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Donuts’ DropZone approved despite competition fears

Kevin Murphy, October 6, 2021, Domain Registries

ICANN has approved Donuts’ proposed drop-catching service, DropZone, despite concerns it could add cost to the dropping domains market.

The Org and Donuts subsidiaries representing over 200 gTLDs signed amendments September 29 that incorporate DropZone into their Registry Agreements, according to ICANN records.

The full new text in the amendments, which does a pretty good job of describing the service, is:

Dropzone Service

Registry Operator may offer the Dropzone service, which is a Registry Service that will manage the release of domain names that have reached the end of their life cycle.

The Dropzone is a separate system, parallel to the main EPP system, that will manage on a daily basis the release of domain names that have been purged for a short period of time, called the Dropzone. Any TLD-accredited registrars may use the Dropzone to register a recently-purged domain name.

On a daily basis, at the end of the Dropzone period, the Registry will execute an awarding process, which will select, per domain name, the first domain creation request submitted (first come, first serve).

What the amendment doesn’t mention are fees. The original Donuts Registry Service Evaluation Request stated in August:

In addition to the standard or premium registration prices of a given domain name, The Dropzone service can support additional application fees to be configured on a per TLD basis. Applications fees where applicable will be charged in addition to the standard registration price of a domain name.

This caused concern at TurnCommerce, the company that runs the DropCatch.com network of registrars, which told ICANN last month that DropZone was anti-competitive and could raise the price of dropping domains.

But ICANN responded that DropZone passed its competition sniff test, and would not be referred to government authorities.

Donuts has not yet publicly announced plans to launch DropZone.

A virtually identical service, that did not mention added fees in its RSEP, was previous approved for Afilias, the registry operator Donuts acquired at the start of the year.

Donuts’ drop-catching service not anti-competitive, ICANN says

Kevin Murphy, September 29, 2021, Domain Registries

Donuts’ proposed DropZone service, which could see the registry start charging drop-catchers additional fees, is not anti-competitive, according to ICANN.

The service “does not raise any competition concerns”, ICANN VP Russ Weinstein said in a letter to registrar TurnCommerce, the company behind DropCatch.com.

He was responding to TurnCommerce’s concern that DropZone would allow Donuts to charge unlimited extra fees to register expiring names, while giving an advantage to its in-house registrars.

But Weinstein wrote (pdf):

The information received in the Dropzone RSEP request was thoroughly evaluated pursuant to our process, which included consideration of the matters raised in your letter. ICANN org determined that the Dropzone service as submitted by Donuts Inc. on behalf of [Donuts subsidiaries] Binky Moon, LLC and Dog Beach, LLC does not raise any competition concerns requiring ICANN org to refer either RSEP to a relevant competition authority.

DropZone would see Donuts handle its dropping names on a parallel registry system that registrars would have to obtain separate access to. Its Registry Service Evaluation Process request raises the prospect of new fees for such access.

Pheenix adds 300 more registrars to drop-catch arsenal

Kevin Murphy, December 16, 2016, Domain Services

The domain drop-catching arms race is heating up, with budget player Pheenix this week acquiring 300 more registrar accreditations from ICANN.

According to DI records, the company now has almost 500 registrar accreditations in its family.

More accreditations means more registry connections with which to attempt to acquire expired domains as they return to the available pool.

It also means that Pheenix’s dropnet (a word I just made up that sounds a bit like “botnet” in a pathetic attempt to coin a term for once in my career) is now a bit bigger than that of Web.com, the registrar pool behind Namejet and SnapNames.

It’s still a long way behind TurnCommerce, owner of DropCatch, which two weeks ago added a whopping 500 new accreditations, bringing its total to over 1,250.

An extra 300 accreditations would have cost Pheenix over $1 million in up-front ICANN fees and will incur ongoing fixed annual fees in excess of $1.2 million.