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Verisign loses .art contract to CentralNic

CentralNic has been awarded the back-end contract for the forthcoming .art gTLD, usurping Verisign from the role.

UK Creative Ideas, which bought .art at a private auction for an undisclosed sum a year ago, appointed the company its “exclusive registry service provider”, CentralNic said.

UKCI’s original .art application named Verisign as its back-end, and this is not the first time CentralNic has sneaked away a Verisign client.

When XYZ.com acquired .theatre, and .security and .protection from Symantec, it moved them from Verisign to its .xyz provider CentralNic.

That earned XYZ and CentralNic a contract interference lawsuit, which XYZ settled in May.

Clearly litigation has not managed to chill competition in this instance.

.art is set to launch in stages over the next 12 months, CentralNic said.

UKCI estimated in its ICANN application that it would get between 25,000 and 80,000 registrations in its first year.

That may prove to be optimistic, at least at the high end.

UKCI’s vision for .art is for a restricted gTLD, which don’t tend to do huge volumes. I believe the largest restricted new gTLD is .nyc, with about 75,000 names in its zone.

All .art registrants will have to show some kind of connection to the art world, according to UKCI’s application.

This includes artists, owners and keepers of works of art, commercial art organisations (such as galleries and auction and trading houses), not-for-profit organisations (such as museums, foundations, and professional associations), supporting businesses (such as insurance, appraisal, transport) and customers and members of the general public interested in art.

Goodness knows how this will be implemented in practice, given that basically everyone is an artist to some extent.

UKCI is based in the Isle of Man, the UK dependency presumably selected for tax reasons rather than any connection to the art world, and is backed by Russian venture capitalists.

CentralNic doing okay out of new gTLDs

Local former rival Minds + Machines may be struggling to turn a profit, but CentralNic seems to be doing quite well out of this new gTLD malarkey.

But not as well as you might expect. Large growth at its clients does not appear to have translated to a whole lot more revenue for CentralNic itself.

The company yesterday reported 2015 profit before tax of £1.45 million ($2.13 million), compared to £520,000 in 2014, on revenue up 71% at £10.39 million ($15.28 million).

While it may be best known nowadays as a back-end registry provider, its revenue is now fairly evenly split over its three reporting segments.

CentralNic runs the back-end registry for volume gTLDs including .xyz and Radix’s .site, .online, .website, and .space.

The company calls this “wholesale domain sales”, and it brought in £3.12 million last year, compared to £2.82 million in 2014.

You might think that the volume success of .xyz, which added about a million names in 2015, might have translated into a bigger boost, but it didn’t.

Its registrar business, which it got into through the acquisitions of Internet.bs and Instra, brought in £3.4 million, compared to £1.55 million in 2014.

Its third segment, “Enterprise including Premium Domain Name Sales” saw revenue of £3.85 million, compared to $1.69 million.

The enterprise business, which also included two software licenses and revenue from dot-brand clients, is easily the most profitable segment, with a 67% EBITDA margin. For wholesale, it’s 44%.

The £3.8 million of enterprise revenue included £3.22 million premium name sales, of which over £3 million came from a single buyer.

It’s not clear whether this was a single domain deal or a package of premiums, but it represents the most volatile element of CentralNic’s revenue.

Update (May 30) — This article originally misidentified “Company A” and “Company B” in CentralNic’s accounts as registry clients. In fact, according to CEO Ben Crawford, they’re registrar channel partners.

XYZ settles Verisign’s back-end switcheroo lawsuit

XYZ.com has settled a lawsuit filed against it against Verisign stemming from XYZ’s acquisition of .theatre, .security and .protection.

Verisign sued the new gTLD registry operator for “interfering” with its back-end contracts with the previous owners last August, as part of its campaign to compete against new gTLDs in the courtroom.

XYZ had acquired the .security and .protection ICANN contracts from security Symantec, and .theatre from a company called KBE Holdings.

As part of the transitions, all three applications were modified with ICANN to name CentralNic as the back-end registry services provider, replacing Verisign.

Verisign sued on the basis of tortious interference and business conspiracy. It was thrown out of court in November then amended and re-filed.

But the case appears to have now been settled.

Negari issued a grovelling not-quite-apology statement on his blog:

I am pleased to report that the recent case filed by Verisign against CentralNic, Ltd., XYZ and myself has been settled. After looking at the claims in dispute, we regret that as a result of our acquisition of the .theatre, .security and .protection extensions and our arrangement for CentralNic to serve as the backend service provider for these extensions, that Verisign was prevented from the opportunity to pursue monetization of those relationships. As ICANN’s new gTLD program continues to evolve, we would caution others who find themselves in similar situations to be mindful of the existing contracts extension owners may have with third parties.

Registries changing their minds about their back-end provider is not unheard of.

In this case, large portions of Verisign’s final amended complaint were redacted, suggesting some peculiarities to this particular switch.

If there was a monetary component to the settlement, it was not disclosed. The original Verisign complaint had demanded damages of over $2 million.

CentralNic to swell with $24m Instra buy

Kevin Murphy, December 8, 2015, Domain Registrars

CentralNic is set to grow revenue by almost three quarters by acquiring Australian registrar Instra for $23.7 million.

The acquisition is for AUD 33 million, AUD 30 million of which will be in cash.

CentralNic plans to raise £10 million ($15 million) with a share placement to help fund the deal.

“This acquisition will grow our current revenues by 70% and extend our retail capabilities to serve customers in the fast growing emerging markets, globally,” CEO Ben Crawford said in a statement to the markets.

Instra had revenue of AUD 14.8 million ($10.7 million) in its fiscal 2015, and was profitable.

CentralNic’s revenue for the first half of this year was £4.4 million ($6.8 million).

The deal makes CentralNic, which started life as a registry, a much larger player in the registrar market.

It acquired Internet.bs for $7.5 million a couple of years ago, which brought in $2.8 million of revenue in the first half of this year.

Instra offers 150 ccTLDs and all the gTLDs, according to CentralNic.

Retail sales see CentralNic over double revenue

Kevin Murphy, September 16, 2015, Domain Registries

CentralNic saw a huge 171% increase in revenue and a tripling of billings in the first half of the year, based on its newly acquired retail business and the sale of premium names.

For the six months to the end of June, the London-based firm saw revenue of £4.4 million ($6.8 million) compared to £1.6 million ($2.5 million) a year earlier.

It moved into profit during the period, netting £287,000 ($442,000) after tax compared to a loss of £599,000 in the 2014 period.

CentralNic broke down its numbers into segments, showing that its new business areas were responsible for most of the growth, while the core registry business was relatively slow.

Registry was up 13% to £1.6 million ($2.5 million).

The new registrar business, which is lead by its $7.5 million Internet.bs acquisition, leaped from £180,000 to £1.8 million (£2.8 million), while its premium name sales business was £1.1 million compared to a negligible £50,000 a year earlier.

The company noted in a statement that Google was the first “megabrand” to use a .xyz domain name and expressed optimism that this may increase awareness of new gTLDs in future.

CentralNic is the second-largest new gTLD back-end, as measured by registration volume, largely due to its .xyz contract.

It also acts as back-end for .online, which left the blocks very quickly earlier this month, racking up over 57,000 names so far.

XYZ fighting red tape to serve Chinese customers

Kevin Murphy, September 8, 2015, Domain Registries

XYZ.com is trying to become one of the first non-Chinese gTLD registries to be able to sell unhindered into the Chinese market, in the face of Draconian government regulations.

The company has filed a Registry Services Evaluation Process request with ICANN — the first of its kind — that would let it use a gateway service, based in China, to comply with strict local laws on registries, registrars and registrants.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology regulations have been in place for a decade, but it’s only in the last year or so, in light of the new gTLD program, that China has been strictly enforcing them.

Anyone in China can buy a domain, but you need a license if you want to put up a web site, according to Gavin Brown, CTO of .xyz back-end CentralNic. Registrants also need to have their Whois information verified and validated, he said.

The problem for Chinese residents today is if they buy a domain in a TLD that is not licensed by the government, they won’t be able to obtain a license to host a web site on that domain.

The .xyz gTLD is believed to have a few hundred thousand domains registered via Chinese registrars, a substantial portion of its total.

There’s a worry that China could demand the deletion of these names and others, as it has previously in .cn, if the proper licenses have not been obtained.

Naturally, the inability to use these domains has led to a lot of pissed-off registrants. XYZ says has been receiving complaints from its registrars in the country, which in turn have been receiving complaints from their customers.

XYZ proposes to fix the problem by using a gateway service provided by ZDNS, a DNS provider based in mainland China.

Registrars in the country would maintain a separate EPP connection to ZDNS, which would act as a proxy to CentralNic’s UK-based primary EPP system.

ZDNS, which is prominently promoting its gateway service on its web site, would handle the Whois verification and also proxy the .xyz Whois lookup service, but only as it pertains to Chinese registrants and queries originating in China.

Data on non-Chinese registrants would continue to be housed with CentralNic.

ZDNS would also prevent Chinese registrants registering domains containing strings that have been banned by the government.

XYZ’s RSEP request (pdf) is currently undergoing its technical/competition review with ICANN. Assuming it passes, it would be exposed to public comment before being approved.

The RSEP states: “we are confident that the entire Internet user base of China would endorse this service and that Chinese registrars would strongly endorse this service.”

It’s the first such request to ICANN, suggesting that an awful lot of gTLDs are still not compliant with the Chinese regulations.

As of April, only 14 TLDs — all managed by China-based companies — were licensed to operate in China.

No, CentralNic isn’t the biggest new gTLD back-end

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2015, Domain Registries

CentralNic’s registry back-end business may have got a big boost by last week’s news that Google has adopted a .xyz domain for its new parent, but it is not yet the biggest back-end provider.

That honor still belongs to Rightside, which currently leads CentralNic by a few hundred thousand names, according to zone files.

When Google started using abc.xyz as the primary domain for its new company last Monday, it caused a sharp spike in .xyz’s daily zone file growth.

The volume-leading new gTLD’s zone had been netting about 3,000 domains per day over the previous week, but that number has risen to almost 8,000 on average since the Google announcement.

While undoubtedly good news for XYZ.com and CentralNic, the growth has not been enough to propel CentralNic into the top-spot just yet.

CentralNic said in a press release today that it currently has 1,444,210 domains, making it the “number one registry backend”.

But according to DI’s numbers, Rightside has at least 1,701,316 domains in new gTLDs running on its back-end.

The CentralNic press release, as well as an earlier piece on The Domains, both cite ntldstats.com as their source.

That site had been listing Donuts as the top new gTLD back-end provider for over a year, with CentralNic in second place.

The problem is that Donuts is not a back-end provider. Never has been.

The portfolio registry disclosed right from the start that it was using Rightside (then Demand Media).

A Donuts spokesperson confirmed to DI today that it still uses Rightside.

The company runs its 190 delegated new gTLDs on Rightside’s back-end. Rightside manages another 39 of its own on the same infrastructure.

Combined, these gTLDs make up 1,701,316 second-level domains, making it the largest back-end registry provider.

.xyz helps CentralNic double its revenue

Kevin Murphy, April 28, 2015, Domain Registries

CentralNic’s revenue almost doubled in 2014, helped by the launch of new gTLDs.

The UK-based registry today reported annual operating profit of £497,000 ($759,000), down from £694,000 ($1.05 million) in 2013, on the back of revenue up 99% at £6.06 million ($9.25 million).

Billings– money taken but not yet recorded as revenue — was up a whopping 154% at £9.89 million ($15.1 million).

Part of the reason for the growth was the launch of new gTLDs last year.

CentralNic acts as the registry back-end for eight TLDs that launched last year, including runaway volume leader .xyz, which has about 880,000 domains in its zone file today.

Another big contributor was Internet.bs, the Bahamas-based registrar that CentralNic acquired for $7.5 million last year.

The registrar had about 400,000 legacy gTLD domains under management at the end of the year, according to DI’s records.

Both new gTLDs and Internet.bs started contributing to revenue in the second half of the year.

CentralNic also said that its new “enterprise” division, which sells premium domains and offers consulting and software, was a growth factor.

CEO Ben Crawford told the markets that the new gTLD opportunity has so far been “softer” than expected.

Only a small number of retailers received their accreditations from ICANN to sell domains under the new TLDs in 2014, and a lack of public awareness pending the launches of the “superbrand TLDs” such as .google, .apple and .sony, meant that the market for new TLDs in 2014 was softer than had been projected by ICANN and other industry experts. It was essentially limited to domain investors and other early adopters.

Opinion in split in the industry on how much reliance can be put on what Crawford calls “super-brands” to do the heavy lifting when it comes to public awareness of new gTLDs.

CentralNic unloads $2.5m worth of premium domains

Kevin Murphy, December 8, 2014, Domain Registries

CentralNic today announced it has made $2.5 million by selling off some of its stash of premium domain names.

The sales appear to be of “non-core” names unrelated to its registry business that the company has been sitting on for a while, rather than names that it has reserved in its own subdomains and new gTLDs for which it acts as back-end.

The company did not disclose how many or which names it has sold, but the sales all seem to have happened in the last few months, since it first announced its intention to liquidate some of its premiums.

CentralNic said its portfolio comprises some 20,000 names.

The company also confirmed today that its financial results for the second half of the year will be in line with expectations.

Over 180,000 blocked new gTLD names to drop next week

Kevin Murphy, November 20, 2014, Domain Registries

Several new gTLD registries will release hundreds of thousands of currently blocked domain names — some of them quite nice-looking — next Wednesday.

It’s one of the first big batches of name collisions to be released to market.

The companies behind .xyz, .website, .press, .host, .ink, .wiki, .rest and .bar will release most of their blocked names at 1400 UTC on November 26. These registries all use CentralNic as their back-end.

The gTLD with the biggest “drop” is .host, with over 100,000 names. .wiki, .website and .xyz all have 10,000 to 20,000 releasing names apiece.

According to Radix business head Sandeep Ramchamdani, A smallish number — measured in the hundreds — of the .host, .press and .website names are on the company’s premium domain lists and will carry a higher price.

He gave the following sample of .website domains that will become available at the baseline, non-premium, registry fee:

analyze.website, anti.website, april.website, bookmark.website, challenge.website, classics.website, consumer.website, definitions.website, ginger.website, graffiti.website, inspired.website, jobportal.website, lenders.website, malibu.website, marvelous.website, ola.website, clients.website, commercial.website, comparison.website

Drop-catching services such as Pool.com are taking pre-orders on names set to be released.

Other registries have already released their name collisions domains.

I gather that .archi, .bio, .wien and .quebec have already unblocked their collisions this week.

Donuts tells us it has no current plan for its first drops. Rightside, which runs Donuts’ back-end, is reportedly planning to drop names in a couple dozen gTLDs on the same date in January.

As we reported earlier this week, millions of names are due to be released over the coming months, due to the expiration of the 90-day “controlled interruption” phase that ICANN forced all new gTLD registries to implement.

By definition, name collision names already have seen traffic in the past and may do so again.