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Verisign to apply for a dozen new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, January 27, 2012, Domain Registries

Verisign plans to apply to ICANN for about 12 new generic top-level domains, according to the executive in charge of registry services.

“We intend to do about 12. Most of those will be transliterations of .com,” senior vice president Pat Kane said on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call yesterday.

This does not mark a significant change of strategy – the company has been open about its intention to apply for internationalized domain name variants of .com for over a year – but I believe it’s the first time it’s put a number on it.

It will be interesting to see which gTLDs – if any – Verisign will go for which are not .com IDNs.

My view is that it would make more sense for the company to apply for potentially high-volume .com competitors, such as .web or .blog. It has the capacity, the channel and the cash.

Smaller niche gTLDs may not be worth the distraction and risk, and would be better suited to dedicated registries that can concentrate on more focused marketing.

In any event, we’re going to see some major consolidation in the new gTLD space four or five years from now, and Verisign could well vacuum up cash-making registries at that time.

CEO Jim Bidzos also said on the call that Verisign has been retained to provide the registry for “several” dot-brand applications, but that it will not see any material revenue until 2013.

The major event for 2012, he noted, is the renewal of the .com Registry Agreement with ICANN, which expires at the end of November.

Verisign is already “engaging” with ICANN on this, Bidzos said.

This contract will be posted for public comment and sent to the US Department of Commerce for approval.

I’m expecting controversy, particularly if the contract continues to allow Verisign to increase prices.

It’s going to be harder for Verisign to argue that it needs the extra cash to invest in its infrastructure if it’s also leveraging that infrastructure to win lucrative dot-brand contracts.

Little interest in Russian gTLDs?

Kevin Murphy, January 18, 2012, Domain Registries

Despite being given the opportunity to launch top-level domains in Cyrillic script, only a handful of companies from Russia are expected to apply to ICANN for new gTLDs.

That’s according to Andrey Kolesnikov, CEO of Coordination Center for TLD RU, which runs the country’s .ru and .РФ registries.

“There won’t be many applications from Russia, only from about 10 companies,” he said at a recent press conference, while estimating at least 1,000 applications overall.

Just 10 applicants is a surprisingly low estimate, given the resurgence of interest in Russian domain names in 2011.

The year-old .РФ (.rf, for Russian Federation) domain has been a roaring success in volume terms. Launched in late 2010, it now has about a million registered domains.

CC itself is planning to apply for .ДЕТИ, which means “.children” in Russian.

RU-Center, the largest Russian registrar, intends to apply for the city-gTLDs .МОСКВА and .moscow.

Other IDN-friendly nations may be more enthusiastic about new gTLDs. ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom said last week that he heard that Indian companies could apply for as many as 100.

Afilias to apply for Chinese .info

Kevin Murphy, November 8, 2011, Domain Registries

Afilias has announced that it plans to apply for the traditional and simplified Chinese script equivalents of .info under ICANN’s new generic top-level domains program.

The company becomes the last of the Big Three registries to give a glimpse into its new gTLD strategy.

VeriSign has said it wants transliterations of .com in multiple scripts, while Neustar has said it plans to apply for its own dot-brand, .neustar.

Afilias did not disclose the exact strings it wants in its announcement. There was no mention of .mobi, which the company also runs.

According to the last official count, there are close to 7.9 million registered .info domains. Marketing director Roland LaPlante said in September that about 19% host unique web sites.

Some IDNs fly, while some fail

Kevin Murphy, August 14, 2011, Domain Registries

Russia may have witnessed a domain name boom this year with the launch of .РФ last November, but other internationalized domain names are proving far from popular.

Jordan’s الاردن. country-code top-level domain has taken only about 150 registrations since its launch last October, according to a report in the Jordan Times.

The poor showing has been attributed to both a lack of awareness and a lack of demand. The article quotes Mahmoud Al Kurdi, sales and marketing manager at regional presence provider Virtuport:

If a person does not even know how to type the address of a certain website in English letters, he or she can type in Arabic letters on Google and search for the website. I see no point in typing address in Arabic letters. It is not convenient.

The sentiments are echoed in the article by other local experts, while the registry, the National Information Technology Centre, said it is planning a marketing campaign to drum up interest.

There could be other reasons for slack adoption – Jordan’s IDNs costs $140 for the first two years and $35 per year thereafter. There are also strict rules governing who can register.

Meanwhile in Russia, .РФ had taken 855,751 registrations by June 30, according to the registry’s first-half 2011 report, following its scandal-tinged launch eight months earlier.

Russia is of course substantially larger than Jordan – which has a population smaller than that of London – with ten times as many internet users as Jordan has citizens.

PIR sets its sights on .ngo

Kevin Murphy, August 1, 2011, Domain Registries

The .org registry hopes to add .ngo – for Non-Governmental Organization – to its stable of top-level domains, when ICANN opens its new gTLD program next year.

It may well face competition for the domain, however.

It’s quite difficult to narrowly define what an NGO is, but the Public Internet Registry plans to adopt a fairly broad definition that will give it potentially “millions” of new registrants.

“We’re looking at global, regional, and local NGOs, we’re engaging with all of them,” said PIR chief Brian Cute. “This acronym is something that these organizations strongly identify with.”

Cute said PIR has letters of support from some NGOs already, but is not prepared to disclose the identities of its supporters just yet.

Many NGOs are based in emerging markets – according to Wikipedia, India has as many as 3.3 million of them. PIR hopes to encourage domain growth in developing nations, Cute said.

With that in mind, we’re probably not looking at super-premium pricing, though PIR is not talking specific details of its plan yet.

It will be a self-designated “community” application, meaning it will qualify for a Community Priority Evaluation in the event that ICANN receives more than one bid for .ngo.

When a CPE kicks in, applications are scored against a number of criteria and have to get 14 out 16 points in order to win a contested gTLD without going to auction.

Those 14 points are not easy to win, however. Even .ngo, with its commonly understood meaning, may be a hard call.

As it happens, there is already potentially one other .ngo bidder.

The British charity Article 25 has been pondering a .ngo application since 2008, according to its web site at dotngo.net.

That initiative seems to have roughly similar goals to PIR — global, restricted, non-profit — and VeriSign seems to have been engaged as a possible registry services provider.

PIR plans to stick to its existing back-end infrastructure provider, Afilias.

As a community application, it will be a “closed domain”, Cute said. Unlike .org, there will be eligibility criteria to pass before you’re allowed to register a domain name.

PIR also plans to apply for internationalized domain name transliterations of .org, in Chinese, Hindi, Cyrillic and Arabic, Cute said.

Here‘s the site for the application.