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Renewals at 55% as first new gTLD junk drop begins

Kevin Murphy, February 18, 2015, Domain Registries

The first new gTLD to go live is seeing its first-year renewals at 55% one year after hitting general availability.

dotShabaka Registry’s شبكة. (or “.shabaka”, the Arabic for “.web”) has also seen its zone file shrink by about 27% over the last two weeks.

The zone peaked at 2,069 domains on February 1, 2015, but today stands at 1,521. Exactly one year ago, it was at 1,561 names.

The zone is smaller today than it was just two weeks after GA began, in other words.

“We can confirm we’re seeing renewal rates for names due in February at around 55%,” Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, which runs .shabaka’s back-end, told DI in a statement.

The registry added 1,608 domains in February 2014, 1,400 of those in the first half of the month.

The 55% is the number of domains that were renewed before their February expiry date. The full number for February will not be known until the grace period ends in mid-April.

“We have a handful of cancel renews and all other expired domains are in the auto-renew period,” he said. “It’s too early to examine the numbers for renews post-expiry date, but we expect this will increase the overall tally.”

“Given the market conditions we face in the region, the results align with our forecasts and we expect the numbers to improve for renewals due in the coming weeks and months,” he said.

In gTLDs, domains can enter a Auto Renew Grace Period for up to 45 days after expiration, during which they can still be renewed by their registrant and may or may not appear in the zone file.

It wouldn’t be fair on other new gTLD registries to read to much into these numbers, assuming they do not improve, as شبكة. is a bit of an unusual case.

It’s seen low registration volume, despite the apparently attractive string, largely because it’s restricted to Arabic script at the second level and the Arabic-speaking market is in its infancy.

When شبكة. launched there were no registrars offering an end-to-end Arabic shopping cart, Kinderis said. He added:

The most significant problem still remains demand and consumer awareness…

In regards to demand, the lack of awareness is a direct result of little to no marketing in the region. Apart from our own efforts, there has been little marketing or education programs deployed to increase awareness of new Top-Level Domains and Arabic script domain names.

We have even limited our marketing efforts because we identified early that market readiness is inadequate. Any large investment in marketing from dotShabaka Registry at the moment would be premature and wasteful until supply, demand and universal acceptance issues have been addressed.

He called on ICANN and its recently created Middle East Working Group to focus on ways to increase awareness and demand for domain names in the region. To date, it’s focused too much registrars and technical issues, he said.

شبكة. has its own set of issues and is probably not the best test case for new gTLDs in general.

That’s going to come soon. Donuts’ first batch of gTLDs — .guru, .bike, .holdings, .plumbing, .singles, .ventures and .clothing — had their base-price GA anniversary on February 4, and it appears that domains have already started to drop.

There’s little indication of anything amiss in the .guru zone file so far but the other six are down slightly — by maybe 100 or so names apiece, or less than 1% each — over the last two weeks.

Donuts executives have said they expect first-year renewals to be strong, but we’ve got a few weeks left before anyone will be in a position to know for sure.

New gTLD domains top 41,000

Kevin Murphy, February 8, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts’ first seven new gTLDs are still growing at a pretty rapid clip, albeit from a small base, a couple of days after they hit their baseline pricing.

There were 41,880 registered domains in the first eight new gTLDs as of last night’s zone files, half of which belong to .guru.

Some of Donuts’ gTLDs are still growing at 30-40% or thereabouts per day, whereas growth in dotShabaka’s شبكة. seems to be tailing off.

TLDDomainsDaily ChangeDaily Change (%)
guru20951605440.64%
bike546479817.10%
clothing4818113530.82%
singles353296037.33%
ventures258160830.82%
plumbing176944433.51%
holdings154827121.22%
شبكة (.xn--ngbc5azd)1217706.10%

DI PRO subscribers can track daily zone file changes here.

First eight gTLDs have 26,000 names so far

Kevin Murphy, February 6, 2014, Domain Registries

Well, we now have a new gTLD domain name market.

After n years of debate, policy-making, delay, application, testing, delegation and newfangled launch processes, there are eight new gTLDs that are open for business.

Donuts yesterday opened up its first seven gTLDs to their ‘proper’ general availability — by which I mean landrush pricing is no longer applicable.

At more or less the same time its second seven — .lighting, .equipment, .graphics, .photography, .camera, .estate, and .gallery exited their sunrise periods and went into their Early Access Program.

Meanwhile, dotShabaka Registry’s شبكة. (“.web” in Arabic) came out of its more opaque landrush period with several hundred new registrations.

Together, these 15 gTLDs have 26,199 registrations so far, based on the names active in their zone files today. The eight fully live gTLDs have 25,575, almost half of which belong to Donuts’ .guru.

TLDDomains
guru12,394
bike3,727
clothing2,856
singles2,071
ventures1,669
plumbing1,081
holdings963
شبكة. (.xn--ngbc5azd)814
equipment137
lighting137
estate85
photography73
graphics68
camera62
gallery62

The zone files are generated at about 0100 UTC and therefore do not represent the full first day of Donuts newly-GA gTLDs, but it’s clear that .guru is the domainer’s favorite so far.

The numbers are a long way off pretty much every new TLD launch we’ve seen to date.

Compare to .mobi, which had over 110,000 names at the end of its first week; .co, which sold 216,159 in its first 16 hours; or .xxx, which sold 55,367 names on day one.

Even Radix said it sold 4,000 .pw names in its first three hours and 50,000 in the first three weeks.

It should also be pointed out that none of the Donuts gTLD numbers include purchases of Domain Protected Marks List blocks, which do not show up in zone files.

That fact eliminates much of the noise from defensive registrations that we see in almost every other TLD.

For buyers (as opposed to blockers) market conditions are obviously different now too — a single TLD launching was once an event, the temporary alleviation of scarcity, whereas today Donuts alone expects to launch half a dozen every week for months.

And the Latin strings that have been launched so far don’t exactly capture the imagination, with .guru the possible exception.

Donuts’ portfolio, in my view, is based more on securing greenfield opportunities in vertical markets (plumbing, cameras, etc) rather than mining domain investors’ wallets on launch day.

One of the keys to the success of these things longer term is going to be how much use they get — when internet users start visiting new gTLD sites and seeing new gTLD URLs on billboards, momentum will build.

Google registers its first new gTLD domain

Kevin Murphy, January 4, 2014, Domain Registries

Google took part in dotShabaka Registry’s Sunrise period, according to today’s zone files.

The company registered جوجل.شبكة, in the .شبكة (Arabic “.web”) TLD, via MarkMonitor at some point prior to December 30.

“جوجل” seems to be the Arabic transliteration of “Google”.

The domain is not resolving, but Whois says it belongs to Google and it’s configured to use Google name servers.

It’s only the fifth confirmed Sunrise registration in the .شبكة space — the only new gTLD to so far conclude a Sunrise period.

Rolex registered its trademark and Richemont International registered three of its luxury goods brands. So far, Rolex is the only confirmed new gTLD registrant that is not also an applicant.

None of the registrants to date are from the Arabic-speaking regions.

These may all be defensive registrations, of course, and may never resolve to anything useful.

These are the first four new gTLD domain names

Kevin Murphy, December 31, 2013, Domain Registries

Two luxury goods companies have the honor of being the first to register domain names in a new gTLD.

Today, the first four domain names registered to actual registrants popped up in the zone file for dotShabaka Registry’s Arabic “.web” — شبكة.

شبكة. exited its mandatory Sunrise period on Sunday; the four new names appear to be the first ones to get name servers after their Sunrise applications were approved.

The two registrants, according to Whois records, are Richemont International and Rolex.

Richemont is itself a new gTLD applicant. The company has taken a strong interest in the program, with head of digital IP Richard Graham even moderating a new gTLDs conference in March.

The four names (with my best guesses at a translation) are:

None appear to be resolving on the web yet, not even to placeholder pages, at least from where I’m sitting.

Because they’re Sunrise names, it’s possible that all four are defensive registrations that may never lead anywhere meaningful.

Richemont used Com Laude as its registrar while Rolex used Key-Systems.

The Sunrise was limited to Arabic-script trademarks.

dotShabaka said yesterday that it had “very few” Sunrise applications. Now we know that number was at least four.

First new gTLD Sunrise ends with “very few” registrations

Kevin Murphy, December 30, 2013, Domain Registries

The first new gTLD Sunrise period was not a success, according to dotShabaka Registry.

The 60-day Sunrise for شبكة. (.web in Arabic) ended yesterday with “very few” registrations, the company told us today, due largely to poor promotion of the Trademark Clearinhouse in Arabic-speaking regions.

The gTLD is restricted to Arabic strings, and therefore Sunrise was restricted to Arabic trademarks.

dotShabaka said in a statement:

We always knew – with the convoluted process for registration and lack of information out to the MENA [Middle-East/ North Africa] region on the Trademark Clearinghouse – that this was going to be a quiet time for us. We have seen very few applications through the Sunrise period.

We know that the managers of the TMCH and ICANN are working hard to promote the TMCH. However, as a pioneer we have unfortunately not enjoyed the fruits of this labour. At the same time it should be noted that we have been buoyed by the level of interest from trademark holders and businesses in the region and expect this interest to translate into registrations once we move into Landrush and are free of the TMCH sunrise eligibility requirements.

The company did not provide exact numbers, but my guess is that we might be looking at single figures here.

According to today’s شبكة. zone file, there are no active third-party domains in the شبكة. namespace. Zero. None. The only live sites are “nic.” and its Arabic equivalent, which both belong to the registry.

That may quickly change, of course, as registrations don’t always immediately translate into zone file entries.

First new gTLDs to go live “in the next few hours”

Kevin Murphy, October 23, 2013, Domain Registries

The first four new gTLDs are expected to go live in the next few hours.

That’s according to the registries themselves, and reports out of the Internet Governance Forum in Bali, where ICANN division president Akram Atallah was speaking on a panel earlier today.

The gTLDs are: .сайт (Russian “.site”) and .онлайн (Russian “.online”) from CORE Association, شبكة. (Arabic “.web”) from dotShabaka Registry and .游戏 (Chinese “.games”) from Donuts.

By “go live” I mean of course that the ASCII versions of these strings (for example, .xn--ngbc5azd for شبكة.) will be entered into the DNS root.

It may take a short while for the registries to activate second-level domains (such as nic.) under their new TLDs, and nothing will actually go on sale for weeks.

They’re all of course internationalized domain names, given ICANN’s decision almost a year ago to prioritize IDNs at all stages of the evaluation and delegation process.

All four received their block-lists of “collision risk” second-level domains on Friday and elected to implement the blocks to get to delegation faster.

The three registries signed their contracts on stage at the ICANN meeting in Durban July 15.

This is a pretty big day for ICANN and its community. After many years and countless arguments and delays, new gTLDs are actually about to go live!

Live new gTLDs this month? First four pass to delegation

Kevin Murphy, October 22, 2013, Domain Registries

New gTLDs are on the home stretch, after ICANN sent the first four applications to the final delegation stage of the process.

The four are: .сайт (Russian “.site”) and .онлайн (Russian “.online”) from Core Association, شبكة. (Arabic “.web”) from dotShabaka Registry and .游戏 (Chinese “.games”) from Donuts.

These were also the first four to sign their registry contracts with ICANN — over three months ago — and the first to be given their name collisions mitigation plan, just a few days ago.

Proceeding to delegation means the applications are now in the hands of IANA, the ICANN department with responsibility over changes to the DNS root system.

IANA has its own set of procedures to follow before delegating, which have historically taken a couple of weeks to process. If I recall correctly, .xxx was with IANA for about 10 days before it went live.

It seems possible that the first new gTLDs could be live this month, meaning the first sunrise periods could kick off in early December, with general availability following a month later.

However, the Christmas and New Year holiday period may wind up forcing some registrars to stagger their dates in order to benefit from the best publicity window when they finally go on sale.

First collision block-lists out now. How painful will they be for new gTLDs?

Kevin Murphy, October 19, 2013, Domain Registries

ICANN has published the name collision block-lists for the first four new gTLDs, and they making pretty interesting reading.

The four registries in question will be required to block between 104 and 680 unique second-level domains from their gTLDs if they want to use the fastest path to delegation on offer.

The four gTLDs with lists published this morning are: .сайт (Russian “.site”), .онлайн (Russian “.online”), شبكة. (Arabic “.web”) and .游戏 (Chinese “.games”).

These were the first four new gTLDs with signed Registry Agreements. ICANN seems to be following the order contracts were signed, rather than the official prioritization number.

So what’s on the lists?

Gibberish

The first thing to note is that, as expected, ICANN has helpfully removed invalid strings (such as those with underscores) and gibberish Google Chrome strings from the lists, greatly reducing their size.

The block-lists are based on Day In The Life Of The Internet data, which recorded DNS root queries for applied-for gTLDs over 48-hour periods between 2006 and 2013.

According to ICANN, “a significant proportion” of the DITL queries were for the nonsense 10-character strings that Chrome generates and sometimes accidentally sends to the public DNS.

Because these “appear to present minimal risk if filtered from the block lists”, ICANN has made an effort to automatically remove as many as possible, while acknowledging it may not have caught them all. The human eye is good at spotting meaningless strings, software is not so adept.

All four lists still contain plenty of gibberish strings, according to this human eye, but mostly they’re not of 10 characters in length.

IDNs

All four lists published today are for non-Latin domain names and are presumably expecting their registries to be mostly populated with IDN.IDN domain names.

As such, the impact of their mostly Latin block-lists may be even smaller than it first appears.

For example, if we look at the list for .сайт, which has 680 strings to block, we discover that only 80 of them are IDNs (beginning with xn--). I assume they’re all, like the gTLD, in Cyrillic script.

I haven’t decoded all of these strings from Punycode and translated them from Russian, but the fact is there’s only 80 of them, which may not be unduly punitive on CORE Association’s launch plan.

At the other end of the spectrum, Donuts will only have to block 13 IDN strings from its .游戏 (Chinese .games) gTLD, and the ASCII strings on its list are mostly numeric or gibberish.

There’s very probably some potentially valuable generic strings on these lists, of course, which could impact the landrush purse, but it’s beyond this monoglot’s expertise to pick them out.

Trademarks

A small number of Latin-script brands appear on all four lists.

Donuts will have to block nokia.游戏, htc.游戏 and ipad.游戏 in its Chinese “.games”, for example. CORE will have to block iphone.сайт and brazzersnetwork.онлайн. DotShabaka Registry will have to block شبكة.redbull.

The impact of this on the registries could be minimal — a few fewer sunrise sales, assuming the brand owner intended to defensively register.

If the blocked brand was a potential launch partner it could be much more annoying and even a launch-delaying factor. It’s not yet clear how registries and brand owners will be able to get these names unblocked.

Bear in mind that registries are not allowed to activate these domains in any sense for any use — they must continue to return NXDOMAIN error responses as they do today.

I’m sure ipad.游戏 (“ipad.games”) could have some value to Apple — and to Donuts, in the unlikely event it managed to persuade Apple to be an anchor tenant — but it’s no longer available.

ICANN will deliver full mitigation plans for each gTLD, which may often include releasing blocked names to their ‘rightful’ owner, but that’s not expected for some months.

Generic terms

A number of generic dictionary terms are getting blocked, which may prove irksome for those registries with long lists. For example, CORE will have to block photo.сайт and forum.сайт.

So far, .онлайн has by far the longest list of ASCII generics to block — stuff like “football”, “drinks”, “poker” and “sex”. Even weirdness like “herpesdating” and “musclefood”.

As it’s an IDN, this might not be too painful, but once ICANN starts publishing lists for Latin gTLDs we might start seeing some serious impact on registries’ ability to sell and market premium domains.

Shurely shome mishtake

There are a few strings on these lists that are just weird, or are likely to prove annoying to registries.

All four of these gTLDs are going to have to block “www” at the second level, for example, which could impact their registry marketing — www.tld is regularly used by TLD registries.

It is going to be really problematic if “www” shows up on the block-lists for dot-brand registries — many applicants say “www.” is likely to be the default landing page for their dot-brand.

The only string that ICANN says it won’t put on any block-list is “nic”, which was once the standard second-level for every TLD’s registry web site but doesn’t really have mass recognition nowadays.

The block-lists also include two-letter strings, most of which correspond to ccTLDs and all of which are already banned by the base Registry Agreement for precisely that reason.

There’s no reason for these two-letter names to be on the lists, but I don’t see their presence causing any major additional heartaches for registries.

So is this good news or what?

As the four block-lists to be released so far are for IDN gTLDs, and because I don’t speak Chinese, Arabic or Russian, it’s a difficult call today to say how painful this is going to be.

There are plenty of reasons to be worried if you’re a new gTLD applicant, certainly.

Premium names will be taken out of play.

You may lose possible anchor tenants.

Your planned registry-use domain names may be banned.

If you’re a dot-brand, you’d better start thinking of alternatives to “www.”.

But the block-lists are expected to be temporary, pending permanent mitigation, and they’re so far quite small in terms of meaningful strings, so on balance I’d say so far it’s not looking too bad.

On the other hand, nothing on the published lists jumps out at me like a massive security risk, so the whole exercise might be completely pointless and futile anyway.

dotShabaka Diary — Day 1

Kevin Murphy, August 8, 2013, Domain Registries

Three weeks ago, dotShabaka Registry became the first of the current crop of new gTLD applicants to sign a registry contract with ICANN, but there’s still a way to go before launch.

The company has offered to provide DI readers, in a series of journal entries, with an insight into its operational experiences and concerns as شبكة. progresses on the path to delegation and launch.

With a Prioritization Draw number of 3, dotShabaka will be often be the first to encounter any pitfalls that emerge in the latter stages of the new gTLD evaluation and delegation process.

DI has agreed to carry the journal, unedited, in the belief that a regular focus on operational matters from a high-prioritization applicant will prove an invaluable resource for applicants and program observers alike.

Here’s the first entry:

Welcome to The شبكة. Journal.

In association with Domain Incite, dotShabaka Registry has launched a journal series to provide regular updates on our progress through delegation and then launch.

The aim will be to offer a transparent insight into the operations of شبكة.. As the first new TLD to sign a Registry Agreement and begin the delegation process, we are throwing the door wide open and will report the good, bad and ugly of our experience via this journal.

You can expect to read reports on our interaction with ICANN, how we handle technical issues and our progress with establishing commercial operations.

For example, we can report that:

شبكة. began pre-delegation testing in the first-available slot on Monday 5th August – nearly three weeks after ICANN’s ‘earliest path’ timetable published in Durban. We are confident of a successful outcome after passing beta testing in July.

Updated RPM Requirements were finally published for comment on 6th August. The good news for شبكة. is the welcomed proposed revisions to support anchor tenants. The bad news is that public comment process is open until 18 September. Another delay!

This lack of certainty has made it impossible for us to finalise launch plans and policies, which is frustrating.

The good news is شبكة. is in the low risk category for New gTLD Collision Risk Management and we don’t expect any impact on the timeline for delegation. Who will be left standing with شبكة. after ICANN’s ‘risk mitigation’ actions for name collisions and GAC Advice are accounted for?

We welcome your feedback and encourage readers to comment below in the Domain Incite comment box. We’ll attempt to address questions the community may have.

Please stay tuned for future updates exclusively via Domain Incite.

One-time disclosure: I’d like to state for the benefit of those who are seemingly always ready to pounce on DI for “selling out” that the journal series are not “sponsored” posts.

There’s no financial relationship whatsoever between DI and dotShabaka or any of its affiliated companies. This is just about the info.

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