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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.

Donuts puts date to first Sunrise, signs big registrars, says it won’t have a landrush

Kevin Murphy, November 6, 2013, Domain Registries

Donuts has announced the dates of its first Sunrise periods and revealed that it’s not planning to run a landrush period for its first seven new gTLDs.

The company said today that it plans to take .bike, .clothing, .guru, .holdings, .plumbing, .singles and .ventures to Sunrise on November 26.

It’s opted for a 60-day Sunrise period, going to full general availability on January 29 next year. The company said:

Donuts will forego a traditional land-rush and move directly to general availability to all registrants on January 29, 2014. Donuts’ gTLDs are available for registration by anyone without restriction.

Donuts also said it has signed the following registrars to its channel: GoDaddy, 1&1 Internet, Web.com, Tucows, Host Europe Group, Key-Systems, CSC Digital Brand Services, MarkMonitor, NetNames, Gandi, united-domains, Melbourne IT and 101domain.

While the press release issued this afternoon suggests that the seven strings in question have already been delegated, I’m not seeing them in the DNS root zone yet.