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Donuts makes weird investment in startup

Donuts has made a surprising investment in a company that makes geolocation technologies.

The new gTLD registry operator announced yesterday that it has something called Donuts Labs, through which it will make “strategic investments” in “similar” companies.

Its first investment is in California tech startup GeoFrenzy, which operates in the emerging “geofences” space.

A geofence is a virtual perimeter around a defined geographic location.

Basically, GeoFrenzy has divided the world up into square-centimeter chunks and stores data about who owns these chunks in a registry database.

Using the GPS service you’ll find in all modern mobile devices, apps using the technology can figure out when you walk into or out of a registered, fenced-off area, triggering some behavior.

Such services are believed to have applications ranging from logistics to advertising. One example on the GeoFrenzy web site says that its database and software could be used to keep drones out of restricted airspace.

The terms of the deal with were not disclosed, but it’s surprising news for a couple of reasons.

First, Donuts appears to have cash to throw around on pet side-projects at a time when one would assume, as an early-stage company itself, it would be more focused on growing its fledgling new gTLD business.

Second, the press release makes out that there are technology synergies between the companies.

GeoFrenzy CEO Sean Eilers is quoted as saying: “Their expertise in managing a highly scalable registry and their experience with innovative DNS technologies makes Donuts an ideal fit as an investor and strategic partner.”

But to the best of my knowledge Donuts doesn’t have any experience managing a highly scalable registry. It outsources all of that kind of thing to Rightside, doesn’t it?

Donuts says it will be making more, similar investments in future.

.mobile will be restricted after Donuts loses auction to Dish DBS

Kevin Murphy, March 15, 2016, Domain Registries

The contention set for the new gTLD .mobile has been resolved, seemingly by private auction, with Dish DBS emerging victorious.

The portfolio registry withdrew its application at the weekend, leaving the satellite TV provider the only remaining applicant.

This means that .mobile will be a restricted gTLD, available only to vetted members of the mobile telephony industry.

Dish had originally proposed .mobile as a so-called “closed generic”, in which it would be the registry and only registrant, but changed its application last year.

It’s a similar story to .phone, which Dish also won.

Dish applied for 13 gTLDs. It withdrew two applications, and 10 others are either in pre-delegation testing or ICANN contracting.

Schilling agrees with activist Rightside investor

Uniregistry boss Frank Schilling agrees to a large extent with the fellow Rightside investor who was revealed today to be threatening a boardroom coup at Rightside.

Schilling, who is believed to have paid $8.4 million for 6.1% of Rightside, told DI tonight that he believes Rightside’s management has not done a good job over the last few years.

He said he agrees with 7.32% shareholder J Carlo Cannell, who says that Rightside should get rid of some of its weaker new gTLDs.

Cannell, of Cannell Capital, is demanding Rightside lay off one in five of its staff, dump its weakest new gTLDs, and refocus the company on its eNom registrar business.

He’s threatening to launch a proxy fight at the company in order to replace the Rightside board of directors with his own slate if management does not do what he wants.

Cannell’s letter called out .democrat, .dance, .army, .navy, and .airforce as “irrelevant” or “garbage” gTLDs in Rightside’s portfolio that should be sold or simply “abandoned” in order to focus on its better gTLDs, such as .news, and its cash-generating registrar business.

Schilling told DI tonight that he agrees with Cannell, at least partly.

He said that if Cannell’s proposal for the company is good for shareholders and the company he would support it.

It may sound counter-intuitive for Schilling, one of the most ardent proponents of new gTLDs, to support somebody encouraging Rightside to invest less in marketing its new gTLD portfolio.

After all, Uniregistry has a couple dozen new gTLDs — including .sexy, .christmas, .pics and .link — in its stable

But Schilling has form when it comes to advocating portfolio rationalization.

Today he pointed to comments he made on a DI article in December

“Operators may make the decision to give away or sunset unprofitable strings,” he said in those comments. “I don’t view that as such a bad thing.”

Schilling said that weaker strings should be “bootstrapped” rather than aggressively invested in.

One of Cannell’s beefs with Rightside is that the company is focusing too much on new gTLDs. He’s not opposed to new gTLDs in general — in fact, he likes them — but he wants Rightside to put money only into those gTLDs he considers worthwhile.

Cannell also wants Name.com rebranded to eNom and moved to Rightside’s Seattle headquarters, for two of its directors to be replaced and for 20% of Rightside’s “weakest” staff to be laid off.

I asked Schilling whether he agreed with Cannell that that 20% of Rightside’s staff should be let go.

He said: “I do not think it is healthy to name arbitrary numbers but I do think some wrong people are in the wrong seats.”

Schilling also said that he believes Rightside has been “subservient” to Donuts, and has given Donuts too much for too little.

Donuts is the portfolio gTLD registry play that uses Rightside as its back-end registry provider.

Donuts has a much better portfolio, in my irrelevant opinion.

Another notable investor in Rightside is XYZ.com CEO Daniel Negari and his COO Michael Ambrose, who collectively invested roughly $8.5 million in Rightside at around the same time as Schilling and Cannell bought their stakes.

Like Schilling, they’re an obviously pro-new-gTLD play. I’ve asked Negari for his opinion on Cannell’s letter and will update should I ever receive a response.

Donuts makes Hollywood content policing deal

Kevin Murphy, February 9, 2016, Domain Registries

Donuts has made a deal with the American movie industry that will make it easier to take down piracy domains.

The Motion Picture Association of America has been given a “Trusted Notifier” status, and the two companies have agreed upon a domain take-down framework.

The agreement targets “large-scale pirate websites”, Donuts said.

It’s the first such deal Donuts has made, executive VP Jon Nevett told DI, but it’s likely to be extended into other industries, possibility including music, pharmaceuticals and child abuse prevention.

“This could be a model for not just content-related issues,” he said.

Nevett did not want to get into much detail about the specifics of the take-down process by discussing the definition of “large scale” or timing, but he did say that the MPAA has an obligation to do manual research into each domain it wants suspending.

After it receives a report from the MPAA, Donuts will reach out to the registrar and registrant to ask for an explanation of the alleged piracy.

A decision to suspend the domain or leave it alone would be made “solely in our discretion”, Nevett said.

Donuts already has this in its acceptable use policy, which reads in part:

Donuts reserves the right, at its sole discretion and at any time and without limitation, to deny, suspend, cancel, redirect, or transfer any registration or transaction, or place any domain name(s) on registry lock, hold, or similar status as it determines necessary for any of the following reasons:

domain name use is abusive or violates this AUP, or a third party’s rights or acceptable use policies, including but not limited to the infringement of any copyright or trademark;

While Donuts is the registry for .movie and .theater, the MPAA agreement applies to all of its almost 200 gTLDs.

The announcement comes the day before the Domain Name Association meets to discuss its Healthy Domains Initiative.

Nevett said that DNA members will meet tomorrow with law enforcement, IP owners, and abuse prevention and security folk to seek input on the question “What are tenets of healthy domain ecosystem?”

That input will be discussed at a subsequent DNA meeting, likely to coincide with the ICANN meeting in Marrakech this April.

The eventual goal is to come up with a set of voluntary best practices for registries and registrars.

Nevett stressed that the MPAA deal, and whatever the DNA comes up with, are voluntary agreements made outside the auspices of ICANN’s contracts.

Despite this, the “Trusted Notifier” concept does put me in mind of section 3.18 of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement, where governmental or affiliated entities are given special powers to have dodgy domains investigated and suspended.

Donuts adds two millionth domain

Kevin Murphy, February 1, 2016, Domain Registries

Donuts today said that it has added its two millionth new domain name registration.

The domain in question was schedule.holiday, the company said.

The number appears to refer to fresh registrations, not including renewals, across all of its TLDs.

Its first batch of gTLDs launched about two years ago.

The registry currently has 192 new gTLDs, 185 of which are in general availability, according to DI records, making the average haul about 10,000 names per TLD.

If we were talking $20 per registration (an estimate, as Donuts doesn’t publish its registry fees), the company would have made $40 million from new regs.

That’s not including its sunrise fees, renewals, or recurring premium-fee domains, of course.

It spent almost $57 million just on ICANN application fees.

It expects to wind up with about 200 by the time the current application round ends.

Its best performer to date is .guru, one of its first to launch, which has about 65,000 names in its zone file today and, according to Donuts, over 67,000 names in total.