The new gTLD registry Dot Strategy included many famous brands on its list of premium .buzz names, including two that could get its partner, Go Daddy-owned Afternic, in hot water.
Until a couple of hours ago, nic.buzz carried what appeared to be thousands of premium listings, organized by category and carrying prices of $1,000 and up, some of which seemed to target brands.
The names of several sports teams, such as 49ers.buzz and blackhawks.buzz, were listed for sale in the sports category (hat tip: Valideus‘ Brian Beckham).
I also spotted listings for domains such as photoshop.buzz (an Adobe software brand) in the technology category and hobbit.buzz (believe it or not, “Hobbit” is a trademark) in an entertainment category.
But the ones that really caught my attention were academyaward.buzz and academyawards.buzz, which carried prices of $1,900 each.
That’s surprising because if you try to buy these domains you’ll be instructed to contact Afternic, which is handling the premium process. And as of September, Go Daddy owns Afternic.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscars and owns “Academy Award” and “Academy Awards” trademarks, has been locked in litigation with Go Daddy for the last four years.
The Academy claims that Go Daddy is cybersquatting due to its practice of making money parking its customers’ domains, including domains containing Academy trademarks such as academyawardz.com.
Most recently, Go Daddy tried to get the appointed judge in the case kicked out, alleging that she’s in the Academy’s pocket.
While the lawsuit is certainly controversial, attempting to sell $3,800 worth of domain names matching the Academy’s marks probably wouldn’t help Go Daddy look less cybersquatty to its opponent.
It could be argued that many of the premium names that match brands are also generic — Black Hawks could be helicopters and I’m sure there are plenty of academies in the world that hand out awards.
A legitimate registrant could buy many of these trademark-matching listed names and fight off a UDRP, I reckon.
But when somebody lists the name for sale in a category appropriate to the class of trademark, I’d say that makes the name look a lot less generic.
Bieber is a surname presumably shared by many people, but when you list bieber.buzz for sale in a category related to entertainment it can only really refer to one person.
Somebody yanked the premium listings section from the nic.buzz web site after I requested comments from Dot Strategy and Go Daddy a few hours ago. This post will be updated should I receive said comments.
.buzz is currently in its sunrise period and is due to go to general availability in mid-April. As I’ve said before, it’s one of my favorite new gTLD strings and I wouldn’t be surprised if sells quite well.
UPDATE: Go Daddy said: “Afternic is working with dotStrategy, Co. (the .BUZZ registry) to review the list and revise as appropriate.”
.sexy not so sexy after all?
Uniregistry’s first new gTLDs to launch, .sexy and .tattoo, have showed a poor first-day performance after the company failed to secure Go Daddy as a registrar partner.
During the 60-day sunrise period and the first 30 hours of general availability, .sexy sold just shy of 2,700 domains, judging by zone files, while .tattoo racked up a pitiful 700 registrations.
This makes .sexy the 19th most popular new gTLD. On the DI PRO league table it’s sandwiched between .holdings and .camera, and .tattoo the 28th, between .voyage and .careers.
It’s not a completely terrible performance for .sexy — .camera and .holdings have been on the market for three and four weeks respectively — but one might have expected better sales for a string that isn’t tied to a particular vertical niche and is, arguably, just intrinsically attractive.
.sexy’s first-day performance is in the same ball park as Donuts’ .gallery and .estate, hardly strings to get excited about.
For .tattoo, the story is less gray — under 1,000 domains sold is not a success in anyone’s book.
I think there are a couple reasons for the poor showing.
First, the strings themselves. While I can see .sexy proving popular with regular buyers, it doesn’t easily lend itself to domain names that are instinctively attractive to domainers.
You can put pretty much any profession or product name in front of a .guru and it is meaningful as a brand or a rather grandiose self-appointed title. Not so with .sexy.
Ironically, this appears to be Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling’s “Toilet Paper Test” in action.
Schilling argues that the test of how generic, and by extension popular, a gTLD is should be whether toiletpaper.[tld] works. I think toiletpaper.guru works, but toiletpaper.sexy does not.
Second, Uniregistry lacked distribution.
While it had big registrars such as eNom and NameCheap (almost 50 in total) on its books, it lacked Go Daddy and 1&1 — the two companies that have been pushing pre-registrations more heavily than any other.
The reason Donuts’ gTLDs performed better in their first hours is that these companies, mainly Go Daddy, had been collecting pre-regs for weeks and spammed the registry with registration requests at the first second they were able. Day one registrations actually represent weeks of marketing and leads.
Uniregistry took an awfully big risk by demanding registrars hand over part of the customer relationship to the registry, and it seems to have impacted its sales.
The company plans to shortly launch its own registrar, and is betting hard of this being a successful sales channel.
I’m somewhat skeptical about this strategy, at least in the short term.
Go Daddy has spent tens (hundreds?) of millions of dollars on marketing over the last decade or so. It has a lot of eyeballs already and it’s going to be nigh-on impossible to replicate that degree of success.
Uniregistry is not the only new gTLD portfolio registry enthusiastically embracing vertical integration.
The trail was blazed by Minds + Machines, which launched its own registrar last November. Today, it’s difficult to tell on the company’s web site where the registrar ends and the registry begins.
What’s M+M’s launch channel going to look like? We’re not going to know for sure until its first TLDs hit the market.
Are the big registrars going to make the vertically integrated business model difficult to carry off successfully? While registries are obliged to give access to any registrar that wants to sell their names, registrars have no obligations to carry any TLD they don’t want to.
Will .sexy and .tattoo trip on the starting blocks today due to registrars’ fears about competition and Whois privacy?
Uniregistry went into general availability at 1600 UTC today with the two new gTLDs — its first to market — but it did so without the support of some of the biggest registrars.
Go Daddy — alone responsible for almost half of all new domain registrations — Network Solutions, Register.com and 1&1 are among those that are refusing to carry the new TLDs.
The reason, according to multiple sources, is that Uniregistry’s Registry-Registrar Agreement contains two major provisions that would dilute registrars’ “ownership” of their customer base.
First, Uniregistry wants to know the real identities of all of the registrants in its TLDs, even those who register names using Whois privacy services.
That’s not completely unprecedented; ICM Registry asks the same of .xxx registrars in order to authenticate registrants’ identities.
Second, Uniregistry wants to be able to email or otherwise contact those registrants to tell them about registry services it plans to launch in future. The Uniregistry RRA says:
Uniregistry may from time to time contact the Registered Name Holder directly with information about the Registered Name and related or future registry services.
We gather that registrars are worried that Uniregistry — which will shortly launch its own in-house registrar under ICANN’s new liberal rules on vertical integration — may try to poach their customers.
The difference between ICM and Uniregistry is that ICM does not own its own registrar.
The Uniregistry RRA seems to take account of this worry, however, saying:
Except for circumstances related to a termination under Section 6.7 below, Uniregistry shall never use Personal Data of a Registered Name Holder, acquired under this Agreement, (a) to contact the Registered Name Holder with a communication intended or designed to induce the Registered Name Holder to change Registrars or (b) for the purpose of offering or selling non-registry services to the Registered Name Holder.
Some registrars evidently do not trust this promise, or are concerned that Uniregistry may figure out a way around it, and have voted with their storefronts by refusing to carry these first two gTLDs.
Ownership of the customer relationship is a pretty big deal for registrars, especially when domain names are often a low-margin entry product used to up-sell more lucrative services.
What if a future Uniregistry “registry service” competes with something these registrars already offer? You can see why they’re worried.
A lot of registrars have asserted that with the new influx of TLDs, registrars have more negotiating power over registries than they ever did in a world of 18 gTLDs.
Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling is basically testing out this proposition on his own multi-million-dollar investment.
But will the absence of these registrars — Go Daddy in particular — hurt the launch numbers for .sexy and .tattoo?
I think there could be some impact, but it might be tempered by the fact that a large number of early registrations are likely to come from domainers, and domainers know that Go Daddy is not the only place to buy domains.
Schilling tweeted at about 1605 UTC today that .sexy was over 1,800 registrations.
Longer term, who knows? This is uncharted territory. Right now Uniregistry seems to be banking on the 40-odd registrars — some of them quite large — that have signed up, along with its own marketing efforts, to make up any shortfall an absence of Go Daddy may cause.
Tomorrow, I’d be surprised if NameCheap, which is the distant number two registrar in new gTLDs right now (judging by name server counts) is not the leader in .sexy and .tattoo names.
New gTLDs may have only been in general availability for a few weeks, but there’s already evidence of substantial abuse.
Go Daddy has suspended at least 305 new gTLD domain names, putting them on its spam-and-abuse.com name servers, standard Go Daddy practice for domains suspected of abuse.
Over 250 of these were put on the naughty step in the last 24 hours.
The suspended names include, notably, thepiratebay.guru, which matches the name of controversial torrent site frequented by people who like downloading copyrighted material for free.
The Pirate Bay has been switching TLDs like crazy recently, as one ccTLD after another shuts down its latest attempt to find a reliable home.
The .guru domain is registered under Go Daddy’s Domains By Proxy privacy service, so it’s not clear if it actually belongs to The Pirate Bay or to an opportunistic third party.
Other suspended names include premium-looking names such as electric.guru, sexualhealth.guru, as well as obvious cybersquatted names such as verizon.guru (not registered to Verizon).
But the majority of the suspended names seem to belong to a single registrant in Washington state, all in .guru and largely “pigeon shit” names such as bestdrinksites.guru and bestfashionsites.guru.
While 305 seems like a large number (albeit only 0.2% of the current new gTLD names sold), it appears that so far a single individual is responsible for most of the “abuse” in new gTLDs.
Donuts managed to sell well over $500,000 in new gTLD domain names over the first six days of its Early Access Program, according to our calculations.
Our estimate, which is somewhere between back-of-the-envelope and hard analysis, is based on the latest zone files for its first seven live gTLDs — .bike, .clothing, .guru, .ventures, .holdings, .plumbing and .singles.
The exact number I believe is somewhere closer to $750,000, but it’s actually quite difficult to pin down the exact value of domains sold to date due to the complexity of the Donuts pricing scheme.
Zone files show that as of last night Donuts had sold at least 3,650 names across all seven of its new gTLDs currently on the market.
That’s including sunrise sales and the first six days of the novel EAP, which saw buy-now prices decrease every day for a week, but not including its Domain Protected Marks List blocks.
My revenue estimates are for EAP only, ignoring sunrise.
Donuts’ EAP fee started off at $10,000 on January 30, then was reduced to $2,500, $950, $500 and $100 every day. It’s been at $100 for the last few days and will revert to baseline prices tomorrow at 1600 UTC.
So by figuring out the registration date you can figure out how much the name sold for, kinda.
Domain Name Wire managed to establish last week that the company sold
six three domains at $10,000.
Based on a few hundred additional Whois look-ups, DI has found that the company sold at least 120 names during EAP at at least $500 each, at least 150 at at least $950, and at least 25 at at least $2,500.
That would bring the total haul for the first few days of EAP fees to about $300,000.
Add all this to roughly $200,000 worth of names that have appeared in the zone files since the fee dropped to $100, and we get to about $500,000 in total EAP fees, not including sunrise names.
Add in the baseline registry fees and you get to something like $550,000.
However, Donuts has also priced many attractive names at a “baseline” premium. That means when regular pricing commences tomorrow, premiums will still cost more than regular names in each TLD.
A registrant told us today that gun.guru will costs him about $400 a year to renew. That’s the baseline price. Judging by the date, he paid $950 in EAP fees and Go Daddy’s registrar markup too.
There’s no way to easily figure out what the premium pricing was after a domain has already been sold, which makes it difficult to calculate Donuts’ landrush windfall, but I believe it’s in the region of $750,000 so far, with a day yet to run.
It’s an estimate of the revenue from EAP’s first six days, only counting first-year fees.
It also requires the same caveats as usual: we’re using zone file data here, which does not present a full picture of the number of names sold.
If the pricing scheme seems confusing to you, you’re not alone.
There wasn’t a great deal of participation by registrars in the EAP, due to concerns about the high prices, implementation work, and complexity causing confusion among customers.
@DomainIncite Mostly because the pricing is confusing to customers. We'll roll them out in search along with other extensions on the 5th.
— Hover CS (@hoverCS) January 29, 2014
@DomainIncite The amount of customization required for the EAP & high cost does not make it feasible to market / implement.
— Lexsynergy Limited (@LexsynergyLtd) January 29, 2014
Several registrars seem to be treating tomorrow’s price drop as the “proper” general availability launch date for the seven gTLDs concerned.
Go Daddy, which has had new gTLDs in its storefront for the last couple months, seems to have got the majority of registrations, as you might expect. Almost a quarter of names appearing in zone files over two days last week were registered via its Domains By Proxy privacy service.
That said, its Super Bowl commercials on Sunday do not appear to have made a significant impact, focused as they were on branding Go Daddy rather than any TLD offering.