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Activist investor slams Rightside over “garbage” new gTLDs, looking for blood

A hedge fund manager known for causing trouble at the companies he invests in has savaged Rightside, saying its focus on new gTLDs at the expense of its registrar business is ruining the company.

J Carlo Cannell of Cannell Capital is looking for some serious bloodletting.

He wants Rightside to cut 20% of its staff, close offices, unify its products under the eNom brand and replace two of its directors.

He’s threatening to wage a proxy war to replace the Rightside board if he doesn’t get what he wants.

He wrote a scathing letter to Rightside chair Dave Panos last month, which was published in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing today.

NAME’s registrar has become like a crazy aunt kept in the basement, one that you refuse to adequately clothe or feed, but who steadfastly spins straw into gold used to subsidize a stable of largely substandard new GTLDs such as .democrat, .dance, .army, .navy, and .airforce. Most of these new GTLDs are irrelevant and will never be sold in material volumes. NAME is holding back the growth potential of your registrar by pushing garbage extensions to a user base that quietly knows better.

NAME is Rightside’s Nasdaq ticker symbol.

Cannell revealed he owned a 7% share of Rightside last month — paying reportedly just shy of $11 million for 1,389,953 shares.

He wants Rightside to sell off “or even abandon” some of its weaker gTLDs, which “should not consume all the resources of our Company at the expense of the assets that are currently profitable”, while keeping “gems” such as .news.

His letter doesn’t pull any punches.

Cannell is perhaps best known for his widely publicized tussle with Jim Cramer, TV show host and co-founder of financial news site TheStreet.

Rightside slashes new gTLD prices to $0.99

Kevin Murphy, April 13, 2015, Domain Registries

Rightside registrar eNom is to offer domains in several Rightside gTLDs for $0.99 over the coming days.

Today, .rocks domains can be obtained for the special price. They’re usually $12.99 a year.

The price does not apply to renewals. Customers have to use the promo code “pocketchange”.

Rightside stablemates .forsale, .reviews, .ninja and .social will get the $0.99 treatment for one day each over the coming week.

As we’ve learned over the last several months, super-cheap domains boost TLDs’ numbers as some of the internet’s less than ethical characters bulk-register thousands of throwaway domains at once.

So far, gTLDs such as .xyz, .country and .kim have been affected by these spikes, which I currently believe are related to typosquatting campaigns in legacy gTLDs.

I would not be at all surprised if Rightside becomes the latest registry to see its volume swell for similar reasons.

Google leaks 282,000 private Whois records

Kevin Murphy, March 13, 2015, Domain Registrars

Google has accidentally revealed registrant contact information for 282,867 domain names that were supposed to be protected by a privacy service.

The bug reportedly affected 94% of the 305,925 domains registered via Google Apps, an eNom reseller.

The glitch was discovered by Cisco and reported to Google February 19. It has since been fixed and customers were notified yesterday.

Google acknowledged in an email to customers that the problem was caused by a “software defect in the Google Apps domain renewal system”.

It seems that anyone who acquired a domain with privacy through Google Apps since mid-2013 and has since renewed the registration will have had their identities unmasked in Whois upon renewal.

Names, addresses, emails and phone numbers were revealed.

Due to services such as DomainTools, which cache Whois records, there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. The information is out there for good now.

It’s a pretty major embarrassment for Google, which recently launched its own registrar.

Demand Media spins off Rightside

Kevin Murphy, August 5, 2014, Domain Registries

Demand Media has completed the spin-off of its domain name business, Rightside.

Shares in the new company, which will be listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange, went to existing Demand Media shareholders.

Trading under the ticker symbol NAME, Rightside stock started off at $16.77 yesterday morning and is currently trading at around $15.07.

Rightside comprises number two registrar eNom, retail registrar Name.com, new gTLD portfolio registry United TLD (which is branded Rightside), and its share of auction house NameJet.

It is headed by CEO Taryn Naidu and chairman David Panos.

The company also today named its initial board of directors.

NameCheap: a top ten registrar?

Kevin Murphy, January 20, 2014, Domain Registrars

eNom reseller NameCheap is actually in the top 10 largest registrars in terms of domains under management, judging by data in regulatory documents filed by eNom parent Rightside.

According to a Rightside SEC filing related to its spin-off from Demand Media, NameCheap accounted for 23% of the company’s total domains under management as of September 30.

With the same document declaring Rightside has over 12 million names under management as of the same date, NameCheap apparently looks after just under 2.8 million domains.

By my reckoning, this means NameCheap is very probably the ninth-largest registrar by DUM out there, sandwiched between GMO Internet and FastDomain.

My comparison is not completely apples-to-apples — NameCheap’s number may include ccTLD registrations and I’m levering the company into a gTLDs-only league table — so may not be fully reliable.

But it’s the first solid indication of the size of NameCheap’s business I’ve seen in a while.

While NameCheap is accredited by ICANN in its own right, it has never registered more than a handful of domains under its own name, leaving it in the sub-900 range in the DUM league table.

According to Rightside, NameCheap is under contract to exclusively use eNom’s wholesale services until December 2014, but the deal does have one-year renewals built in.