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Registrars screwing up new gTLD launches?

Kevin Murphy, March 18, 2014, Domain Registrars

Some of the largest domain name registrars are failing to support new gTLDs properly, leading to would-be registrants being told unregistered names are unavailable.

The .menu gTLD went into general availability yesterday, gathering some 1,649 registrations in its first half day.

It’s not a great start for the new gTLD by any stretch, but how much of it has to do with the channel?

I tested out searches for available names at some of the biggest registrars and got widely different results, apparently because they don’t all properly support tiered pricing.

Market leader Go Daddy even refuses to sell available names.

The .menu gTLD is being operated by a What Box? subsidiary, the inappropriately named Wedding TLD2.

The company has selected at least three pricing tiers as far as I can tell — $25 is the baseline registry fee, but many unreserved “premium” names are priced by the registry at $50 and $65 a year.

For my test, I used noodleshop.menu, which seems to carry the $65 fee. Whois records show it as unregistered and it’s not showing up in today’s .menu zone file. It’s available.

This pricing seems to be accurately reflected at registrars including Name.com and 101domain.

Name.com, for example, says that the name is available and offers to sell it to me for $81.25.

Name.com

Likewise, 101domain reports its availability and a price of $97.49. There’s even a little medal icon next to the name to illustrate the fact that it’s at a premium price.

101domain

So far so good. However, other registrars fare less well.

Go Daddy and Register.com, which are both accredited .menu registrars, don’t seem to recognize the higher-tier names at all.

Go Daddy reports the name is unavailable.

Go Daddy

And so does Register.com.

Register.com

For every .menu name that carried a premium price at Name.com, Go Daddy was reporting it as unavailable.

With Go Daddy owning almost half of the new gTLD market, you can see why its failure to recognize a significant portion of a new gTLD’s available nice-looking names might impact day-one volumes.

The experience at 1&1, which has pumped millions into marketing new gTLD pre-registrations, was also weird.

At 1&1, I was offered noodleshop.menu at the sale price of $29.99 for the first year and $49.99 thereafter, which for some reason I was told was a $240 saving.

1&1

Both the sale price and the regular price appear to be below the wholesale cost. Either 1&1 is committed to take a $15 loss on each top-tier .menu name forever, or it’s pricing its names incorrectly.

A reader informed me this morning that when he tried to buy a .menu premium at 1&1 today he was presented with a message saying he would be contacted within 24 hours about the name.

He said his credit card was billed for the $29.99, but the name (Whois records seem to confirm) remains unregistered.

I’d test this out myself but frankly I don’t want to risk my money. When I tried to register the same name as the reader on 1&1 today I was told it was still available.

If I were a new gTLD registry I’d be very worried about this state of affairs. Without registrars, there’s no sales, but some registrars appear to be unprepared, at least in the case of .menu.

Two more new gTLDs delegated

Kevin Murphy, December 2, 2013, Domain Registries

The new gTLDs .menu and .uno have gone live on the internet.

Both appear to have been delegated to the DNS root zone at some point over the last few days — nic.menu and nic.uno are both resolving right now, though nic.uno takes you to an Apache status page.

The Latino-focused .uno is the first gTLD of the 10 applications linked to Kanasas-based DotRegistry to become active; .menu is the first for What Box?, which now has three remaining applications.

What Box has already partnered with Go Daddy to offer .menu domains, priced at $49.99 a year or $199.99 a year if you buy a “priority pre-registration”.

I believe the current total of new gTLDs in the root is 34, 26 of which belong to Donuts.

New gTLDs bring back tiered renewal pricing

Kevin Murphy, November 10, 2013, Domain Registries

Only one mass-market TLD used it, and it’s often considered a bad idea, but variable pricing for domain name renewals is making a comeback with the launch of new gTLDs.

What Box? and Plan Bee are the first two new gTLD registries to start selling domains with tiered renewal fees, in .menu and .build respectively, via Go Daddy.

If you pay Go Daddy $189.99 for a “Priority Rre-registration” in .build, your annual renewal fee if you secure the name will be be $149.99, instead of the $99.99 other pre-registrants will pay.

Similarly, a Priority Pre-registration in .menu will set you back $199.99 a year, forever, instead of $49.99.

I understand that the standard Go Daddy initial registration fee for these two TLDs during general availability will also be $99.99 and $49.99 respectively.

The other two new gTLDs with announced pricing, .uno and .luxury, do not appear to be charging tiered rates.

Go Daddy confirmed that the renewal pricing will be permanently higher in the .build and .menu, telling us:

The industry is starting to move toward a tiered pricing system. As such, some registries have elected to make renewals higher on domain names captured during the priority pre-registration period.

It’s actually permitted under ICANN’s standard Registry Agreement.

Generally, the RA prevents registries charging variable renewal fees. If you find yourself running a successful business in a new gTLD, the registry is not allowed to gouge you for higher renewals.

There’s a provision in section 2.10 of the contract that is designed to “prohibit abusive and/or discriminatory Renewal Pricing practices imposed by Registry Operator”.

But the rule does not apply if you’re told at the point of registration that your renewal pricing will be higher.

The contract states that “Registry Operator must have uniform pricing for renewals of domain name registrations”, but grants this huge exception:

if the registrar has provided Registry Operator with documentation that demonstrates that the applicable registrant expressly agreed in its registration agreement with registrar to higher Renewal Pricing at the time of the initial registration of the domain name following clear and conspicuous disclosure of such Renewal Pricing to such registrant

The only major TLD to try variable pricing before now was .tv, which Verisign currently operates.

The .tv registry held back thousands of desirable strings when it launched in 2000. Instead of auctioning them, it priced these names to sell, but with renewal prices matching the initial registration fee.

If you bought a premium .tv name 10 years ago for $10,000, you’ve been paying $10,000 a year ever since.

This proved very unpopular — especially with domain investors, who continue to moan about the high carrying cost of .tv names bought years ago — and Verisign scrapped the policy on new registrations in 2010.

Some say tiered renewal pricing is the main reason .tv isn’t nearly as popular as it arguably should be.

But will it work in 2014?

Tiered renewal fees seems like an excellent way to discourage domainers from participating in your launch.

Would you be willing to pay higher renewal fees ad infinitum just for the chance for first dibs on the new gTLD domain name you want?

Four more new gTLDs, including .sexy, get contracts

Kevin Murphy, September 12, 2013, Domain Registries

ICANN signed four more new gTLD contracts with four different registries yesterday.

The lucky recipients of Registry Agreements are:

  • .uno (Dot Latin LLC) — a general-purpose, open gTLD aimed primarily at Spanish and Italian speakers.
  • .menu (Wedding TLD2, LLC) — also open, though the registry plans to run second-level portals corresponding to types of food (italian.menu, etc).
  • .sexy (Uniregistry Corp) — signing a Registry Agreement with boring old ICANN doesn’t strike me as particularly sexy, but Uniregistry went ahead and did it anyway.
  • .世界 (Stable Tone Ltd) — this Chinese string means “.world”. It will also be open and obviously targeted primarily at Chinese-speaking registrants.

The deals mean ICANN has now signed contracts covering 26 new gTLD applications. It’s slow going so far, but the pace is definitely picking up.

As of last week, DI PRO Application Tracker allows you to search for only gTLDs that have signed contracts, along with 23 other search criteria.