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Brand kills off gTLD that is actually being USED

Two more companies have told ICANN they’ve changed their minds about running a dot-brand gTLD, including the first example of a TLD that is actually in use.

Dun & Bradstreet has said it no longer wishes to launch .duns, and Australian insurance company iSelect has had enough of .iselect.

Both companies filed to voluntarily terminate their ICANN registry agreements in March, and ICANN published its preliminary decision to allow them to do so this week.

While business data provider D&B never got around to using .duns, .iselect has had dozens of active domains for years.

The company started putting domains in its zone file about three years ago and had over 90 registered names at the last count, with about a dozen indexed by Google. That’s a quite a lot for a dot-brand.

It is using domains such as home.iselect, news.iselect and careers.iselect as redirects to parts of its main corporate site, while domains such as gas.iselect, creditcards.iselect and health.iselect send customers to specific product pages.

They all redirect to its main iselect.com.au site. There are no web sites as far as I can tell that keep visitors in the .iselect realm.

I’m pretty certain this is the first example of a voluntary contract termination by a dot-brand that is actually in active use.

There have been 52 such terminations to date, including these two latest ones, almost all of which have been dot-brands that never got out of the barn door.

That’s over 10% of the dot-brands that were delegated from the 2012 gTLD application round.

These 27 companies have ditched the .com for their dot-brand

Earlier today, I listed what I believe might be the top 10 dot-brand gTLDs with the most active web sites, but noted that it was probably a rubbish way to gauge the success of the dot-brand concept.

As a follow-up, I thought I’d figure out which brands have taken the bold step of ditching the .com and made their dot-brand their primary web destination.

I found 27 TLDs, which is simultaneously not a lot and easily twice as many as I was expecting.

The most-popular second-level string was “home”, with 12 examples. The string “global” occurs five times on the list.

I did this research manually with Google and a list of 275 dot-brands — anything with Spec 13 in its contract and more than two domains in its zone file — culled from my database.

To get on this list, at least one of the following had to be true:

  • The dot-brand was the top hit on Google when searching for the brand in question.
  • The .com redirects to the dot-brand.

Sometimes I had to factor out Google’s enormously irritating habit of localizing results, which would prioritize a .uk domain, particularly in the case of automotive brands.

On a few occasions, if I could not be certain whether the “official” primary site was in a ccTLD or the dot-brand, I used the brand’s Wikipedia page as a tie-breaker.

Some entries on the list may be a bit debatable.

I’m not sure whether .barclays should be there, for example. There’s little doubt in my mind that barclays.co.uk is the site that the majority of Barclays’ banking customers use, but barclays.com redirects visitors to home.barclays, so it fits my criteria.

In general, I’ve erred on the side of caution. If the top search result was for the brand’s .com, it was immediately ruled out, no matter how enthusiastic a dot-brand user the company otherwise appeared to be.

Here’s the list. Please let me know if you think I’ve missed any.

TLDBrand2LD
bnpparibasBNP Paribasgroup
bradescoBanco Bradesco S.A.banco
canonCanon Inc.global
cernEuropean Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)home
cuisinellaSALM S.A.S.ma
dhlDeutsche Post AGlogistics
fageFage International S.A.home
hisamitsuHisamitsu Pharmaceutical Co.,Inc.global
ipirangaIpiranga Produtos de Petroleo S.A.portal
komatsuKomatsu Ltd.home
kpmgKPMG International Cooperativehome
locusLocus Analytics LLChome
neustarNeuStar, Inc.home
pictetPictet Europe S.A.group
pioneerPioneer Corporationglobal
praxiPraxi S.p.A.praxi
sandvikSandvik ABhome
saxoSaxo Bank A/Shome
schmidtSALM S.A.S.home-design
senerSener IngenierĂ­a y Sistemas, S.A.ingenieriayconstruccion
toyotaToyota Motor Corpglobal
warmanWeir Group IP Limitedhome*
weberSaint-Gobain Weber SAhome
weirWeir Group IP Limitedglobal

Twenty-seven gTLDs is not a great many, of course, considering that some dot-brands have been delegated for half a decade already.

It’s about half as many as have already torn up their ICANN registry agreements, and it represents less than 6% of the new gTLDs that my database says have Spec 13 in their contracts.

But I reiterate that this is not a list of companies using their dot-brands but rather of those apparently putting their .com firmly in the back seat to their dot-brand.

These are the 10 most-used dot-brands

It occurred to me recently that my regular coverage of companies that choose to abandon their unused dot-brand gTLDs may have created a misleading impression that the dot-brand portion of the new gTLD program has been a big old waste of time.

I make no apologies for this. As a news guy, I look for deviations from the norm — “man bites dog” stuff — when deciding what to write about, and that quite often means reporting what could be considered Bad News.

When companies do adopt their dot-brands in a big way, they tend to do it rather quietly and almost always in a foreign language, so the news doesn’t usually cross my radar until long after it has ceased to be timely.

But it is true that the background noise of dot-brands is that quite a lot of them are being actively used to varying degrees, and I’m feeling some sense of obligation to report on that activity too, despite it being thoroughly un-newsworthy.

So here I present an unofficial list of the top 10 most-used dot-brands.

It’s based on how many active web sites I’ve found in each of the 460-odd dot-brand gTLDs I regularly spider.

I count a “dot-brand” as any gTLD that has Specification 13 in its ICANN contract, and here I’m defining an active web site to exclude redirects to sites in other, off-brand TLDs.

The numbers may not be precisely accurate today, because sites come and go, but I think they’re a decent guide.

I’m also fairly certain that “number of active web sites” is an absolutely terrible way to compare and rank dot-brands, but if nothing else I think the metric is a good indicator of enthusiasm for dot-brands (by the brand, if not necessarily its customers).

Here goes.

.seat — SEAT, S.A.

Spanish car manufacturer SEAT had 532 active .seat web sites at my last count, the vast majority of which appear to be template-driven brochureware sites named after and designated to the company’s authorized dealers across Europe.

The domain bradys.seat, for Dublin-based dealer Brady’s, is a rare example of an English-language version of the site.

I call the sites “brochureware” because, while it does appear to be possible to buy a car via these sites, you are invariably redirected to SEAT’s local ccTLD site before you get to this stage of the transaction.

SEAT itself does not appear to use .seat domains for its own web sites, preferring instead to use local ccTLDs.

SEAT is a subsidiary of Germany-based Volkswagen Group.

.lamborghini — Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

The second brand on the list is another car maker and another Volkswagen subsidiary, Italy-based Lamborghini. It had 145 active .lamborghini web sites at my last count.

Like sister-company SEAT, Lamborghini’s dot-brand is most-often used by its official dealers across the world, also using identikit, non-transactional templates.

Unlike SEAT, which grants its dealers domains matching their brands, dealer .lamborghini domains are in almost all cases geographic. For example, the German dealer MAHAG gets the domain munich.lamborghini.

Lamborghini has some domains for its own non-dealer use, such as home.lamborghini and contact.lamborghini, but these redirect to its .com site so I have not counted them here.

.bmw — Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft

BMW also makes cars, but it’s not owned by VW. Its dot-brand, .bmw, had 83 live sites at my last count.

While the ownership may differ, the strategy does not. Most .bmw sites appear to be template-driven dealer sites.

BMW also has a few branded call-to-action domains, such as missiontomars.bmw and enjoytheride.bmw, but these redirect outside of .bmw.

While researching this TLD, I also found my first-ever example of an expired dot-brand domain, at productgeniusclips.bmw. Of course, one of the benefits of a dot-brand is that nobody else will be able to register this name when it drops.

.weber — Saint-Gobain Weber SA

We seem to be looking at an example here of a company that missed out on good domains to similarly named companies in different industries and is compensating with a dot-brand.

There are several companies in the world called Weber, and I had to do a double-take when I realized that this one is the “world leader in industrial mortars”.

It’s a concrete company, owned by 354-year-old French multinational Saint-Gobain.

It appears to be the first example on this list of a company that is using its dot-brand for its primary web site.

When I search for Weber from here in the UK, the first result for this particular company is uk.weber. It’s former domain in the UK seems to have been netweber.co.uk, which now redirects to the dot-brand.

A barbecue maker also called Weber, which owns weber.com, currently has far better search engine rankings from where I’m sitting.

Mortar-making Weber’s list of .weber domains are primarily two-character country-codes, but it also has a few generic terms that point to resolving web site wecare.weber, a domain that matches one of its slogans.

.bnpparibas — BNP Paribas

BNP Paribas is the world’s eighth-largest bank and one of several companies to wholeheartedly throw its weight behind the dot-brand concept.

It ditched its .fr and .net domains in 2015, instead pointing its retail banking customers in France to mabanque.bnpparibas. It also uses group.bnpparibas as its primary corporate web site.

Both of those domains are in the top 100,000 most-visited domains worldwide, according to Alexa data.

It had 62 active .bnpparibas sites at my last count, many of which appear to be fully-developed sites dedicated to groups such as shareholders and enterprise customers. There are also country-focused sites such as usa.bnpparibas and informational sites such as history.bnpparibas.

.abbott — Abbott Laboratories, Inc.

Abbott is a $30 billion-a-year healthcare company with 57 sites in its .abbott gTLD. It’s the only US-based company on this list.

The company appears to have a hybrid strategy when it comes to its dot-brand. While it has many active sites, it also has many redirects to sites in off-brand TLDs.

The domain shop.abbott bounces visitors to abbottstore.com, for example, while fully fledged product-specific sites such as transfusion.abbott, pediasure.abbott and diabetescare.abbott all remain in .abbott.

Google searches for the term “abbott” track this hybrid approach, returning a mixture of URLs in dot-brand and off-brand TLDs.

Abbott has yet to make the leap to using .abbott for its primary web sites, which remain in ccTLDs and .com.

.leclerc — A.C.D. LEC Association des Centres Distributeurs Edouard Leclerc

This huge “hypermarket” retail chain will no doubt be a household name to my French readers, but it’s a new one to this rosbif.

Leclerc logoInterestingly, the company has been called E.Leclerc — with the dot — since it was founded by Edouard Leclerc in 1949. This is apparently the logo it was using from its foundation until 2012, when it made most of the letters lower-case. This was of course the same year it applied for the .leclerc gTLD.

As you might imagine, the domain e.leclerc was a no-brainer.

The cool thing about the domain is that if somebody “searches” for the brand in their browser’s navigation bar, the browser will actually resolve it as a domain and take them straight to the retailer’s web site, avoiding the Google SERPs advertising tax that many companies feel obliged to pay.

The uncool, maddening flipside is that e.leclerc bounces visitors to e-leclerc.com, which seems like a huge missed trick in terms of branding.

That said, Leclerc does have a number of non-redirect .leclerc web sites that focus on specific product groups, such as technology, culture and homecare.

This could turn out to be the model Amazon eventually uses, if/when it gets its .amazon gTLD.

.bradesco — Banco Bradesco S.A.

Banco Bradesco is a Brazilian bank with almost $62 billion of annual revenue.

Like BNP Paribas, it’s ditched its old TLDs in favor of its dot-brand, and now uses banco.bradesco as its primary web site. The .com and .com.br both redirect to the .bradesco.

There’s also lots of redirecting internal to the TLD, with a few dozen brand/product .bradesco domains pointing back to banco.bradesco pages.

.aquarelle — Aquarelle.com

Aquarelle.com Group is a French flower delivery company, an early mover in the e-commerce world that has been using aquarelle.com since 1997. It operates in several European countries.

It has not made the leap away from the .com domain that has been its brand for the last 22 years, but it does use .aquarelle for a variety of creative purposes.

art-floral.aquarelle, for example, offers bouquet-making video tutorials. Sites such as chocolats.aquarelle act as promo pages for specific products that can be bought at the .com site. It also appears to be running a transactional web site for a third-party retailer, Darty, at darty.aquarelle.

.fage — Fage International S.A.

Finally, yoghurt! Or, as my US English spell-checker insists, “yogurt”.

Fage is brand I’ve never heard of, of a product I despise, but I gather it’s one of Greece’s most recognizable dairy brands.

It’s another example of a company that has thrown itself fully behind its dot-brand.

Before it applied for .fage, it was using fage.gr for its primary web site. Now, that domain redirects to greece.fage. The matching .com is owned by an unrelated entity.

It’s also the only example on this top 10 list of a dot-brand using “home” at the second level as its primary domain.

Other domains include various translations of the word “recipe”, which redirect internally to other .fage sites.

Four presidents slam .amazon decision

Kevin Murphy, May 28, 2019, Domain Policy

The leaders of four of the eight governments of the Amazon region of South America have formally condemned ICANN’s decision to move ahead with the .amazon gTLD.

In a joint statement over the weekend, the presidents of Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia, said they have agreed to “to join efforts to protect the interests of our countries related to geographical or cultural names and the right to cultural identity of indigenous peoples”.

These four countries comprise the Andean Community, an economic cooperation group covering the nations through which the Andes pass, which has just concluded a summit on a broad range of issues.

The presidents said they have “deep concerns” about ICANN’s decision to proceed towards delegating .amazon to Amazon the company, over the objections of the eight-nation Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization.

ICANN is “setting a serious precedent by prioritizing private commercial interests over public policy considerations of the States, such as the rights of indigenous peoples and the preservation of the Amazon in favor of humanity and against global warming”, they said (via Google Translate).

ACTO had been prepared to agree to Amazon running .amazon, but it wanted effective veto power on the TLD’s policy-setting committee and a number of other concessions that Amazon thought would interfere with its commercial interests.

As it stands, Amazon has offered to block thousands of culturally sensitive domains and to give the ACTO nations a minority voice in its policy-making activities.

ICANN will soon open these proposed commitments to public comment, and will likely decide to put .amazon into the root not too long thereafter.

Dot-brand .bond has been acquired and will relaunch as a generic this July

The domain name’s Bond, dot Bond… or something.

Sorry.

ShortDot, the registry behind the .icu top-level domain, has acquired a dot-brand gTLD and plans to repurpose it as a generic.

The seller is Bond University, a newish, smallish university in Queensland, Australia, and the gTLD is .bond.

ShortDot co-founder Kevin Kopas confirmed the deal to DI tonight, and said the new owner hopes .bond will prove attractive to bail bondsmen, offerers of financial bonds and, yes, fans of the James Bond franchise.

There’s also the dictionary meaning of “bonding” with somebody in a familial, friendly or business sense.

A new Bond movie is due to come out next April, so .bond might pick up a few regs then, assuming the registry is careful not to too closely associate itself with the heavily-guarded IP.

Kopas said that the current plan is to launch a 60-day sunrise period July 9 this year. ShortDot is currently working on unbranding the TLD within its ICANN contract, to allow it to sell to an unrestricted audience.

Premium domains will be offered with premium renewal fees.

ShortDot also plans to move away from Neustar’s back-end to CentralNic.

Bond University never actually used its TLD, which would have been a single-registrant space for its own exclusive use. It’s been dormant since its 2014 delegation, with just a single placeholder domain in its zone file.

There are plenty of those. About 50 owners of unused dot-brands have chosen to terminate their ICANN contracts and simply fizzle away to nothing.

But a small handful of others have chosen to instead sell their contracts to registries that think they can make a bit of money marketing them as generic strings.

The most obvious example of this to date would be .monster, which XYZ.com recently relaunched as a quirky open generic after the jobs site Monster.com decided it didn’t need a dot-brand after all. It’s been on sale for about a month and has about 1,750 names in its zone file.

The first example, I believe, was .observer, which Top Level Spectrum acquired from the Observer newspaper in 2016. That TLD went on sale two years ago but has fewer than 1,000 domains under management today.

Kopas said that the plan is to sell .bond names for between $5 and $10 wholesale.

“Overall the goal of ShortDot is to offer domains that are affordable for end users and profitable for registrars,” he said.

It’s only the company’s second TLD. The first was .icu, which it bought from One.com (which hadn’t really used it) and relaunched in May 2018.

Since then, it’s grown extremely rapidly and is currently the eighth-largest new gTLD by zone file volume.

It had over 765,000 domains in its zone today, up from basically nothing a year ago, no doubt largely due to its incredibly low prices.

Before AlpNames died, it was selling .icu names to Chinese customers for the yuan equivalent of just $0.50.

Today, the domain is available from NameCheap and NameSilo, its two largest registrars, for about $1.50.

Remarkably, spam fighters haven’t highlighted much to be concerned about in .icu yet.

The TLD has a 6.4% “badness” rating with SpamHaus, roughly the same as the similarly sized MMX offering .vip, which is also popular in China, and lower than .com itself.

Compare to .loan, which has a bit over a million names and which SpamHaus gives a 28.7% “bad” score.

In other words, .icu seems to be doing very well, volume-wise, without yet attracting huge amounts of abuse.

It’s a neat trick, if you can pull it off. But is the success repeatable? I guess we’ll find out with .bond when it launches.