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.”
Uniregistry and Donuts have settled at least five new gTLD contention sets this week, raising the question of whether Uniregistry has reversed its objection to private auctions.
I think it has.
In five of the six head-to-head contention sets between the two companies, Donuts has won the rights to .furniture, .auction and .gratis, and Uniregistry has won .audio and .juegos.
The losing company has already withdrawn their applications in all five cases.
I gather that a deal was made, but Uniregistry won’t say whether it was via a private auction or not and I’ve not yet had a reply to a request for comment from Donuts.
But Uniregistry, which has previously spoken out against the private auction concept — saying it raises antitrust concerns — declined to confirm or deny whether these five contests were resolved by auction.
“We’re grateful to have found a way through the impasse and resolved the contention,” was all Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling would say.
Applicant Auction’s project director Sheel Mohnot confirmed that a new gTLD auction took place this week but said he could not disclose the participants or the strings.
To the best of my knowledge, that’s a new line — the auctioneer has always kept quiet about sales prices in the past, but has always revealed which companies were involved.
So has Uniregistry changed its mind about the legality of private new gTLD auctions? My guess is: “Yes.”
The only remaining string where the two companies are competing in a two-horse race is .shopping, according to the DI PRO database, but that’s subject to some weird string similarity nonsense and probably not suitable for a private auction yet.