Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling has expressed his “surprise” that GoDaddy has decided to stop selling his company’s gTLDs, but said he expects the registrar to return in future.
GoDaddy’s decision to stop new registrations and inbound transfers for Uniregistry’s portfolio of gTLDs came after the registry revealed price increases for 16 strings that ranged from nominal to over 3,000%.
The registrar told Domain Name Wire yesterday that Uniregistry’s move presented “an extremely poor customer experience” and “does not reflect well on the domain name industry”.
Registrars are of course the customer-facing end of the domain name industry, and the burden of explaining renewal price increases of 5x falls on their shoulders.
But Schilling seems to expect the ban to be temporary.
“We are extremely surprised by GoDaddy’s reaction but are pleased that our extensions are available at many other registrars who support our approach. We remain ready to support GoDaddy when they decide on a path which works for their customers,” he told DI today.
“We expect them to return,” he added.
It’s a plausible prediction. GoDaddy’s statement to DNW said Uniregistry had been cut off “until we can assess the impact on our current and potential customers”, which suggests it’s not necessarily permanent.
GoDaddy is Uniregistry’s first or second-largest registrar in most of the affected gTLDs.
But because the gTLDs in question have so few domains in them, the number of GoDaddy-sponsored domains is typically under 1,000 per gTLD.
Even in the much larger zones of .click and .link (which are receiving small price increases and will still wholesale for under $10), GoDaddy’s exposure is just a few thousand domains and it’s nowhere near the market leader.
I wonder how much of GoDaddy’s decision to drop Uniregistry has to do with the reaction from domain investors.
Ever since DI broke the news of the price increases a week ago, there’s been a stream of angry domainer blog and forum posts, condemning Schilling and Uniregistry for the decision and using the move as a stick to batter the whole new gTLD program.
For registrars, it doesn’t necessarily strike me a terrible deal.
While they will have to deal with customer fallout, over the longer term higher wholesale prices means bigger margins.
Registrars are already adding about a hundred bucks to the $300 cost of a .game domain, and the price increase from $10 to $300 of the Spanish equivalent, .juegos, likely means similar margins there too.
Uniregistry is to massively increase the price of some of its under-performing new gTLDs in an effort to keep them afloat.
Sixteen TLDs from the company’s portfolio of 27 will see price increases of up to 3,000% starting September 8, CEO Frank Schilling confirmed to DI today.
“We need more revenue from these strings, especially the low volume ones, without question,” he said. “We can’t push on a string and stoke demand overnight. So in order for that string to survive as a standalone it has to be profitable.”
While domainers have taken to new gTLDs in greater numbers than Schilling anticipated, demand among worldwide consumers has been slower than expected, Schilling said.
“If you have a space with only 5,000 registrations, you need to have a higher price point to justify its existence, just because running a TLD isn’t free,” he said.
The alternative to repricing would be to sell the TLD in question to a competitor, which in turn would then be forced to reprice anyway, he said.
The TLDs seeing the biggest price hikes are .hosting and .juegos (Spanish for “games”) which are going up from about $20 retail and about $10 retail respectively to about $300 apiece.
Schilling said he believed that true web hosts could afford the new pricing. The .juegos increase is modeled on what Uniregistry has been doing with .game, which currently retails for closer to $400.
At the budget, sub-$10 end of the portfolio, .click and .link are to see fees rise by a buck or two per year.
Names in .audio, .blackfriday, .diet, .flowers, hiphop .guitars and .property, currently priced in the $10 to $25 range, will all start retailing for about $100 per year.
The other affected TLDs are .christmas, .help, .sexy and .tattoo, which will all see big increases but stay in the sub-$100 range.
The TLDs seeing the biggest price increases are among the ones with the fewest registrations — .juegos has about 1,000 names in its zone, while .hosting has fewer than 6,000. Most of the 16 TLDs have fewer than 10,000 names in their zones.
Uniregistry is no stranger to highly-priced domains. It runs .cars, .car and .auto, where it sells every domain at $2,888 a year retail (with no reserved premiums) but has fewer than 500 names in each zone.
Schilling said that in some ways he prefers this model to the more standard model of low-price base fees with high-price premiums.
The higher prices will likely lead in the short term to lower registration numbers (as speculators flee) but will give Uniregistry more cash to invest in marketing.
“That metering effect of high prices, we like that, in terms of trying to grow the namespace, and it gives us money we can use to try to market the strings to prosperity,” Schilling said.
“At a higher price point, the marketing can scale, but we just can’t do it on base registrations of ten bucks or twenty bucks,” he said.
He added that the higher base fee gives Uniregistry more flexibility to provide periodic discounts.
ICANN rules make it much easier to have a high base fee and keep it regularly discounted than to periodically increase fees, which requires six months notice.
“Between renewals promotions and pricing promotions, a lot of the effects of the price increases will be moot,” Schilling said.
Because the new prices don’t kick in until September, registrants are able to lock in pricing at current levels by renewing for up to 10 years.
While the price increases and Schilling’s relatively gloomy commentary will certainly fuel opponents of new gTLDs, whom are legion, Schilling is still bullish on the market, which he continues to characterize as a marathon rather than a sprint.
“Within ten years, will it be bigger? Absolutely. It’ll be quintuple what it is today,” he said. “But we need to get to 10 years, and to keep the lights on between here and there we need higher prices, without question.”
Amazon has given an early hint at how it may manage its new gTLD registries.
The company seems to be planning to make its own web site the place to go to for its new gTLD domains, relegating registrars to secondary players in the sales path.
It also seems to be planning to up-sell registrants with services, possibly including hosting, before they even get to the registrar’s storefront.
Amazon has filed a Registry Services Evaluation Process request with ICANN, relating to its gTLD .moi (French for “.me”) covering a “Registration Authentication Platform”.
.moi isn’t a brand, but Amazon says it plans to verify registrant “eligibility” before allowing a registration to take place.
To date, it has not revealed what the eligibility requirements for .moi are.
Its RSEP filing says that it intends to offer registrants a suite of optional add-on “technology tools or applications” at the point of verification.
Crucially, that’s before they get bounced to their registrar of choice to actually register the name.
Amazon is basically putting its up-sell pitch into the sales path before registrars get to do the same.
The RSEP explains it like this:
After the customer selects the Technology Tools of interest and/or ancillary products or services (if any), the customer will select its registrar of choice from among the complete list of .MOI-accredited registrars and be directed to that registrar’s site to permit that registrar to collect the required registrant information for the domain name registration, and to submit payment for the selected .MOI domain name. Upon completion of these steps, the registrar, through the normal EPP processes, shall transmit the required registration information to the Registry and the .MOI domain name shall be registered. A customer that first visits a .MOI-accredited registrar’s website will be directed to the Registry’s .MOI website to undergo the process noted above. After pre-registration policy verification, those customers will be transitioned back to the originating registrar’s site.
The RSEP does not explain what the “technology tools” are, but I’d be very surprised if they did not include for example web hosting, a staple higher-margin registrar product.
It’s not entirely clear what, if any, consultations Amazon has had with registrars regarding its proposals. The RSEP language is evasive:
Amazon Registry reached out to several registrars to have general discussions about their experience with pre-registration policy verification and how that experience (including customer experience) could be improved. Any consultations that may have occurred regarding the Technology Tools and the ancillary products and services would have occurred subject to a Mutual Non-Disclosure Agreement and cannot be disclosed.
Currently, the RSEP only covers .moi. Amazon would have to file additional RSEPs if it wanted the new service applied to its 32-TLD-strong portfolio, which includes the likes of .book, .song and .tunes.
ICANN has already made a preliminary determination that the RSEP “does not raise significant competition, security or stability issues”.
As usual, there’s a public comment period, which ends April 14.
Directi has applied for 31 new top-level domains and expects all 31 of them to be contested, according to CEO Bhavin Turakhia.
The company has budgeted $30 million for its unashamedly mainstream portfolio of applications – which includes the likes of .web – but that’s not including what it expects to spend at auction.
“I expect there to be contention in all of them,” he said. “Whether they will end up going to auction… we’re completely open to strategic partnerships with other industry players who we believe can add value and join hands with us, based on merit. We’ll be evaluating this on a case by case basis.”
“Something like a .web, there’ll be enough competitors out there that it will certainly go to auction, no matter what,” he said, adding that he expects at least 10 rivals for .web.
Directi has applied for: .web, .shop, .bank, .law, .music, .news, .blog, .movie, .baby, .store, .doctor, .hotel, .play, .home .site, .website, .click, .online, .one, .ping, .space, .world, .press, .chat, .city, .deals, .insurance .loans, .app, .host, and .hosting.
The company is applying via its new business unit, Radix, using ARI Registry Services as its back-end registry provider.
Turakhia said he expects to use a traditional registry-registrar model for most of the domains, assuming Directi wins its contention sets.
“The strings that we have gone for are strings that are relevant to all registrars so we expect there to be significant adoption,” he said.
“If eNom were to apply for .web and .shop – and they probably will – and if they were to win those TLDs, then our registrar businesses would definitely carry them irrespective of the fact that we have our own TLDs,” he said. “There are only so many good viable strings out there.”
Most of Directi’s gTLDs, if approved, will be completely unrestricted.
For .movie, .law, .doctor and .bank there will be some tight restrictions, Turakhia said. (UPDATE: he later added that .insurance and .loans will also be restricted).
Some will also have additional rights protection mechanisms that go above and beyond what ICANN mandates in its standard registry contracts.
But none of its applications are “community” applications, the special category of application defined by ICANN.
Turakhia said he doesn’t think some of the applicants trying to “sneak through” as community applications will be successful.
“We’re treating these as all generic strings for anyone to register domains in,” he said. “.music for me does not represent a community. I could be a bathroom singer and want a .music domain name.”
“If you treat music lovers as a community then 100% of the world is part of that community.”
Go Daddy has revealed its pricing scheme for .xxx domain names and confirmed that it will indeed host the porn sites that use them.
When .xxx goes into general availability in December, Go Daddy will charge $100 per name per year.
That’s surprisingly high – a $40 markup on the $60 ICM Registry fee – for a registrar generally known for its reasonable prices.
I know of at least two registrars planning to sell .xxx more cheaply – the UK’s DomainMonster ($75 if bought in bulk) and Spain’s DinaHosting ($67). There may be others I haven’t come across yet.
Sunrise period pricing at Go Daddy is $210 for applications from the adult entertainment industry and $200 for trademark holders from outside the industry. Landrush prices will be $200 too.
Those fees represent some of the better deals I’ve seen for .xxx’s pre-launch phases.
The prices have not yet been published on the Go Daddy web site, but a company spokesperson confirmed that some of its larger customers have been privately notified.
That apparently includes Mike Berkens, who broke the news last week.
Go Daddy also confirmed that it will host .xxx porn sites, though only on its paid-for hosting accounts.
I’ve always been a little confused by Go Daddy’s hosting terms of service. By my reading, porn was outright banned. Apparently I was dead wrong.
The company’s general counsel, Christine Jones, said in a statement:
Go Daddy’s Web hosting agreement does not currently prohibit pornography, except in the case of ad-supported hosting. Those terms will continue for all TLDs, including .xxx, unless otherwise prohibited by our agreements with the various registry operators.
I know I’m not the only person out there who was confused by the ToS, but I can’t think of a better person to clarify the situation than the company’s top lawyer.