China’s April batch of approved TLDs has been released, featuring three domains from Neustar and Uniregistry.
Neustar had its longstanding, 2000-round .biz pass regulatory scrutiny, while Uniregistry’s .link and .auto have also been approved.
While .auto is managed by Cars Registry, a joint venture with XYZ.com, its stablemates .car and .cars do not appear to have yet been approved.
The rubberstamping was made by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which administers the country’s stringent regulatory framework.
Clearance means that customers of Chinese registrars will actually be able to deploy and use the names they buy.
The registries have also agreed to strict takedown policies for Chinese registrants.
While MIIT appears to be announcing newly approved TLDs on a monthly basis, it’s a slow drip-feed. I believe there are still fewer than 20 Latin-script gTLDs currently cleared for use in China.
While .africa finally went on sale last week after years of legal fights, it seems Africans may find themselves in the minority of registrants.
A combination of awareness, pricing and anticipated interest from Chinese domain investors, means that Africans could account for as few as 1 in 10 .africa registrations, according to Lucky Masilela, CEO of .africa registry ZA Central Registry.
The domain went into its sunrise period last week, and has a multi-phased launch planned out that will last until July 1, 2018.
After the trademark owners have had their crack at the domain — Masilela tells us that South Africa brands such as Nando’s are among the first to grab theirs — there will be five phases in which domains will be open to all but priced at a premium.
Starting June 5 there will be five landrush periods of five day, each a kind of hybrid between the traditional landrush period and the kind of Early Access Period offered by Donuts and others.
Each landrush will see all names priced at a certain amount, with the amount going down at the start of each period — $5,000 to $2,000 to $1,000 to $500 (all USD).
In the event that any name is claimed by more than one registrant, there will be an auction for that name at the end of the period.
Then on July 4 comes the first period of “general availability”, from which point all domains will be first-come, first-served.
But for the first 28 days of GA, domains will be priced at $150, other than domains categorized by the registry as premium.
Domains then come down to a more affordable $18 wholesale.
But that’s not the end. ZACR has baked in a price reduction to $12.50 wholesale, due to kick in July 1 2018. From then on out, it’s business as usual.
Unlike similar TLDs such as .eu, there are to be no geographic restrictions on who can register .africa names, and Masilela said he expects registrants from Africa to be in a minority.
“I think were are looking at about 10% from the continent, growing gradually over the years,” Masilela said. “The next wave is going to be international registrars.”
“We have a big suspicion that we will probably see a huge uptake coming from the east, which is the China market,” he said. “They’ll probably come in and grab a large number of domain names.”
He said that Chinese investment in Africa offline is likely to be mirrored online.
Pricing is also likely to be a factor. While .africa will bottom out, ignoring periodic discounts, at $12.50, that’s still quite a lot more than you’d expect to pay for African ccTLDs. ZACR’s own .za costs about $4 per year.
The relatively high price of becoming ICANN accredited has also meant that while Africa has 50-something countries, there are currently only about half a dozen gTLD registrars based there.
ZACR proposes to counter this by offering a gateway service rather like the one it already offers in .joburg and .capetown, that would help bring its own .za registrars on board.
Donuts and Afilias have had two batches of new gTLDs approved for use in China.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology approved five Afilias TLDs and six Donuts TLDs last month. This means customers of Chinese registrars will now be able to legally use those names in China.
Afilias was approved for .info, .mobi and .pro, which were delegated following the 2000 and 2003 new gTLD application rounds and .kim and .red from the 2012 round.
Donuts simultaneously was cleared for .ltd, .group, .游戏 (“game”), .企业 (“business”), .娱乐 (“entertainment) and .商店 (“store”).
The approvals more than double the number of new gTLDs in Latin script to get the nod from MIIT, in what now appears to be a monthly occurrence.
MIIT approval means the chance of usage by Chinese registrants should go up, but it also ties these Western registries to relatively Draconian government policies when it comes to Chinese registrations.
Verisign has been given approval to start restricting who can and cannot register .com and .net domain names in various countries.
Customers of Chinese registrars are the first to be affected by the change to the registry’s back-end system, which was made last year.
ICANN last week gave Verisign a “free to deploy” notice for a new “Verification Code Extension” system that enables the company to stop domains registered via selected registrars from resolving unless the registrant’s identity has been verified and the name is not on China’s banned list.
It appears to be the system Verisign deployed in order to receive its Chinese government license to operate in China.
Under Verification Code Extension, Verisign uses ICANN records to identify which registrars are based in countries that have governmental restrictions. I believe China is currently the only affected country.
Those registrars are able to register domains normally, but Verisign will prevent the names from resolving (placing them in serverHold status and keeping them out of the zone file) unless the registration is accompanied by a verification code.
These codes are distributed to the affected registrars by at least two verification service providers. Verisign, in response to DI questions, declined to name them.
Under its “free to deploy” agreement with ICANN (pdf), Verisign is unable to offer verification services itself. It must use third parties.
The company added the functionality to its .com and .net registry as an option in February 2016, according to ICANN records. It seems to have been implemented last July.
A Verisign spokesperson said the company “has implemented” the system.
The Verification Code Extension — technically, it’s an extension to the EPP protocol pretty much all registries use — was outlined in a Registry Services Evaluation Process request (pdf) last May, and approved by ICANN not long after.
Verisign was approved to operate in China last August in the first wave of gTLD registries to obtain government licenses.
Under Chinese regulations, domain names registered in TLDs not approved by the government may not resolve. Registrars are obliged to verify the identities of their registrants and names containing certain sensitive terms are not permitted.
Other gTLDs, including .vip, .club, .xyz .site and .shop have been granted approval over the last few months.
Some have chosen to work with registration gateway providers in China to comply with the local rules.
Apart from XYZ.com and Verisign, no registry has sought ICANN approval for their particular implementation of Chinese law.
Because Chinese influence over ICANN is a politically sensitive issue right now, it should be pointed out that the Verification Code Extension is not something that ICANN came up with in response to Chinese demands.
Rather, it’s something Verisign came up with in response to Chinese market realities. ICANN has merely rubber-stamped a service requested by Verisign.
This, in other words, is a case of China flexing market muscle, not political muscle. Verisign, like many other gTLD registries, is over-exposed to the Chinese market.
It should also be pointed out for avoidance of doubt that the Chinese restrictions do not apply to customers of non-Chinese registrars.
However, it appears that Verisign now has a mechanism baked into its .com and .net registries that would make it much easier to implement .com restrictions that other governments might choose to put into their own legislation in future.
Top Level Design’s .ink has become the sixth new gTLD in the Latin alphabet to be approved for sale in China.
It was one of four new gTLDs given regulatory approval to begin operating properly in the country late last week. The others were all in Chinese script.
From Finnish-founded TLD Registry, .中文网 (“Chinese web site”) and .在线 (“Chinese online”) gained approval.
From local outfit Guangzhou Yuwei Information Technology Co, .集团 (“group”) and .我爱你 (“I love you”) were given the nod.
Under China’s Draconian domain name regulations, only domains registered via local registries and registrars may be used.
Registries from outside the country have had to set up a local corporate presence and agree to China’s censorship policies in order to be compliant.