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.CO quiet on Super Bowl sales

Kevin Murphy, February 18, 2011, Domain Registries

Judging from its CEO’s latest blog post, .CO Internet doesn’t want to talk about how many new .co domain names were registered following its Super Bowl commercial with Go Daddy.

I take this as a sign that the event did not have an earth-shattering impact on its registration numbers.

Making some basic assumptions, reading between the lines, and using some back-of-the-envelope math, I estimate that the number of new .co domains registered was likely less than 50,000.

That’s not terrible, but I think it could take quite some time for the company to see a return on its investment, given that its margins on the promotional pricing would have been pretty thin and that at least a quarter of those registrations will likely disappear a year from now.

I doubt it made enough cash on the day to pay for Joan Rivers’ boob job.

But in Juan Calle’s post, he makes it clear that .CO is playing the long game. He wrote:

The most common success metric that many registries use is the total number of domain names registered. Although we are certainly enjoying our incredible growth – the number of .CO domains registered is simply not a metric we believe is robust enough to measure the kind of impact we fully plan and expect to have in the world over the long term.

You can be fairly sure that if .CO had doubled the size of its customer base last week, or broke through the million-domain milestone, Calle would not be talking in these terms.

He’s not keen on using secondary market prices to define success either, saying he expects it will be four or five years before the .co aftermarket matures.

Sedo’s .co auction, which ended yesterday, saw the majority of domains fail to meet their lofty reserves. But that’s not necessarily a slight on .co – auction activity in general has been sluggish recently.

Calle has some fetal ideas about how to measure the success of a TLD. He wrote:

To gauge the impact of the .CO extension, I think we will need to consider a combination of factors. Imagine, if you will, a sort of “Gross Domain Product” or “GDP,” measuring not only the total number of .CO registrations, but the number of websites developed, and the broader value of the economic activity happening within the .CO space.

It’s an interesting idea, but there’s a reason why most people judge TLDs based on their number of registrations. It goes something like: registrations = revenue = profit.

Selling domains is generally a registry’s only revenue stream. A registry with few registrations won’t turn a profit, and stands less of a chance of staying in business.

And for the aftermarket, a TLD retaining a large number of registered and renewing domains over the long term means there’s demand, which leads to higher prices.

Fortunately for .co, it is off to a great start, with probably something approaching 700,000 domains under its belt in just seven months, if my envelope-back is reliable.

Calle’s post gives every indication that the company plans to keep up its aggressive marketing spend, so the TLD stands, I think, a pretty good chance of breaking through the one million domains mark this year.

Gratuitous Go Daddy girl butt photo

Kevin Murphy, January 25, 2011, Gossip

Apologies to lady readers for the blatant sexism.

And apologies to discerning readers of both genders for shamelessly buying into Go Daddy’s propaganda machine.

But it is a very, very nice photograph.

Go Daddy Girl 2011

Any guesses who the new Go Daddy girl will be?

She’s almost certainly Latina. Probably Colombian, given the .CO Internet tie-in Go Daddy’s planning for the Super Bowl.

Shakira’s probably too expensive.

Mike Berkens reckons Sofia Vergara is a likely candidate, but I’ve no idea who she is because I’m British.

I’ve managed to rule out Heather Mills McCartney and Queen Latifah.

What O.co says about new TLDs

Kevin Murphy, January 21, 2011, Domain Registries

Overstock.com’s shock rebranding move yesterday is not only a big marketing coup for .CO Internet, it also may be good news for new top-level domains in general.

In a pair of US TV commercials (available here and here if you’re overseas) Overstock has started calling itself O.co, the domain it bought privately from the .co registry for $350,000 last July.

When I wrote, last November, “Overstock’s .com domain is its brand, and that’s not about to change”, I may well have been wrong. Go to overstock.com and look at the logo.

This is good evidence, if it were needed, that the very same trademark interests currently opposed to ICANN’s new TLDs program are also keenly aware of the benefits.

Overstock has had its eyes on O.com for over five years, and fought unsuccessfully within ICANN to have single-letter .com domains released from the VeriSign reserved list.

It was not until .co relaunched last summer – essentially a new TLD – that Overstock got the opportunity to register a domain (almost?) as good as the one it wanted.

I find this interesting because Overstock, like many other major brand owners, has been a vocal opponent of new TLDs.

In a July 2009 letter to ICANN (pdf), for example, Overstock expresses many of the same views about new TLDs that are still being expressed by the trademark interests currently holding up the program.

I’m not suggesting that Overstock’s eagerness to use O.co negates its specific criticisms of the new TLDs program, but its conflicting behavior does seem to suggest a certain degree of cognitive dissonance.

On the one hand, it opposed new TLDs. But when a new TLD launched, it grasped the opportunity with both hands and rebranded the whole company around it.

If what I hear is true, many of the companies publicly opposed to new TLDs are also the ones simultaneously investigating their own “.brand” domains.

Could Overstock’s latest move represent a pent-up demand for new TLDs among big brands? What does that mean for the future of .com as the internet’s premium real estate?

Go Daddy offers Whois privacy for .co domains

Kevin Murphy, December 22, 2010, Domain Registrars

.CO Internet has started allowing registrars to offer Whois privacy services for .co domains, according to Go Daddy.

In a blog post, Go Daddy’s “RachelH”, wrote:

When the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and .CO Internet S.A.S. drafted the .co policy earlier this year, they decided to hold off on private registration to prevent wrongful use of the new ccTLD — especially during the landrush. Now that .co has carved its place among popular TLDs, you can add private registration to your .co domain names.

Unless I’m mistaken, ICANN had no involvement in the creation of .co’s policies, but I don’t think that’s relevant to the news that .co domains can now be made private.

During its first several months, .CO Internet has been quite careful about appearing respectable, which is why its domains are relatively expensive, why its trademark protections were fairly stringent at launch, and why it has created new domain takedown policies.

It may be a sign that the company feels confident that its brand is fairly well-established now that it has decided to allow Whois privacy, which is quite often associated with cybersquatting (at least in some parts of the domain name community).

It could of course also be a sign that it wants to give its registrars some love – by my estimates a private registration would likely double their gross margin on a .co registration.

.CO publishes domain seizure policy

Kevin Murphy, December 1, 2010, Domain Registries

.CO Internet reserves the right to shut down your .co domain name if you’re being naughty.

That’s pretty much what the company has said today with the announcement of its Rapid Domain Compliance Process.

the Rapid Domain Compliance Process gives the .CO Registry the ability to quickly lock, cancel, transfer or take ownership of any .CO domain name, either temporarily or permanently, if the domain name is being used in a manner that appears to threaten the stability, integrity or security of the .CO Registry, or any of its registrar partners – and/or that may put the safety and security of any registrant or user at risk.

While the company has not published full details of how the system works, it seems to be based on security monitoring carried out by Neustar, the registry’s back-end provider, rather than a complaints-driven procedure.

Verboten activities include, as you might expect given .co’s vulnerability to typos, phishing, as well as distributing malware and child pornography.

What’s surprising about this is that .CO Internet is being “proactive” about shutting down sites, rather than waiting to receive complaints to its abuse@ address.

While the announcement is undoubtedly good for the registry’s corporate responsibility image, it also has the potential to backfire horribly if mistakes are made.

Initiatives to block web sites considered security risks almost always lead to false positives.

Even when genuinely criminal sites are taken down, it can lead to loud (if spurious) claims of “censorship”, as we discovered this week with the .com seizures in the US – and they had a court order.

.CO Internet’s policy does not explicitly place piracy or selling counterfeit goods on its naughty list, but it doesn’t rule them out either.

Not to be too cynical, but I give it six months before the first “seized” domain owner cries foul.