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Berkens flogs the lot to Go Daddy

Kevin Murphy, December 7, 2015, Domain Sales

Domain investor Mike Berkens has sold almost his entire portfolio of domain names to Go Daddy, both parties said today.

Berkens’ company, WorldWide Media sold about 70,000 names to the company, which plans to list most of them on its Afternic Fast Transfer Network.

That’s the service that tries to streamline the purchasing of premium-priced domains as much as possible by making them available intermingled with unregistered names on registrars’ storefronts.

Berkens said on his blog, The Domains, that the decision to sell off most of his portfolio came about largely due to his personal circumstances.

“Simply put, life is short and this it was the perfect time for myself and my family to make a move that doesn’t require working 7 days a week, 365 days a year on the computer,” he wrote.

He intends to continue his work with RightOfTheDot, the auction and premium sales company he founded with Monte Cahn, which is running a big auction at the NamesCon conference next month.

He has also retained a portfolio of adult-themed domains, which he plans to sell via a web site at adult.domains.

A small portfolio of mostly new gTLD domains will be sold via the.domains.

Financial details of the Go Daddy deal were not disclosed, but Berkens said he could have made more money selling the names individually. He expects Go Daddy will find the domains profitable too, he said.

Bladel romps home in ICANN election re-run

Kevin Murphy, November 24, 2015, Domain Policy

Go Daddy VP of policy James Bladel has been elected chair of ICANN’s Generic Names Supporting Organization Council.

The result came a month after the GNSO Council embarrassingly failed to elect a chair to replace outgoing Jonathan Robinson.

This time Bladel ran unopposed, securing the unanimous support of both his own Contracted Parties House and the Non-Contracted Parties House, which did not field a candidate.

In the October vote, the NCPH had nominated academic Heather Forrest.

Due to personal friction between commercial and non-commercial NCPH Council members, Bladel lost that election to “none of the above” by a single vote.

Forrest has been elected vice-chair, along with Neustar’s Donna Austin.

Volker Greimann and David Cake, who had been running the Council on an interim basis for the last month, have stepped aside.

Domains pointing to social media tiny, but growing

Kevin Murphy, October 7, 2015, Domain Registrars

The number of domain names registered via Go Daddy and pointing to social media profiles measures only in the “tens of thousands”, according to the company.

The market leading registrar put out a press release earlier this week stating that “in the last 18 months, customers pointing a domain name to social media sites increased by 37 percent.”

The company said it “attributes the rise in the redirects to customers wanting to control their online identity.”

While it’s an uptick for sure, the number of domains behaving this is actually still quite low.

A Go Daddy spokesperson told DI: “We’re not releasing exact numbers, but it’s in the tens of thousands.”

That’s a drop in the ocean compared to the over 60 million domains Go Daddy has under management.

The press release promoted the company’s new Personal Domains sales page, which offers buyers a streamlined way to point their domains to their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Tumblr profiles.

Reddit peppers Go Daddy boss with sexism questions

Kevin Murphy, September 4, 2015, Domain Registrars

Go Daddy can’t seem to shake off the legacy of its long-running, sexually suggestive TV advertising.

In an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit yesterday, CEO Blake Irving seemed to face more questions about sexism, women in technology and equal opportunities hiring than any other topic.

He made about 70 posts during the session, at least 10 of which related to Go Daddy’s relationship with the equally-fair sex in some way. Some Reddit users wondered aloud whether some such questions had been planted by Go Daddy sock-puppets.

The “best”-rated question on the thread addressed the company’s old TV commercials, which in the early days regularly featured scantily-clad, large-breasted women. Irving said:

The old ads helped GoDaddy build massive brand awareness in the US. They weren’t helpful to our reputation as an egalitarian provider of services though, and they didn’t do enough to tell people what we actually do. One of the first things I did at GoDaddy was pivot the advertising to reflect what we did and who we did it for. When 58% of small businesses in the US are run by women you should reflect the great work they do as small businesses. That’s what we’ve done with our ads over the past two years.

Irving joined Go Daddy in December 2012. Its ads since then have focused less and less on the prurient interest.

Irving also pointed out in one answer than a third of the company’s executive team is female.

He was also asked a number of questions about the new .ski gTLD (he was wearing a branded baseball cap in the AMA’s accompanying photograph).

Go Daddy employees also seemed to be out in force, asking multiple questions about this year’s corporate Christmas party.

When asked about the prospects for new gTLDs versus .com, Irving sat on the fence:

We’re seeing steady increases in awareness and the first instances of big global brands using the names (like abc.xyz and brand TLDs like home.barclays). We expect this to continue to drive new gTLD sales over time. For the foreseeable future, COM will likely remain the most desired name in the US and outside. It’s universally recognizable around the world. Either way, our goal is to provide the best choices available for each customer and the new gTLDs make getting the perfect name for you much more likely.

When asked “Does your burning evil raise your body temperature?”, Iriving replied:

Ummmm …. GoDaddy is an eco-conscious company, so we are firmly against practices that are harmful to the environment, including the use of malevolent forces as a fuel source. But, I do like a good bike ride to get my heart pumping.

The whole AMA can be read here.

OpenTLD cybersquatting fight escalates

Kevin Murphy, August 7, 2015, Domain Registrars

ICANN has accused OpenTLD, the registrar arm of Freenom, of cybersquatting famous brands even after it was threatened with suspension.

The claims may be worrying for some registrars as ICANN may in fact be holding the registrar responsible for the actions of its proxy service customers.

OpenTLD was suspended by ICANN in early July, after two UDRP rulings found the company had cybersquatted rival registrars’ brands in order to poach customers.

The suspension was lifted after just a few hours when OpenTLD took ICANN to arbitration under the terms of its Registrar Accreditation Agreement.

In ICANN’s latest arbitration filing, the organization’s lawyers argue that the suspension should not be stayed, because OpenTLD has been shown to engage in a pattern of cybersquatting.

Like the original suspension notice, the filing cites the two UDRP losses, along with footnotes indicating that as many as seven competing brands had been cybersquatted.

But ICANN has now also escalated its allegations to bring in non-registrar brands where it’s far from clear that OpenTLD is the actual registrant.

ICANN’s filing states:

even a brief review of the domain names in OpenTLD’s portfolio demonstrates that OpenTLD appears to be continuing to engage in bad faith and abusive registration practices. As of 3 August 2015, there were at least 73 gTLD domains registered to Stichting OpenTLD WHOIS Proxy (which is OpenTLD’s proxy service) that are identical to or contain the registered trademarks or trade names of third parties, including, by way of small example, the domain names barnesandnoble.link, sephora.bargains, at-facebook.com, ebaybh.com, googlefreeporn.com, global-paypal.com, hotmailtechnicalsupport.com, and secure-apple.com. ICANN is not aware of any legitimate interest or right that OpenTLD has to use these third-party trademarks and trade names.

Even more concerning is the fact that at least 14 gTLD domain names that contain the registered trademarks or trade names of third parties were registered by OpenTLD’s proxy service after the 23 June 2015 Suspension Notice was issued to OpenTLD, further demonstrating that OpenTLD’s overtures of “cooperation” ring hollow.

To be clear, that’s ICANN accusing OpenTLD of cybersquatting because some of the domains registered via its privacy service appear to be trademark infringements.

It’s basically equating infringing use of OpenTLD’s proxy service (such the registration of barnesandnoble.link) with the infringing behavior of OpenTLD itself (such as the registration of godaddy.cf, a February 2015 screenshot of which can be seen below.)

This may just be legal posturing, but I imagine many other registrars would be worried to know that they could have their accreditation suspended for cybersquatting simply because some of their privacy customers are cybersquatters.

I’d wager that every proxy/privacy service available has been used by blatant cybersquatters at one time or another.

Filings in the arbitration case can be found here.