock Whois There said that the milestone was reached with the registration of kitchenmagic.blog today.

It’s a pretty good start for the gTLD, which went into general availability last November, making for an average of 12,500 names added per month.

While KKWT has offered discounts and volume incentives to registrars, its wholesale prices have not approached levels low enough to start attracting abusive use en masse. We’re talking around the $8 mark at the cheapest, I hear.

In fact, the registry said today that it reckons 66.5% of its domains — 66,500, in other words — “have a unique website associated with them”, compared with an industry average under 40%.

Both of those statistics seem to have been supplied by Pandalytics, the DomainsBot service to which KKWT subscribes, and do not appear to be publicly available.

If accurate, 66.5% usage is a much better statistic to brag about than 100,000 registrations, in my view. Usage, of course, drives the virtuous circle that leads to more sales.

.blog renewal prices will not go up, registry promises

Knock Knock Whois There, the .blog registry, has promised not to raise its wholesale fees on existing registrations.

The company, which is affiliated with WordPress, seems to have made the move in response to ongoing registrar discomfort following Uniregistry’s plan to significant raise the price of several of its new gTLDs (which has since been backpedaled).

The promise has been baked into the Registry-Registrar Agreement under which all of its registrars can sell .blog names.

The new RRA reads (with the new text in italics):

5.1.1. Registrar agrees to pay Registry Operator or its designee in accordance with the fee schedule set forth in Exhibit A for initial and renewal registrations and other services provided by Registry Operator to Registrar (collectively, “Fees”). Registry Operator reserves the right, from time to time, to modify the Fees in a manner consistent with ICANN policies and Registry Policies. However, once a domain is registered, Registry Operator will not modify the Renewal Fee of that domain.

This of course leaves the door open for KKWT to increase the price of a new registration, but it seems renewal prices are frozen.

I believe the current wholesale .blog fee starts at $16 per year.

The new RRA also adds ICANN-mandated language concerning the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy and a clarification about registrar legal indemnifications, KKWT said.

After shaky start, .blog launches today

Kevin Murphy, November 21, 2016, Domain Registries

The new gTLD .blog goes into general availability today, after some mild controversy about the way the registry allocated reserved domain names.

Knock Knock Whois There, the registry affiliated with WordPress maker Automattic, last week apologized to some would-be customers for declining to honor some landrush pre-registrations.

Some registrants had complained that domains that were accepted for pre-registration were subsequently added to KKWT’s list of registry-reserved names, making them unavailable for registration.

KKWT said in a blog post Thursday that the confusion was due to it not having finalized its reserved list until just before its landrush period kicked off, November 2.

Registrars, including those accepting pre-registrations, were not given the final lists until the last minute.

Landrush applications cost around $250 but were refundable.

KKWT also revealed the make-up of its founders program domains, the 100-strong list of names it was allowed to allocate pre-sunrise.

The founders program currently seems to be a bit of a friends-and-family affair.

Of the 25 live founder sites currently listed, about 20 appear to be owned by the registry, its employees and close affiliates.

The registry said in its blog post that 25 super-generic domains had been given to WordPress.com. It seems the blog host will offer third-level names in these domains for free to its customers.

.blog had 1,743 domains in its zone file yesterday.

General availability starts about 30 minutes from the time this post was posted, at 1500 UTC. Prices are around the $30 mark.

Could ICANN reject Verisign’s $135m .web bid?

Kevin Murphy, September 21, 2016, Domain Registries

ICANN is looking into demands for it to throw out Verisign’s covert $135 million winning bid for the highly prized .web gTLD.

ICANN last week told the judge hearing Donuts’ .web-related lawsuit that it is “currently in the process of investigating certain of the issues raised” by Donuts through its “internal accountability mechanisms”.

Donuts is suing for $22.5 million, claiming ICANN should have forced Nu Dot Co to disclose that its .web bid was being secretly bankrolled by Verisign and alleging that the .com heavyweight used NDC as cover to avoid regulatory scrutiny.

ICANN’s latest filing (pdf), made jointly with Donuts, asked for an extension to October 26 of ICANN’s deadline to file a response to Donuts’ complaint.

It was granted, the second time the deadline has been extended, but the judge warned it was also the final time.

The referenced “internal accountability mechanism” would seem to mean the Cooperative Engagement Process — a low-formality bilateral negotiation — that Donuts and fellow .web bidder Radix initiated against ICANN August 2.

The filing states that the “resolution of certain issues in controversy may be aided by allowing [ICANN] to complete its investigation of [Donuts’] allegations prior to the filing of its responsive pleading.”

In other words, Donuts is either hopeful that ICANN may be able to resolve some of its complaints in the next month, or it’s not particularly impatient about the case progressing.

Meanwhile, fellow .web applicant Afilias has demanded for the second time that ICANN hand over .web to it, as the second-highest bidder, throwing out the NDC/Verisign application.

In a September 9 letter, published last night, Afilias told ICANN to “disqualify and reject” NDC’s application, alleging at least three breaches of ICANN rules.

Afilias says that by refusing to disclose Verisign’s support for its bid, NDC broke the rules and should have its application thrown out.

The company also confirmed on the public record for what I believe is the first time that it was the second-highest bidder in the July 27 auction.

Afilias would pay somewhere between $57.5 million and $71.9 million for the gTLD, depending on what the high bid of the third-placed applicant was.

In its new letter, Afilias says NDC broke the rule from the Applicant Guidebook that does not allow applicants to “resell, assign or transfer any of applicant’s rights or obligations in connection with the application”.

It also says that NDC was obliged by the AGB to notify ICANN of “changes in financial position and changes in ownership or control”, which it did not.

It finally says that Verisign used NDC as a front during the auction, in violation of auction rules.

“In these circumstances, we submit that ICANN should disqualify NDC’s bid and offer to accept the application of Afilias, which placed the second highest exit bid,” Afilias general counsel Scott Hemphill wrote (pdf).

Hemphill told ICANN to defer from signing a Registry Agreement with NDC or Verisign, strongly implying that Afilias intends to invoke ICANN accountability mechanisms (presumably meaning the Request for Reconsideration process and/or Independent Review Process).

While Afilias and Donuts are both taking issue with the secretive nature of Verisign’s acquisition of .web, they’re not necessarily fighting the same corner.

Donuts is looking for $22.5 million because that’s roughly what it would have received if the .web contention set had been resolved via private auction and $135 million had been the winning bid.

But Afilias wants the ICANN auction outcome to stand, albeit with NDC’s top bid rejected. That would mean Donuts, Radix, and the other applicants would still receive nothing.

There’s also the question of other new gTLD applications that have prevailed at auction and been immediately transferred to third-party non-applicants.

The most notable example of this was .blog, which was won by shell company Primer Nivel with secretive backing from WordPress maker Automattic.

Donuts itself regularly wins gTLD auctions and immediately transfers its contracts to Rightside under a pre-existing agreement.

In both of those cases, the reassignment deals predated, but were not disclosed in, the respective applications.

There’s the recipe here for a messy, protracted bun fight over .web, which should come as no surprise to anyone.