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Fatal timeout? A dozen dot-brands procrastinating to death

Kevin Murphy, January 7, 2015, Domain Registries

Over a dozen new gTLD applications have been iced because the applicants couldn’t or wouldn’t talk to ICANN about signing contracts before their deadlines.

Volvo and PricewaterhouseCoopers are among the 13 dot-brand applicants whose $185,000+ investments could vanish in a puff of smoke because they can’t bring themselves to sign on the dotted line, I’ve discovered.

The following gTLD applications, filed by 10 different companies, are no longer active because of contracting problems:

.select, .compare, .axis, .origins, .changiairport, .nissay, .lamer, .clinique, .pwc, .volvo, .amp, .招聘 (Chinese “.recruitment”), .wilmar

They’re all uncontested applications. They’re also all, with the exception of .招聘, envisaged having single-registrant policies (dot-brands, in other words).

All had their apps flagged by ICANN as “Will Not Proceed” in the new gTLD process late last year, having failed to sign or start negotiating their Registry Agreements in time.

Under program rules, applicants originally had nine months from the day they were invited to contract with ICANN in which to sign their RAs.

After protests from dot-brand applicants planning to sign up for so-called “Spec 13” code of conduct exemptions, ICANN last June gave such applicants an extension until July 2015, as long as they hit a September 1 deadline to respond to ICANN’s overtures.

Applicants that did not request an extension had an October 29 deadline to sign their RAs.

According to an ICANN spokesperson, a failure to hit such “interim milestones” disqualifies applicants from signing RAs.

It’s not entirely clear from the Applicant Guidebook how applicants can extricate themselves from this limbo state without withdrawing their applications, but ICANN assures us it is possible.

“Will not Proceed is not a final status,” the spokesperson cautioned. “But they are currently not eligible to sign the RA with ICANN. But if that status changes, we’ll update it accordingly on the site.”

Withdrawals would qualify the applicants for a 35% refund on their application fees, he confirmed.

First live dot-brand switches back to .com

Kevin Murphy, December 10, 2014, Domain Registries

CITIC Group, which became the first company to dump .com for its new dot-brand gTLD, has switched back to .com.

CITIC, a massive Chinese conglomerate, switched from citic.com to limited.citic in September, but a DI commenter noticed that it’s now back to using citic.com.

Google searches for “citic” were returning the new gTLD as the top hit for the Citic Limited, now it’s back to citic.com.

The domain limited.citic is not currently resolving to a web site for me.

Other brands are still actively using their dot-brand gTLDs, but Citic was the only one I’m aware of that decided to replace its .com.

Richemont pulls two dot-brand bids

Kevin Murphy, December 2, 2014, Domain Registries

Luxury goods company Richemont has withdrawn two of its original 14 new gTLD applications.

The company, which has been a vocal supporter of dot-brand gTLDs, pulled its bids for .netaporter and .mrporter this week.

Mr Porter and Net A Porter are fashion retail web sites for men and women respectively.

It’s not clear why these two bids have been withdrawn — the company isn’t commenting — but it’s certainly not a signal that Richemont is abandoning the new gTLD program completely.

The company has already entered into ICANN contracts for six dot-brands including .cartier, .montblanc and .chloe.

It has another five applications — four generics and one brand — that are still active: .手表 (“.watches”), .珠宝 (.jewelry), .watches, .jewelry and .jlc.

It has previously withdrawn an application for .love.

$10 million to move to a dot-brand? Quebec says “non”

Kevin Murphy, November 17, 2014, Domain Registries

One of the biggest hypothetical barriers to the adoption of dot-brand gTLDs has always been the likely cost of migration, but until now nobody’s really thrown around any figures.

The Government of Quebec has decided against rebranding to the forthcoming .quebec gTLD, saying the migration would cost it CAD 12 million ($10.6 million), according to local reports.

The Canadian Press press reported over the weekend that Quebec will still to its existing gouv.qc.ca addresses and therefore save itself a bundle of cash at a time when austerity measures are in place.

The timing of the revelation is unfortunate for PointQuebec, the .quebec registry, which is due to go to general availability tomorrow.

The application for .quebec, a protected geographic string under ICANN rules, was made with the support of the Canadian province.

The decision by the government is not a death sentence for the gTLD, but it is the loss of a significant anchor tenant at the worst possible moment.

It also highlights what we all already knew — for a large organization, changing your domain name is complicated and expensive.

Not only do myriad IT systems need to be migrated to the new domain, you also need to think about things as trivial as letter heads and signage.

The cost of such a switch is a key reason we’re unlikely to see many dot-brand owners making a full-scale switch to their new gTLD in the short term.

OVH to give away 50,000 new gTLD names for free

Kevin Murphy, October 1, 2014, Domain Registries

France-based registrar OVH is to make up to 50,000 domain names in its new gTLD .ovh available for free.

According to its web site and a bulletin send to customers today, the regular price of £2.69 ($4.35) will be waived for the first year and renewal pricing will be discounted.

The first 20,000 names registered will renew at £1.01 ($1.63), the remaining 30,000 names will renew at £2.03 ($3.29). There will be a limit of five domains per customer.

While “free” is not an unusual business model in the new gTLD round, .ovh is noteworthy for several other reasons.

It’s the first “dot-brand” new gTLD to accept registrations from third parties, for starters.

It’s also the only live dot-brand belonging to an accredited domain name registrar.

The restrictions on the gTLD also raise eyebrows — in order to register a name in .ovh, you need an OVH customer number.

So while the .ovh names should in theory be available via third-party registrars, such registrars would have to capture the OVH customer number of their own customers — or encourage their own customers to become OVH customers — in order to process the registration.

Unsurprisingly, there’s no mention of any approved third-party registrars on the official .ovh web site.

General availability begins at 1000 UTC Wednesday October 2.

Thanks to Andrew Bennett for the tip.