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No, CentralNic isn’t the biggest new gTLD back-end

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2015, Domain Registries

CentralNic’s registry back-end business may have got a big boost by last week’s news that Google has adopted a .xyz domain for its new parent, but it is not yet the biggest back-end provider.

That honor still belongs to Rightside, which currently leads CentralNic by a few hundred thousand names, according to zone files.

When Google started using abc.xyz as the primary domain for its new company last Monday, it caused a sharp spike in .xyz’s daily zone file growth.

The volume-leading new gTLD’s zone had been netting about 3,000 domains per day over the previous week, but that number has risen to almost 8,000 on average since the Google announcement.

While undoubtedly good news for XYZ.com and CentralNic, the growth has not been enough to propel CentralNic into the top-spot just yet.

CentralNic said in a press release today that it currently has 1,444,210 domains, making it the “number one registry backend”.

But according to DI’s numbers, Rightside has at least 1,701,316 domains in new gTLDs running on its back-end.

The CentralNic press release, as well as an earlier piece on The Domains, both cite ntldstats.com as their source.

That site had been listing Donuts as the top new gTLD back-end provider for over a year, with CentralNic in second place.

The problem is that Donuts is not a back-end provider. Never has been.

The portfolio registry disclosed right from the start that it was using Rightside (then Demand Media).

A Donuts spokesperson confirmed to DI today that it still uses Rightside.

The company runs its 190 delegated new gTLDs on Rightside’s back-end. Rightside manages another 39 of its own on the same infrastructure.

Combined, these gTLDs make up 1,701,316 second-level domains, making it the largest back-end registry provider.

New musical named after (and uses) new gTLD domain

Kevin Murphy, July 3, 2015, Domain Sales

How’s this for a high-profile registrant?

A new stage musical, co-written by Blur front-man Damon Albarn, has opened in the UK this week, and it’s named after a new gTLD domain name.

wonder.land is a take on Alice in Wonderland that reportedly “tells the story of a 21st Century teen who immerses herself in a psychedelic online game.”

The production, which is running previews in Manchester until July 12 before transferring to the National Theatre in London this November, is using the domain wonder.land.

Reviews have been mixed.

.land is a Donuts gTLD with about 13,000 domains in its zone.

Chrome users who search for wonder.land in their browser address bar will be taken to the domain rather than a search results page.

Donuts: glitch revealed price we would pay for gTLDs

The recently discovered security vulnerability in one of ICANN’s web sites revealed how much Donuts was willing to pay for contested gTLDs at auction.

This worrying claim emerged during a meeting between registries and the ICANN board of directors at ICANN 53 in Buenos Aires yesterday.

“We were probably the largest victim of the data breach,” Donuts veep Jon Nevett told the board. “We had our financial data reviewed numerous times, dozens of times. We had our relative net worth of our TLDs reviewed, so it was very damaging information.”

He was referring to the misconfiguration in the new gTLD applicants’ portal, which allowed any user to view confidential application attachments belonging to any applicant.

ICANN discovered the problem in February, two years after the portal launched. The results of a security audit were revealed in late April.

But it was not until late May that it emerged that only one person, dotBerlin CEO Dirk Krischenowski, was suspected by ICANN of having deliberately viewed data belonging to others.

Nevett said communication should have been faster.

“We were in the dark for a number of weeks about who saw the data,” he told the board. “That was troubling, as we were going to auctions in that interim period as well.”

Donuts, which applied for over 300 new gTLDs, is known to have taken a strictly numbers-driven approach to string selection and auction strategy.

If a rival in a contention set had known how much Donuts was prepared to pay for a string, it would have had a significant advantage in an auction.

In response to Nevett’s concerns, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade said that ICANN had to do a thorough investigation before it could be sure who saw what when.

Donuts makes private deal with wine-makers

Donuts inked a private side-deal with wine-making regions in order to launch the .wine and .vin new gTLDs

The company signed both Registry Agreements with ICANN late last week, after the wine regions and the European Union stopped complaining.

The EU and regions had filed Cooperative Engagement Process objections with ICANN, saying that Donuts should be forced to protect “geographic indicators” such as Napa Valley and Champagne.

CEPs are often precursors to Independent Review Process complaints, but both were dropped after Donuts came to a private deal.

“The CEP filed by the Wine Regions was withdrawn because we came to a satisfactory private arrangement with the Registry concerned, Donuts,” David Taylor of Hogan Lovells, who represented the wine-making regions, told DI.

Details of the deal have not been disclosed, but Donuts does not appear to have committed to anything that could create compliance problems with ICANN in future.

“It has been a successful negotiation between private parties that avoids policy precedents,” Taylor said. “There are no special changes to these registry agreements (e.g., no new PICs)”

PICs are Public Interest Commitments, enforceable addenda to Registry Agreements that oblige the registry to adhere to extra rules.

So are GIs protected in .wine or not? For now, Taylor won’t say.

“My view is that this is not a victory for either side of the GI debate,” he said. “This is a victory for the wine community (consumers and producers) and ultimately the new gTLD program.”

ICANN Compliance probing Hunger Games domain

ICANN’s Compliance department is looking into whether Donuts broke the rules by activating a domain name for the forthcoming The Hunger Games movie.

Following up from the story we posted earlier today, ICANN sent DI the following statement:

We are well aware of this issue and are addressing it through our normal compliance resolution process. We attempt to resolve compliance matters through a collaborative informal resolution process, and we do not comment on what happens during the informal resolution phase.

At issue is whether Donuts allowed the movie’s marketers to launch thehungergames.movie before the new gTLD’s mandatory 90-day “controlled interruption” phase was over.

Under a strict reading of the CI rules, there’s something like 10 to 12 days left before Donuts is supposed to be allowed to activate any .movie domain except nic.movie.

Donuts provided the following statement:

This is a significant step forward in the mainstream usage of new domains. One of the core values of the new gTLD program is the promotion of consumer choice and competition, and Donuts welcomes this contribution to the program’s success, and to the promotion of the film. We don’t publicly discuss specific matters related to ICANN compliance.

I imagine what happened here is that Donuts got an opportunity to score an anchor tenant with huge visibility and decided to grasp it with both hands, even though distributor Lion’s Gate Entertainment’s (likely immovable) launch campaign schedule did not exactly chime with its own.

It may be a technical breach of the ICANN rules on name collisions — which many regard as over-cautious and largely unnecessary — but it’s not a security or stability risk.

Of course, some would say it also sets a precedent for other registries to bend the rules if they score big-brand backing in future.

Is The Hunger Games’ new .movie domain illegal?

Donuts may have launched its best new gTLD anchor tenant in violation of ICANN rules.

The company revealed earlier this week that The Hunger Games movies are using thehungergames.movie to promote the fourth and final installment of the wildly successful “trilogy”.

The domain name even features in the trailer for the film, which currently has over 1.7 million YouTube views.

But it has been claimed that Donuts activated the domain in the DNS two weeks before it was allowed to under its ICANN registry contract.

It boils down to “controlled interruption”, the controversial mechanism by which registries mitigate the risk of potentially harmful name collisions in the DNS.

Under ICANN’s rules for CI, for 90 days registries have to implement a wildcard in their zone file that redirects all domains other than nic.[tld] to 127.0.53.53 and your-dns-needs-immediate-attention.[tld].

“The Registry Operator must not activate any other names under the TLD until after the 90-day controlled interruption period has been completed,” the rules say, in bold text.

Donuts’ .movie was delegated on or around March 26, which means when thehungergames.movie was activated there were still about two weeks left on the .movie CI clock.

As far as I can tell from reading ICANN documentation on CI, there are no carve-outs for anchor tenants.

The .movie zone file has five other domains related to The Hunger Games in it — the only names other than nic.movie — but they don’t seem to resolve.

There’s no actual security or stability risk here, of course.

If .movie had used the old method of blocking a predefined list of identified name collisions, thehungergames.movie would not have even been affected — it’s not on .movie’s list of collisions.

However, if ICANN decides rules have been broken and Donuts is forced to deactivate the domain, it would be a painfully embarrassing moment for the new gTLD industry.

It can perhaps be hoped that ICANN’s process of investigating such things takes about two weeks to carry out.

I’ve contacted Donuts for comment and will provide an update if and when I receive any additional information.

The Hunger Games is first to use a .movie domain

Donuts has signed up an impressive anchor tenant for its upcoming .movie gTLD in the form of The Hunger Games series of movies.

thehungergames.movie is one of just a handful of domains in .movie, which is currently pre-sunrise, indicating that it’s a deal Donuts has negotiated directly with the film distributors.

The Hunger Games is a series of inexplicably successful science fiction adventure films, starring Jennifer Lawrence, popular with teenagers.

The first movie in the series fetched a whopping $691 million in box office receipts.

A trailer for the fourth and final movie in the series was released today, and it’s the first to carry a .movie domain.

Hunger Games

You’ll notice that the Facebook and Twitter addresses and suggested hashtags take precedence over the domain, but that’s understandable given the target demographic.

For Donuts, it’s just about the best anchor tenant it could have hoped for — a mass-market popcorn movie aimed directly at the people who will be buying their own domains in a few years.

People in the movie business will no doubt notice also, which in the short term could be more important. Sunrise starts next week.

Here’s the trailer.

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.