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.love dies as applicants pull five more new gTLD bids

Jewelry maker Richemont is the latest new gTLD applicant to withdraw one of its bids, yanking its application for .love.

The proposed gTLD was one of 14 single-registrant namespaces applied for by the company, and also the most heavily contested, with six other applicants competing.

Google, Donuts, TLDH and Uniregistry are also bidding. The string will almost certainly go to auction and may fetch a high price.

Richemont was the only applicant for .love as a “closed generic”, but the string was not among those listed in the Governmental Advisory Committee’s advice in the Beijing communique.

According to its application, Love is also a brand of bracelet produced by its Cartier jewelry business.

It’s the first application Richemont has withdrawn.

The New gTLD Application Tracker has also been updated today to reflect the withdrawals of .spa, .zulu, .free and .sale by Top Level Domain Holdings, which were announced last week but which ICANN has only just finished processing.

TLDH applies for 92 gTLDs, 68 for itself

Top Level Domain Holdings is involved in a grand total of 92 new generic top-level domain applications, many of them already known to be contested.

Sixty-eight applications are being filed on its own behalf, six have been submitted via joint ventures, and 18 more have been submitted on behalf of Minds + Machines clients.

Here’s the list of its own applications:

.abogado (Spanish for .lawyer), .app, .art, .baby, .beauty, .beer, .blog, .book, .casa (Spanish for .home), .cloud, .cooking, .country, .coupon, .cpa, .cricket, .data, .dds, .deals, .design, .dog, .eco, .fashion, .fishing, .fit, .flowers, .free, .garden, .gay, .green, .guide, .home, .horse, .hotel, .immo, .inc, .latino, .law, .lawyer, .llc, .love, .luxe, .pizza, .property, .realestate, .restaurant, .review, .rodeo, .roma, .sale, .school, .science, .site, .soccer, .spa, .store, .style, .surf, .tech, .video, .vip, .vodka, .website, .wedding, .work, .yoga, .zulu, 网址 (.site in Chinese), 购物 (.shopping in Chinese).

There’s a lot to note in that list.

First, it’s interesting to see that TLDH is hedging its bets on the environmental front, applying for both .eco (which we’ve known about for years) and .green.

This puts it into contention with the longstanding Neustar-backed DotGreen bid, and possibly others we don’t yet know about, which should make for some interesting negotiations.

Also, both of TLDH’s previously announced Indian city gTLDs, .mumbai and .bangaluru, seem to have fallen through, as suspected.

Other contention sets TLDH is now confirmed to be involved in include: .blog, .site, .immo, .hotel, .home, .casa, .love, .law, .cloud, .baby, .art, .gay, .style and .store.

The company said in a statement:

During the next six months, TLDH will focus its efforts on marketing and operations for geographic names such as dot London and dot Bayern where it has the exclusive support of the relevant governing authority, as well as any other gTLDs that TLDH has filed for that are confirmed to be uncontested on the Reveal Date. Discussions with other applicants regarding contested names will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

dotFree settles Microsoft botnet lawsuit

Kevin Murphy, October 28, 2011, Domain Registries

One of the companies that plans to apply for the .free top-level domain next year has settled a lawsuit filed by Microsoft over claims it was involved in running the Kelihos botnet.

The suit, filed in late September, had alleged that Czech-based dotFree Group and its CEO, Dominique Piatti, were behind dozens of domains used to spread malware.

dotFree already runs the free .cz.cc subdomain service, which isn’t what you’d call a trustworthy namespace. The whole .cz.cc zone appears to be currently banned from Google’s index.

This week, Microsoft has dropped its claims against the company and Piatti, saying it will instead work with the company to try to help clean up the free .cz.cc space.

Microsoft said on its official blog:

Since the Kelihos takedown, we have been in talks with Mr. Piatti and dotFREE Group s.r.o. and, after reviewing the evidence voluntarily provided by Mr. Piatti, we believe that neither he nor his business were involved in controlling the subdomains used to host the Kelihos botnet. Rather, the controllers of the Kelihos botnet leveraged the subdomain services offered by Mr. Piatti’s cz.cc domain.

As part of the settlement, Mr. Piatti has agreed to delete or transfer all the subdomains used to either operate the Kelihos botnet, or used for other illegitimate purposes, to Microsoft. Additionally, Mr. Piatti and dotFREE Group have agreed to work with us to create and implement best practices to prevent abuse of free subdomains and, ultimately, apply these same best practices to establish a secure free Top Level Domain as they expand their business going forward.

Expect this issue to be raised if and when .free becomes a contested gTLD application.

Domainer Jan Barta invests in dotFree

Kevin Murphy, August 30, 2011, Domain Registries

The Czech company hoping to apply to ICANN for the .free top-level domain next year has secured an undisclosed investment from local domainer Jan Barta.

Jeremie Godreche from dotFree described the deal as “an active and long term relationship”.

Barta is the founder of Elephant Orchestra, a domain investment and lead generation company based in Prague. You can read a recent interview with him in the Prague Post here.

DotFree appears to have recently overhauled its web site also.

It now has a planned launch schedule that would see a .free founders program open in January 2012 and its sunrise period begin a year later.

Now there’s confidence.

I expect .free to be a contested gTLD, and we won’t find out until April at the earliest how many other applicants are also chasing it.

The company plans to monetize .free by charging for 200,000 premium names and imposing an annual upgrade fee on registrants with more than one non-premium domain.

It has had 97,000 pre-registrations since last November.

The Top Ten Hottest Posts of 2010

Kevin Murphy, December 29, 2010, Gossip

Tumbleweeds are blowing through the domain name industry this week, which makes it an excellent time to take a look back at 2010, in the form of a list of this blog’s most widely read posts.

In descending order, here are the top ten DomainIncite stories of 2010:

ICANN had no role in seizing torrent domains
When ICANN stood accused by the blogosphere of helping the US government shut down dozens of .com domains in November, it took the organization a full week to officially deny it. In the meantime, it kicked off a Twitter campaign encouraging people to visit this post, making it the year’s most-read by some margin.

dotFree’s “free” domain names explained
Everyone wants something for nothing, so when I provided the first interview with the chief executive of the recently launched dotFree Group in August, it gathered a lot of attention. It turned out .free domains may not be as “free” as some had hoped.

WordPress.com becomes a domain name registrar
When I spotted that WordPress.com owner Automattic had received an ICANN registrar accreditation, company CEO Matt Mullenweg was good enough to link back to this post when he subsequently announced the move to his readers in October.

First reactions to ICANN’s VI bombshell
It was the biggest shake-up in the domain name industry in a decade – ICANN announced in November that it would start letting registrars and registries own each other. The full repercussions have yet to be felt, but this post summarized some of the early reactions.

ICANN will not attend White House drugs meeting

When and how governments and law enforcement should be able to block domain names is an ongoing hot topic for the industry. This September post broke the news that ICANN would not participate in US talks about blocking “fake pharmaceuticals” web sites.

Porn group starts anti-XXX campaign
The ongoing .xxx drama continues to be one of the key domain name industry stories that plays just as well with a mainstream readership. In addition, including the keywords “xxx”, “group” and “porn” in the same headline has proven disturbingly useful for acquiring search engine traffic.

Gaming scandal hits Russian domain launch
Internationalized domain names finally arrived on the internet in 2010, and the launch of Russia’s .РФ (.rf) IDN ccTLD was easily the biggest success story. It has racked up almost 700,000 registrations in the last two months, but was hit by allegations of registrar gaming, which I reported on here.

ICANN told to ban .bank or get sued
The road to the approval of ICANN’s new gTLD program was widely anticipated to have wrapped up by the end of the year. It didn’t, but that didn’t stop some eleventh-hour special pleading by organizations such as the Financial Services Roundtable.

Whistleblower alleged shenanigans at DirectNIC
DirectNIC has had its fair share of legal troubles in 2010. First it was sued for cybersquatting by Verizon (which it denied) and then, as I reported in this December post, a former employee alleged a complex scheme to make money through fraudulent domain arbitrage (which it denied, then settled).

Survey reveals demand for .brand TLDs
A World Trademark Review survey revealed mixed reactions from trademark lawyers and corporate marketing departments to new TLDs, but it did reveal that most companies would use their “.brand” TLD, if they had one, as their primary online address.

Let’s hope 2011 brings such a diverse range of interesting topics to write about. I’m certain it will.

dotFree reports 15,000 .free preregistrations

Kevin Murphy, November 3, 2010, Domain Registries

The dotFree Group, which intends to apply for the .free top-level domain, says it has taken almost 15,000 preregistrations in its first 48 hours.

Dominique Piatti, chief executive of the Czech-based company, tells me the domain count at the two-day mark was 14,831, preregistered by 2,787 users, an average of five domains each.

About 4,000 of those came in the first hour.

Considering that it’s not possible to preregister tens of thousands of “premium” strings – dotFree plans to auction those – that strikes me as a not-bad start.

As I discovered on Monday, the company has also banned the preregistration of any string ending in the number 4, presumably due to the “for.free” pun.

If dotFree’s .free ever gets approved – which is of course by no means certain – it would be at least 18 months from now before any of these preregistrations convert into actual usable domain names

DotFree starts taking .free domain preregistrations

Kevin Murphy, November 1, 2010, Domain Registries

The DotFree Group, which plans to apply to ICANN to run .free as a top-level domain, has become one of the first would-be registries to open its doors for preregistrations.

From noon UTC today, the Czech company has made a tool available on its web site enabling users to reserve their desired strings by handing over their contact information.

Of course, there’s no guarantee any preregistration will actually turn into a .free domain – ICANN may turn down DotFree’s application or award the string to another bidder.

While the plan is to offer some .free domains free of charge, DotFree intends to hold tens (or hundreds) of thousands of “premium” strings for auction or paid-for registrations.

In other words, if you try to register any really juicy strings today, you’re out of luck.

DotFree is one of only a few unapproved TLD registries to accept preregistrations.

ICM Registry started taking .xxx preregs a few years ago, but only after it had already received ICANN’s approval (which was, of course, later revoked).

Another wannabe TLD operator, the MLS Domains Association, is charging “multiple listing service” real estate brokers many hundreds of dollars for the opportunity to own their own .mls domain name.

UPDATE: Messing around with the preregistration tool, I’ve noticed that it appears to ban any string that ends with the number 4. Presumably these will be “premium”, due to the “for” pun.

dotFree to allow pre-registrations October 1

Kevin Murphy, September 8, 2010, Domain Registries

The dotFree Group, which plans to apply for the top-level domain .free, plans to start allowing pre-registrations from October 1, this year.

While .xxx has had an open pre-registration period for years, I believe .free is the first of the next round of new TLD applicants to offer a similar pre-launch phase.

It would be well over a year from now before .free would be able to actually start taking live registrations, assuming its application was even successful.

The Czech company has just relaunched its web site with a new look and new information. It appears to be closely modelled on the .CO Internet site, even copying big chunks of text in some cases.

It also includes a page targeting registrars, containing this text:

How much do I earn for every free registered .FREE domain?

We plan to pay each reseller $0.05 for every .FREE domain name which was referred to us. The definitive reseller commission is still under review.

Now there’s a way to get Go Daddy beating down your door.

It’s not much of an incentive, and it suggests that dotFree isn’t planning on targeting a traditional registrar channel, at least as far as the free .free domains go.

If you can make a recurring $10 mark-up (my estimate) on a .co domain, or a one-off $0.05 on a .free, which TLD would get your store-front real estate?

However, as I’ve previously reported, not all .free domains will be free, so there may yet be opportunities for the ICANN-accredited registrar market.

dotFree’s “free” domain names explained

Kevin Murphy, August 12, 2010, Domain Registries

As I reported a couple of days ago, a Czech company called The dotFree Group wants to apply to ICANN for a .free top-level domain, and will offer domain names for free.

Now for the small print – not all .free domain names will be free, and there will be strict limitations on how many free domains any given individual is able to register.

Here is an email interview I conducted with dotFree chief executive Dominique Piatti, which I think covers the basics of the business model and contains a few surprises.

I’ve corrected a few typos, but other than that it’s unedited.

DI: Applying for a new TLD will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and running it over the longer term will cost more. How does dotFree plan to cover the cost of running a free TLD?

Piatti: We are working with Venture Capital companies together from Eastern Europe and have an estimated turnover of EUR 1.25 million for 2011. In addition to this we are generating substantial revenue with our current projects www.cz.cc (which is a free second-level domain name registry) and with the Domain Registrar Script which is currently in version 1.3.5 (www.registrar-script.cz.cc).

DI: .free could be a desirable TLD for domain investors. Will there be any limitations on how many .free domains an individual is allowed to register? What would prevent a single person registering hundreds of thousands of .free domains?

Piatti: Yes, currently we plan that each individual is allow to have 1 .free domain at no costs within their account. If a user plans to have more domain names he can upgrade to VIP status (eg. $5/year and you can hold up to 20 domains in your account) similar like we have it successfully tested with www.cz.cc over the past 12 months. We have an advanced fraud detection tool developed which identifies double accounts owned by the same person.

DI: Do you anticipate a .free aftermarket? Would somebody be able to register, for example, “poker.free” for free and then sell it to somebody else for hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Piatti: Yes, we launch .free the same way as any other TLD in the market with the difference that every individual can have a .free domain at no costs. We will launch similar to the most recent TLD’s like .co and .me with premium domains, auctions etc. Also, aftermarket sales are possible therefore.

DI: Would “premium” domains also be free, or would you charge for them like you do with premium .cz.cc names?

Piatti: All our premium domains will cost around $5/year and will not be free. There are around 200,000 premium domains planned.

DI: Do you anticipate selling .free domains via registrars like Go Daddy and eNom, or would you expect to sell direct to the end user?

Piatti: Both. In our business plan we have the ICANN accredited registrars as distribution channels listed but we will also distribute those .free domain names directly over our own website.

DI: Would there be a “landrush” period? Would you auction premium names or would it be first-come-first-served?

Piatti: The launch will be very similar to .co and .me with everything it takes to make .free a highly successful gTLD.

DotFree wants to give away .free domains

Kevin Murphy, August 10, 2010, Domain Registries

A Czech company has become the latest to say it will apply for a new top-level domain, but it’s got a unique twist – domain registration will be free.

The dotFree Group, based near Prague, says it will apply for .free and offer the domains free of charge.

.FREE is going to be a generic Top Level Domain, which is going to be available for free, as the name itself says. Individuals, companies, organizations, groups, etc. are going to be able to register their .FREE website under a desirable name.

Can: open. Worms: everywhere.

  • How many registrars will actually want to carry this TLD?
  • How will dotFree fund its ICANN application fee and ongoing running costs?
  • Will there be a landrush? How will that work?
  • Will there be an after-market? With a no-risk investment, .free would be a domainer’s paradise.
  • How will the registry prevent rampant abuse by spammers?
  • Are these guys serious?

I’ve got a call in, so maybe we’ll find out more soon.

The dotFree Group already offers free domain names at the third level under cz.cc, and sells a pricey script so anyone can become a “registrar”.

The company sounds like it already has the infrastructure to support a small TLD.There are apparently 50,000 .cz.cc domains registered today, which already makes it bigger than some gTLDs.

(Hat tip: @dotRadio)