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Failing that, we’ll have to infer the winners from which applications are subsequently formally withdrawn from contention with ICANN.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