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All eyes on Donuts as first new gTLD renewal figures roll in

Kevin Murphy, March 23, 2015, Domain Registries

Donuts is about to give the world the clearest picture yet of the ongoing demand for new gTLD domain names.

The company has taken the unprecedented decision to disclose its renewal figures on a pretty much live basis.

COO Richard Tindal has been blogging renewal stats for .bike, .clothing, .guru, .ventures, .holdings, .plumbing and .singles for the last few days.

Those were the first seven of its gTLDs to hit general availability.

To Saturday, the renewal status of 6,352 names in these gTLDs was known and the renewal rate was 85.3%.

However, that rate is boosted by the relatively high proportion of the names that were registered during sunrise periods.

Donuts said that “two thirds” of the 6,352 reported domains were registered after sunrise.

That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, given that Donuts has previously put the total number of sunrise regs across the seven TLDs at just 1,404, which would work out at about 22%, not 33%.

On Friday, the company had said that the status of 4,534 names was known and the renewal rate was 91.6%.

If you deduct the Friday numbers from the Saturday numbers, you get to 1,265 renewals and 553 drops, a renewal rate of almost 69.6% for that particular day.

That number, which is a few percentage points off what a gTLD such as .com regularly reports, could of course fluctuate.

The full-year renewal rate, which would factor out much of the domainer activity, of course won’t be known for another year.

Donuts said it expects its renewal rate to drop to the mid-70s in its next daily report, expected today, which will cover an additional 22,910 domains.

The company’s decision to blog its numbers comes a day or two after we reported that ICANN is only budgeting for renewals of 50%.

The 14.6% of names not renewed works out to about 933 domains.

“We believe most of those names will be re-registered by another party within the next 35 days,” Tindal wrote.

As they were all registered in the early days of GA, one might expect them to be of a reasonably high quality.

While GA began at the end of January 2014, renewal rates are not known until the Auto-Renew Grace Period, which can be as long as 45 days, has expired.

.club now biggest-selling new gTLD

.club has overtaken .guru to become the top-selling new gTLD on the market.

According to today’s zone file report, .club now has 59,120 domains, having grown by 2,504 yesterday. That’s compared to .guru, which grew by 181 names to 58,791.

It’s been 12 days since .CLUB Domains predicted it would be at the top of the league table “within days”.

It’s taken 20 days for the gTLD to beat .guru, something the registry at first reckoned would happen within its first week of full general availability.

I don’t think yesterday’s spike has anything to do with the 50 Cent endorsement deal.

As far as I can tell, Fiddy has only been linking to his .com shop on Twitter since his .club domain went live and the deal does not seem to have generated any media coverage outside of domain blogs.

Taking the number one spot is only a relative success, of course. What’s important is that .club is still managing to move 2,500 names in a day three weeks after launch, something no other new gTLD has managed to date.

.club pips .berlin to #2 spot

.CLUB Domains moved into the number two spot on the new gTLD league table overnight, but its growth appears to be slowing.

In today’s zone files, .club has 47,362 domains under management, having added 734 on Sunday; .berlin stood at 47,243, having added 33 yesterday.

.guru still leads with 56,813 names.

Sunday is typically a slow day for domain registrations across the industry, but .club’s growth does appear to be slowing compared to its first few days of general availability, regardless.

It saw 1,141 net new names on Friday and 1,351 on Saturday. The previous Friday and Saturday adds were at 4,904 and 3,828.

It’s difficult to get a comprehensive picture of daily growth due to the registry missing a few days of zone files last week.

.club misses first target but hopes to be #1 new gTLD “within days”

.CLUB Domains failed to overtake .guru in its first week of general availability as promised, but the company is nevertheless upbeat about taking the number one spot “within days”.

The last zone file available for .club shows 41,203 names, but that’s the May 14 file. The company, or its back-end, has been having trouble keeping its zone file current in the ICANN system this week.

That was an increase of of 10,523 over five days, or 2,104 per day on average.

As of 1500 UTC yesterday, the company reckoned it had 44,450 sales.

That would still place it at #3 in the league table behind .guru with 56,097 (up 200 names today) and .berlin with 47,079 (up 60 names).

If the growth rates stay roughly the same, .club may well overtake .guru in less than a week.

CEO Colin Campbell told us in March that “I firmly believe that .CLUB will exceed all other new generic top level domains in the first week of launch in registrations and overtake .GURU as the leader.”

The company is hosting a party in New York with celebrity endorser 50 Cent next Thursday (disclosure: I’m attending on .CLUB’s dime) which may or may not lead to a spike.

.guru first new gTLD to 50,000 names

Kevin Murphy, April 18, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts’ pioneering .guru yesterday became the first new gTLD to surpass 50,000 domain name registrations, according to today’s zone files.

DI PRO makes today’s total 50,210, having added 209 names yesterday. Technically, that means .guru passed the 50k mark on Wednesday, but I’m excluding some infrastructural domains used by the registry.

The gTLD went into general availability January 29, so it’s passed this milestone in 78 days, therefore selling on average 643 names per day. That average is skewed obviously by the low-volume seven-day premium phase and a sharp spike when names hit baseline pricing on February 5.

If we assume that the average price for a .guru is $20 (which I’m guessing is probably not too wide of the mark), then the gTLD is already million-dollar business.

For a while it looked as if number-two new gTLD .berlin was going to overtake .guru and might have hit 50k first, but its relative growth compared to .guru slowed down a few weeks ago.

According to our zone file analysis, there are 556,063 new gTLD domains today.

Pirate Bay a victim as Go Daddy suspends hundreds of new gTLD domains

Kevin Murphy, February 25, 2014, Domain Registrars

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.

Are these the 10 most-popular new gTLD domains?

Kevin Murphy, February 19, 2014, Domain Registries

I’m a firm believer that the success of new gTLDs will be measured not just in registration volumes but also in usage, and usage is a lot trickier to measure than domains under management.

One way of measuring usage that’s very familiar to many domainers is Alexa, the Amazon-owned web metrics service that uses toolbars and other data sources to rank web sites by popularity.

This kind of popularity data has been incorporated into TLD Health Check for some time, as one of many means to compare TLDs.

Alexa data isn’t perfect, but it is data, so I thought it might be interesting to see which of the 147 new gTLDs currently in the root are showing up in its daily list of the top one million domains.

There are 10 names, half of which are .guru domains, on yesterday’s list. There are not many functioning web sites yet, but for whatever reason these domains all, according to Alexa, have traffic.

These are the domains, with their popularity rank in parentheses:

www.link (356,406)

The highest-ranking new gTLD domain on our list is actually banned by ICANN due to the purported risk of name collisions.

It’s reserved by Uniregistry and will not resolve or be made available for registration for the foreseeable future.

I think what we’re looking at here is a case of somebody (or more likely lots of people) using www.link in web pages when they really should be using example.com.

beatport.singles (538,603)

Possible cybersquatting? Beatport (I’m old and unhip enough that I had to Google it) is an online electronic music store and the domain is registered via Go Daddy’s Domains By Proxy service.

The domain presumably refers to music “singles” rather than marital status, but it doesn’t seem to resolve from where I’m sitting. Quite why it’s getting traffic is beyond me. A typo in a URL somewhere? IP lawyers?

gtu.guru (589,205)

The first resolving name on our list leads to a work-in-progress Blogger blog. It’s registered to a chap in Gujarat, India, leading me to infer that GTU is Gujarat Technological University. Another squat?

seo.guru (671,647)

The first domainer on the list, I believe. The guy who registered seo.guru paid roughly $2,500 for it during Donuts’ first Early Access Program. It’s currently parked at Go Daddy.

I’d hazard a guess that it’s on the list because it’s a dream URL for an SEO professional (or charlatan, take your pick) and SEOs checking its availability are much more likely to have the Alexa toolbar installed.

deals.guru (790,778)

This one resolves to an under construction page.

I’d speculate that the pre-release $8,100 sale of deals.xyz caused a lot of domainers to check out whether the same second-level was available in other new gTLDs, spiking its traffic and causing an Alexa appearance.

nic.club (796,727)

The only registry-owned domain on our list — nic.club is the official registry web site of .CLUB Domains, which has its .club gTLD in sunrise until the end of March.

Is its appearance on the list indicative of strong pre-launch marketing or something else?

beekeeping.guru (857,778)

I’m not making this stuff up. This domain belongs to a British pest control company but resolves to a default Apache page. I can’t begin to guess why it’s getting traffic.

cp.wien (864,800)

An unregistered name in a sunrise gTLD. Possible name collision?

shop.camera (873,146)

Hot dang, we have a web site!

The domain shop.camera was only registered 10 days ago, but it already leads to what appears to be a fully-functioning Amazon affiliate site, complete with “Shop.Camera” branding.

freebitcoin.guru (994,404)

An email-gathering affiliate marketing site that I personally wouldn’t touch with yours. Still, it looks quite slick compared to the others on the list and it appears that the owner has made some effort to promote it.

Donuts made about $750,000 from landrush so far

Kevin Murphy, February 4, 2014, Domain Registries

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.

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.

Meet the first new gTLD domainer

Kevin Murphy, February 4, 2014, Domain Sales

Gary Schultheis has bought hundreds of new gTLD domain names already and plans to buy thousands more this year.

Gary SchultheisThe former venture capitalist doesn’t consider himself a domainer, but analysis of Whois records and zone files over the weekend shows he very likely spent more than anyone on Donuts’ seven newly launched gTLDs.

At one point he owned about 10% of the .guru zone.

Schultheis’ new company, ii.org, is betting big — and long-term — on being able to sell from a large a portfolio of new gTLD names, he told DI today.

Right now, his investments are concentrated on .guru, where he says he’s picked up “hundreds” of names already.

DI research shows ii.org spent roughly $30,000 on a couple dozen generic .guru names in a single day last week, including exercise.guru, medical.guru, socialmedia.guru and divorce.guru.

“We’re not from the domain industry,” Schultheis said. “Folks I’m working with are either from the financial industry or the data industry. We’re looking at this from a smart, data-driven, black-box methodology.”

Most recently, Schultheis was president of TLO.com, a company that provided background research and risk management data services. He says that’s informed his strategy with ii.org.

“I like to take vast amounts of data and make decisions based on actual data, rather than speculation and guesses,” he said. “We may buy one-offs based on news-driven events but we try not to act emotionally.”

He’d rather not talk about the specifics of the company’s algorithms, but said they were tested out to create a portfolio of .com names, with mixed results.

Flipping some of these .com names will provide operating revenue, he said, adding that he has access to potentially millions of dollars in funding due to his previous work.

“If we have some .com’s that are industry or location specific, we have enough confidence we can sell those easily for cash flow,” he said.

“Our strategy is not to buy a million dollar domain and try to sell it for two million dollars, we’re going to buy things that will turn quick or have the potential for a massive multiple in future.”

But revenue from new gTLD sales may not come for years, he said.

“We have a five-to-ten year window on these and don’t care if we don’t sell any of these for years,” he said.

With that in mind, part of the risk of investing in “premium” strings with Donuts — which has earmarked many generic words for higher renewal pricing — is the high carrying cost.

“Click traffic is not going cover the renewal costs of these name,” Schultheis said. “gun.guru is going to cost me $400 a year to carry.”

Schultheis said as a venture capitalist in the 1990s he became aware of .com names and started buying up his own. That became International Internet Inc, which was publicly listed in the late 1990s.

Schultheis said the company (from which ii.org gets its name) was worth a billion dollars at one point, though it seems to have gone out of business around the same time as the .com bubble burst.

Now, he reckons new gTLD names will start to acquire Google juice before long.

“We own computer.guru,” he said. “If you type in ‘computer’ into Google now I believe .com’s will outrank it, but I believe over time that with the Google algorithm becoming more specific when you type in ‘computer’ as it relates to an expert it’s possible we could be as strong as .com.”

Of the seven ASCII gTLDS currently on the open market, .guru is the only one ii.org has touched. Schultheis said. In future, he intends to concentrate on where he feels the big-money buyers are.

“We’re very interested in some of the city names,” he said. “But ones like .sexy and .ninja are more for a college-age person, and I don’t feel that the audience there will show the return we’re looking for.”

By contrast .guru speaks to executive types and companies with money to spend, he said.

Without naming names, he said some other gTLDs confuse him.

“With some of these TLDs we really scratch our head and say ‘What were they thinking?'” he said. “There are dozens of these things where I don’t know how they’re going to pay the bills.”

As for ii.org’s outlook, Schultheis said its portfolio is going to be a mix of assets that he thinks could be sold quick and others that are long-term plays.

“We know we’re early. Everyone wishes they could go back to early 90s and buy up all the .coms they could,” he said. “But I also own some .mobi’s so I know you can also be wrong.”

First Donuts new gTLD sunrise periods looking tiny

Kevin Murphy, January 31, 2014, Domain Registries

It’s possible that fewer than 1,200 domain names were registered in Donuts’ first seven new gTLD sunrise periods, judging by the latest zone file data.

According to Donuts zone files dated January 31, just 1,164 proper domain names currently exist in .clothing, .bike, .guru, .ventures, .holdings, .singles and .plumbing.

By TLD, the names break down like this:

.clothing — 560
.holdings — 166
.bike — 146
.ventures — 125
.guru — 117
.singles — 50
.plumbing — 44.

As far as I can tell, based on sample Whois lookups, all the names were registered during the gTLDs’ respective sunrise periods, not during the currently ongoing Early Access Program.

On the face of it, these look like very small sunrise periods indeed (consider .co, which had 11,000 registrations during its sunrise in 2011) but there are number of important caveats here.

First, this data might be wrong. There have been hiccups and glitches in registry zone file provision for weeks, and this might be one of those cases. I don’t think it is, but you never know.

Second, the data might be still incomplete. Names were to be allocated after the conclusion of Donuts end-date sunrise, which was January 24. Not all of these domains might have been allocated yet.

Third, these numbers don’t reflect “dark” domains. These are domain names that are not configured with name servers and therefore won’t show up in DNS zone files.

Fourth, and most importantly, domain names that have been blocked by trademark holders under Donuts’ parallel Domain Protected Marks List service do not show up in zone files.

DPML is the Donuts offering to trademark owners that drastically reduces the cost of blocking a mark — potentially to just a few dollars per domain per year — across all of the company’s gTLDs.

We already know from a bit of Whois detective work by World Trademark Review that the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Wal-Mart and Samsung blocked their brands across all seven of these TLDs.

DPML is a bit of a bargain if you’re dead-set on blocking your brand in as many TLDs as possible, and it’s possible — maybe even likely — that the number of DPML subscriptions outstripped actual sunrise registrations.

It’s a given that most valuable brands are more interested in preventing misuse than they are in participating in the new gTLD expansions — Microsoft has no use for microsoft.plumbing.

Judging by the zone files, domains registered during sunrise are largely appropriate to the gTLD — .clothing and .bike are full of clothing and biking brands, with very little crossover between the two, for example.

But there are plenty of exceptions to that rule.

Some other stuff I noticed

I had a dig through the files and did a few Whois look-ups whenever I saw a name that piqued my interest.

There are no hugely obvious examples of widespread gaming to be seen but some arguably generic names did go to some domain industry folk who have inside knowledge of the new gTLD program.

Notably, several people associated with new gTLD applications managed by Beverly Hills IP lawyer Thomas Brackey of Freund & Brackey seem to have picked up nice-looking generic domains during sunrise.

Luxury Partners of .luxury managed to get its hands on domains including luxury.clothing, for example, while What Box?, which applied for six gTLDs, grabbed realestate.guru and wedding.guru.

That’s right, apparently there are trademarks on “real estate” and “wedding” somewhere out there, and domain registry What Box? was able to provide the required proof that it’s using them in commerce.

Brackey himself is listed as the registrant of cloud.guru and direct.[tld] across the seven gTLDs, among others.

George Minardos of .build applicant Minardos Group acquired build.guru during sunrise too.

I wonder if any sunrise names will be challenged under Donuts’ Sunrise Dispute Resolution Policy.

While .guru has only attracted 117 registered names so far, it does appear to be the one place notoriously domain-shy Apple decided to actually play, presumably due to the support “gurus” it employs in its stores — ipad.guru, mac.guru and iphone.guru all went to the company.

There’s a “religious” flavor to some of the registrations there too — scientology.guru and darshan.guru were both registered by their respective organizations.

Amazon appears to be the most sunrise-happy of all registrants, grabbing dozens of (probably) useless names including kindle.plumbing, prime.ventures and aws.bike.

Some porn publishers seem to have gone a bit crazy too, with names such as m4m.plumbing and cam4.clothing making an appearance.

I found a few domains on my trawl that appear to have empty Whois records — christ.holdings and ghost.bike to name two amusingly appropriate examples — which doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of sunrise.

So there are definitely some oddities out there, but so far it does not appear to me based on my first look that massive numbers of trademark owners have been held to ransom, nor does there appear to have been any wholesale gaming of the system.

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