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.club “hits top 10” new gTLDs in minutes

The new .club gTLD went into the top 10 new gTLDs by volume in the “first instants” of general availability this afternoon, according to the registry and partner Go Daddy.

.CLUB Domains CEO Colin Campbell told DI, about two hours after the 1500 UTC GA launch, “We’ll let the zone files speak for themselves, but we were well within the top 10 a few minutes after we opened up.”

Based on today’s zone file data, that means .club moved at least 15,000 names. It will presumably be a somewhat bigger number by the time today’s zones are published at 0100 UTC.

.CLUB CMO Jeff Sass said that pre-registrations at registrars including Go Daddy were responsible for the initial spike.

“We would be in the top 10 based just on those pre-registrations in the first instant,” he said.

While over 50 registrars are signed up to sell .club, the registry is pretty tight with Go Daddy.

The two companies have been conducting joint marketing, some of which involved .CLUB pushing buyers to GoDaddy.club.

“We’ve worked closely on cooperative marketing efforts,” Sass said. “We’ve done a lot of campaigns where the call to action has been to Go Daddy.”

The GA launch, which was briefly webcast live, actually came from Go Daddy’s Arizona headquarters.

While I get the distinct impression that money changed hands in order for Go Daddy to throw its weight behind .club, VP Mike McLaughlin gave some reasons why he likes the gTLD.

“We like to see that the registry is invested,” he said. “That the business plan isn’t just to put it out there and hope for the best.”

Sass said that .CLUB has been marketing to nightclubs, sports clubs, high-end members clubs and others.

McLaughlin said the price point — $14.99 retail, the same as Go Daddy’s .com renewals — and the fact that there are no registration restrictions, were attractive.

.CLUB has reserved over 6,000 premium names. They’re all listed for sale at Sedo, perhaps showing that its relationship with rival auction platform Go Daddy/Afternic is not all that tight.

If you try to register a premium .club via Go Daddy today you’ll be told it’s unavailable.

Sass said that examples of premiums already sold to anchor tenants include shaving.club, which is launching today, as well as beauty.club, makeup.club and skincare.club, which were all sold to Mary Kay Cosmetics and are expected to launch at a later date.

.CLUB has previously predicted that it would beat .guru (currently at 54,616 names) in the first week and that it would sell five million names in the first five years.

The first aspiration seemed, to me, plausible. I’ve had countless arguments about whether the second is too.

.club “will overtake .guru” in week one

Now that we’ve seen how many domain names are actually being sold in new gTLDs, you might reasonably expect some registries to rein in their more ambitious sales targets.

Not so with .CLUB Domains, which plans to go to general availability with .club on May 7.

CEO Colin Campbell told DI today that he’s sticking by his target of selling five million .club names in the first five years.

What’s more, he has big hopes for the gTLD’s first week on the market.

“I firmly believe that .CLUB will exceed all other new generic top level domains in the first week of launch in registrations and overtake .GURU as the leader,” Campbell said in an email.

Donuts’ .guru has over 41,000 domains today and is adding 250-500 more per day. It could be around the 60,000 mark by the time .club hits registrar storefronts.

Campbell notes that all the new gTLDs to launch so far have been uncontested — .CLUB beat out two other applicants for .club in the first private auction last June.

He also reckons .club’s .com-level pricing will help sales — most of the new gTLDs launched to date are priced at over $20 a year.

I don’t doubt that .club will be a decent seller — it has lots of use cases — but five million names in five years still seems wildly ambitious to me.

RightOfTheDot to manage .club’s premium strategy

Kevin Murphy, November 14, 2013, Domain Services

.CLUB Domains has selected RightOfTheDot to manage its premium and founders program domains strategy.

The company named “a.club, 888.club, chess.club, poker.club, insurance.club, golf.club country.club, car.club” as examples of “category killer” names that RightOfTheDot will try to find homes for.

.CLUB signed its Registry Agreement with ICANN late last week and plans to go to Sunrise in January.

It’s among the top 30 most popular new gTLDs being pre-registered at 1&1 right now, and recently said it’s hoping to have five million domains under management within five years, an ambitious target.

RightOfTheDot is the new gTLD consultancy founded by domainers Mike Berkens and Monte Cahn.

.CLUB offers solution to name collision risks

Kevin Murphy, September 16, 2013, Domain Tech

.CLUB Domains has come up with a simple workaround for its applied-for .club gTLD being categorized as risky by ICANN.

The company wants to reserve the top 50 .club domains that currently see DNS root traffic, so that if and when .club goes live the impact on organizations that use .club internally will be greatly reduced.

It’s not a wholly original idea, but .CLUB seems to be unique at the moment in that it actually knows what those 50 strings are, having commissioned an Interisle Consulting report of its proposed gTLD.

You’ll recall that Interisle is the company that ICANN commissioned to quantify the name collisions problem in the first place.

Its report is what ICANN used to categorize all applied-for gTLD strings into low, high and “uncalculated” risks, putting .club into the uncalculated category, delaying it by months.

(Interisle was at pains to point out in its report for .CLUB that it is not making any recommendations, interpreting the data, or advocating any solutions. Still, nice work if you can get it.)

By reserving the top 50 clashes — presumably in such a way that they will continue to return error responses after .club is delegated — .CLUB says .club would slip into ICANN’s definition of a low-risk string.

In a letter to ICANN (pdf) sent today, .CLUB chief technology officer Dirk Bhagat wrote:

blocking the 50 SLD strings from registration would prevent 52,647 out of the 89,533 queries from a potential collision (58.88%). After blocking the top 50 strings as SLD strings, only 36,886 (41.12%) queries remain, which is 12,114 fewer invalid queries at the root than .engineering, which ICANN classified as a low risk gTLD.

He adds that a further chunk of remaining SLDs are random strings that appear to have been created by Google’s Chrome browser and, many say, pose no risk of name collisions, reducing the risk further.

It’s hard to argue with the logic there, other than to say that ICANN’s categorization system itself has already come in for heavy criticism for drawing unjustified, arbitrary lines.

The list of domains .CLUB proposes to block is pretty interesting, including some strings that appear to be trademarks, the names of likely .club registrants, or potentially premium names.

Watch .club win its new gTLD for $[censored]

As we reported earlier in the week, .CLUB Domains was one of the first companies to win its new gTLD auction and now the company has published a short video of the moment the auction closed.

The first reaction of CEO Colin Campbell is to put out a press release announcing the win, followed by calling the lawyers, which I think we can all agree is the Natural Order for all things.

Sadly, because winning bids are supposed to be confidential, the company has bleeped out references to the amount it paid and blurred a laptop screen in shot, lest CSI:Miami’s cyberpunks are watching.

Private auction settles .club fight

.CLUB Domains has won the right to launch the .club gTLD at a private auction against two other applicants, according to an announcement from the company.

The company, chiefed by Tucows and Hostopia founder Colin Campbell, also said it has raised $7 million to bring the TLD to market.

Its two rivals for the string were portfolio applicants Donuts and Merchant Law Group. The auction was designed by Cramton Associates and managed by Innovative Auctions of Hong Kong.

Neither competing applicant has had their withdrawals, assuming they’ve been submitted, processed by ICANN yet.

None of the applications were subject to formal objections or Governmental Advisory Committee meddling, giving the successful bidder a relatively clear run at delegation and launch.

.CLUB Domains said in a press release:

Domains like www.golf.club, www.poker.club, and www.book.club should hit the market in late 2013 or early 2014. In addition to acting as the worldwide .CLUB registry, the company has plans to offer .CLUB domain name registrants a web and mobile social platform designed specifically for member engagement and management, making it easy for clubs of any kind to establish themselves on the internet.

According to its application, the registry plans to target:

1. Social Clubs, 2. Sporting Clubs 3. Special Interest/Hobby Clubs, 4. Country Clubs 5. Buying Clubs, 6. Fraternities and Sororities, 7. Personal Clubs, 8. Professional Clubs, 9.School Clubs, 10. Service Clubs, and 11. Night Clubs.

That said, .CLUB does not plan to implement any registration restrictions; .club will be completely open.

The applicant has chosen Neustar to provide its back-end registry.

Private gTLD auctions really will be private

The first new gTLD auctions to be held by Innovative Auctions is set to take place on Monday, but we won’t know which applicants took part until after the fact.

Innovative, which is managing the auction process designed by Cramton Associates, told DI it might announce the participants next week, after the auctions are over.

Failing that, we’ll have to infer the winners from which applications are subsequently formally withdrawn from contention with ICANN.

The only companies to publicly announce their participation so far are Donuts and Demand Media — which as partners are obviously not in any contention sets with each other — and .Club Domains.

Donuts has previously announced that it would submit 63 applications to auction, but 17 of those probably won’t go ahead because Uniregistry, which doesn’t like the private auction idea, has declined to take part.

Demand Media’s applicant, United TLD Holdco has committed its bids for .fishing, .green, .mom, .rip and .wow to the auction. Unless Uniregistry has changed its mind, the .mom one won’t be happening.

It also seems unlikely many winning bids will be disclosed.

Under the terms designed by Cramton, if only one applicant in an auction decides it wants to keep the outcome private, the other applicants will be contractually bound to keep schtum.

Private auctions will see money flow to losing applicants, some of which will also face ICANN-managed auctions at a later date. They may not want to reveal their wedge by having their pay-off public knowledge.

Tucows co-founder takes hard line on .club gTLD

Kevin Murphy, February 20, 2012, Domain Registries

.CLUB Domains LLC says it has secured funding for its .club generic top-level domain application, and says it is ready to go to an ICANN auction if necessary.

CEO Colin Campbell, a Tucows co-founder, blogged today that the funding deal comes along with “contingent financing… to ensure the company wins the top level domain in an auction.”

Apparently a few other companies have privately revealed that they are also applying for .club, but .CLUB Domains claims that it has no intention of negotiating with them. Campbell wrote:

Unfortunately ICANN’s process has encouraged some speculators to apply for the gTLD with no intention of actually running the top level domain but simply negotiating with legitimate operators. We have been approached by a number of companies who are applying for .Club. Our belief is that is best not to negotiate with these companies or individuals but win the name through an open and fair auction process.

This is a prime example of why revealing new gTLD plans before April 12 may not be the best business strategy — they invite competition from insiders who want a piece of your action.

Whether .CLUB Domains’s hard-line stance on competing applications will help reduce the field for .club — or whether rivals will try to call its bluff — remains to be seen.