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Lady Gaga dumps .org for freebie new gTLD

With all the recent headlines about celebrities who feel compelled to protect their personal brands in .porn and .sucks, it’s worth noting that celebs also find new gTLDs useful.

Lady Gaga has re-domained her Born This Way Foundation non-profit, dumping a .org for a domain in the new gTLD .foundation.

The old bornthiswayfoundation.org, which still tops Google searches for the organization, now redirects to bornthisway.foundation.

The domain was registered April 1.

Donuts tell me the foundation is not paying for the domain, but declined to comment on whether the registration was as a result of some kind of registry marketing.

Born This Way Foundation was set up by pop singer Lady Gaga at the .org address in 2012.

I’d like to tell you what the foundation does, but unfortunately its web site contains nothing but impenetrable PR waffle.

Something to do with “supporting the wellness of young people and empowering them to create a kinder and braver world” and “shining a light on real people, quality research, and authentic partnerships”.

Nevertheless, it’s associated with Lady Gaga, who is just about as high-profile a celebrity as they get.

It’s a potential awareness-raiser for a gTLD with about 5,200 registered names.

.guru renewals at 63%

Ten days into its series of renewal rate disclosures, Donuts has revealed that .guru’s rate currently stands at 63.4%.

In a blog post yesterday, COO Richard Tindal said that the registry’s overall renewal figure for the first 81,569 domains it sold was 68.4%.

The other two large TLDs in the batch — .photography and .clothing — came in at 75.7% and 74.0%, respectively.

.guru was the first new gTLD to launch in English that did not refer to a specific niche vertical. As such, it took the lion’s share of the early new gTLD speculation money.

We’re looking at a typical junk drop, in other words.

Over 10,000 names have been deleted from the .guru zone file since it peaked at over 80,000 names on February 28, as this DI PRO chart shows.

Tindal wrote that he expects the numbers to improve over time:

In March and April we expect the cumulative rate on all Donuts names to stabilize around 70%, and then trend upwards toward 80% as the average age of registrations increases and the proportion of names with website content continues to grow.

ICANN 50% renewal predictions not based on registry data

Kevin Murphy, March 25, 2015, Domain Registries

ICANN’s projection that new gTLDs will see renewals of between 25% and 50% is not based on empirical data from new gTLD registries.

The predictions, which come in under industry standard expectations, are “conservative and somewhat subjective”, ICANN said.

The organization last week revealed that its 2016 budget is partly based on a high estimate of 50% renewals, with 25% for registries that gave their domains away for free.

Because ICANN would have been in possession of actual registry transaction reports for February at the time of publication, I wondered whether the 50% number was anchored in early new gTLD registries’ actual experience.

Transaction reports give the actual number of renewals each registry gets in any given month.

But ICANN told DI today that its 2016 budget was “produced in November 2014 and reviewed in January 2015 by the GDD Domain Name Services team.”

An ICANN spokesperson said:

These projections are strictly for revenue planning, so they are rather conservative and somewhat subjective. We have limited historical data to refer to when examining new gTLD domain name renewals; these are uncharted waters.

As renewals occur, we will be in a better position to refine our assumptions when and if the actual data varies widely from what we have assumed in our model.

Donuts’ current renewal number, revealed as part of a blog series, is 71%. It has not yet stabilized.

Does Chehade agree with Donuts on .doctor?

Kevin Murphy, March 24, 2015, Domain Policy

Should governments have the right to force business-limiting restrictions on new gTLD operators, even though they don’t have the same rules in their own ccTLDs?

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade evidently believes the answer to that question is “No”, but it’s what ICANN is controversially imposing on Donuts and two other .doctor applicants anyway.

Donuts recently filed a Request for Reconsideration appeal with ICANN over its decision to make the .doctor gTLD restricted to medical professionals only.

It was an unprecedented “Public Interest Commitment” demanded by ICANN staff in order to keep the Governmental Advisory Committee happy.

The GAC has been asking for almost two years for so-called “Category 1″ gTLD strings — which could be seen to represent highly regulated sectors such as law or medicine — to see a commensurate amount of regulation from ICANN.

Governments wanted, for example, registrants to show professional credentials before being able to register a name.

In the vast majority of instances, ICANN creatively reinterpreted this advice to require registrants to merely assert that they possess such credentials.

These rules were put in registries’ contracts via PICs.

But for some reason in February the organization told Donuts that .doctor domains must be “ascribed exclusively to legitimate medical practitioners.”

According to Donuts, this came out of the blue, is completely unnecessary, an example of ICANN staff making up policy on the spot.

Donuts wants to be able to to sell .doctor names to doctors of any discipline, not just medical doctors. It also wants people to be able to use the names creatively, such as “computer.doctor” or “skateboard.doctor”.

What makes ICANN’s decision especially confusing is that CEO Fadi Chehade had the previous day passionately leaped to the defense of new gTLD registries in their fight against unnecessary GAC-imposed red tape.

The following video, in which Chehade uses .dentist as an example of a string that should not be subject to even more oversight, was taken February 11 at a Q&A with the Domain Name Assocation.

The New gTLD Program Committee meeting that authorized ICANN staff to add the new PIC took place February 12, the very next day. Chehade did not attend.

It’s quite remarkable how in line with registries Chehade seems to be.

It cuts to the heart of what many believe is wrong with the GAC — that governments demand of ICANN policies that they haven’t even bothered to implement in their own countries, just because it’s much easier to lean on ICANN than to pass regulations at home.

Here’s the entire text of his answer. He’s describing conversations he’d had with GAC members earlier in the week.

They’re saying stop all the Category 1 TLDs. Stop them. Freeze them!

And we said: Why do we need to freeze them? What’s the issue?

They said: It’s going to harm consumers.

How will it harm consumers? We started having a debate.

It turns out that they’re worried that if somebody got fadi.casino or fadi.dentist, to pick one of Statton’s [Statton Hammock, VP at Rightside, who was present], that this person is not a dentist and will pluck your ear instead of your teeth. How do you make sure they’re a dentist?

So I asked the European Commission: How do you make sure dentist.eu is a dentist?

They said: We don’t. They just get it.

I said: Okay, so why do these guys [new gTLD registries] have to do anything different?

And they said: The new gTLD program should be better or a model…

I said: Come on guys, do not apply rules that you’re not using today to these new folks simply because it’s easy, because you can come and raise flags here at ICANN. Let’s be fair. How do you do it at EU?

“Well, if somebody reports that fadi.dentist.eu is not a dentist, we remove them.”

Statton said: We do the same thing. It’s in our PICs. If fadi.dentist is not, and somebody reports them…

They said: But we can’t call compliance.

You can call compliance. Anyone can call compliance. Call us and we’ll follow up. With Statton, with the registrar.

What we have here is Chehade making a passionate case for the domain name industry’s right to sell medical-themed domain names without undue regulation — using many of the same arguments that Donuts is using in its Reconsideration appeal — then failing to show up for a board meeting the next day when that specific issue was addressed.

It’s impossible to know whether the NGPC would have reached a different decision had Chehade been at the February 12 meeting, because no formal vote was taken.

Rather, the committee merely passed along its “sense” that ICANN staff should carrying on what it was doing with regards implementing GAC advice on Category 1 strings.

While Chehade is but one voice on the NGPC, as CEO he is in charge of the ICANN staff, so one would imagine the decision to add the unprecedented new PIC to the .doctor contract falls into his area of responsibility.

That makes it all the more baffling that Donuts, and the other .doctor new gTLD applicants, are faced with this unique demand to restrict their registrant base to one subset of potential customers.

All eyes on Donuts as first new gTLD renewal figures roll in

Kevin Murphy, March 23, 2015, Domain Registries

Donuts is about to give the world the clearest picture yet of the ongoing demand for new gTLD domain names.

The company has taken the unprecedented decision to disclose its renewal figures on a pretty much live basis.

COO Richard Tindal has been blogging renewal stats for .bike, .clothing, .guru, .ventures, .holdings, .plumbing and .singles for the last few days.

Those were the first seven of its gTLDs to hit general availability.

To Saturday, the renewal status of 6,352 names in these gTLDs was known and the renewal rate was 85.3%.

However, that rate is boosted by the relatively high proportion of the names that were registered during sunrise periods.

Donuts said that “two thirds” of the 6,352 reported domains were registered after sunrise.

That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, given that Donuts has previously put the total number of sunrise regs across the seven TLDs at just 1,404, which would work out at about 22%, not 33%.

On Friday, the company had said that the status of 4,534 names was known and the renewal rate was 91.6%.

If you deduct the Friday numbers from the Saturday numbers, you get to 1,265 renewals and 553 drops, a renewal rate of almost 69.6% for that particular day.

That number, which is a few percentage points off what a gTLD such as .com regularly reports, could of course fluctuate.

The full-year renewal rate, which would factor out much of the domainer activity, of course won’t be known for another year.

Donuts said it expects its renewal rate to drop to the mid-70s in its next daily report, expected today, which will cover an additional 22,910 domains.

The company’s decision to blog its numbers comes a day or two after we reported that ICANN is only budgeting for renewals of 50%.

The 14.6% of names not renewed works out to about 933 domains.

“We believe most of those names will be re-registered by another party within the next 35 days,” Tindal wrote.

As they were all registered in the early days of GA, one might expect them to be of a reasonably high quality.

While GA began at the end of January 2014, renewal rates are not known until the Auto-Renew Grace Period, which can be as long as 45 days, has expired.