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Cybersquatters already hitting .co

Kevin Murphy, July 21, 2010, Domain Sales

Just over 24 hours after the general availability launch of the .co top-level domain, the secondary market is already beginning to fill up with dodgy domains.

Aftermarkets including Go Daddy and Sedo are currently listing some names that are unarguably typosquats of famous brands, and plenty more that very probably wouldn’t beat a UDRP complaint.

Go Daddy Auctions currently has almost 200 .co domains listed, Sedo over 500. Of those, I managed to find a few dozen dubious registrations, mostly on Go Daddy.

It beggars belief that, with millions of decent greenfield domains available, somebody had the failure of imagination to register wwwgoole.co. But they did. It’s currently listed on Sedo.

Other probable typosquats found on Sedo this evening include yahhoo.co, listed with a £10,000 price tag, as well as yayoo.co, geogle.co and barclys.co.

Go Daddy has listed some more obvious brands: poptarts.co and tostitos.co for the foodies, sanfranciscogiants.co, washingtonnationals.co and seattlemariners.co for the American football baseball fans.

Somebody who pays way too much attention to Rick Schwartz registered bpoilspill.co for the quick flip.

Cartoon characters for sale include mariobros.co and goofy.co. Celebrities duncanbannatyne.co and mikeposner.co both get squatted.

Yahoo, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft all get targeted, with yahoomaps.co, iphonedeals.co, facebookme.co and bingsearch.co all receiving price tags between $5,000 and $50,000.

For the Brits, centerparcs.co, virginuk.co and bbciplayer.co are also all up for auction.

Bear in mind that these are just the domains that have been registered and listed for auction in the first 24 hours. There’ll be plenty more not yet on the market.

I’d estimate about 5% to 10% of Go Daddy’s .co auctions are currently UDRP fodder.

This is why trademark holders hate new TLDs.

The .CO launch, by the numbers

The .co top-level domain is now live and open for general registrations, following a well-planned and self-evidently successful launch period.

The TLD is the country-code for Colombia, but it’s being sold as a generic alternative to .com by .CO Internet.

Here’s the story of the launch, explained with numbers:

27,000 – approximate number of active .com.co registrations made before the start of 2010, under the previous, much more restrictive regime (source).

5,000 – roughly how many of these .com.co registrants chose to participate in sunrise grandfathering, which would allow them to grab the equivalent .co domain before anybody else (source).

100 – number of brands on .CO Internet’s Specially Protected Marks List. These 100 companies, selected by Deloitte, had their brands placed on a registry-reserved list during the launch period.

83 – brands on the SPML who had chosen to register their .co names by the time the sunrise closed (source). Companies on the SPML who continue to decline their domain will see their brand released back into the pool.

10 – registrars initially approved to take .co registrations. Many more companies are selling the domains, but they’re all acting as resellers for these 10. More registrars will be approved in future.

225 to 335 – price in US dollars of a sunrise registration for trademark holders (source).

11,000 – approximate number of sunrise registrations

1,500 – approximate number of rejected sunrise applications (source)

27,905 – applications made during the landrush (source)

451 – landrush applicants applying for 10 or more domains

2,523 – domains receiving more than one landrush application. These domains will now be offered at auction. (source)

133 – number of countries where landrush applicants resided

350– Fortune 500 companies that have registered their trademarks under .co as of today

81,000 – the price in US dollars of the first .co domain to be auctioned, the single-letter e.co. The domain sold on Sedo to Bookmarks.com on June 10 (source)

350,000 – price in US dollars of the biggest seller to date, the single-letter o.co. The domain was sold to Overstock.com, directly by the registry, earlier this week. (source)

91,613 – registrations in the first 12 minutes of general availability, which started at 6pm UTC yesterday. (source)

216,159 – currently active registrations as of 10am UTC today, 16 hours into general availability (source)

? – number of .co domains still active July 22, 2011.

Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add your data to the list.

.CO sunrise sees gaming attempts

.CO Internet has published a list of over 1,500 domains that were rejected during its two-month-long trademark-protection sunrise period for the .co namespace.

While the document does not break down the reasons why each name was rejected, it appears to list some attempts to game the system by registering non-existent trademarks or trademarks belonging to other entities.

It’s a 48-page document, compiled by Deloitte, but the range of rejected domains can be illustrated without leaving the C’s.

Names that were applied for and rejected despite being household names include the likes of circuitcity.co, compusa.co, comet.co and currys.co, all electronics retailers, and chevrolet.co.

Since these are names for which trademarks certainly do exist, I’m drawing the conclusion that the sunrise applicant was not the owner of the trademark.

There were also attempts to register personal names, such as christopher.co and courtney.co, as well as geographical terms, such as coventry.co, cleveland.co and chennai.co.

One wildly optimistic applicant even took a chance on colombia.co.

Some applicants went after the .co variants of popular .com web sites, such as chucknorrisfacts.co and collegehumor.co.

In terms of generic terms, applications were rejected for the likes of coffeehouse.co and countrymusic.co.

All of these names, and 1,500 more from the list, will be released back into the landrush period, in which anybody can attempt to register them, a few hours from now.

The recently extended landrush period ends this Friday. General availability begins next week.

Hat tip to Key-Systems, which released the list earlier today.

Which top brands turned down their .co domains?

Playboy, Pepsi and Pizza Hut are among 17 of the world’s top 100 brands that did not use the .co sunrise period to register their trademarks as .co domain names.

This is effectively the first empirical data we have to judge the demand for a Globally Protected Marks List along the lines of that which ICANN was toying with for its new TLD program.

.CO Internet, the registry operator behind the newly liberalized Colombian top-level domain, chose to implement a Specially Protected Marks List as one of several IP-protection mechanisms.

The list, maintained by Deloitte, comprises the 100 trademarks thought to be the most valuable, and the most rigorously defended, on the internet.

All of these marks, which include some generic dictionary words, are classified as registry reserved and will be impossible to register unless you are the trademark owner.

Yet 83 of the companies on the list chose to register their names in the .co sunrise anyway.

This may show that famous brands are more interested in owning a name that resolves, rather than merely defensively registering in order to keep their marks out of the hands of cybersquatters.

I can only speculate as to why these 83 chose to participate in the sunrise.

Two obvious reasons are the need to establish a Colombian presence on the internet, and the desire to capture any typo traffic from people miskeying “.com”.

For both these reasons, the data is probably not a reliable indicator of how these companies would act during a generic TLD sunrise.

Of the 100 marks on the Deloitte list, these are the 17 that have so far chosen not to acquire their domains:

Accenture, Accor, Armani, Blackberry, BMW, Carrefour, Dell, Fedex, Ferrari, General Electric, Nivea, Pedigree, Pepsi, Pizza Hut, Playboy, Prada, Reebok, Sanyo, SAP, Sheraton, Tiffany and Total.

Because these are registry-reserved names, there’s no danger of cybersquatters picking them up when .co goes to general availability in a little under 11 days.

UPDATE 2010-07-13: See the comment from .CO Internet below. It seems the SPM list is not as useful for brand holders as I had thought.

.CO landrushers will be able to apply for trademark rejects

The landrush for .co domains will be extended by three days, to give people a chance to apply for strings that were rejected during the sunrise period, according to a registrar.

Key-Systems posted the news to its Facebook page earlier, but the .CO web site has yet to be updated with the same info.

The registrar said that the landrush, in which registrants apply for premium, non-trademarked strings, will now end on Friday, July 16 at 1600 UTC.

It also raised the prospect of a mini-spike in landrush applications in the last few days of the period.

Key-Systems said that domains covered by invalid sunrise applications – claimed trademarks which were rejected for one reason or another – will come up for grabs on July 12.

The list of such names, which could disclose the kind of bogus trademark claims made by those trying to game the system, will make very interesting reading. It’s due to be published July 10.

Twitter registers t.co for URL shortener

Twitter has registered the domain name t.co, to use as a secure URL shortener.

Just minutes ago, t.co started resolving to a page containing this text:

Twitter uses the t.co domain as part of a service to protect users from harmful activity, to provide value for the developer ecosystem, and as a quality signal for surfacing relevant, interesting tweets.

The page links to a FAQ describing its current URL shortener, twt.tl.

Whois.co shows it’s registered as part of .CO Internet’s Founders’ Program, the scheme the Colombian registry put in place to plug its upcoming launch.

Under this program, companies can partner with .CO to get a free premium .co domain if they commit to promote it.

TechCrunch was previously the highest-profile site to join the program, when it registered disrupt.co.

I would say getting Twitter on board definitely beats that deal.

.CO Internet is also currently auctioning e.co for charity. Bids have already reached $24,000.

UPDATE: Twitter published a blog post on the launch. I guess they beat me by about three minutes.

“When this is rolled out more broadly to users this summer, all links shared on Twitter.com or third-party apps will be wrapped with a t.co URL,” the firm says.

Probably too soon to say for sure, but it looks like Bit.ly is kinda screwed.

Charity e.co auction kicks off with $10k bid

Kevin Murphy, June 7, 2010, Domain Sales

The four-day auction of the domain name e.co started less than an hour ago at Sedo, and it has already attracted a five-figure bid.

.CO Internet, the Colombian firm behind the newly liberalized .co ccTLD namespace, is using the auction to plug its upcoming landrush, which kicks off June 20.

Juan Diego Calle, CEO of the registry, previously said e.co is “perhaps the shortest, most memorable digital brand in the world”.

Proceeds from the sale will be donated to the charity of the winning bidder’s choosing.

Due to the high-profile nature of the auction, wannabe bidders have to fill out an application form before posting their bids.

The bidding will conclude during a live event at the Internet Week show in New York this Thursday.

E.co up for charity auction at Sedo

Kevin Murphy, May 26, 2010, Domain Sales

Sedo is to host a charity auction for the domain name e.co, under a deal with .CO Internet, manager of the newly relaunched Colombian ccTLD.

The auction will run from June 7 to June 10, with the final hour hosted live at the Internet Week show in New York, simultaneously webcast to the Internet Retailer and TRAFFIC conferences.

The winner of the auction gets to choose which charity the sale price is donated to.

Juan Diego Calle, CEO of the registry, said e.co is “perhaps the shortest, most memorable digital brand in the world”, which is hard to argue with.

You’ve got to hand it to .CO Internet, and to its PR outfit BM, they’re doing a hell of a job keeping the pre-launch .co buzz going. New TLD applicants take note.

Could we see seven figures? It seems quite possible.

Let’s hope the winning bidder throws the money at a worthy cause and doesn’t blow it on a donkey sanctuary or something.

.CO Internet scores TechCrunch marketing coup with Disrupt.co

The newly relaunched .co domain has won itself a whole bunch of free publicity by signing up TechCrunch to its Founders Program.

The tech news blog will use the domain Disrupt.co as part of its startup conference of the same name that kicks off today.

The web site will host “Startup Battlefield”, a competition during TechCrunch Disrupt for new companies and services.

.CO Internet is marketing Colombia’s .co ccTLD as a generic. The launch is currently in its trademark sunrise period, with registrations opening to other registrants next month.

Its Founders Program is a marketing scheme designed to get the word out about the availability of .co domains. Few partners could be as useful to this end as TechCrunch.

Founders get a free premium domain if they promise to promote it properly. CO Internet is still looking for more partners, with applications closing June 15.

I expect disrupt.com, currently parked, will also be getting a lot of traffic today.

.co enters pricey global sunrise

Kevin Murphy, April 26, 2010, Domain Registries

Trademark holders can from today apply for their brands as .co domain names, even if they do not do business in Colombia.

The second stage of .CO Internet’s sunrise period allows owners of non-Colombian trademarks to apply for their domains through one of 10 chosen launch registrars.

Prices vary from $225 with OpenSRS to $335 through Dotster, with most deals comprising non-refundable application fees plus first-year registration. Go Daddy is charging $299.99 and Network Solutions is charging $279.99.

With the possible exception of .xxx, I’ve got a suspicion that this could be one of the last “generic” TLD launches with such expensive sunrise periods.

It’s quite possible there could be pricing pressure if ICANN quickly approves a few hundred new gTLDs next year. If each charges ~$300 for a pre-launch, it could cause some some registrants to rethink their defensive registration strategies.

The .co sunrise ends June 10. General availability begins July 20.