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.xxx boss says new gTLD registries need to “wake up”

Kevin Murphy, February 23, 2015, Domain Registries

ICM Registry president Stuart Lawley may be just weeks away from launching his second and third gTLD registries, but that doesn’t mean he has a positive outlook on new gTLDs in general.

“I think people need to wake up,” he told DI in a recent interview. “If you do the math on some of these numbers and prospective numbers, it just doesn’t stack up for a profitable business.”

“The new ‘Well Done!’ number seems to be a lot less than it was six months ago or 12 months ago,” he said.

Lawley said he’s among the most “bearish” in the industry when it comes to new gTLD prospects. And that goes for ICM’s own .porn, .sex and .adult, which are due to launch between March and September this year.

While he’s sure they’ll be profitable, and very bullish on the search engine optimization benefits that he says registrants could be able to achieve, he’s cautious about what kind of registration volumes can be expected. He said:

If you add up everybody that has ever bought a .xxx name, including the Sunrise B defensives, we have got a target market of about 250,000 names. People to go back to and say, “Look, you still have a .xxx or you had a .xxx at some stage. Therefore, we think you may be interested in buying .porn, .sex or .adult for exactly the same reasons.”

So, our expectations to sell to a whole new market outside of those quarter of a million names is probably quite limited.

Lawley said that he believes that the relatively poor volume performance of most new gTLDs over the last year will cause many registrars to question whether it’s worth their time and money to offer them.

I can see why registrars can’t be bothered. How many of these am I going to sell? Am I going to sell two hundred of them? Am I going to make five dollars per name? That’s one thousand dollars. It’s not worth it to me to put in ten thousand dollars worth of labor and effort to make one thousand dollars in revenue. So, I think that’s a challenge that many of the small lone player TLDs may face.

Lawley said he’s skeptical about the ability of major portfolio players, such as Donuts, to effectively market their hundreds of gTLDs, many of which are targeted at niche vertical markets.

He said in an ideal world a gTLD would need to spend $20 million to $30 million a year for a few years in order to do a proper PR job on a single TLD — ICM spent about $8 million to $9 million, $5.5 million of which was on US TV spots — and that’s just not economically viable given how many names are being sold.

But he added that he thinks it’s a good thing that some new gTLDs are seeing a steady and fairly linear number of daily additions, saying it might point to better long-term stability.

A lot of the TLDs that seem to be doing okay — .club for argument’s sake and several others in that ilk — seem to be doing their three hundred domains per day ADD, or 32 or 12 or whatever the number is, in a relatively linear fashion six or seven months after launch, which I think is potentially positive if one extrapolates that out.

The full interview, which also addresses SEO, dot-brands, registrar pay-for-placement and smart search, can be read by DI PRO subscribers here.

.CLUB sells $200,000 domain for $10.99

Kevin Murphy, January 28, 2015, Domain Registries

.CLUB Domains has honored the $10.99 registration of credit.club, a premium domain it had hoped to sell for a record-busting $200,000.

The registry this week said it would allow registrant Bruce Marler to keep hold of the domain he bought at the base registration fee, even though it was due to be sold as a premium with an asking price above the previously record price for a .club name.

Marler acquired the name January 14, the day wine.club sold for $140,000 at NamesCon, for a reported $10.99 via Name.com. He’s since launched a basic web site there, though he made his intention to sell the domain clear in an email exchange with DomainGang.

.CLUB CEO Colin Campbell told DI: “It was listed for 200,000 on StartUp.club.”

StartUp.club is the company’s recently launched site for selling premium .club domains, many for six-figure sums.

A registry screw-up seems to be to blame for the sale.

Judging by a a post on NamePros by Campbell, the company was in the process of transferring 130 premium .club names from a registry-reserved status to its own ownership.

During the 26-hour period the domain was unreserved and available, Marler grabbed it.

Campbell said that the contracts between Name.com, itself, and the registrant would allow it to reclaim the domain, but said:

The registry does not believe it is in our best interest nor the best interest of the registrant to pull the name back given the substantial investment in time and money he has invested to launch credit.club. I informed the registrant of such matters and wish him a continued success.

While domainers are obviously lauding the decision as an example of registries owning — and paying for — their technological mistakes, I can’t help but wonder whether this was an economically sound decision.

The registry has certainly won brownie points in the investor community, it’s also lost a potential $200,000 sale.

Marler, by his own admission, intends to sell on the domain. While the domain hosts content today, it may not wind up being the kind of flagship, big-ticket anchor tenant that new gTLD registries need.

UPDATE: Marler, in the comments below, says he feels morally obliged to develop the site.

Seller’s remorse despite .club leading $1m NamesCon auction

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2015, Domain Services

The Right Of The Dot and SnapNames auction here at the NamesCon conference in Las Vegas last night raised just shy of $1 million, in what attendees broadly seem to agree was a successful event.

The grand total was $990,851, with 87 out of the 134 lots hitting their reserve and selling during the live/online bidding.

Leading the pack was homecare.com, which sold for $350,000.

But that deal actually closed before the live event began, leaving .CLUB Domains’ wine.club at the top of the sold list with a winning $140,000 bid.

Despite the sale, registry CEO Colin Campbell — evidently disappointed he had not placed a higher reserve on the name, expressed some seller’s remorse on Twitter this morning.

.CLUB also offloaded reserved names weed.club ($16,000), fight.club ($13,500) and tequila.club ($8,000), among others.

.com of course had the best night, with carauctions.com going for $90,000, susan.com going for $34,000 and tik.com and vil.com both going for $33,000.

Organizer Mike Berkens took a $76,000 hit on sexeducation.com, which he purchased for $100,000 and sold without reserve for $24,000.

Also noteworthy was what I believe was the biggest bid of the night — a $1.2 million in-room bid for auctions.com, owned by .xyz registry CEO Daniel Negari.

The domain failed to meet its reserve, however, and will join the other unsold names in an extended online auction that begins this weekend.

Vegas.club sells for $100,000

Kevin Murphy, January 13, 2015, Domain Sales

.CLUB Domains said today it has sold the domain vegas.club for $100,000, and will help in its promotion as a members-only site for deals related to Las Vegas.

The deal was announced here at the NamesCon conference at the Tropicana hotel in Vegas.

The buyer is One Degree World Systems, a local company that develops booking sites for tourist destination cities worldwide.

I’m not sure the deal would be reportable as a straightforward domain-only sale, given that .CLUB said the companies have a “partnership” to develop the domain.

According to a company press release, the upcoming site will offer “members-only deals on nightclubs, hotels, shows, attractions and tours as well as concierge services, VIP status at local attractions, and white glove services like personal assistants on the ground, butler and nanny services and more.”

.CLUB had a similar relationship with its first big anchor tenant, the rapper 50 Cent, for the fan site 50inda.club.

It’s the second .club name the registry has sold for a six-figure sum. It sold coffee.club, also for $100,000, last year.

Right Of The Dot helped broker the vegas.club deal, the registry said.

“Second most marketable athlete in the world” to use a .club domain

Kevin Murphy, November 17, 2014, Domain Registries

Virat Kohli, a famous Indian cricketer, is .CLUB Domains’ latest star anchor tenant.

He’s launching his first ever official web site, at viratkohli.club, today.

No, I’ve never heard of him either, but he’s been called the “second most marketable athlete in the world” after Lewis Hamilton by SportsPro, a UK sports marketing business-to-business magazine.

The 26-year-old has captained the Indian national side and holds various records in the world of cricket.

Just yesterday, he became “the first batsman to score 1000 ODI runs in a calendar year for four years in a row”, which is probably very impressive if you know what it means.

He has almost 4.5 million Twitter followers and over 18 million Facebook “likes”, which means his links to his new site, should he choose to post any, will reach a wide audience in nations where cricket is popular.

His adoption of .club, which seems to be a result of a deal with .CLUB, follows the launch of 50 Cent’s 50inda.club. Singer Demi Lovato also has a .club for her official site, apparently purchased of her own volition.