Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Second last-resort gTLD auction raises $14.3m

Kevin Murphy, September 18, 2014, Domain Registries

ICANN has raised $14.3 million auctioning off three new gTLDs — .buy, .tech and .vip.

It was the second batch of “last resort” auctions, managed by ICANN and Power Auctions, in which the winning bids are placed in a special ICANN fund.

Notably, while Google participated in all three auctions, it failed to win any, setting a reassuring precedent for any smaller applicants that are set to face the deep-pocketed giant in future auctions.

.tech was the biggest-seller, fetching $6,760,000 after nine rounds of bidding.

The winner was Dot Tech LLC, which beat Google, Minds + Machines, Donuts, NU DOT CO, and Uniregistry.

.buy went to Amazon for $4,588,888, beating Google, Donuts and Famous Four Media. The bidding lasted seven rounds.

Finally, .vip sold to Minds + Machines for $3,000,888 after Google, Donuts, I-Registry and VIP Registry dropped out.

The prices are in the same ball-park as we’ve inferred from previous, private auctions managed by Applicant Auction (a company affiliated with Power Auctions).

That’s notable because the first last resort auction, for .信息, fetched just $600,000 when it sold to Amazon back in June.

As far as we can tell, last-resort auctions do not necessarily keep prices low, even though the losing bidders in this week’s auctions will have walked away empty-handed.

In private auctions, losers leave holding a share of the winner’s bid.

This week, most of the $14.3 million raised will go into a special ICANN fund.

Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s Global Domains Division said in a statement:

The proceeds from these Auctions will be separated and reserved until the Board determines a plan for the appropriate use of the funds through consultation with the community. We continue to encourage parties to reach agreements amongst themselves to resolve contention.

The ICANN community has been chatting about possible uses for auction funds for years.

Ideas such as subsidizing new gTLD applicants from poorer nations in future rounds and investing in internet infrastructure in the developing world have been floated.

Yeehaw! Bumper crop of new gTLD launches

Kevin Murphy, September 15, 2014, Domain Registries

There’s a definite wild west flavor to today’s crop of new gTLD launches, in a week which sees no fewer than 16 strings hit general availability.

Kicking off the week, today Minds + Machines brings its first wholly-owned TLDs to market.

Following the successful launch of .london, for which M+M acts as the back-end, last week, today we see the launch of the less exciting .cooking, .country, .fishing, .horse, .rodeo, and .vodka.

Afilias’ rural-themed .organic also goes to GA today.

As does .vegas, an oddity in the geo-gTLD space as it’s a city pretty much synonymous with one vertical market, gambling. Or three vertical markets, if you include booze and prostitution.

.vegas names do not require a local presence, so I’m expecting to see gambling businesses the world over attempt to capitalize on the Vegas brand regardless of their location.

A second batch of launches is due on Wednesday September 17.

Sticking with the wild west theme, RightSide’s .republican is due to go first-come, first-served.

With a somewhat more eastern flavor, Radix Registry’s first new gTLDs — .website, .press and .host — all hit GA on the same day.

Donuts’ .loans, .life, .guide and .church all enter their standard-pricing phases, while .place and .direct enter their premium-priced Early Access Period on Wednesday too.

Community panel hands .radio to EBU because nobody objected

Kevin Murphy, September 11, 2014, Domain Registries

The European Broadcasting Union is likely to win the right to the .radio new gTLD, beating three portfolio applicants, after a favorable Community Priority Evaluation.

The main reason the EBU managed to score a passing 14 out of 16 points in the CPE is that there was no significant objection to the EBU’s bid on the public record.

The EBU managed to win, under ICANN’s complex scoring system, despite the fact that the CPE panel ruled that no one entity, not even the EBU, can claim to represent the “radio” community.

The win means that Donuts, Afilias and BRS Media, which all applied for open .radio gTLDs, will likely have to withdraw their bids and leave .radio in the hands of the EBU’s more restrictive policies.

The EBU’s bid envisages a post-registration enforcement regime, in which registrants’ web sites and Whois records are vetted to ensure they have a community “nexus” and are using their domains in the spirit of the community.

Registrants would have to provide a statement of their usage intent at the point of registration.

Domain investors are explicitly not welcome in the TLD, judging by the EBU’s application.

The EBU, as mentioned, scored 14 out of 16 points in the CPE. The threshold to pass is 14.

As I’ve been saying for years, passing a CPE should be very difficult because applicants can immediately lose two points if there’s any decent opposition to their applications.

The other three applicants for .radio could have easily beaten back the EBU had they managed to effectively organize just a single significant member of the radio community against the EBU’s bid.

However, they failed to do so.

The EBU scored the maximum of two points under the “Opposition” part of the CPE, because, in the words of the panel:

To receive the maximum score for Opposition, the application must not have received any opposition of relevance. To receive a partial score for Opposition, the application must have received opposition from, at most, one group of non-negligible size.

The application received letters of opposition, which were determined not to be relevant, as they were (1) from individuals or groups of negligible size, or (2) were not from communities either explicitly mentioned in the application nor from those with an implicit association to such communities.

Donuts, Afilias and BRS Media all submitted comments in opposition to the EBU application. As competing applicants, these submissions were (probably correctly) disregarded by the panel.

There were a small number of other objecting comments on the record that the CPE panel (again probably correctly) chose to disregard as coming from organizations of negligible size.

The was one comment, in Polish, from a Polish law firm. Another comment came from a something dodgy-looking calling itself the International Radio Emergency Support Coalition.

A third comment came from the Webcaster Alliance, a group that made a bit of a name for itself a decade ago but which today has a one-page web site that doesn’t even list its members (assuming it has any).

Attempts by BRS Media, which already runs .am and .fm, to orchestrate a campaign of opposition seem to have failed miserably.

In short, the panel’s decision that there was no relevant, on-the-record opposition seems to be on pretty safe ground.

What’s slightly disturbing about the CPE is that the panel seems to have decided that the EBU does not actually represent the radio community as described in its application.

It dropped one point on the “Community Establishment” criteria, and another on the “Nexus between Proposed String and Community” criteria.

Specifically, it lost a point because, as the panel stated:

Based on information provided in the application materials and the Panel’s research, there is no such entity that organizes the community defined in the application. Therefore, as there is no entity that is mainly dedicated to the community as defined in the .RADIO application, as the Panel has determined, there cannot be documented evidence of community activities.

In other words, there may be a “radio community”, but nobody, not even the EBU, is responsible for organizing it.

It also lost a point because while the string “radio” does “identify” the community, it does not “match” it.

The panel explained:

To receive the maximum score for Nexus, the applied-for string must “match” the name of the community or be a well-known short-form or abbreviation of the community name. To receive a partial score for Nexus, the applied-for string must “identify” the community. “Identify” means that the applied-for string should closely describe the community or the community members, without over-reaching substantially beyond the community.

Failing to get full marks on community and nexus would usually, in my view, indicate that an application would not succeed in its CPE bid.

However, the lack of any outcry from significant members of the community (either because there was no such opposition or the three rival applicants failed to muster it) seems set to allow .radio to be managed by the applicant with the most restrictive policies.

Donuts beats trademark owner to .coach

Kevin Murphy, September 10, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts has won the right to the new gTLD .coach, after an exact-match trademark owner withdrew its bid.

Coach Inc is a chain of clothing and accessories outlets, best known for its handbags, founded in New York in 1941.

The company owns coach.com, but withdrew its application for .coach this week, leaving Donuts unchallenged.

Coach had filed a Legal Rights Objection against Donuts, claiming .coach would infringe its trademark, but the objection panelist disagreed (pdf).

The panelist agreed instead with Donuts that “coach” has multiple meanings, and that that was “a risk that the Objector assumed when it adopted as its trademark a common dictionary word.”

Straat-backed bidder beats Donuts and Afilias to .health

Kevin Murphy, August 21, 2014, Domain Registries

DotHealth has won the four-way contention set for the controversial new gTLD .health.

Afilias and Donuts both withdrew their competing applications this week. Famous Four withdrew its application over a month ago.

DotHealth is backed by Straat Investments, the investment vehicle chaired by .CO Internet’s Juan Calle.

The new gTLD will run on a Neustar (which now owns .CO) back-end.

.health is likely to be restricted, or at least policed, to ensure fake pharmacies are scrubbed from the zone.

DotHealth is supported by, among other health groups, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) which often targets registries and registrars in its campaigns against bogus online pharmacies in the US.

The company plans to use LegitScript to monitor its namespace.

.health will compete against the unrestricted .healthcare, which has been delegated to Donuts.

All four applicants for .health faced adverse Governmental Advisory Committee advice and unsuccessful public interest objections from the Independent Objector.

New gTLD registries increasingly attacking .com

Kevin Murphy, August 18, 2014, Domain Registries

Is .com “silly” and “meaningless”?

That’s what some new gTLD registries would have you believe.

In separate blog posts over the last week, Donuts and ARI Registry Services have gone on the offensive, dismissing .com as an irrelevant relic of a bygone age.

ARI CEO Adrian Kinderis branded .com as “meaningless and unintuitive” in a post slamming the Board of Racing Victoria, an Australian horse-racing organization, for the purchase of racing.com for (he claimed) $500,000.

New gTLDs with more semantic relevance to horse racing or geographic regions will make this purchase look “silly” in future, he said.

Take for instance .racing which is set to launch soon. It would offer a more creative and relevant domain name such as horses.racing, victorian.racing or vichorses.racing.

He also said that most Australians are conditioned to visit .com.au (for which ARI provides the registry back-end), which will lead to traffic leakage from racing.com to racing.com.au.

The problem is that racing.com does not have an intrinsic connection with Victorian horse racing that would lend itself to intuitive navigation and recall.

Donuts had a similar message in a blog post last week.

Donuts vice president Mason Cole said on that company’s blog that .com is “diluted and meaningless” when compared to more vertically oriented TLDs such as Donuts’ .photography and .bike.

It adds nothing to an identity. Except perhaps to say, “I’m on the Internet somewhere.” .COM is “1999” — not “today,” and definitely not the future. New .COM registrations are extraordinarily long and much less meaningful when compared to a new registration in a new gTLD. And with its recent price decreases on new registrations (which apparently is necessary to match their low quality), .COM now means “low quality and cheap.”

It will be interesting to see whether this kind of messaging will be carried over from lightly trafficked corporate blogs into more mainstream new gTLD marketing by registries.

What do you think? Do Donuts and ARI have a point? Is .com meaningless? Will it fall out of fashion? Is going negative on legacy gTLDs a wise strategy for new gTLD companies?

Donuts wins .ltd gTLD contest

Kevin Murphy, August 15, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts has emerged the victor of the contention set for .ltd, beating six other applicants for the new gTLD.

Dot Registry, NU DOT CO, Afilias and myLTD all withdrew their applications this week, evidently after a private auction.

LTD Registry and C.V. TLDcare withdrew their applications in April and May respectively.

The string is of course an abbreviation for “limited” as in “limited liability company”, used by privately held companies in many companies including the UK.

While bids for comparable TLDs such as .inc, .corp and .gmbh have received criticism from company regulators in the US and Germany, .ltd hasn’t raised as much of a ruckus.

Like all Donuts gTLDs, it looks like .ltd is set to be unrestricted.

I’m not a fan of corporate identifier TLDs. They always strike me as more prone to defensive registrations than other, more descriptive strings.

Donuts wins .immo gTLD

Donuts has acquired the .immo new gTLD after its three rival bidders withdrew their applications.

Minds + Machines, dotimmobilie and Starting Dot have all withdrawn from the contest in the last few days, presumably due to an auction.

Starting Dot had applied for a Community Priority Evaluation, which would have allowed it to avoid an auction altogether, but it failed to score enough points to pass.

“Immo” is short for “immobilien”, which means “real estate” in German. The contraction is also widely used in other European countries, potentially making it more attractive a string.

The gTLD will compete with .immobilien, which is delegated to RightSide. That TLD has been in general availability since May 28 and has 5,136 domains under management as of today.

It would be fascinating to know whether .immobilien’s performance to date had any bearing on how much the applicants were prepared to bid at auction. But, as usual, I doubt we’ll ever know for sure.

Donuts spends $50 million on new gTLD auctions

Donuts has revealed that its bill for new gTLD auctions has so far come to $50 million.

That, coupled with some other data released in a blog post last week, suggests that it’s spent over $2 million, on average, per gTLD.

CEO Paul Stahura wrote that the company has participated in “roughly” 50 auctions and that it’s won more than 50% of those it’s participated in.

“We’ve spent $50M to win those auctions to secure the resulting TLDs,” Stahura wrote.

According to my numbers, Donuts has been in 45 auctions and won 23. I may be missing a couple, but the numbers fit with Stahura’s. That would make an average spend of $2.17 million per gTLD.

That doesn’t mean the company has burnt through $50 million of its funding, of course.

In private gTLD auctions, the winner pays the losers. By losing at least 22 auctions, Donuts could just as easily be breaking even.

Not all of Donuts’ auctions have been organized by Applicant Auction. A few were settled via other means. Applicant Auction takes a 4% cut, which means its take so far is approaching $2 million.

Donuts wins .gifts, .sarl and .restaurant

Donuts has won the contention sets for three new gTLDs, at least two of which seem to have come as the result of an Applicant Auction auction.

It beat mySARL to .sarl, Lucy Ventures to .gifts and Uniregistry, Minds + Machines and Famous Four to .restaurant. All of these rival bidders have withdrawn their applications now.

.sarl is a company designator in some French-speaking countries, including France.

.restaurant is interesting because it will be competing against .rest. While I prefer .restaurant, .rest’s backers believe it has broader appeal in non-English-speaking nations.

.gifts will be competing against Uniregistry’s .gift, which currently has 5,781 registrations.

Since I was told that Applicant Auction had settled 10 contested gTLDs almost two weeks ago, 11 contention sets have been resolved by withdrawals.

I’m guessing one of these fights was settled by other means. Donuts has been known to make private deals on occasion.