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Amazon and Google deal on .talk, .play, .drive and others

Google and Amazon have started making deals to settle their new gTLD contention sets.

Google won three contention sets against Amazon this week, judging by the latest withdrawals, while Amazon won two.

Amazon won .talk and .you after Google, the only other applicant, withdrew.

Neither company appears to have a “You” brand, unless you count YouTube, but the .talk settlement strongly suggests that Google Talk, the company’s instant messaging client, is on the way out.

When Google applied for .talk in 2012 it intended to give Talk users custom domains to act as a contact point, but in 2013 Google started to indicate that it will be replaced as a brand by Google Hangouts.

The withdrawal seems to suggest that the existence of a gTLD application, a relatively small investment, is not an overwhelming factor when companies consider product rebranding.

I wonder what effect a live, active TLD will have on similar decisions in future.

But Google won the two-horse races for .dev and .drive and after Amazon withdrew its applications.

Google has a product called Google Drive, while Amazon runs Amazon Cloud Drive. Both companies have developer programs, though Google’s is arguably the more substantial of the two.

Google has also won .play — Google Play is its app store — after Amazon, Radix and Star Registry’s withdrawals. Amazon does not have a Play brand.

Google has also withdrawn its application for .book, leaving six remaining applicants, including Amazon, in the contention set.

I don’t currently know whether these contention sets were settled privately or via a third-party auction.

Four reasons Google Domains isn’t a Go Daddy killer

Judging by DI’s traffic spike last night, there’s a lot of interest in Google Domains, Google’s forthcoming entry into the domain name registrar market.

And judging by some of the early commentary, it seems that many people are already assuming that the service will be an overnight success.

Some people already seem to be willing to write off market leader Go Daddy specifically, for some peculiar reason.

I’ve even heard speculation that Google timed its announcement to screw with Go Daddy’s imminent IPO, which strikes me as veering into conspiracy theory territory.

While I’ve no doubt Go Daddy and other mass-market retail registrars will be watching Google’s move with interest and concern — and there are some reasons to be worried — let’s not jump the gun here.

Let’s calm the hyperbole a little. Off the top of my head, here are a handful of reasons not to get excited just yet.

1. It could be a really shitty product

There seems to be an assumption in some quarters that whatever Google brings to market will be automatically incredible, but the company really doesn’t have the track record to support that assumption.

Sure, its search engine may be great and services such as Gmail and Adsense may be pretty good, but have you ever tried Blogger?

Do you actually use Google+, or do you only have an account because Google forced you?

The truth is that lots of Google products fail.

And we haven’t even seen Google Domains yet. Nobody has. Only Google employees and their buddies are going to get beta access, so it seems we’re going to be waiting a while before we can judge.

2. There’s no 24×7 support

Google Domains will launch with support via email and phone from 9am to 9pm US Eastern time, Monday to Friday.

Would you switch to a registrar that doesn’t have round-the-clock support seven days a week? As a small business owner who makes his living from his web site, I sure wouldn’t.

If Google Domains gains traction you can expect support hours to be expanded pretty quickly, but a lack of 24×7 support at launch will keep many customers away.

3. It’s not free

Some people seem to be obsessed with the notion that Google is going to give away free domains, and that kind of commentary is continuing even though we know Google Domains will charge $12 for a .com.

Its email service may come at no additional cost, but its email service is Gmail, and that’s already free. Google could hardly start charging an add-on fee for something that’s always been free.

Google Domains may offer free privacy too, but so do lots of other registrars.

In future, Google registry arm Charleston Road Registry may give away free names in some of its new gTLDs, but if it does so that price will have to be available to all registrars, not just Google Domains.

Google Domains isn’t free. It’s not even the cheapest registrar on the market.

4. Go Daddy is gigantic

According to its recent regulatory filings, Go Daddy has 57 million domains under management and 12 million customers.

How many of those do you think will make the switch to Google? How many will even know that such a switch is possible?

Switching registrars may be relatively straightforward if everything you own is parked, but it becomes more complex when you’re running your web site, email and so forth on your registrar’s platform.

These kinds of small business owners are the customers being targeted by Google and Go Daddy, and if they already have web sites they’re likely already experiencing registrar lock-in.

According to its announcement, Google is targeting greenfield opportunities — the 55% of small businesses it estimates don’t have an online presence today — rather than grabbing market share from rivals.

The “small businesses need to get online” story is common to every press release issued by every web host and domain registrar with a price promotion to plug.

When Google teamed up with Blacknight to give away domains for free — for FREE, so it is, so it is — to Irish small businesses, it managed to sign up 10,000 in one year.

How long do you think it will take Google to get to 57 million names under management?

Shakeup coming as Google becomes a registrar, sells names at $12 with free privacy and email

Google has announced its first foray into the domain name registrar business with Google Domains.

The company tells me that the upcoming service will allow customers to buy or transfer domains for $12 a year.

Privacy protection, up to 100 email addresses and up to 100 subdomains — things existing leading registrars charge extra for — will be included at no additional cost.

Right now, the service is in an invitation-only beta. The first beta users are not expected to get access for a couple of weeks and the beta will likely last a couple of months.

Google says it wants to make domain registration a “simple and transparent experience”.

It’s not entirely clear which TLDs will be supported at first — .com, .net and .eu seem to be three of them — but the company plans to support “many” new gTLDs in future.

The service is unfinished, according to the company, but beta users will be able to buy and transfer domain names.

They’ll also be able to use web site creation tools supplied by the likes of Squarespace, Wix, Weebly and Shopify, which will carry an additional cost.

The $12 a year fee is comparable to market-leader Go Daddy’s annual rate for a .com, but Go Daddy charges about $8 extra per year for privacy and about $5 a month for email.

Google joins the likes of Minds + Machines and Uniregistry as new gTLD registries that have made the move into the registrar side of the business, hoping to bring a fresh approach to the market.

Google has actually been accredited by ICANN as a registrar for years — over a decade if memory serves — but to date has never used its accreditation to sell domains.

With its Google Apps service, the company refers domain buyers to Go Daddy and eNom. While there’s no confirmation from Google yet, I suspect those relationships may be in jeopardy in future.

101domain shifts blame to Google as premium buyers offered 50% discount

Kevin Murphy, April 30, 2014, Domain Registrars

101domain has offered a 50% discount to customers that were sold premium new gTLD domains for a vastly reduced price, and has tried to shift some of the blame to the registry, Google.

The offer was made in a letter (pdf) to affected registrants — previously hit with delayed invoices for thousands of dollars for domains they bought for $12.99 — sent yesterday.

It indicates that the registrar is prepared to eat at least part of its pricing error on both first-year registrations and subsequent annual renewals.

101domain told customers:

  • You now have until June 23, 2014 to make a decision whether to delete the name or pay for the premium name.
  • If you want to keep the name(s), 101domain will offer you a 50% discount on the first year premium price and a 25% discount on premium annual renewals.
  • If you give up your name(s), we will give you a credit on 101domain.com for any future purchases equal to 25% of the price of the premium name.

Previously, affected registrants had been told to pay up or have their domains deleted the following day.

As we reported last week, almost 50 domains in Google’s .みんな (“.everyone”) were sold for $12.99, despite some being earmarked by the registry as “premiums” with annual fees of up to $7,000.

In its letter to customers yesterday, 101domain characterized Google’s system for handling premiums as non-standard and difficult for registrars to work with.

Google’s list of premium names was circulated to registrars via an email, and the registry had no EPP commands for checking out whether a name was premium in real-time, the registrar says.

There was also no way for registrars to prevent the registration of premiums and no way to check with the registry for premium sales, it added.

It seems clear from the letter that the discounts now on offer mean that if registrants choose to keep their names they’ll be getting them at less than the registry fee — 101domain will eat the difference.

We contacted Google and requested them to work with us on the matter since we felt strongly that both sides were responsible to right the situation. Google offered no assistance other than extending the date to delete the names — telling us it was our problem.

Despite this seemingly generous response to domainer outrage, at the least one affected customer is not impressed.

In an email to DI last night the original registrant that first alerted us to the pricing problem described the latest 101domain offer as “lame”.

Guy hit with $1,600 bill a month after registering “premium” name for $12.99

Kevin Murphy, April 23, 2014, Domain Registrars

101domain has sent out almost 50 invoices, believed to total many thousands of dollars, to customers who had bought “premium” domain names for $12.99 well over a month ago.

One DI reader, who said he’d rather not be named, received a bill from the registrar today for $1587.01 for a .みんな domain name he hand-registered March 10 for the base fee of $12.99.

The email from 101domain stated that unless he pays the bill by 5pm PST tomorrow, his domain will be deleted:

It has come to our attention that the .みんな registry considers certain name(s) that you have registered with us as premium names and that there were some intermittent pricing errors on our website allowing you to purchase these name(s) at regular pricing. The cause of this error has been resolved and we sincerely apologize for the error.

In order to correct these pricing errors, the Registry has granted us the option to delete these names if we are unable to collect the premium pricing from our customers.

Due to a short deadline, payment must be received by Thursday, April 24, 2014, 5pm PST in order for deletion of the name not to occur. In the event that payment isn’t received by Thursday, April 24, 2014, 5pm PST the domain name(s) will be deleted, released back into the pool of available domain names, and any payments previously received for the domain names will be fully refunded to you.

The registrar offered a full refund of the $12.99 and a 20% discount coupon as compensation.

“I am not sure what’s the legal status of this,” the registrant told DI. “Also asking for this a more than a month later (purchased on 10th of March), besides being not cool, is just wrong.”

.みんな is one of Google’s new gTLDs. It’s Japanese for “everyone”.

101domain COO Anthony Beltran told DI that “fewer than 50″ names were affected by the pricing error, all of them in .みんな.

“Literally every registry is doing things differently, but we have committed to offering them as our customers overwhelmingly demand them,” he said. “Most of them understand, as early adopters, there will be occasional issues, and our disclaimers and T&Cs speak to this.”

He offered the following explanation for the error:

In order to offer pre-paid orders, 101domain’s practice is to put up pricing as soon as it is confirmed and as soon as we receive lists of premium names, reserved names, and name collisions from a registry. This is generally well before EPP is available so there is no live domain:check. Our search queries these lists internally to offer accurate pricing well before most other registrars do so that our clients are well ahead of the curve with plenty of time to research and submit orders. Mistakes do rarely occur; some premium lists are fluid, complications have been introduced with SEDO and AFTERNIC getting exclusive listings of premium names (while we have access through their distribution channels like SEDO MLS), or names are snapped up in Sunrise, EAP, or Landrush. We will typically notify clients prior to names becoming active of any changes in pricing or availability and promptly refund in full if requested. With this TLD, this did not happen properly unfortunately.

Nobody’s claiming Google did anything wrong.

I’m not sure what American or Californian consumer protection law says about this kind of thing, but it is a quite startling situation.

Are there any other fields of commerce where you can be billed a month later because a retailer got confused about its wholesale prices?