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Dot-brand early adopter becomes 48th to disappear

Kevin Murphy, April 30, 2019, Domain Registries

A Singaporean telecommunications company has become the latest gTLD registry to voluntarily drop its dot-brand.

StarHub, which had 2018 revenue equivalent to $1.73 billion, told ICANN it no longer wished to operate .starhub in February and ICANN opened its request up for a month of public comment last week (a formality).

It’s the 48th of the several hundred original dot-brand applications to change its mind after delegation.

Notably, StarHub was one of the first companies to announce its participation in, and tout the expected benefits of, the new gTLD program.

Back in February 2012, when most applicants were playing their cards close to their chest because the application window was still open, Oliver Chong, assistant vice president of brand and marketing communications at StarHub, said:

We believe the ‘.starhub’ Top-Level Domain will deliver clear marketing and advertising benefits to StarHub, such as improved online brand recall and a more intuitive consumer experience with easy to remember domain names such as ‘mobile.starhub’. We also anticipate potential Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) benefits by operating a more targeted and relevant naming system that is clearly matched with our website content.

Yeah… so, none of that actually happened.

Like all the other dot-brands to self-terminate, StarHub never actually used .starhub, other than the obligatory nic.starhub placeholder.

As an aside that may counterbalance this bad news for the perception of new gTLDs, one of StarHub’s competitors in the Singapore mobile market is called Circles.Life. It uses circles.life as its primary domain and has apparently performed respectably since its launch in 2016.

Imagine that! A mobile phone operator being successful using a new gTLD domain!

Termination on the .orientexpress

Kevin Murphy, January 6, 2017, Domain Registries

The dot-brand .orientexpress has derailed. That’s a train pun, expect more.

The gTLD operator has become the latest to signal (like a railway signal) to ICANN that it no longer wishes to run its dot-brand, this week asking for a contract cancellation (like a train cancellation).

Despite having left the station (like a train station) in February 2015, it only ever registered its mandatory nic.orientexpress domain, and that doesn’t even resolve any more, according to DI PRO tracking (like a train track).

While the Orient Express brand is familiar to many due to the famous Agatha Christie murder mystery novel, it’s been applied to multiple train companies and journeys over the years.

The gTLD was originally applied for, unopposed, in 2012 by Orient-Express Hotels. However, that company renamed itself to Belmond in 2014.

Belmond still runs a luxury train route bearing the Orient Express name, but apparently its devotion to the brand has run out of steam (like a steam train) and its gTLD was no longer just the ticket (like a train ticket).

It’s the 20th dot-brand to change its mind about owning a gTLD after its ICANN Registry Agreement was already signed.

According to DI PRO stats, almost 100 dot-brands are actively using their domains currently, so it’s not as if the concept has been a complete train wreck (like a train train wreck).

Mitsubishi pulls plug on dot-brand gTLD

Kevin Murphy, December 21, 2016, Domain Registries

Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi has told ICANN it no longer wishes to operate one of its dot-brand gTLDs.

The company has filed a termination notice covering its .mtpc domain, which stands for Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation.

The gTLD was delegated in February 2015, but Mitsubishi has never put it to use.

Registry reports show only two names ever appeared in the .mtpc space.

It’s the 19th gTLD from the 2012 round to voluntarily self-terminate — or to allow ICANN to terminate it — after signing a Registry Agreement.

All terminated gTLDs so far have been dot-brands.

Mitsubishi also owns .mitsubishi. That dot-brand appeared earlier this year but also has not yet been put to use.

Fox promises dot-brand will be “the next big thing”

Kevin Murphy, January 26, 2016, Domain Registries

Fox seems set to become an unexpectedly early adopter of its dot-brand gTLD, .fox.

The only live .fox web site, nic.fox, is currently promising that the gTLD will become “the next big thing” in “Spring 2016”.

On the site, a glossy, quick-cut show-reel of Fox media carries the text:

Cue the lights. Roll the cameras. The next big thing is coming. And you’re invited. Welcome to .FOX. Spring 2016.

.fox will be a “a trusted digital space for everything you love about Fox” the site promises.

It suggests that Fox content in DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD formats will be available via .fox web sites.

.fox has only been in the root since late November; its owners have not so far appeared to be champing at the bit to get their dot-brand online, and Fox has not exactly been enthusiastic about new gTLDs.

Its IP lawyers were some of the most outspoken critics of the program in its early days, estimating they would have to spend millions of dollars on defensive registrations.

Not only has that not happened, but Fox now seems to be grasping the “trusted source” dot-brand sales pitch with both hands.

It’s going to be interesting to see not only what the company has up its sleeve, but also how extensively it is promoted.

Aussie government slams .food closed generic bid

Kevin Murphy, October 30, 2015, Domain Policy

The Australian government is among those asking ICANN deny a request to make .food a “closed generic” gTLD.

Eight people have filed comments opposing Lifestyle Domain’s application for Specification 13 status for its .food registry contract, which would allow the company to keep all .food domains for itself, since we reported the news earlier this month.

The Aussies are arguably the highest-profile opponent, and the one most likely to be taken seriously by ICANN.

Governmental Advisory Committee rep Annaliese Williams wrote:

The Australian Government issued an Early Warning to Lifestyle Domain Holdings, Inc on the grounds that ‘food’ is a common generic term, and that restricting common generic strings, such as .food, for the exclusive use of a single entity could have a negative impact on competition…

The Australian Government does not consider that Lifestyle Domain Holdings’ application to operate .food for its exclusive use serves a public interest goal.

Lifestyle Domain is a subsidiary of Scripps Networks, the company that runs the Food Network TV stations and Food.com web site.

The company claims that it has trademark rights to the word “food” that should allow it to run .food as a dot-brand gTLD.

That would mean nobody but Scripps, which won the right to .food at auction, would be able to register .food domains.

ICANN has also received negative comments from employees of registrars (both retail and corporate) and registries.

One comment, taken at face value, appears to be pro-Scripps, but I’m fairly confident it’s actually just extreme sarcasm.

The decision about whether to allow Scripps to add Spec 13 to its contract will be made by ICANN legal staff.

ICANN told me this week that there’s no ETA on a decision yet.