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$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.

Safeway pulls all four new gTLD apps

Kevin Murphy, September 28, 2014, Domain Registries

Retail giant Safeway has removed itself from the new gTLD program entirely, last week withdrawing all four of its applications.

The $139-billion-a-year company had applied for the dot-brands .safeway, .vons, .justforu and the generic .grocery, but all four bids are now showing as withdrawn.

Now that Safeway has withdrawn, the only remaining applicant for .grocery is rival retailer Wal-Mart.

.grocery had been applied for as a “closed generic”, in which Safeway would be the only eligible registrant.

The ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee had advised against closed generics on consumer protection grounds.

When ICANN pressed applicants for such strings to clarify whether they were in fact “closed generics”, Safeway denied (pdf) that .grocery was.

Wal-Mart, on the other hand, said that its .grocery would be restricted to Wal-Mart and its affiliates.

First company abandons .com for new dot-brand gTLD

Kevin Murphy, September 12, 2014, Domain Registries

Wow. Somebody actually did it.

CITIC, China’s biggest conglomerate, has started redirecting its established .com domain to its new dot-brand gTLD, .citic.

Specifically, it’s redirecting citic.com (go on, click it!) to limited.citic.

Almost everyone reading this post will agree that as a memorable, attractive domain it’s a step backwards.

But CITIC does seem to be the first dot-brand to make the leap from .com to dot-brand with both feet, and it seems to have done so with little to no penalty to its Google ranking (at least as far as searches for its company name go).

A Google search for “citic” here returns limited.citic as the third result, behind Wikipedia and one of CITIC’s sister companies.

The original citic.com doesn’t appear in the top results.

The company also has ranking for group.citic, one of the five second-level names active in the .citic zone file right now.

It’s not the first dot-brand to launch a web site at its new gTLD — destination.monash and annualreport.axa spring to mind — but it does seem to be the first to throw away its .com completely.

CITIC does not appear to have activated its matching Chinese-script gTLD, .中信, in the same way, however. Only nic.中信 appears in search results for sites under that TLD.

Thanks to Jothan Frakes of NamesCon for the tip.

Infosys withdraws dot-brand bids

Kevin Murphy, August 15, 2014, Domain Registries

Indian consulting giant Infosys has dropped its bids for two dot-brand new gTLDs.

It withdrew its applications for .infosys and .infy this week, leaving it with no remaining applications.

Both bids were straightforward dot-brands applications with no objections or contention. Both had passed Initial Evaluation and were just awaiting contract signing.

Infosys, which provides business and IT consulting services and outsourcing, is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and had revenue of $8.4 billion in its last reported year.

Momentum cancels dot-brand conference

Kevin Murphy, August 11, 2014, Domain Services

Momentum Events has cancelled its planned new gTLD conference, which was due to take place in Amsterdam next month.

The Digital Strategy & DotOps Congress was designed primarily for potential dot-brand gTLD applicants — with free tickets on offer for eligible companies — but Momentum said there was not enough demand.

A Momentum rep tells me it was looking like fewer than 100 people were going to attend.

“[M]arket response to this event thus far has demonstrated that the use of TLDs by brands is still a developing area and at this time we are just a bit too ahead of the curve,” the company said in an email to participants. “As such and in consideration of your time, we decided to proceed with cancelling this event.”

The conference was to be held at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Amsterdam, Netherlands from September 18 to 19.

Momentum is tentatively thinking about rescheduling the show for the first quarter next year.

It’s not the first new gTLD conference to be cancelled due to the slow uptake of new gTLDs. The third .nxt conference was abandoned twice in 2012 due to lack of demand and delays in the ICANN process.

Unlike the .nxt situation, where some attendees said they did not get refunded for their event passes, Momentum tells me people who had already paid for tickets can be refunded.

They’ll also be offered access to other Momentum conferences — either the rescheduled spring conference or a more imminent brand-oriented show — as an alternative.

Dot-brands get another year to sign ICANN contract

ICANN has offered dot-brand gTLD applicants the ability to delay the signing of their Registry Agreements until July 29, 2015, nine months later than under the former process.

The extension was offered by ICANN after talks with the Brand Registry Group, whose members felt pressured by the old deadline.

All new gTLD applicants had previously been told they had nine months to sign the contract from the date they receive a so-called “Contracting Information Request” from ICANN.

For many applicants, those CIRs were sent out many months ago, leading to an October 29 deadline.

However, Specification 13 of the contract, which allows dot-brands to opt out of things like sunrise periods and equal treatment of registrars, was not finalized by ICANN until May 14 this year.

Only a minuscule number of dot-brands eligible to sign contracts — which is pretty much all of them — have so far opted to do so.

Bearing the Spec 13 delay in mind, ICANN is now offering would-be dot-brands the July 2015 deadline instead, as long as they show “good faith” by responding to their CIR by September 1.

What this means is that dot-brands might not be hitting the internet for another year.

For non-branded gTLD registries — some of whom hope the big brands’ adoption and marketing will help the visibility of new gTLDs in general — this may be disappointing.

Momentum offers free new gTLD show passes

Kevin Murphy, July 10, 2014, Domain Services

Momentum Events is offering brands a free pass to its upcoming Digital Strategy & DotOps Congress in Amsterdam.

The deal is only open to companies that have not already applied for a new dot-brand gTLD. Each eligible company gets one free pass for the two-day event. Additional tickets start at $299.

For applicants and others the standard price is $599 per person. That’s about half the price of previous conferences in the series, which is now in its fifth incarnation.

Previous shows have taken place in New York and London.

Confirmed speakers for Amsterdam include executives from Philips, Goodyear, Coke and Google. From the domain world, Afilias, doMEn, Donuts and Dot Luxury are due to talk.

DI, which is a nominal media sponsor of the show, may also be on a panel.

The shows were previously called the Digital Strategy & New gTLD Congress, but Momentum has switched out “New gTLD”, which perhaps caused non-domain folks’ eyes to glaze, for “DotOps”.

No, I don’t know what that means either.

The conference will take place at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Amsterdam, Netherlands from September 18 to 19.

GNSO says dot-brand rules “inconsistent” with policy

Kevin Murphy, May 13, 2014, Domain Policy

The ability of dot-brand gTLDs to limit how many registrars they work with is “inconsistent” with the GNSO’s longstanding policy on new gTLDs, ICANN’s GNSO Council has found.

At the end of March, ICANN approved a set of Registry Agreement opt-outs, such as the ability to avoid sunrise periods and approve just three hand-picked registrars, for dot-brands.

They’re designed to make life easy for single-registrant zones where the gTLD is also a famous, trademarked brand and it would be silly to enforce open access to all accredited registrars.

But the GNSO Council resolved last week that the registrar exception is inconsistent with the GNSO policy that first kicked off the new gTLD program in 2007, which called for non-discriminatory access.

It had been asked specifically by the ICANN board’s New gTLD Program Committee to comment on whether there was a conflict. The Council said:

the language of this recommendation of the final report of the GNSO does not stipulate any exceptions from the requirements to treat registrars in a non-discriminatory fashion and (ii) the GNSO new gTLDs Committee discussed potential exceptions at the time, but did not include them in its recommendations, which is why the lack of an exception cannot be seen as an unintended omission, but a deliberate policy statement

However, the Council also decided that it has no objection to ICANN going ahead with the so-called Specification 13 exceptions, saying it “does not object to the implementation of Specification 13 as a whole”.

No GNSO members bothered to object when Spec 13 was open to public comment.

While it’s certainly a pragmatic, reasonable decision by the GNSO, it does highlight a situation where ICANN seems to have overridden a hard-fought community consensus policy.

That’s likely why its resolution also warns the ICANN board that its decision “may not be taken as a precedent”. Which of course it now is, regardless.

.nokia — a dot-brand without a brand?

Kevin Murphy, April 22, 2014, Domain Registries

Will .nokia be the next withdrawal from the new gTLD program?

It seems possible, if reports about the death of the Nokia brand are to be believed.

The news blog Nokia Power User reported yesterday that Nokia the company will be renamed Microsoft Mobile following the close of the $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia by Microsoft this Friday.

The blog, which may live to regret its own choice of brand, quoted from a memo from the company to business partners, reading:

Please note that upon the close of the transaction between Microsoft and Nokia, the name of Nokia Corporation/Nokia Oyj will change to Microsoft Mobile Oy. Microsoft Mobile Oy is the legal entity name that should be used for VAT IDs and for the issuance of invoices.

However, in a blog post confirming the April 25 close date, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith did not mention a rebranding.

The domain name nokia.com will live for up to a year, he said:

While the original deal did not address the management of online assets, our two companies have agreed that Microsoft will manage the nokia.com domain and social media sites for the benefit of both companies and our customers for up to a year.

What does that mean for the .nokia gTLD application?

According to the ICANN web site, Nokia is currently “in contracting” for the dot-brand.

It would not be unprecedented if it were to withdraw its application, however. Back in February 2013, the American insurance company AIG withdrew its bid for .chartis after a rebranding.