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Moment of truth as first seven new gTLDs go on sale

Kevin Murphy, January 29, 2014, Domain Registries

We’re finally going to see if there’s any demand for new gTLD domain names.

The first seven new gTLDs — .bike, .clothing, .guru, .holdings, .plumbing, .singles and .ventures, all operated by Donuts — hit first-come, first-served general availability this afternoon.

I understand that the precise time they’re due to become available is 1600 UTC.

But these are going to be unlike any new TLD launches we’ve seen to date.

We’re unlikely to see the kind of mad gold-rush that was enjoyed by the likes of .mobi and .co in their first 24 hours, largely due to the high prices Donuts intends to charge for early adopters.

Under its Early Access Program, any domain registered in these TLDs on day one is going to cost over $10,000 for the first year. The price will come down to $2,500+ tomorrow and will be reduced each day until settling at regular pricing a week from now.

Go Daddy, which commands about half of the retail market, has previously indicated that its day one pricing for Donuts’ gTLDs will be $12,539.

Judging by the Go Daddy web site today, it’s treating EAP as one of its “priority pre-registration” phases distinct from general availability, which it says will kick off February 5.

The EAP is Donuts’ alternative to the landrush-with-auctions model we’ve become accustomed to in previous TLD launches.

The questions are whether this will affect domain investors’ willingness to dive in and grab some premium real estate and whether it will encourage actual end-users to register early.

It seems pretty obvious that while day one of GA for Donuts’ gTLDs is the first big test of its pricing strategy, it’s not going to be the yardstick for volume performance that we’ve seen in previous launches.

I think it’s a pretty safe bet that today’s volumes for Donuts will not come close to GA-day numbers for the likes of .co, .xxx or .mobi, which were in the five or six-figure range.

But with pricing for .bike et al today literally 200 times more expensive than .xxx’s GA pricing, Donuts doesn’t need to sell a great many names to have made a nice return.

ICM Registry said it sold 55,367 .xxx domains in the first 24 hours of GA back in December 2011. With a registry fee of $62, that’s revenue of $3.43 million to the company.

To make the same amount of money from a single gTLD such as .guru, with its $10,000 (I believe) registry fee, Donuts only needs to sell 343 domains today.

.CO Registry sold 194,000 domains in its first 24 hours, at a registry fee I believe was $20, for approximately $3.88 million in revenue. Donuts would only need to sell 388 .clothing domains to make the same return.

These might be achievable numbers. .CO, which operated a landrush-with-auctions period, sold at least 38 domains for over $10,000 and 227 for over $2,500, based on its published results.

Volume matters for the long-term health of a gTLD with public visibility and an aftermarket, but not so much anymore for the financial health of the registry itself.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story reported that the premium EAP prices recur for every year of the registration. They actually revert back to standard Donuts pricing in the second year.

Go Daddy turns to man boobs for 2014 Super Bowl ad

Kevin Murphy, January 22, 2014, Domain Registrars

For some reason people like watching Go Daddy’s Super Bowl commercials.

Here’s its 2014 commercial, which the company posted to YouTube today.

Rather than attempting to grab the viewer’s attention with fleeting glimpses of female dĂ©colletage, which has become the tradition over the 10 years Go Daddy has been running these expensive annual ads, this time around it’s the male form that’s being exploited.

Man boobs, in other words. Dozens and dozens of pairs of man boobs.

Danica Patrick’s in there somewhere too, but she appears to have been CGI’d to look like one of the fellers.

You’ll notice the lack of any TLDs — new or old — getting a mention, not even in Go Daddy’s logo, which dropped the “.com” about a year ago.

You may also scratch your head at the denouement. Why were a bunch of black guys among those racing to the tanning salon? Baffling.

Go Daddy hires former Microsoft exec as CIO

Kevin Murphy, January 15, 2014, Domain Registrars

Go Daddy has appointed a new chief information/infrastructure officer, former Microsoft and ServiceNow executive Arne Josefsberg.

Josefsberg was most recently CTO of ServiceNow, a service automation software company, but he previously worked with Go Daddy CTO Elissa Murphy when she was at Microsoft.

He’s the latest in a series of high-level appointments to come over the year since Blake Irving took over as CEO and started plundering the ranks of alma maters Yahoo and Microsoft for executive talent.

Latest Go Daddy phishing attack unrelated to 2013 RAA

Kevin Murphy, January 6, 2014, Domain Registrars

Fears that the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement would lead to new phishing attacks appear to be unfounded, at least so far.

The 2013 RAA, which came into force at most of the big registrars on January 1, requires registrars to verify the registrant’s email address or phone number whenever a new name is registered.

It was long predicted that this new provision — demanded by law enforcement — would lead to phishers exploiting registrant confusion, obtaining login credentials, and stealing valuable domain names.

Over the weekend, it looked like this prediction had come true, with posts over at DNForum saying that a new Go Daddy scam was doing the rounds and reports that it was related to the 2013 RAA changes.

I disagree. Shane Cultra posted a screenshot of the latest scam on his blog, alongside a screenshot of Go Daddy’s actual verification email, and the two are completely dissimilar.

The big giveaways are the “Whois Data Reminder” banner and “Reminder to verify the accuracy of Whois data” subject line.

The new attack is not exploiting the new 2013 RAA Whois verification requirements, it’s exploiting the 10-year-old Whois Data Reminder Policy, which requires registrars annually to remind their customers to keep their contact details accurate.

In fact, the language of the new scam has been used in phishing attacks against registrants since at least 2010.

That’s not to say the attack is harmless, of course — the attacker is still going to steal the contents of your Go Daddy account if you fall for it.

We probably will see attacks specifically targeting confusion about the new address verification policy in future, but it seems to me that the confusion we’re seeing with the latest scam may be coincidental.

Go Daddy told DI yesterday that the scam site in question had already been shut down. It’s not clear if anyone fell for it while it was live.

Go Daddy to take $2,500 profit on Donuts’ first-day domains

Kevin Murphy, December 11, 2013, Domain Registrars

Donuts’ pricey Early Access Program for its new gTLDs could prove quite lucrative for registrars.

Go Daddy today revealed that it’s charging $12,500 and up for first-day “priority” registrations in 14 Donuts gTLDs, a $2,500 profit on Donuts’ EAP registry fee, which I believe is $10,000.

The EAP is Donuts’ alternative to a traditional landrush period.

Rather than charging premium landrush fees and then running an auction for contested domains, every available domain has a standard premium buy-it-now price that is reduced every day for a week until the fee hits the standard reg fee.

It’s Dutch-auction-like, with a first-come-first-served component.

The EAP registry fees start at $10,000, go to $2,500 on day two, $950 on day three, $500 on day four and $100 from days five through day seven. Then they go to the base fee, which depends on gTLD but typically translates to about $40 at the check-out.

Go Daddy’s respective EAP retail prices are $12,539.99, $3,164.99, $1,239.99, $689.99 and $189.99.

Complicating matters, these are currently “priority pre-registration” fees, so the company will still have to successfully grab the pre-registered names from the registry when they become available.

While customers are billed today, they may not get the name they want. If Go Daddy fails to secure the name it will issue a full refund.

Complicating matters further, the company is accepting multiple pre-registrations on any given name and will auction it off to the highest bidder if more than one person pre-registers at the same level and Go Daddy manages to grab the name.

So $12,500 may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Complicating matters further further, Go Daddy’s site is currently not particularly clear — at least to this elderly hack — which components of its fees are refundable and which are not.

This slogan, currently in use on the Go Daddy pre-reg site, appears to me to be absolute nonsense.

Horseshit

The 14 Donuts gTLD currently on offer are: .estate, .photography, .ventures, .guru, .bike, .clothing, .gallery, .singles, .camera, .lighting, .plumbing, .equipment, .graphics and .holdings.