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Kinderis calls on industry to cut the bullshit

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2016, Domain Policy

Domain Name Association chair Adrian Kinderis has called for the industry to “grow up”.

The former ARI CEO, now Neustar veep, said Monday it’s time for the industry to kick out the handful of bad actors that ruin its reputation, and to quit the “bullshit bickering” about which TLDs are best.

“For far too long this industry has turned a blind eye to the less than scrupulous activities,” he said, “and these activities have plagued this industry. Bad actors have tarnished the perception of this industry.”

“This may have been acceptable when it was a few insiders first grasping at a fledgling product in the early nineties but… we are now front and center of the internet,” he said.

“These practices of a few bad actors have led to the frustration of consumers. We have not served the best interests of our consumers at all times,” he said. “This has to change.”

He was speaking to an audience of registries, registrars and investors at the opening session of the NamesCon conference in Las Vegas on Monday.

It was a fairly standard DNA sales pitch, the kind Kinderis has given before, but few could deny the truth of his remarks.

He called upon the industry to more effectively self-regulate, working with ICANN, to keep the boogeymen of government legislators and law enforcement agencies at bay.

“It’s time to grow up and show that we can regulates ourselves and build a strong sustainable industry with integrity,” he said.

He also called for unity among industry participants, pointing out that the threats to their businesses are external to the domain industry.

“The domain name war must be over,” he said. “The infighting and bullshit bickering has to stop. The .coms, the not-.coms, the IDNs, the g’s versus the cc’s… this must stop.”

“As an industry we have been very lucky. We’ve stumbled through 20 years without a collective strategy nor cohesion,” he said. “Outside forces have not had a massive impact on us, yet. QR codes have tried. Apps are trying.”

He pointed to the recent positive “bump” that many domain companies have experienced as a result of investment from China, but attributed to “dumb luck” rather than the result of any smart marketing or outreach.

The 10-minute speech can be viewed below or on the NamePros YouTube channel.

M+M acquires .boston from Boston Globe

Kevin Murphy, January 12, 2016, Domain Registries

Minds + Machines has added .boston to its stable of geo-gTLDs, buying the contract from the publisher of the Boston Globe newspaper.

The company said today that it has acquired 99% of Boston TLD Management, a new company into which the Globe plans to sign over its .boston ICANN contract.

The deal is contingent on ICANN approving the contract reassignment.

The ink is still moist on the .boston Registry Agreement, which was signed December 10.

The gTLD is officially in pre-delegation testing right now.

But the acquisition also means M+M will take over back-end duties for .boston. Originally, the Globe had intended to use OpenRegistry.

The gTLD was officially a “geographic” string under ICANN rules, and needed support from the local government in Boston.

.boston would become M+M’s fifth geographic gTLD — sixth if you include .london.

The company said it plans to launch the TLD later this year.

Baidu, China’s Google, gets its dot-brand gTLD

Kevin Murphy, January 5, 2016, Domain Registries

Chinese web giant Baidu had its dot-brand gTLD, .baidu, go live in the DNS root zone today.

With the extraordinary amount of focus on China in the domain industry currently, this could be one of the dot-brands to watch in 2016.

There are no active domain names in .baidu just yet, but we will likely see nic.baidu put to some use or another over the coming days.

Unusually for a dot-brand gTLD, Baidu’s contract with ICANN does not contain specifications 9 or 13, which allow dot-brands to operate differently to regular gTLDs.

This suggests an open registration policy under which any registrar can sell .baidu domains to any registrant.

However, Baidu’s original gTLD application spells out quite a different plan, focused primarily on trademark protection. It says:

All available second-level strings of .BAIDU (e.g. example .BAIDU) will be initially allocated only to limited number of eligible registrants and for internal corporate business purposes. BAIDU plans to adopt this approach and expects to maintain it for 3 years from the launch of the “.BAIDU” registry service. Such approach will be regularly evaluated and adjusted if appropriate and necessary. Depending a various internal and external factors, including market demand and user expectation, BAIDU may consider a phased roll-out approach for a broader commercial marketplace but will do so after the conclusion of the initial 3-year period.

I wouldn’t expect .baidu to launch properly any time soon.

Not only is the company probably going to want to get its dot-brand contractual protections in place, it’s also showed no huge enthusiasm for making its way through the new gTLD delegation process so far.

It signed its ICANN contract January 8 last year, meaning this week was pretty much the latest date it could permissibly go into the root.

Like most dot-brands, it’s been dragging its feet, in other words.

Baidu is the leading web property in China, dwarfing even Google in terms of search market share locally.

TLS says .feedback will be “UDRP-proof”, will hire lawyers to defend registrants

Kevin Murphy, December 21, 2015, Domain Services

Top Level Spectrum plans to make its .feedback domains dirt cheap for domainers during its forthcoming Early Access Period, and is claiming that its domains will be “UDRP-proof”.

CEO Jay Westerdal told DI today that the registry will even hire lawyers to defend its registrants if and when UDRP cases arise.

The company has also introduced a new $5,000 “claims” service that is guaranteed to drive the intellectual property community nuts.

.feedback is shaping up to be one of the most fascinating new gTLD launches to date.

The company’s original plan, to sell 5,000 trademark-match domains to a single entity after its sunrise period ends has been tweaked.

Now, it will instead offer huge rebates during its Early Access Period next month, which will bring the price to registrants down from as much as $1,815 to as little as $5.

It’s called the “Free Speech Partner Program”.

To qualify for the program rebate, registrants will have to agree to stick to using TLS’s specially designated name servers, which point to a hosted feedback service managed by the registry.

An example of such a site can be seen at donaldtrump.feedback, which is among several US presidential candidate names TLS has registered to itself recently.

That commitment will be passed on if the domain ever changes hands, and a $5,000 fee will be applicable if the registrant wants to switch to their own name servers.

A registry charging a lower fee during EAP than GA is unheard of, but that’s what TLS is planning.

Rebates will not be available during the first three days of EAP, which starts January 6 at $14,020 per name. Days two and three see domains priced at $7,020 and $3,520.

From January 9 to January 18, rebates will bring the prices down to $5 per domain.

That’s a quarter of the $20 registry fee it plans to charge during general availability.

“Our plan is to sell thousands of domains before normal GA,” Westerdal said.

“It is a great opportunity for domainers to register domains that will be UDRP proof,” he said. “As free speech sites they are going to improve the world and let anyone read reviews on any subject.”

“I think they are UDRP proof,” he said. “As a registry we will hire lawyers to fight cases that arise.”

Asked to confirm that TLS would pay for lawyers to defend its registrants in UDRP cases, he said: “Hell yes we will.”

The registry plans to give trademark owners a way to avoid UDRP, however, if they’re willing to pay $5,000 for the privilege.

“Free Speech” registrants will have to agree not only to use TLS’s feedback platform, but also to allow the owners of trademarks matching their domains to more or less unilaterally seize those domains for up to two years after registration.

This “claims period” is also unprecedented in new gTLD launches. It’s described like this:

The registry will accept trademarks for a period of 2 years after the initial registration on a “Free Speech Partner Program” domains. The cost is $5,000 to have the mark validated, if the trademark is found to be the first to successfully make a claim against a domain in the program the domain will be transferred to the mark holder. The mark holder will be allowed to change name servers and is not subject to the “Free Speech Partner Program” terms of service.

Domain registrants of the “Free Speech Partner Program” agree the outcome of a validated mark by the Registry have no further claim to the domain if it is transferred to a new registrant.

If TLS is trying to design a system that will enrage the trademark community to the maximum extent possible, it’s doing a fantastic job.

It even introduced a new clause (2.9, here) to its registration agreement earlier this month, obliging registrants to point their domains to a web page that collects feedback. That means nobody will be allowed to leave their .feedback domains dark.

Are these measures justifiable disincentives, or plain old extortion? Opinion will no doubt be split along the usual lines.

.phone will be restricted after Dish gTLD auction win

Kevin Murphy, December 21, 2015, Domain Registries

The new gTLD .phone is going to be tightly restricted, after Dish DBS won the contested string at auction.

The American satellite communications firm beat Donuts to the gTLD, judging by Donuts’ withdrawal from the two-horse on Friday.

This means that if you’re not a licensed telecoms or voice-over-IP service provider, you won’t be able to register a .phone domain, at least at first.

Dish originally applied for .phone as what became known as a “closed generic” — a non-trademark, dictionary word that would nevertheless be operated as a dot-brand, with a single eligible registrant.

Due to Governmental Advisory Committee advice against such business models, Dish changed its application this September to describe .phone instead as a “controlled” gTLD.

Its application states that only Dish, its affiliates and “Qualified Applicants” will at first be able to register .phone domains.

“Qualified Applicants” basically means any company licensed to run a telecommunications service anywhere in the world. The eligibility gate appears to be the “license”.

The application says Dish will reserve the right to open up the gTLD to further classes of registrants at a later date.

While it also says that Dish will not give itself or friendly registrars any “undue preference”, the telecoms industry is suspicious.

USTelecom, the industry body representing large and small US-based telecoms companies, wrote to ICANN in November to say Dish’s volte face was “unconvincing” and its proposals “simply fail to satisfy” ICANN’s rules banning closed generics.

It said in its letter (pdf):

While Dish purports in its amended application that the .phone gTLD will be operated as a “controlled gTLD,” it is in reality an exclusive generic TLD, prone to discriminatory and subjective determinations on which entities are “Qualified Applicants,” and a discretionary reservation “to open this TLD to additional classes of registrants in the future,” who “will not be considered members.”

USTelecom says it negotiated with Dish, in an attempt to resolve its earlier formal objection against the bid, to have Dish include some reassuring Public Interest Commitments in its application, but Dish refused.

ICANN, responding to USTelecom, said that any Registry Agreement Dish signs for .phone will include the clauses that prevent it operating as a closed generic.

Now that the contention set has been settled, Dish’s next step is to proceed to contract negotiations with ICANN.