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Second premium .info auction goes live on Go Daddy

Kevin Murphy, January 8, 2013, Domain Registries

Go Daddy and Afilias are auctioning off a second batch of premium dictionary-word .info domain names.

The registrar has just gone live with a list of 138 domains, including stuff like home.info, autos.info, boat.info, fashion.info and computer.info.

The domains were all claimed in Afilias’ .info sunrise period back in 2001 but were subsequently found to be ineligible under the sunrise rules and reclaimed by the registry.

Bidding starts on January 15, with starting bids at about $100.

A first batch of domains from the same pool were auctioned in December, with some fetching five-figure sums — cancer.info led, selling for $16,005, with loans.info going for $12,205.

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.

Overstock.com: a registry’s best friend

Kevin Murphy, September 21, 2011, Domain Registries

O.co, the company formerly known as Overstock.com, has bought the domain name o.info directly from registry manager Afilias for an undisclosed amount.

It’s the first single-character sale Afilias has announced since ICANN gave it the go-ahead to release one and two-letter names from reserved status in April 2010.

What makes it particularly interesting is that O.co has agreed to build a separate web site at o.info, using the domain for the purpose suggested by the TLD string.

The idea of allocating a valuable name to a big brand in exchange for a use commitment – the “founders program” model – is of course now a standard part of a TLD registry’s marketing toolkit.

It’s more unusual too see the same tactics used to promote a decade-old gTLD.

O.co CEO Patrick Byrne said in a statement:

We will use O.info as a website destination to consolidate useful consumer information. The .info domain is the logical destination for visitors to find product information, user manuals, buying guides, manufacturer and brand reviews, video demonstrations and recall notices.

The price has not been disclosed. It could easily be in the six-figures, extrapolating from the $350,000 the company dropped on o.co last year.

On the other hand, it could be lower.

I feel certain that .CO Internet would have handed over o.co for free if it had known how much great publicity it would bring; it’s possible Afilias may have sacrificed part of its windfall in the hope of reaping some marketing benefits too.

It has 25 more letters to sell, after all.

What The X Factor taught me about new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, September 4, 2011, Domain Registries

Elitist, pseudo-intellectual snob that I am, I rarely watch commercial television. But I make an exception when the The X Factor is on.

I’m not sure I’d even describe the show as a guilty pleasure. It’s just consistently great television.

I’m not alone. According to BARB, which tracks viewing figures in the UK, The X Factor is Britain’s top-rated show, with about 11 million viewers each Saturday night.

It is estimated that a 30-second spot in the latest series costs advertisers £154,000 ($250,000), which will likely increase dramatically as buzz builds toward the December finals.

If a company is willing to spend $250,000 on a single ad spot, I got to wondering how these advertisers use domain names. The price of a new “.brand” gTLD is in the same ball park, after all.

So rather than zoning out during The X Factor‘s commercial breaks last night, I took notes.

Of the 15 brands advertised during the show, five did not promote their online presence at all. Ads for products such as breakfast cereal showed no URLs, search terms or Facebook profiles.

Another three displayed their domains on-screen as footnotes, but with no explicit call to action.

Two advertisers, amazon.co.uk and weightwatchers.co.uk, explicitly encouraged the viewer, on-screen and in the voice-over, to visit their sites.

Barclays was the only advertiser that asked viewers to find it using a search engine. Its call to action was “search Barclays offset mortgage”, with no accompanying URL.

There were also a couple of ads that used call-to-action .co.uk domains.

Mars used bagamillionmovies.co.uk to direct viewers to an M&Ms movie competition, while Microsoft (windows.co.uk/newpc) was the only advertiser to use a directory in addition to its domain.

But the two commercials that interested me the most were those that used alternative or “new” TLDs – the ones that are usually afterthoughts when you’ve already put a .com into your cart.

Mars used getsomenuts.tv to advertise Snickers, and the healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson asked viewers to visit sleepchallenge.info.

That’s right. J&J seems to be spending six-figure sums advertising a .info domain during Britain’s most-watched TV show every Saturday night.

This is noteworthy for, among other reasons, the fact that J&J has a seat on the board of directors of the Association of National Advertisers.

The ANA is of course currently leading the campaign against ICANN’s new gTLD program.

ANA general counsel Doug Wood rubbished .info, albeit only by association, in a video interview with WebProNews on Friday, stating:

The idea of [ICANN’s new gTLD program] being successful and delivering the competition or the innovation that they’re speculating on is clearly questionable to a great degree, based purely on the success or lack of success of the last group they introduced – .biz, .travel, .jobs, etc – none of which has as done anything significant vis-a-vis competition or innovation

I would suggest that the existence of sleepchallenge.info shows how dubious these claims are.

First, sleepchallenge.info redirects to a rather longer URL at johnsonsbaby.co.uk. This indicates that it was registered purely to act as a memorable and measurable call-to-action domain.

The fact that J&J used the .info, rather than sleepchallenge.co.uk, which it also owns, suggests that the company appreciates the additional meaning in the word “info”.

(Mere added semantic value would make a poor definition of innovation, but until now it’s been one of the few things that new gTLD registries have been able to offer.)

The domain sleepchallenge.info was a hand registration in May 2010, according to Whois records, costing J&J just $35 from Network Solutions.

The .com equivalent has been registered since 2007 and would have cost substantially more to acquire from its current registrant, if indeed it was for sale, which it may not be.

Because ICANN introduced competition into the gTLD market 11 years ago, J&J was able to obtain a meaningful domain for a massive ad campaign at a low price.

Watching The X Factor has taught me that Johnson & Johnson is an ANA board member that has already directly benefited from new gTLDs.

I guess commercial TV can be educational after all.

Domain universe breaks through 200 million

Kevin Murphy, November 29, 2010, Domain Registries

VeriSign is reporting that the number of registered domain names worldwide broke through the 200 million mark in the third quarter.

There were 202 million domains at the end of September, according to the company’s Domain Name Industry Brief, which was published today.

Over half of those domains, 103 million names in total, can be found in the .com and .net namespaces that VeriSign manages.

In a not-so-subtle plug for VeriSign’s 2011 growth strategy, the company also declared that the next ten years will be “The Decade of the International Internet”.

In the coming decade, the Internet will continue to become a ubiquitous, multi-cultural tool, fueled in part by the adoption of IDNs. By enabling online content and businesses to be represented in local scripts and languages, IDNs help the Internet to expand the power of technology to regions and cultures, and connect the world in new ways. Over the past year, several new IDNs for ccTLDs have been approved. The next step will be approval of IDNs for generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs).

The company, of course, plans to apply to ICANN to operate IDN versions of .com and .net, although it has not to date discussed openly which languages or strings it wants.

The VeriSign report also says that ccTLD registrations grew 2.4%, compared to the same quarter last year, to 79.2 million domains.

I expect this growth would have been tempered had it not been for the relaunch of .co, which occurred during the quarter, but it does not merit a mention in the report.

The report also reveals that .info has overtaken .cn in the biggest-TLD charts, although this is due primarily to the plummeting number of registrations in the Chinese ccTLD.