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dotMusic buys music.co

Kevin Murphy, March 9, 2011, Domain Sales

Constantine Roussos of dotMusic, which plans to apply for the .music top-level domain, has added to his collection of musical domain names with the purchase of music.co.

Roussos, who already owns music.us and music.biz, seems to have been the winning bidder, paying $30,000, when it was auctioned by Sedo late last month, but Whois records did not change until this Monday.

Remarkably, Music.co is already developed. It lets you play from a selection of godawful* music from an artist calling himself “Constantine”, including one track called “.music”.

The domain was previously owned by domainer Mike Mann, who snapped up dozens of premium generic terms in the .com.co namespace a few years ago in order to be grandfathered in when .co relaunched.

Roussos’ dotMusic initiative is currently the only applicant for the .music TLD to have gone public.

Of the other big sales from the Sedo auction, shop.co is now owned by a German search engine, Websuche, and pizza.co was sold to a California-based developer of discount codes web sites.

The domain download.co, which sold for $10,099, now redirects to what appears to be an affiliate marketing site for software called “Driver Detective”, which I was too scared to install.

Many of the other sales appear to have been made to other domainers.

(* I’m kidding. Probably.)

Gratuitous Go Daddy girl chest shot

Kevin Murphy, January 31, 2011, Domain Registrars

I know, I know, I’m an utter hypocrite.

Complaining about the journalistic standards of The Sun in the morning and posting a photo that’s little better than a Page 3 shot in the evening.

I do so only in the spirit of crowd-sourced investigative journalism. And traffic, obviously.

Go Daddy Girl boobs

In case you’re wondering, it’s the latest in the series of teaser shots Go Daddy has been releasing ahead of its Super Bowl 2011 commercial.

Note the strategic positioning of “.CO” on the T-shirt.

We’re supposed to start guessing who it is now.

Knock yourselves out.

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.

Domain universe breaks through 200 million

Kevin Murphy, November 29, 2010, Domain Registries

VeriSign is reporting that the number of registered domain names worldwide broke through the 200 million mark in the third quarter.

There were 202 million domains at the end of September, according to the company’s Domain Name Industry Brief, which was published today.

Over half of those domains, 103 million names in total, can be found in the .com and .net namespaces that VeriSign manages.

In a not-so-subtle plug for VeriSign’s 2011 growth strategy, the company also declared that the next ten years will be “The Decade of the International Internet”.

In the coming decade, the Internet will continue to become a ubiquitous, multi-cultural tool, fueled in part by the adoption of IDNs. By enabling online content and businesses to be represented in local scripts and languages, IDNs help the Internet to expand the power of technology to regions and cultures, and connect the world in new ways. Over the past year, several new IDNs for ccTLDs have been approved. The next step will be approval of IDNs for generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs).

The company, of course, plans to apply to ICANN to operate IDN versions of .com and .net, although it has not to date discussed openly which languages or strings it wants.

The VeriSign report also says that ccTLD registrations grew 2.4%, compared to the same quarter last year, to 79.2 million domains.

I expect this growth would have been tempered had it not been for the relaunch of .co, which occurred during the quarter, but it does not merit a mention in the report.

The report also reveals that .info has overtaken .cn in the biggest-TLD charts, although this is due primarily to the plummeting number of registrations in the Chinese ccTLD.

Go Daddy’s .co promo is a test

Kevin Murphy, November 14, 2010, Domain Registries

Go Daddy is was “testing” the .co top-level domain as its default extension, .CO Internet has revealed.

It’s been widely reported over the weekend that .co is now the first TLD in the drop-down menu on Go Daddy’s front page, but it looks like the news might not be as shocking as originally thought.

.CO Internet chief executive Juan Diego Calle has just blogged:

The GoDaddy test is exciting. Permanent? Not yet. While we have a great and expanding relationship with GoDaddy, we do not expect .CO to remain as the default TLD on a permanent basis. In fact this is only a test to measure conversions, customer feedback, and much more.

Still, onwards and upwards. It’s certainly good news for the marketing of the Colombian TLD.

Personally, I’d be interested not only in data on conversions but also on refunds. There’s bound to be the odd customer who blindly registers a nice-looking domain thinking it’s a .com, right?

UPDATE: Go Daddy is now showing me (and others) .com as the default TLD once more. I guess the data is in.

What does the Overstock commercial mean for .co?

Kevin Murphy, November 5, 2010, Domain Registries

Judging by the number of exclamation marks being deployed over on the .CO Internet blog today, it’s a fairly safe bet that the company is rather happy with Overstock.com’s latest TV commercial.

It’s the first high-profile commercial to feature a .co domain, in this case o.co, which could go some way to raise the newly relaunched TLD’s profile in the US.

While it’s a nice first step for .CO, I wouldn’t say its TLD has necessarily “arrived” yet, on the basis of this ad, for a few reasons.

First, what’s this “shortcut” business?

Overstock.com commercial

Should this be troubling?

The biggest marketing coups .CO has inked to date have been for x.co and t.co, URL shorteners offered by Go Daddy and Twitter respectively. Now, Overstock is using its o.co as a “shortcut”, which bounces visitors to overstock.com.

True, Overstock’s .com domain is its brand, and that’s not about to change, but its use of o.co as a “shortcut” may perpetuate the short-term perception that .co’s primary purpose is short URLs.

On the upside, the company is actively encouraging customers to type a .co domain into their browsers.

Getting this “type-in awareness” is something I know that .CO Internet is looking to foster, something that the Twitter deal does not necessarily bring to the table.

It’s also encouraging that Overstock feels comfortable using a .co domain where it does not own the equivalent .com. That said, nobody does. Most single-letter .com domains are still reserved.

While this may be a branding risk for Overstock, could it actually be helpful for .CO, training fat-fingered users the difference between .com and .co domains? It seems possible.

It’s interesting to note that Overstock is using “www.” for its .co, but not for its .com, presumably in order to train viewers that “this is a URL”, much the same as .com domains were once uniformly advertised with the www prefix.

A reliable sign that .co has “arrived” would be when an advertiser feels happy to drop the www.

Sunrise for .so domains starts tonight

Kevin Murphy, October 31, 2010, Domain Registries

.SO Registry, manager of the internet’s newest open-doors top-level domain, will open its systems for sunrise registrations in a few hours, at midnight UTC.

The TLD is the country code for the Republic of Somalia, the mostly lawless east-African nation that is broadly recognized as a failed state.

For that reason, among others, the .so namespace is not likely to be as attractive to registrants as, say, the recent relaunch of Colombia’s .co.

Another reason, perhaps coupled to the fact that .so doesn’t really have a comparable English semantic value to .co, is that the registry appears to have done a rather poor job of publicizing the launch.

There has been no media activity as far as I can tell, and its web site does not currently list its approved registrars.

Key-Systems has press-released its involvement, and a quick Twitter poll earlier today revealed that EuroDNS, Blacknight and NetNames are also among the signed-up.

The back-end for the registry is being handled by Japanese operator GMO Registry.

During the trademarks-only sunrise period, which runs until November 30, companies have to commit to a minimum three-year registration, with a registry fee of $90, cheaper than most sunrise phases.

The .so registry has taken on most of the same sunrise policies as .co – its rules were written by the same people – with the noteworthy exception of the Protected Marks List.

.SO Registry is also the first to require trademark holders use CHIP, the new Clearing House for Intellectual Property, a venture launched earlier this month by sunrise specialist Bart Lieben, who recently joined the law firm Crowell & Moring.

After contested sunrise applications are wound up with a Pool.com auction, a landrush will follow, from December 16 to February 9, 2011. General availability is scheduled to kick off March 1.

.SO Registry recently published its restricted names list (pdf), which appears to be made up mostly of English-language profanities, as well as religiously and sexually oriented terms.

The term “gay” is among the restricted terms.

The registry also appears to have “wildcarded” about 20 strings on its restricted list, including %vagina%, %penis% and %lesbian%.

1,500 premium domains available at reg fee

Kevin Murphy, October 6, 2010, Domain Sales

Earlier today I blogged about how dotMobi had published a list of over 5,000 “premium” domain names that are still registry-reserved.

I thought it might be interesting to see how many of these strings were still available in other top-level domains. If they’re “premium” you’d expect them to have been snapped up long ago in TLDs such as .com and .net.

But that doesn’t appear to be the case.

I ran all 5,108 strings on the dotMobi list through Go Daddy’s bulk registration tool, to see how many were still available in other TLDs, and the results were a little surprising.

More than 80 are still available in .com, although none appear to be English. I suspect some may even be typos of non-English words (pornigrifia.com, for example).

About 375 of .mobi’s premiums are currently unregistered in .org and/or .net. Most are non-English, but there are a handful of exceptions, such as wildparties.org, tooshort.org, and gas-propane.org.

(I’ve no idea why these are considered “premium” domains under .mobi or any other TLD)

Perhaps most usefully, there are well over 800 strings on the .mobi list that have yet to be registered in the new .co namespace, hundreds of which are in English and (I think) Spanish.

The English domains include two-word combos such as banquetrooms.co, bostonterriers.co, carpeltunnel.co, scarletfever.co and raplyrics.co, as well as the odd dictionary word, such as rejected.co and monologues.co.

A great many of these available .co names are adult-oriented, such as adultpics.co, celebritynudes.co, footworship.co and gayhunks.co.

As far as I can tell, Go Daddy’s tool only spits back domains that are available at the standard registration fee. I registered half a dozen .co names this afternoon at reg fee using this method.

The list’s too big to post here, but if anybody’s interested in my spreadsheet, I’d be happy to share. Drop me a line: kevin at domainincite.com