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.web closer to reality as antitrust probe ends

Kevin Murphy, January 10, 2018, Domain Registries

Verisign has been given the all-clear by the US government to go ahead and run the new gTLD .web, despite competition concerns.

The Department of Justice told the company yesterday that the antitrust investigation it launched almost exactly a year ago is now “closed”.

Verisign’s secret proxy in the 2016 auction, the original .web applicant Nu Dot Co, now plans to try to execute its Registry Agreement with ICANN.

That contract would then be assigned to Verisign through the normal ICANN process.

The .com registry operator today filed this statement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission:

As the Company previously disclosed, on January 18, 2017, the Company received a Civil Investigative Demand from the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) requesting certain material related to the Company becoming the registry operator for the .web gTLD. On January 9, 2018, the DOJ notified the Company that this investigation was closed. Verisign previously announced on August 1, 2016, that it had provided funds for Nu Dot Co’s successful bid for the .web gTLD and the Company anticipates that Nu Dot Co will now seek to execute the .web Registry Agreement with ICANN and thereafter assign it to Verisign upon consent from ICANN.

This basically means that Justice disagrees with anyone who thinks Verisign plans to operate .web in a way that just props up its .com market dominance, such as by burying it without a trace.

People clamoring to register .web domains may still have some time to wait, however.

Rival applicant Donuts, via subsidiary Ruby Glen, still has a pending lawsuit against ICANN in California.

Donuts had originally sued to prevent the .web auction going ahead in mid-2016, trying to force Nu Dot Co to reveal who was really pulling its strings.

After the auction, in which Verisign committed to pay ICANN a record-setting $125 million, Donuts sued to have the result overturned.

But in November 2016, a judge ruled that the no-suing covenant that all new gTLD applicants had to sign was valid, throwing out Donuts’ case.

Donuts is now appealing that ruling, however, filing its most-recent brief just a few weeks ago.

Whether that will stop ICANN from signing the .web contract and delegating it to Verisign is an open question. It managed to delegate .africa to ZA Central Registry despite the existence of an ongoing lawsuit by a competing applicant.

If history is any guide, we may see a rival applicant apply for a temporary restraining order against .web’s delegation before long.

Donuts loses Cole to law firm

Kevin Murphy, December 20, 2017, Domain Registries

Donuts vice president Mason Cole has quit to join a law firm.

Cole said on social media yesterday that he has joined Seattle-based Perkins Coie as an “Internet Governance Advisor”.

He said he will continue to participate in ICANN in his new capacity, where Perkins Coie is involved in intellectual property matters.

Cole has been in the industry for over 15 years, first at SnapNames and Oversee.net before becoming a founding employee of new gTLD registry player Donuts.

He was most recently VP communications and industry relations there.

He’s not a lawyer, but he does have extensive experience on the Generic Names Supporting Organization, including being its first liaison to the Governmental Advisory Committee.

Kickstarter launches Patreon rival on .RIP domain hack

Kevin Murphy, November 15, 2017, Domain Sales

They’re deadly serious.

Crowdfunding service Kickstarter has relaunched its Drip subscriptions service on a .rip domain.

It’s a domain hack using a single-character domain: d.rip.

It’s actually a case of a migration away from a .com domain, which is not something you see every day from a major online brand.

Drip was acquired by Kickstarter from record company Ghostly International in 2012 and has had a relatively low-key presence at drip.kickstarter.com.

Rather than enabling creators to fund a project entirely in advance, with an “all-or-nothing” approach, it allows them to collect subscription fees from fans.

It’s aimed at musicians, podcasters, comedians, YouTubers and the like — people who need a way to support their work now that advertisers are increasingly wary of edgy online content.

The .rip gTLD was originally a Rightside domain. It’s now in the Donuts stable.

It was intended to stand for Rest In Peace, giving registrants a memorable name with which to memorialize the dead.

In reality, with under 3,000 names in its zone, it’s used for a wide variety of other purposes too. Some sites use it to represent “rip” as a verb, others use it to evoke a sense of horror.

As a single-character registry premium name, d.rip would not have been cheap. However, it would have been certainly a lot cheaper than Drip.com, which is in use by an email marketing company.

59,000% revenue growth at Donuts leads to Deloitte award

Kevin Murphy, November 9, 2017, Domain Registries

Deloitte has placed new gTLD registry Donuts at the top of its 2017 Technology Fast 500, a league table of the fastest-growing North American technology firms.

Donuts won by growing its revenue by 59,093% over three years.

Given that Donuts didn’t have its first revenue-generating gTLD delegated until the final quarter of 2013, the three-year judging period basically covers almost the entire period of its existence as a trading company.

The runners up were ClassPass (46,556%, founded 2013), which gives fitness junkies a centralized way to book from multiple classes, and Toast (31,250%, founded 2012), which makes point-of-sale software for restaurants.

Companies could submit themselves for consideration on the 500-strong table. They only needed 135% growth over three years to make it to the list.

The rankings are based on revenue, not profit, so it does not necessarily mean that gTLDs are a way to get rich quick.

Still, it’s impressive that something as dated as domain names could top the rankings, given the number of transformational technologies hitting the market every year.

This is who won the .inc, .llc and .llp gTLD auctions

Kevin Murphy, October 19, 2017, Domain Registries

The winners of the auctions to run the gTLD registries for company identifiers .inc, .llc and .llp have emerged due to ICANN application withdrawals.

All three contested gTLDs had been held up for years by appeals to ICANN by Dot Registry — an applicant with the support of US states attorneys general — but went to private auction in September after the company gave up its protests for reasons its CEO doesn’t so far want to talk about.

The only auction won by Dot Registry was .llp. That stands for Limited Liability Partnership, a legal construct most often used by law firms in the US and probably the least frequently used company identifier of the three.

Google was the applicant with the most cash in all three auctions, but it declined to win any of them.

.inc seems to have been won by a Hong Kong company called GTLD Limited, run by DotAsia CEO Edmon Chong. DotAsia runs .asia, the gTLD granted by ICANN in the 2003 application round.

My understanding is that the winning bid for .inc was over $15 million.

If that’s correct, my guess is that the quickest, easiest way to make that kind of money back would be to build a business model around defensive registrations at high prices, along the lines of .sucks or .feedback.

My feedback would be that that business model would suck, so I hope I’m wrong.

There were 11 original applicants for .inc, but two companies withdrew their applications years ago.

Dot Registry, Uniregisty, Afilias, GMO, MMX, Nu Dot Co, Google and Donuts stuck around for the auction but have all now withdrawn their applications, meaning they all likely shared in the lovely big prize fund.

MMX gained $2.4 million by losing the .inc and .llc auctions, according to a recent disclosure.

.llc, a US company nomenclature with more potential customers of lower net worth, went to Afilias.

Dot Registry, MMX, Donuts, LLC Registry, Top Level Design, myLLC and Google were also in the .llc auction and have since withdrawn their applications.