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EFF recommends against new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, July 28, 2017, Domain Policy

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has recommended that domain registrants concerned about intellectual property “bullies” steer clear of new gTLDs.

The view is expressed in a new EFF report today that is particularly critical of policies in place at new gTLD portfolio registries Donuts and Radix.

The report (pdf) also expresses strong support for .onion, the pseudo-TLD available only to users of the Tor browser and routing network, which the EFF is a long-term supporter of.

The report makes TLD recommendations for “security against trademark bullies”, “security against identity theft and marketing”, “security against overseas speech regulators” and “security against copyright bullies”.

It notes that no one TLD is “best” on all counts, so presents a table explaining which TLD registries — a broad mix of the most popular gTLD and ccTLD registries — have which relevant policies.

For those afraid of trademark “bullies”, the EFF recommends against 2012-round new gTLDs on the basis that they all have the Uniform Rapid Suspension service. It singles out Donuts for special concern due to its Domain Protected Marks List, which adds an extra layer of protection for trademark owners.

On copyright, the report singles out Donuts and Radix for their respective “trusted notifier” schemes, which give the movie and music industries a hotline to report large-scale piracy web sites.

These are both well-known EFF positions that the organization has expressed in previous publications.

On the other two issues, the report recommends examining ccTLDs for those which don’t have to kowtow to local government speech regulations or publicly accessible Whois policies.

In each of the four areas of concern, the report suggests taking a look at .onion, while acknowledging that the pseudo-gTLD would be a poor choice if you actually want people to be able to easily access your web site.

While the opinions expressed in the report may not be surprising, the research that has gone into comparing the policies of 40-odd TLD registries covering hundreds of TLDs appears on the face of it to be solid and possibly the report’s biggest draw.

You can read it here (pdf).

Donuts to complete Rightside acquisition tonight

Donuts is on the verge of closing its acquisition of coopetitor Rightside, after the vast majority of Rightside shareholders agreed to sell up.

Rightside just disclosed that owners of 92% of its shares — 17,740,054 shares — have agreed to sell at Donuts’ offer price of $10.60 per share.

That means the remaining 8% of shares that were not tendered will be converted into the right to receive $10.60 and Donuts can close the acquisition before the Nasdaq opens tomorrow morning.

After the $213 million deal closes, Rightside will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Donuts and Donuts can get on with implementing whatever efficiencies it has identified.

Rightside will cease to be publicly listed afterwards.

Together the combined company will be the registry for about 240 new gTLDs, as well as owning its own back-end registry infrastructure and the retail registrar Name.com.

ICANN gives the nod to Donuts-Rightside merger

ICANN has given its consent to the acquisition of Rightside by rival new gTLD registry Donuts, according to the companies.

The nod means that one barrier to the $213 million deal has been lifted.

Rightside, which is listed on Nasdaq, still needs the majority of its shareholders to agree to the deal and to satisfy other customary closing conditions.

ICANN approval does not mean the organization has passed any judgment about whether the deal is pro-competition or anything like that, it just means it’s checked that the buyer has the funds and the nous to run the TLDs in question and is compliant with various policies.

All new gTLD Registry Agreements given ICANN the right to consent — or not — to the contract being assigned to a third party.

The acquisition was announced last month at the end of a turbulent year or so for Rightside.

Donuts to pay $213 million for Rightside

Donuts is to acquire Rightside for $213 million, the companies have just announced.

The $10.60 per share cash offer represents a 12% premium over Rightside’s average closing share price over the last 30 days. Rightside’s 52-week high is over $12.

Just one year ago, Donuts offered $70 million for Rightside’s portfolio of gTLDs, but was shot down.

Rightside also turned down a $5 million offer for four gTLDs from XYZ.com in April 2016.

The $213 million offer is funded at least partly by Silicon Valley Bank, which is providing a credit facility to Donuts.

Assuming the deal closes — which will require the holders of more than half its shares to agree to the price — it will make Rightside a private company once more, as a wholly owned Donuts subsidiary.

The two gTLD registries are already partners, with Rightside providing domain registry services for Donuts’ roughly 200 new gTLDs.

There was talk of a split last year, with Donuts apparent endorsement of Google’s Nomulus platform, but the two companies reaffirmed their relationship earlier this year.

Rightside itself has a portfolio of 40 gTLDs, but it’s faced criticism from shareholders over the last year or so over their relatively poor performance.

Activist investor J Carlo Cannell, who owns almost 9% of Rightside, has been pressuring the company’s board to take radical action for the last 15 months.

Earlier this year, Rightside got out of the once-core wholesale registrar game by selling eNom to rival Tucows for $83.5 million.

More change at the top at Donuts as Tindal steps down

Donuts has lost co-founder and COO Richard Tindal, who has announced his retirement.

Tindal was one of the four domain industry executives who founded Donuts in order to take advantage of ICANN’s new gTLD program about seven years ago.

No reason was given for his departure, which was announced in a blog post, beyond “retirement”.

Co-founders Paul Stahura, Jon Nevett and Dan Schindler are all still with the company, but founding CEO Stahura recently stepped into the chairman’s role to give venture capitalist Bruce Jaffe the corner office.

Tindal had previously worked in senior roles for Verisign, Neustar and Demand Media (now Rightside).