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TLD Registry sells $584k of new gTLD domains, expects million-dollar sale next month

Kevin Murphy, April 24, 2014, Domain Registries

TLD Registry, the company behind two Chinese new gTLDs, says it has sold over $584,000 of premium domain names already and expects to make a seven-figure sale next month.

The Finnish-founded company is launching .中文网 and .在线, which mean “Chinese web site” and “online” respectively.

Marketing director Simon Cousins told DI this week that the company has sold $584,000 of domains so far and was “confident” of making a seven-figure sale — sounds like a multiple-domain batch — next month

The $584,000 figure includes the $182,000 worth of domains sold at a live/hybrid auction in Macau last month and 101 other domains sold privately for $402,000, Cousins claimed.

“We’re working on some blockbuster tranches right now, and are confident we’ll have a 7-fig sale to report in May,” he said in an email.

The company has been working with Sedo on premium auctions.

The landrush period ended yesterday. The gTLDs are due to go to general availability April 28.

dotBest cancels landrush

Kevin Murphy, April 17, 2014, Domain Registries

PeopleBrowsr has decided to cancel the landrush phase for its forthcoming .best new gTLD, citing “very little engagement” from registrants.

The TLD is due to go to sunrise today. Two days after it ends on May 19, it will go directly to general availability.

VP of operations Michael Deparini said in an email:

Many of our registrars have given us feedback that there has been very little engagement with the TLD Landrush Phase. We have decided to cancel Landrush.

We are excited to announce that we will open General Availability (GA) ahead of schedule to commence on May 21 at 16:00:00 GMT (12pm EST).

PeopleBrowsr is also the company behind .ceo, which launched two weeks ago with just 250 names in its first couple of days on the market — about 40% of which belonged to one cybersquatter.

.ceo currently has 798 domains in its zone, making it the fourth-smallest of the 74 new gTLDs that currently appear to be selling names.

Pricey .luxury made $500k already

Kevin Murphy, April 15, 2014, Domain Registries

The new gTLD .luxury seems to have sold more than $500,000 worth of domain names already.

(UPDATE: That’s probably not accurate. I seem to have misread some registrar pricing pages. The sunrise price was actually much lower than $1,000. See comments below.)

Saturday’s zone file for the Luxury Partners-owned TLD popped from 1 domain to 470 domains. Most of the new names appear to have been registered during the sunrise period, which ended early last week.

Given the current retail price of over $1,000, it seems .luxury is already a $500,000 business, at least for 2014. Renewal pricing is around the $700 mark, equating to $329,000 a year just on sunrise registrations.

That’s including the registrar markup, of course. The registry will be making a bit less.

“Luxury” brands such as Cartier and Formula 1 bought multiple domains during sunrise. Some tech firms, such as Facebook and Google, continued their blanket approach to defensives.

With such a high price, one wonders what some of these rights holders are thinking: do they really believe cybersquatters are prepared to drop $700 a year infringing their brands?

Sadly there are already a couple of examples of newbie squatters spending absurd sums on clearly infringing new gTLD domains.

It will be interesting to see whether any of these registrants actually use their domains, or whether they’re mainly defensive registrations. I suspect the latter will be more often the case.

Currently in landrush, .luxury is due to go to general availability in about a month.

Weirdest new gTLD launch yet? .wed launches with a single registrar

Kevin Murphy, March 18, 2014, Domain Registries

The new gTLD .wed went into sunrise yesterday with the strangest pricing model yet and a stringent Registry-Registrar Agreement that seems to have scared off all but one registrar.

Atgron is positioning .wed as a space for marrying couples to celebrate their weddings, but only temporarily.

It seemingly has little interest in domain investors or ongoing customer relationships beyond one or two years.

If you register a second-level .wed domain, you can have it for $150 a year for the first two years, according to the Atgron web site. After that, the price rockets to $30,000 a year.

Registrars, resellers and wedding-oriented businesses are allowed to opt out of the third-year spike on their own .wed names if they join Atgron’s reseller program and sell at least 10 a year.

Unlike Vox Populi, which is actively marketing .sucks domains at $25,000 as a reasonable value proposition, Atgron jacks the price up as a deterrent to registrants holding on to names too long. It says:

.WED domain names are sold to couples for one or two years to celebrate their wedding. The domain names then become available to another couple… Mary and John can have MaryandJohn.WED and then YES the next Mary and John can have MaryandJohn.WED a year or two later and so on and so on.

That alone would be enough to put off most registrars, which value the recurring revenue from ongoing annual renewals, but I gather that the .wed RRA contains even more Draconian requirements.

Incredulous registrars tell me that Atgron wants them to create an entirely new web site to market .wed domains — they’re not allowed to sell the names via their existing storefronts.

The only registrar to bite so far is EnCirca, known historically for promoting obscure gTLDs such as .pro and .travel, which is selling .wed via a new standalone site at encirca.wed.

I also gather that Atgron won’t let registrars opt out of selling its third-level .wed domains, which are expected to go for about $50 a year with no third-year spike.

That didn’t work well for .name — registrars hated its three-level structure, forcing the registry to ultimately go two-level — and I don’t think it’s going to work for .wed either.

Registrars also tell me that Atgron wants to ban them from charging a fee for Whois privacy on .wed domains. They can offer privacy, but only if it’s free to the registrant.

With privacy a relatively high-margin value-add for registrars, it’s hardly surprising that they would balk at having this up-sell taken away from them.

As weird as this all sounds, it is of course an example of the kind of innovative business models that the new gTLD program was designed to create. Mission accomplished on that count.

Another thing the program was designed to create is competition, something Atgron will soon encounter when Minds + Machines arrives with .wedding and eats .wed’s lunch. In my view.

The .wed launch period is also quite unusual.

Atgron is running a landrush period concurrently with its 30-day sunrise period.

Even if you don’t own a trademark, you can apply for a .wed domain today. You’ll get a refund if your name is registered by a trademark owner during sunrise, and names won’t go live until April 20.

The registry has extended the 90-day Trademark Claims period to cover the sunrise period too, so it appears to be in compliance with ICANN rights protection rules on that count.

It’s a 30-day sunrise, so it’s first-come, first served if you’re a trademark owner.

As for sunrise pricing, the third-year spike appears to apply too.

Atgron documentation does say there’s going to be an option to purchase a 10-year trademark block for a one-time fee, but I couldn’t find any way to do this on the EnCirca.wed web site today.

First eight gTLDs have 26,000 names so far

Kevin Murphy, February 6, 2014, Domain Registries

Well, we now have a new gTLD domain name market.

After n years of debate, policy-making, delay, application, testing, delegation and newfangled launch processes, there are eight new gTLDs that are open for business.

Donuts yesterday opened up its first seven gTLDs to their ‘proper’ general availability — by which I mean landrush pricing is no longer applicable.

At more or less the same time its second seven — .lighting, .equipment, .graphics, .photography, .camera, .estate, and .gallery exited their sunrise periods and went into their Early Access Program.

Meanwhile, dotShabaka Registry’s شبكة. (“.web” in Arabic) came out of its more opaque landrush period with several hundred new registrations.

Together, these 15 gTLDs have 26,199 registrations so far, based on the names active in their zone files today. The eight fully live gTLDs have 25,575, almost half of which belong to Donuts’ .guru.

TLDDomains
guru12,394
bike3,727
clothing2,856
singles2,071
ventures1,669
plumbing1,081
holdings963
شبكة. (.xn--ngbc5azd)814
equipment137
lighting137
estate85
photography73
graphics68
camera62
gallery62

The zone files are generated at about 0100 UTC and therefore do not represent the full first day of Donuts newly-GA gTLDs, but it’s clear that .guru is the domainer’s favorite so far.

The numbers are a long way off pretty much every new TLD launch we’ve seen to date.

Compare to .mobi, which had over 110,000 names at the end of its first week; .co, which sold 216,159 in its first 16 hours; or .xxx, which sold 55,367 names on day one.

Even Radix said it sold 4,000 .pw names in its first three hours and 50,000 in the first three weeks.

It should also be pointed out that none of the Donuts gTLD numbers include purchases of Domain Protected Marks List blocks, which do not show up in zone files.

That fact eliminates much of the noise from defensive registrations that we see in almost every other TLD.

For buyers (as opposed to blockers) market conditions are obviously different now too — a single TLD launching was once an event, the temporary alleviation of scarcity, whereas today Donuts alone expects to launch half a dozen every week for months.

And the Latin strings that have been launched so far don’t exactly capture the imagination, with .guru the possible exception.

Donuts’ portfolio, in my view, is based more on securing greenfield opportunities in vertical markets (plumbing, cameras, etc) rather than mining domain investors’ wallets on launch day.

One of the keys to the success of these things longer term is going to be how much use they get — when internet users start visiting new gTLD sites and seeing new gTLD URLs on billboards, momentum will build.

Donuts made about $750,000 from landrush so far

Kevin Murphy, February 4, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts managed to sell well over $500,000 in new gTLD domain names over the first six days of its Early Access Program, according to our calculations.

Our estimate, which is somewhere between back-of-the-envelope and hard analysis, is based on the latest zone files for its first seven live gTLDs — .bike, .clothing, .guru, .ventures, .holdings, .plumbing and .singles.

The exact number I believe is somewhere closer to $750,000, but it’s actually quite difficult to pin down the exact value of domains sold to date due to the complexity of the Donuts pricing scheme.

Zone files show that as of last night Donuts had sold at least 3,650 names across all seven of its new gTLDs currently on the market.

That’s including sunrise sales and the first six days of the novel EAP, which saw buy-now prices decrease every day for a week, but not including its Domain Protected Marks List blocks.

My revenue estimates are for EAP only, ignoring sunrise.

Donuts’ EAP fee started off at $10,000 on January 30, then was reduced to $2,500, $950, $500 and $100 every day. It’s been at $100 for the last few days and will revert to baseline prices tomorrow at 1600 UTC.

So by figuring out the registration date you can figure out how much the name sold for, kinda.

Domain Name Wire managed to establish last week that the company sold six three domains at $10,000.

Based on a few hundred additional Whois look-ups, DI has found that the company sold at least 120 names during EAP at at least $500 each, at least 150 at at least $950, and at least 25 at at least $2,500.

That would bring the total haul for the first few days of EAP fees to about $300,000.

Add all this to roughly $200,000 worth of names that have appeared in the zone files since the fee dropped to $100, and we get to about $500,000 in total EAP fees, not including sunrise names.

Add in the baseline registry fees and you get to something like $550,000.

However, Donuts has also priced many attractive names at a “baseline” premium. That means when regular pricing commences tomorrow, premiums will still cost more than regular names in each TLD.

A registrant told us today that gun.guru will costs him about $400 a year to renew. That’s the baseline price. Judging by the date, he paid $950 in EAP fees and Go Daddy’s registrar markup too.

There’s no way to easily figure out what the premium pricing was after a domain has already been sold, which makes it difficult to calculate Donuts’ landrush windfall, but I believe it’s in the region of $750,000 so far, with a day yet to run.

It’s an estimate of the revenue from EAP’s first six days, only counting first-year fees.

It also requires the same caveats as usual: we’re using zone file data here, which does not present a full picture of the number of names sold.

If the pricing scheme seems confusing to you, you’re not alone.

There wasn’t a great deal of participation by registrars in the EAP, due to concerns about the high prices, implementation work, and complexity causing confusion among customers.

Several registrars seem to be treating tomorrow’s price drop as the “proper” general availability launch date for the seven gTLDs concerned.

Go Daddy, which has had new gTLDs in its storefront for the last couple months, seems to have got the majority of registrations, as you might expect. Almost a quarter of names appearing in zone files over two days last week were registered via its Domains By Proxy privacy service.

That said, its Super Bowl commercials on Sunday do not appear to have made a significant impact, focused as they were on branding Go Daddy rather than any TLD offering.

Moment of truth as first seven new gTLDs go on sale

Kevin Murphy, January 29, 2014, Domain Registries

We’re finally going to see if there’s any demand for new gTLD domain names.

The first seven new gTLDs — .bike, .clothing, .guru, .holdings, .plumbing, .singles and .ventures, all operated by Donuts — hit first-come, first-served general availability this afternoon.

I understand that the precise time they’re due to become available is 1600 UTC.

But these are going to be unlike any new TLD launches we’ve seen to date.

We’re unlikely to see the kind of mad gold-rush that was enjoyed by the likes of .mobi and .co in their first 24 hours, largely due to the high prices Donuts intends to charge for early adopters.

Under its Early Access Program, any domain registered in these TLDs on day one is going to cost over $10,000 for the first year. The price will come down to $2,500+ tomorrow and will be reduced each day until settling at regular pricing a week from now.

Go Daddy, which commands about half of the retail market, has previously indicated that its day one pricing for Donuts’ gTLDs will be $12,539.

Judging by the Go Daddy web site today, it’s treating EAP as one of its “priority pre-registration” phases distinct from general availability, which it says will kick off February 5.

The EAP is Donuts’ alternative to the landrush-with-auctions model we’ve become accustomed to in previous TLD launches.

The questions are whether this will affect domain investors’ willingness to dive in and grab some premium real estate and whether it will encourage actual end-users to register early.

It seems pretty obvious that while day one of GA for Donuts’ gTLDs is the first big test of its pricing strategy, it’s not going to be the yardstick for volume performance that we’ve seen in previous launches.

I think it’s a pretty safe bet that today’s volumes for Donuts will not come close to GA-day numbers for the likes of .co, .xxx or .mobi, which were in the five or six-figure range.

But with pricing for .bike et al today literally 200 times more expensive than .xxx’s GA pricing, Donuts doesn’t need to sell a great many names to have made a nice return.

ICM Registry said it sold 55,367 .xxx domains in the first 24 hours of GA back in December 2011. With a registry fee of $62, that’s revenue of $3.43 million to the company.

To make the same amount of money from a single gTLD such as .guru, with its $10,000 (I believe) registry fee, Donuts only needs to sell 343 domains today.

.CO Registry sold 194,000 domains in its first 24 hours, at a registry fee I believe was $20, for approximately $3.88 million in revenue. Donuts would only need to sell 388 .clothing domains to make the same return.

These might be achievable numbers. .CO, which operated a landrush-with-auctions period, sold at least 38 domains for over $10,000 and 227 for over $2,500, based on its published results.

Volume matters for the long-term health of a gTLD with public visibility and an aftermarket, but not so much anymore for the financial health of the registry itself.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story reported that the premium EAP prices recur for every year of the registration. They actually revert back to standard Donuts pricing in the second year.

Donuts explains its premium pricing strategy

Kevin Murphy, December 17, 2013, Domain Registries

Add Donuts to the list of registries planning to use .tv-style variable pricing after their new gTLDs start to go to general availability next year.

COO Richard Tindal told DI last night that each of its upcoming registries could have “two, three, four, five, six — it varies — levels of buy-it-now pricing”.

He was referring to pricing during general availability, not any of Donuts’ special launch phases.

The actual number of registry-reserved names held for auction or future promotional purposes is likely to be quite small — often under 20 names per TLD — Tindal said.

Instead, Donuts wants to get the names it has identified as “premium” to market as quickly as possible, but with a higher annual price than the base registry fee. He said:

Let’s take .clothing, that’s coming out at the moment.

There’ll be a small — very small — number of reserved names for which we may do an auction later

The vast, vast majority of the names are first-come-first-served buy-it-now — but within Donuts TLDs, at more than one price within a TLD.

So in .clothing the standard names will be one price, then there’ll be another group of names that are premium for a higher price, and another group of names that are higher still that are premiums as well, and potentially even another group.

Tindal didn’t want to give specifics, but indicated that most premiums could carry an annual fee of under $1,000.

“Your ball-park standard name is a $10, $20, $30 name, ish, retail,” he said. “And your premium name is in the hundreds of dollars a year, typically. It varies.”

“Generally, ball-park-speaking, the vast majority of our names will be well, well under $1,000 a year,” he said.

He added that the tiers should be obvious when pre-registering names at one of Donuts’ accredited registrars.

I experimented a bit on 101domain, where the base retail price for a .clothing domain is currently $34.99 a year.

I found that used.clothing and winter.clothing, for example, both carry a $400 price tag, hot.clothing and large.clothing are $49.50 each, while vintage.clothing and designer.clothing appear to be reserved.

Those are the retail prices, of course, which include the registrar’s mark-up. While they’re for pre-registered names, I’m not expecting the GA prices to be much different.

“These are very attractively priced names, in our view, even the premium ones we think are attractive to people,” Tindal said. “We want registrars to make some margin, we want registrants to have room for the value of the name to increase as well.”

He didn’t say how many names will be in the higher pricing tiers — it will vary by gTLD.

“We believe premiums will be a small percentage of names under management,” he said.

The tiers will be the same across all of Donuts TLDs, he said, but each given TLD may only use a subset. So if there are six possible tiers, .example may only use three of them.

Donuts does not currently plan to operate a “founders program” for its gTLDs, Tindal said.

“We just want to get these names out and in the hands of users,” he said. Donuts’ market is primarily small and medium sized enterprises.

Donuts is not the first to reveal tiered pricing for new gTLD names.

Top Level Domain Holdings recently laid out a similar pricing strategy. Its Minds + Machines registrar is already taking pre-registrations on names with renewal fees ranging into many thousands of dollars per yer for premium names.

What Box and Plan Bee have also started selling pre-registrations via their registrars that indicate tiered pricing.

Prior to new gTLDs, the only notable TLD with variable pricing was Verisign’s repurposed ccTLD, .tv.

Go Daddy to take $2,500 profit on Donuts’ first-day domains

Kevin Murphy, December 11, 2013, Domain Registrars

Donuts’ pricey Early Access Program for its new gTLDs could prove quite lucrative for registrars.

Go Daddy today revealed that it’s charging $12,500 and up for first-day “priority” registrations in 14 Donuts gTLDs, a $2,500 profit on Donuts’ EAP registry fee, which I believe is $10,000.

The EAP is Donuts’ alternative to a traditional landrush period.

Rather than charging premium landrush fees and then running an auction for contested domains, every available domain has a standard premium buy-it-now price that is reduced every day for a week until the fee hits the standard reg fee.

It’s Dutch-auction-like, with a first-come-first-served component.

The EAP registry fees start at $10,000, go to $2,500 on day two, $950 on day three, $500 on day four and $100 from days five through day seven. Then they go to the base fee, which depends on gTLD but typically translates to about $40 at the check-out.

Go Daddy’s respective EAP retail prices are $12,539.99, $3,164.99, $1,239.99, $689.99 and $189.99.

Complicating matters, these are currently “priority pre-registration” fees, so the company will still have to successfully grab the pre-registered names from the registry when they become available.

While customers are billed today, they may not get the name they want. If Go Daddy fails to secure the name it will issue a full refund.

Complicating matters further, the company is accepting multiple pre-registrations on any given name and will auction it off to the highest bidder if more than one person pre-registers at the same level and Go Daddy manages to grab the name.

So $12,500 may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Complicating matters further further, Go Daddy’s site is currently not particularly clear — at least to this elderly hack — which components of its fees are refundable and which are not.

This slogan, currently in use on the Go Daddy pre-reg site, appears to me to be absolute nonsense.

Horseshit

The 14 Donuts gTLD currently on offer are: .estate, .photography, .ventures, .guru, .bike, .clothing, .gallery, .singles, .camera, .lighting, .plumbing, .equipment, .graphics and .holdings.

Superstitious launch planned for Chinese gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, December 4, 2013, Domain Registries

TLD Registry plans to time its Chinese new gTLD launch dates to coincide with days considered lucky in Chinese astrology.

The Sunrise period for .在线 (“.online”) and .中文网 (“.chinesewebsite”) will start January 17 and end March 17.

According to the registry:

Both the start and end days of Sunrise fall on highly auspicious days for “starting new businesses” in the ancient Chinese almanac. The Chinese almanac was created during the Han Dynasty around 200BC, and continues to be an important guide to the lives and businesses of more than a billion Chinese people.

A landrush period will follow starting March 20, “an auspicious day for ‘breaking ground'”, and ending April 24.

TLD Registry will also run a live/online auction for “the most valuable and sought-after” names in Macau on March 21.

General availability is slated for April 28, “a highly auspicious date for ‘starting new businesses’ and ‘grand openings'”

It’s cute marketing, and no mistake.

The Chinese almanac, like all astrology, is of course utter nonsense.