XYZ.com is trying to become one of the first non-Chinese gTLD registries to be able to sell unhindered into the Chinese market, in the face of Draconian government regulations.
The company has filed a Registry Services Evaluation Process request with ICANN — the first of its kind — that would let it use a gateway service, based in China, to comply with strict local laws on registries, registrars and registrants.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology regulations have been in place for a decade, but it’s only in the last year or so, in light of the new gTLD program, that China has been strictly enforcing them.
Anyone in China can buy a domain, but you need a license if you want to put up a web site, according to Gavin Brown, CTO of .xyz back-end CentralNic. Registrants also need to have their Whois information verified and validated, he said.
The problem for Chinese residents today is if they buy a domain in a TLD that is not licensed by the government, they won’t be able to obtain a license to host a web site on that domain.
The .xyz gTLD is believed to have a few hundred thousand domains registered via Chinese registrars, a substantial portion of its total.
There’s a worry that China could demand the deletion of these names and others, as it has previously in .cn, if the proper licenses have not been obtained.
Naturally, the inability to use these domains has led to a lot of pissed-off registrants. XYZ says has been receiving complaints from its registrars in the country, which in turn have been receiving complaints from their customers.
XYZ proposes to fix the problem by using a gateway service provided by ZDNS, a DNS provider based in mainland China.
Registrars in the country would maintain a separate EPP connection to ZDNS, which would act as a proxy to CentralNic’s UK-based primary EPP system.
ZDNS, which is prominently promoting its gateway service on its web site, would handle the Whois verification and also proxy the .xyz Whois lookup service, but only as it pertains to Chinese registrants and queries originating in China.
Data on non-Chinese registrants would continue to be housed with CentralNic.
ZDNS would also prevent Chinese registrants registering domains containing strings that have been banned by the government.
XYZ’s RSEP request (pdf) is currently undergoing its technical/competition review with ICANN. Assuming it passes, it would be exposed to public comment before being approved.
The RSEP states: “we are confident that the entire Internet user base of China would endorse this service and that Chinese registrars would strongly endorse this service.”
It’s the first such request to ICANN, suggesting that an awful lot of gTLDs are still not compliant with the Chinese regulations.
As of April, only 14 TLDs — all managed by China-based companies — were licensed to operate in China.
New gTLD registry XYZ.com has responded to criticisms of its plan to auction .xyz and .college names with NameJet before they even have signed contracts with ICANN.
CEO Daniel Negari told DI that the plan to auction 40 names between now and the end of February, is “comfortably within the rules”.
The company seems to be operating at the edge of what is permissible under the new gTLD program’s rights protection mechanisms, which state that no domains may be allocated prior to Sunrise.
But Negari said in an email interview that nothing will be “allocated” before its Sunrise periods are done:
the buyers at auction are not buying the domain names as in a normal auction. They are buying an option to force us to allocate them the domain after the Sunrise Period for the auction price assuming various contingencies are met — such as us being able to allocate the name in the future, the name being available after sunrise, the name not being blocked-out because of name collisions and so on.
He went on to say that the 40 names being put to auction are being drawn from the 100 names the recently redrafted Registry Agreement says registries are allowed to allocate to themselves “necessary for the operation or the promotion of the TLD”.
There’s also the potential problem that neither TLD has yet received its list of name collisions, which are likely to contain thousands of strings that the registry must block at launch.
As we’ve seen with the gTLDs that already have their lists, many desirable second-level strings are likely to be blocked, which could clash with names XYZ is planning to auction.
But XYZ seems to have access to the Day In The Life Of The Internet data from which these lists are compiled, and Negari said that the names it is auctioning off do not appear.
“We think these auctions are a great way to both promote our TLD as anticipated by ICANN in the RA and to bring increased innovation to the space in line with ICANN’s stated goals for the new gTLD program,” Negari said.
Many registrars are already offering new gTLD pre-registrations, now NameJet has taken the idea one step further: it’s going to auction premium names months before the gTLDs even go live.
It’s just announced a deal with XYZ.com, which is on track to run the .xyz and .college registries, to sell 40 “premium” domain names this month. In fact, according to its press relase, the first auction started on Wednesday.
These two new gTLDs are uncontested but do not yet have Registry Agreements with ICANN, and have not passed pre-delegation testing or any of the other pre-launch prerequisites.
The companies said they due to go live next year.
Some of the domains to be auctioned include: loans.college, scholarships.college, vacations.xyz, insurancequotes.xyz, students.college, jobs.college, auctions.xyz and health.xyz.
NameJet said it expects the auctions to be wrapped up by the end of February.
The full results of the first six new gTLD auctions are now known. Donuts lost five of them, raising millions of dollars in the process.
Here are the winners of last week’s auctions, which were managed by Innovative Auctions:
- .club — .CLUB Domains.
- .college — XYZ.COM.
- .luxury — Luxury Partners.
- .photography — Donuts.
- .red — Afilias.
- .vote — Monolith Registry
Five of the six were a two-way battles between Donuts, which has applied for 307 gTLDs, and one other applicant. Each of the losing applicants has now withdrawn its application with ICANN.
The exception is .club, a three-way fight that included Merchant Law Group. Neither losing application has been withdrawn with ICANN yet, but the result it well-known.
Innovative revealed last week that the round raised $9.01 million in total. The winning bids for each auction were not disclosed.
Given that Donuts managed to lose five out of the six, it’s a fairly safe assumption that most of that money will have gone into its war chest, which can be used in future auctions.
Of the five applications it has now withdrawn, only .red had already passed its Initial Evaluation, so the company will have also clawed back a $130,000 ICANN refund on each of the other four.
The auctions mean that we now know with a high degree of certainty which companies are going to be running these six gTLDs.
Most of them have not yet passed IE, but with the success rate so high to date I wouldn’t expect to see any failures. None of them are subject to objections or direct GAC Advice.
We now know (roughly) how much a new gTLD is worth.
The new gTLD contention sets for .club, .college, .luxury, .photography, .red, and .vote have been settled in a series of auctions this week that raised over $9 million.
That’s an average price of $1.5 million per string.
Writing on CircleID, Innovative Auctions project director Sheel Mohnot confirmed that the withdrawal of Donuts’ application for .vote was a result of losing the auction.
We also already know that .CLUB Domains won its auction.
But Mohnot did not reveal the winners of the other four auctions, each of which was a two-way fight between Donuts and one rival. ICANN’s web site does not yet reflect any other withdrawals.
His article does, however, quote Top Level Design and Luxury Holdings, which applied for .photography and .luxury respectively, as saying they were happy with the outcome.
Assuming they won too (which is of course not certain) that would mean Donuts lost at least four of the six auctions.
Donuts had originally submitted 63 strings to auction, but they could of course only go ahead if all of its competitors agreed to participate.
One wonders if the company submitted its lowest-value strings first in order to build up its war chest for future auctions. A good chunk of the $9 million raised will have flowed straight into its coffers.